I always wanted to be James Bond. As long as I didn't have to be Timothy Dalton or Roger Moore; they were limp and effete and lacked the ruthlessness that I would have brought to the task.
I also always wanted to be a Bond girl. Especially if I could be Halle Berry or Sophie Marceau; they had a piquant combination of bad-assiness and vulnerability. Sorry, Ursula Andress, you lack fragility.
The problem with the Bond I was raised on was that he was kind of a callous prick, and not in a good way. It's one thing to run through women like Kleenex. It's another much worse thing to keep your heart permanently closed off to the world. But I suppose it's necessary when you're in the saving-the-world-from-the-bad-guys trade. And this made it possible to watch any Bond movie with the same amount emotional investment it takes to eat a bag of popcorn, and you got just as much out of it. Thrills, chills, daring adventure and whatnot. Gorgeous scantily-clad babes with amusing names. The hero always looks great, saves the day, and gets all the girls. A swell franchisey time was had by all! Bring it on!
I've had many of those dances. We'll call them 007 tandas, because they're exciting and glamourous and keep personal stuff like identity out of the picture. And, like any mega-hit franchise, some of those dances are better than others but they're all recognizably made from the same mold. You're sure to get a tricky, crowd-pleasing move or ten. There should be a flirtatious amount of personal chemistry. More Troílo is better. And don't forget a little product placement for this season's Comme Il Fauts!
007 tandas are sophisticated, flashy fun for everyone. And then everyone walks away unscathed, forgetting about everything except for perhaps a lingering taste of, “yeah! Those are delightful! So entertaining! And they look great!” But then next day, the next minute, everyone is exactly the same as they were before. They were temporarily diverted, but they were not changed.
I'm not talking about the first one, which I hear is lovely if you're stoned. I'm talking about the one that was preluded by endless angry fans wailing that they couldn't possibly have a blond James Bond, they wouldn't have anything to do with actors who wore life jackets in speed boats, who was this nobody guy anyway, and why were the powers-that-be tinkering with the formula they loved. I'm talking about the movie that threw away everything we ever knew about a character and gave us a person instead.
Casino Royale is a hard movie to watch. [SPOILERS AHEAD] Sure, the parcours sequence is way cool, and what's not to love about Daniel Craig rising from the seafoam. But instead of following the saucy exploits of a smooth character who's got a quip or a gadget for any occasion and whose dinner jackets are always immaculate, we rough-and-tumble with a blunt object of a man who doesn't give a shit if his martini is shaken or stirred, cares nothing for pseudonyms, totals expensive sports cars within minutes, and covers his dinner jackets with everybody's blood. A man who almost gets himself killed quite a few times and looks awful doing it.
That, however, is not what's so hard about it. The problem is that instead of surrounding himself with babelicious airheads who mean nothing to him, James falls for an actual person. It ends tragically.
But before it ends, what remarkable courage this James shows! He doesn't leg wrap, or colgada, or sentada or anything: he just steps forward with his whole heart, just putting his heart out there despite the strong probability of it getting trammeled and crushed just like his lesser body parts do throughout the story. And every step he takes changes him.
That is why this is a movie about the creation of a man.
Every step he takes into his tanda with Vesper is a step further into scary unknown and potentially lethal territory. She could be his mortal enemy, just waiting for him to trust her totally before selling him out to the bad guys (sigh, that is indeed what happens). But he steps anyway, not for the audience, but for himself, and for her, and for the moment. And neither of them know what will happen next.
That is a Bond tanda. Because it's a tanda about bonds. Bonds that form despite our best efforts to avoid them. Scary bonds. Bonds that take us places where we've never been and where we don't know what lies ahead but there are probably a handful of double agents and men with big guns just around the corner. But we step anyway.
These are the tandas that make us who we are. They change us from the smaller people we were into the larger people we need to become, no matter what the fallout is. The tandas we have to do, even though they don't please crowds and the shoes are irrelevant...and we know that no matter how things turn out, we can never go back to who we were before. These are the tandas that forge our identities from the scrap material of who we are in the moment. The most dangerous tandas. That give away our most real identities to the people with whom we dance them, and ensure that forever after, no matter how 007 we are to everyone else, that person knows our name.