May 28, 2023

The modern Bond franchise has emphasized the glitter

Casino Royale was a bestseller in the UK when it came out, although it did not sell well in the U.S. at first. It wasn’t until President John F. Kennedy named Fleming’s fifth Bond novel, From Russia with Love, as one of his favorite books that the 007 series took off in America, paving the way for the arrival of the film series in 1962 with Dr. No.

Perhaps because film is a visual medium, the coldness and darkness of the literary Bond’s world was de-emphasized in the movies, starting with Dr. No and continuing for the next 60 years, right up until Craig delivered his final performance as the sixth Bond in 2021’s No Time to Die.

All the trappings of Bond’s life—the cars, the clothes, the booze, and especially the often-stunning locales—were pushed to the forefront in the movies, which also became far more fantastical throughout the years than Fleming’s books ever were (the movies also became increasingly less faithful to the text). Although Fleming himself named specific brands in the books, like Gordon’s gin or Bentley automobiles, the merchandising was taken to an extreme in the movies.

According to the Guardian, brands as elite as (the now defunct) Pan Am airlines, Aston Martin, and Jaguar cars, Bollinger champagne, Rolex and Omega watches, Heineken beer, Tom Ford suits, and Belvedere vodka have competed for screen space in 007 movies with more down-to-earth sponsors like KFC, Camel cigarettes, 7-Up, and even Playboy making appearances.

The Bond movies have come to represent not only a certain gold standard of action franchise filmmaking and the spy genre, but have become a pop culture symbol of extravagant living, expensive tastes, unrestricted globe-trotting, and uninhibited sex. While all these elements were present in Fleming’s books, the novels were at their heart about a cold, lonely, secretive man whose profligate tastes mask a damaged soul haunted by the job he doe—a job that no one, not even his superiors, wants to admit needs doing.

Celebrating Bond’s seven decades

Seven decades after the publication of Casino Royale, it seems difficult to imagine a pop culture landscape without James Bond. Yet surprisingly, the celebration of 007’s 70 years on the planet seems muted for the moment. Perhaps the biggest way to commemorate the occasion would be Eon Productions’ announcement of whichever actor is going to become the seventh official version of James Bond. But despite a continual loop of rumors online and in the pages of British tabloids, it doesn’t seem like Eon is in any rush to unveil the next screen iteration of 007 just yet.

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