Tuesday 16 October 2012

Licence to Write

Ever heard of the DVD board game “Scene It”?  The James Bond edition wound up in my hands for Christmas, 2004.  On New Year’s Day, 2005 I hosted a family get together at my house, where we ate and drank and laughed and enjoyed the day, until I convinced everyone we should play this new “Scene It” game.  We were supposed to divide up into teams, but my family’s knowledge that I was a true James Bond aficionado meant that they were all going to gang up on me, a team of 12 against yours truly.  And I still won.  By a considerable margin.  After that, no one ever wanted to play me again.
    My fondness for the James Bond franchise goes back to a very early age.  I was not even ten years old when I watched the movie “Goldfinger” for the very first time, and I became hooked.  Every time a television network here in America would show the films, I was in front of the TV.  In 1977, I got to see a Bond movie in the theater for the first time with “The Spy Who Loved Me.”  And it was about that same time that I came into possession of paperback copy of the novel of the same name by Ian Fleming.  That added a whole new dimension to my understanding of Bond’s world: the book was nothing like the movie, and I had to go find the other novels and see if the same thing held true. I’ve since seen the theatrical release of every Bond movie after TSWLM, and collected Fleming’s Bond novels in nice, special edition hard covers.
    I got my first VCR while I was still in college, and shortly after I graduated, the Bond franchise celebrated its 30th anniversary by releasing its back catalogue of films on video.  Naturally, I collected all of them.  I then did the same thing when all the movies were released as “Special Edition” DVDs not even ten years later.  (EON Productions has certainly taken a fair amount of my money over the years.  This is why I’ve decided to put the “Ultimate Edition” James Bond collection on BluRay as a Christmas gift list item, so that someone can make a present of it for me.) 
    So what does one do with all this pent up, pedantic knowledge of a film franchise?  Well, if you’re a member of an online forum, and the subject of Bond comes up, you join in the discussion.  A question came up: “what was the best Bond movie ever made?”  Titles got thrown around like pennies being thrown in a fountain, so I interjected.  “That’s the wrong question to ask.”  You can probably guess the response – a nearly universal “Huh?  Why?”  I maintain it’s the wrong question to ask because now that we’ve had 22 EON production films, and one rival production in 1983, and now that we’re onto the sixth actor to play the role of James Bond, all of the films are simply too different in tone, content and performance to be fairly judged against one another.  Forget comparing apples and oranges, the question of which Bond movie is “the best” is like trying to pick a winner out of a basket of mixed fruit.  You have to judge each film on its own merits, and do it from the perspective of what contemporary audiences got out of it at the time it was released.
    That online conversation took place around April, 2011, and in hindsight, it was a bit of a case of famous last words.  The response to my position that all 23 films featuring the character James Bond had to be judged individually was met with amusement.  I was asked to prove it.  So I did.  Starting with “Dr. No,” I took each movie in order of its release, and wrote what amounted to an essay deconstructing its various parts and subjecting them to scrutiny.  And unlike a film critic, reviewing the latest Bond film only, and wanting to seem both objective and slightly imperious in their writing, I took on the challenge openly acknowledging my unabashed fan status. 
    I finished my review for “Quantum of Solace,” the most recent Bond film, sometime this past June.  All told, more than a year has elapsed since I’d thrown down my gauntlet.  Somewhere along the line, it occurred to me that if compiled into a manuscript, these essays might actually be a worthy idea for a book.  As far as I knew, no one had ever taken on a comprehensive evaluation of the Bond films.  That’s where Blue Hour Publishing enters the picture, offering to allow me to do just that. 
   I submitted the manuscript, and, like any writer hoping to see his first work published, waited anxiously for word.  The word came out on Friday, October 5, 2012, that it had been released.  It’s a very surreal feeling to go to Amazon, type in your own name in the search bar, and get a result.  But a book called “Licence: Reviewed” does come up as a search result, and it’s a bit like being a proud father for the first time.
   Not only did the release of “Licence: Reviewed” coincide nicely with the 50th anniversary of the original theatrical release of Dr. No, the impact of Bond on the silver screen is just about to happen again with the release of “Skyfall” this autumn.  I’ve been asked what expectations I have for this film.  Well, with the reboot of Bond effectively carried off over the last two movies, I’m expecting this one to get back to more of the traditional formula in that I believe we’ll get to see Moneypenny and Q this time around.  Having said that, I don’t think it will feel particularly like the traditional formula we got used to prior to “Casino Royale.”  Bond got rebooted, so I expect the dynamics of the relationship Bond has with both Moneypenny and Q will also get a re-tooling.  Beyond that, I genuinely have no idea where EON Productions will take us, and I have to admit, I rather like it that way.

For your copy click Licence:Reviewed

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