I think it's generally accepted by the movie going public that without The Bourne Identity (and subsequent sequels) the Bond franchise would have found itself on the critical list in intensive care. It had stalled, become stale with its recipe of cliches, double entendre's, chicks, fast cars and gadgets. Not even Pierce Brosnan (the Irish charmer and grannies stud muffin) could save the ship from hitting the cinematic rocks.
Apart from a brief experiment in political correctness when Bond wasn't allowed to drink, womanize or do anything remotely macho during Timothy Dalton's tenure, the role, from a writers perspective, had remained largely unchanged from the days of Roger Moore. Full of quick corny comebacks, offered from the seat of a fast car, or on a mattress on which the latest piece of international crumpet was naked and prostrate.
Based on the novels by Robert Ludlum, "Bourne" changed the whole realm of espionage cinema. With tight edgy scripts, crammed with action, slick editing and superb cinematography. The initial three Bourne movies were superbly directed by Doug Liman, Paul Snodgrass and Tony Gilroy, and surprisingly the flavour of the films never changed despite the comings and goings, yet each of them stand on their own merits as individual pieces of cinema. They set the benchmark for the spy genre, even though Matt Damon looked as if he was studying ornithology at a local University and possibly earned a secondary crust by delivering papers. I checked for school shorts at one stage, but none were to be found!
After Die Another Day, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson met to discuss the direction of the Bond franchise, as Wilson commented:
"We were running out of energy, mental energy. We needed to generate something new, for ourselves."Sometime after that meeting, Broccoli was involved in planning a relaunch with Sony executives where they agreed that this new direction was to be influenced by Robert Ludlum's character, and the reinvention would peel back the existing layers of 007, all the way to Casino Royal, Bond and Fleming's first joint outing.
When it was announced that Bond was to be played by Daniel Craig the press were incredulous about hiring a 'Blonde Bond', it was as if he'd left a top secret folder in the backseat of a cab! But Daniel Craig's casting made sense, he certainly fitted the bill (apart from the hair, but he's worth it!), and as we've seen he portrays the ruthless killer extremely convincingly, especially when his squeeze is killed by the mysterious international cartel.
Rather than the choreographed fights of previous Bond flicks, Casino Royale goes for a more authentic feel, ripped straight from the Bourne series, multiple tight angles, sharp edits and expert stuntmen. We still have our car chases, although even they've gone up a notch, and we see a more vulnerable realistic Bond, driven by emotions and fueled by personal agenda.
Casino Royale arrived, and it was clear that Bond had certainly been transformed. Some of the old school Bond fans took awhile to be convinced, many stating it was a good espionage flick but not necessarily a good Bond film. But in the, almost, nine years since Casino Royale's release I think Craig has won most over, and by the time of Skyfall even Connery's version, often thought as the best by purists, certainly had some stiff competition in the best Bond category. When Craig departs it will certainly throw down the gauntlet for anyone coming in.
Of course, it wasn't just 007 who went through a reinvention. Other characters have also been updated, such as Moneypenny and Q (played by superb visual super geek Ben Whishaw). Wisely Dame Judy Dench was the only stay-over from the Brosnan years, and I'm saddened she has now left the franchise. What Craig has done for Bond she did for M. Her interpretation was a delight, unapologetic and unmoved. Ralph Fiennes has some big heels to fill.
After the phenomenal success of Skyfall, and the global anticipation for Spectre, it's good to know that the future of the liver damaged, sex machine and occasional spy that is James Bond has really never looked brighter. But it's clear that 007 owes much to someone called Jason Bourne.
Or is that David Webb?
Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who, Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the 70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By day, he runs an editing house, largely as an excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book. With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk