DAVID IBISON and FIONNUALA McHUGH
Should James Bond hang up his licence to kill? YES COME in number 007, your time is definitely up. Yes, with the arrival of the new Bond film, GoldenEye, we're back in that strange twilight zone where women bear naughty names (Miss Onatopp is this year's winner because, you see, she likes to be ... hilarious, isn't it?), where the producers have erected huge, er, sets (the innuendo is infectious) and where the Russians are being a damned nuisance again. But what about the end of the Cold War, I hear you cry. Well, fortunately for the producers, the Russian Mafia is proving to be just as tiresome as the KGB, which means that the wardrobe department can once more wheel out all those fetching uniforms and the villains can speak to each other in heavily accented English, except when they're stumped by difficult words such as yes and no. Then they have to say da and nyet.
Bond is, of course, the world's most overexposed spy. He can scarcely pass a bar without some stranger pressing a vodka Martini - shaken, not stirred - into his hand. The concept of a pseudonym has never darkened his brain, which I would have thought makes him singularly inept at his job. It is also a curious fact that when the bad guys want to kidnap him in order to plan some fiendish tortures, they do so with extreme ease but can they actually kill him? Nyet. Curious fact number two: the villains' expenditure on island lairs, helicopters, missiles etc must be at least three times the amount of roubles they hope to gain by their nefarious activities.
GoldenEye is being touted as the New Age Bond - that sound you hear is Ian Fleming rotating in his grave. It's OK, Ian, don't worry. Although M is played by a woman and although she calls 007 'a sexist, misogynist dinosaur', your creation hasn't changed a bit. He still lumbers around in his primeval forest, where women are pliant and available but not unbecomingly so. As a rule of thumb, the more sexually voracious a woman is, the more unpleasant her end. Alas, Miss Onatopp's card is marked from the first minute. James, you see, likes to be top man. 'Why are you so cold?' asks the current young lovely (actually, what she says is: 'Vy are you so coldski?'). The answer, of course, is that he's contracted for another four films and she isn't.
The quaint notion at the heart of all the films is that the British Secret Service holds important sway in world affairs. I know. Laughable. The CIA man hovers, in a tubby, buffoonish, sort of way around the edge of GoldenEye, even though the last quarter is set in Cuba. Preposterous baddies I can take but American non-interference? I think not. Face it, Jim lad, your credibility has gone. Your day is done. It's time to visit that nice Miss Moneypenny and pick up your provident fund.
NO IN THE book You Only Live Twice, James Bond is asked by his close friend Tanaka-san to write a Japanese haiku, a poem consisting of 17 syllables. Bond came up with the following. 'You only live twice, once when you are born and once when you look death in the face.' In the new movie, GoldenEye, Bond disproves his own haiku; it is possible to die a third time when you are locked to an atrocious script, cretinous characters, brain-dead women and villains about as evil as a Danish pastry. But does this mean 007 should be relieved of his responsibilities and exercise his licence to kill on the cockroaches in his King's Road flat? You could argue he was a sexual anachronism; you could regurgitate the same old baloney about his gadgets, phallic symbolism, the awful wisecracks and acquiescent women. You could do that, assuming you wanted to be a 100 per cent, prime-time, fillet steak, top of the heap, politically correct bore.
If you don't like Bond then I suggest you nip down to Seibu and purchase yourself a life. You must be made of stone not to realise that Bond, more than anything else, represents the will to live. He doesn't just exist, he partakes.
Read the books and you will see depths to Bond's character never explored in the films. He is aware that he will most likely be dead by the time he is 45. He knows it could be a lot sooner than that.
The Bond of the books spends all the money he earns. He abuses his body (60 cigarettes a day with three gold bands on the filter), has no time for social niceties, takes what he wants from women and, let's face it, let's them take what they want from him. He lives his life as if he could die tomorrow.
Only one line gets close to this side of his character in GoldenEye. He states that he lives his life according to these words: 'Enjoy it while it lasts.' Good advice for all budding Bond bores out there.
Depressing as it is, we could all die tomorrow and I'm pretty damn sure that I do not want to die with clean lungs, fully functioning kidneys and deprived of the knowledge of the company of women. Sorry, but there it is.
I ask any man out there whether he would mind being Bond? I ask any woman out there whether she wouldn't mind going out with him? Be honest with yourself. Men all want to be Bond and women all want to tame him.
The Bond of the current films can put his Beretta to his temple and pull the trigger for all I care. But I am hopeful that in time the films will get bored of their current formula and do what most films usually do - return to the original texts. At that point, Bond will be back and Bond bores will be staring death in the face.