A couple of months ago I got it into my head to review the entire James Bond series, releasing one a day up until SPECTRE was released. One laptop crash later, i'm planning to mass release them the day before, but it's left me with one important question.
How can James Bond be so popular when the films are so awful?
Before you get the pointy and burning things ready, hear me out.
In any series there is going to be good and bad films, but the only series with a worse good/bad ratio is Star Wars. And where they haven't aged terribly they all have the same 7 beat plot. Seriously. Watch them. Same plot different characters. Random villain with no backstory, over-complicated plot, Bond is sent, gadgets, girl, chases, explosions, girl. maybe changed a little bit but not by much.
And it's definitely not the character of Bond that keeps us coming back. Leaving aside the fact he regenerated and changes his tone every few years, it must be the fact that he's what every man wants to be. The ultimate in male wish fulfillment, right? Except Bond is an idiot. He's captured in every single film, would have been dead long ago were it not for his gadgets and normally puts things together about ten minutes after everybody else.
It's not even as if there's any tension in these film. Bond is a sex-powered terminator. He can't be reasoned with, he doesn't do pity, or remorse and absolutely will not stop until the villain is dead. No matter the situation, there's a gadget or gizmo or helper that will get him out of whatever mess he's gotten himself into.
Even worse, the politics of the day keeps bleeding through and is responsible for some of the worst in the series. The Man With the Golden Gun is one such example. Hell, Bond has so little identity that he keeps trying other series clothes on. Moonraker exists because Cubby Broccoli saw Star Wars, Quantom of Solice because of Bourne and Die Another Day was to compete with XXX. (It made sense at the time) In a franchise that you would think is about as bulletproof as things get it does seem terribly insecure.
Is it the villains? Bond villains are as close as we get to pantomime in the film world. They are presented to us fully formed and minutes away from unleashing their evil, over-complicated plans upon the world until Bond stops them.
Maybe that's the secret. That, it's nice to imagine in this world of shadows and gray that there are absolute villains and when they are ready to strike a piano picks out a few notes and we know that James Bond Will Return.