Silva embodies the spirit of rebellious individualism better than Bond
THERE'S A SCENE in Skyfall (don’t worry, this is not about to be a plot spoiler) where a bunch of guys in a helicopter are approaching an isolated farmhouse. The helicopter has been fitted with loudspeakers, which are blasting this song: “Boom, boom, boom, boom. Gonna shoot you right down”. The song was written and recorded in 1961 by the Mississippi bluesman John Lee Hooker, but instead of Hooker’s version, the helicopter is playing a version recorded in 1964 by Eric Burdon and The Animals.
Why wouldn’t the filmmakers have used the original? Because The Animals are British (Eric was born in Newcastle upon Tyne) and Skyfall is, above all else, a promotional vehicle for everything Britanic. When you see the film, you readily understand why Queen Elizabeth agreed to promote it by doing her own skyfall into the opening ceremony of the London Olympics.
James Bond would be sent to terminate Jason Bourne when the CIA tells MI6 he’s gone rogue
Skyfall has two messages: 1 British is best; and 2 Trust your secret services, because they know what you need. It’s precisely the opposite of the message in the Jason Bourne movies: follow your conscience and choose your friends carefully, because your government is lying to you.
Katniss is the individual in a conformist crowd
James Bond is powered by patriotism – unquestioning adherence to anything his bosses deem necessary to protect the realm. James may be a naughty boy, but in the end, he does what mummy wants. At the heart of the movie is authoritarianism. Jason Bourne is powered by paranoia – deep suspicion that his bosses are torturing and killing their own citizens to conceal their overzealous incompetence. Bourne (and his colleague Aaron Cross) was trained to follow orders, but now he just wants to be left alone. At the heart of the series is individualism.
If they existed in the same universe, James Bond would be sent to terminate Jason Bourne when the CIA tells MI6 he’s gone rogue.
The Bourne Legacy made $13 million at the Australian box office this year – a third of what Skyfall is expected to make. That might suggest audiences are more impressed by the authoritarian argument than by the individualist argument. But if you look at the most successful films of 2012, you find that Bond is the odd one out: 1 The Avengers $53 million; 2 The Dark Knight Rises $43m; 3 Skyfall likely to make $39m; 4 Ted $35m; 5 The Hunger Games $31m.
Nobody tells Bruce Banner what to do
Bourne’s legacy is more powerful than Bond’s, it turns out. Four of the top five flicks celebrate free spirits.
In The Hunger Games, a totalitarian government has decreed that districts which tried to assert their independence must be punished by sacrificing their children in gladiatorial contests. It’s the same scenario as in the original Star Wars trilogy -- rebel planets resisting a suffocating central authority (Darth Vader was James Bond until he decided, at the last minute, to follow his conscience and question the authority of The Emperor). If Katniss Everdeen tried to organise resistance, the President would license a killer to stop her.
In the trilogy that culminated in The Dark Knight Rises, Bruce Wayne decides to become a lone vigilante because the authorities are cowardly or corrupted. He and Selina Kyle would be be the sort of troublemakers M would order Bond to kill, and Bond would not ask why.
In The Avengers, the bureaucrats of the World Security Council try unsuccessfully to control Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), who in turn tries to control the assorted superheroes who reluctantly band together to protect the planet.
Joss Whedon, cowriter and director of The Avengers, emphasised the anarchism in outlining the plot: “It makes no sense, it's ridiculous. There's a Thunder God, there's a green Id giant rage monster, there's Captain America from the 40s, there's Tony Stark who definitely doesn't get along with anybody. Ultimately these people don't belong together and the whole movie is about finding yourself from community -- and finding that you not only belong together but you need each other, very much. Obviously this will be expressed through punching, but it will be the heart of the film."
James Bond could never join the Avengers. He’d keep waiting for his mummy to tell him who to shoot. Raoul Silva would be a much more suitable candidate.
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You have just read the Who We Are column, by David Dale. It appears in printed form every Sunday in The Sun-Herald, and also as a blog on this website, where it welcomes your comments. David Dale teaches communications at UTS, Sydney. He is the author of The Little Book of Australia -- A snapshot of who we are (Allen and Unwin). For daily updates on Australian attitudes, bookmark The Tribal Mind.