The MacLamity

The News That Stays News, Reported Live

Monday, November 15, 2004


Based on Casino Royale, Moonraker and half of Live and Let Die:
Less happens.

Less action set pieces. In Casino Royale there's one bomb, one car chase and one torture scene. In the first nine minutes of Die Another Day there are several bombs, a torture scene, a hovercraft chase, surfing, and a Sony-Ericsson camera phone.

Everything is older in the books. Bond's car was made before World War II. Moonraker wants to astonish the reader with the thought that a nuclear weapon could be attached to a rocket. You know, a "rocket." Similar to those V-2s that the Germans were firing over London.

The war in these three books is World War II more than the Cold War. Two characters in the books are essentially created by the havoc of World War II thanks to the old-fashioned device of amnesia. Bond talks about the war with several characters. One gets the impression that it was a horrible, Darwinian mess, where only people like Bond and Hugo Drax came out ahead.

Bond has no snappy one liners. Bond doesn't say "He disagreed with something that ate him" in the book version of Live and Let Die, Mr. Big does. That's the one joke I've found in close to 500 pages. He doesn't like it if his food is bad (Live and Let Die is one long hate letter to American cuisine).

Bond is generally sadder and more scared in the books, and with good reason. The universe is horrible and bad things happen. He almost gets his Johnson chopped off in Casino Royale. Of course, he alsmost gets it chopped off in the movie of Goldfinger. But there, Goldfinger wants to kill him and he's using a fancy turbo lazer. In Casino Royale, the torturer doesn't expect Bond to die from the unsurgical amputation, he expects him to live for quite a while after this. But Bond will be "finished" as Bond. No wonder Bond is scared. And no wonder Bond is sad. His glamorous life and expensive tastes are, in the books, desperate escapes from boredom, which is always on the point of catching up with Bond again. In all three books Bond or Fleming makes an utterly depressing point: that we're all dying and decaying slowly in Live and Let Die and that Bond doesn't know that what he's doing is any better than what his enemy is doing in Casino Royale (he changes his mind about this once it becomes clear that the enemy is the kind of enemy that would chop Bond's Johnson off) and that making love to lots beautiful women is a boring and exhausting alternative to the boredom of not making love to lots of beautiful women (cf. this Beckett poem).

Better similes.

M plays a far greater role in the books and is a more engaging figure than the movies' gruff target of Bond's anti-authoritarian quips. Bond doesn't just respect him, but fears him. It's clearer why Kingsley Amis thought he could pull off a Bond novel who's one plot engine is the kidnapping of M. It's a mystery as to why M's absence would be so exciting to some one who's only seen the movies. In the Bond movies, Bond is essentially the entire British secret service. In the books, M is. Bond wants to impress M, and M never lets Bond know how much he does. M is like that.