The Ingredients is a column devoted to breaking down the components of a new film release with some focus on influential movies that came before. As always, these posts look at the entire plots of films and so include SPOILERS.
The James Bond series is something of a hub in the course of film and pop culture history. As iconic as it is on its own, it tends to be informed by other material as often as it does the informing. In the beginning, for example, the movies were highly influenced by the works of Alfred Hitchcock. Author Ian Fleming even wished for Hitch to direct the first movie adapted from his 007 novels. And Cary Grant was famously sought for the part of Bond, which would have been interesting had he continued with the second film, From Russia With Love, given how much it calls to mind North by Northwest.
Instead, little-known Sean Connery embodied the character, and after the first two installments made the actor famous, Hitch cast him in Marnie. As usual, the director capitalized on a movie star’s pre-existing notoriety, his screen value, which makes it quite difficult for us to see Connery’s Marnie character, Mark Rutland, as anything but James Bond as a wife-raping publisher. Hitch went another step with his next film, Torn Curtain, which was an admitted direct response to the 007 films. He wrote to Francois Truffaut in 1965:
“In realizing that James Bond and the imitators of James Bond were more or less making my wild adventure films, such as North by Northwest wilder than ever, I felt that I should not try go one better. I thought I would return to the adventure film, which would give us the opportunity for some human emotions in situations that were not so bizarre.”
With years under its belt, the Bond series has become like a mobile library, loaning out this and that plot line and character archetype for parody or knockoff, while also taking in second-hand stories where it can. It’s incredible that for so many years the franchise inspired copycats the world over, and yet once Star Wars came out the Bond producers had to go and sell itself short with a knockoff. The constantly ripped off became the rip off with Moonraker, and it’s no wonder many fans think it the worst of all the 23 films.
Just before that one, The Spy Who Loved Me seemed to have a little fun with Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. While sharks have been a staple for Bond villains since the beginning and so nothing new to this sequel, the introduction of a henchman named “Jaws” (also seen in Moonraker) had to have been an intentional nod to the horror blockbuster, which was a much greater hit than the Bond movies had been of late.
So, it isn’t too much of a bother when the series looks to other hits for inspiration. Like how Quantum of Solace appears to be mimicking the Bourne series’ editing style (the fault there is in the choice, not in the choosing). And like now, the way Skyfall is being discussed as a Bond movie that borrows a lot from Christopher Nolan, specifically his Batman films. The conversation isn’t exactly negative. Wired‘s Lewis Wallace intro’s a list of “10 Ways Skyfall Borrows from the Dark Knight Playbook” by writing, “there’s an undeniable whiff of bat clinging to the latest 007 film. And that’s a good thing.”
Wallace notes how Skyfall director Sam Mendes has “flip-flopped” on acknowledging Nolan’s influence, telling The Playlist that The Dark Knight was a “game changer for everybody,” then telling The Metro that he “didn’t feel directly influenced” and “would have made the movie the same way had I seen The Dark Knight or not.” Of course, there is the matter of Javier Bardem‘s villain, Raoul Silva, reminding many viewers of Heath Ledger‘s Batman baddie. Elsewhere, I noted how the character, primary motivation aside, “almost seems to also just be doing it all to have some crazed, anarchistic fun, like the Joker but more brilliant.”