The New James Bond: And Globalization Theory, Inside and Out

By Thomas, Steven W. | CineAction, Winter 2009 | Go to article overview

The New James Bond: And Globalization Theory, Inside and Out


Thomas, Steven W., CineAction


As almost every magazine, newspaper, radio, and television film critic has noticed, the new James Bond is different from the old James Bond; he is more serious, more muscular, and less witty. (1) But beyond such cosmetic character traits that came with the style and physique of the new actor Daniel Craig in Casino Royale in 2006, its 2008 sequel Quantum of Solace reflects a deeper and broader paradigm shift in popular conceptualizations of the world order--a shift from what we might call an "internationalist" perspective to what we might call a "globalist" perspective. The movie's opening song and title-credit sequence announce this shift by surrealistically superimposing global grid-lines of latitude and longitude over a desert landscape of shifting, unstable sand in a manner that alludes simultaneously to the environmental problem of desertification and to the shifting, unstable nature of political alliances due to globalization. In contrast to Casino Royale, whose narrative is based on Ian Fleming's 1953 novel, the new film has an entirely original plot for a twenty-first century audience and incorporates some of the concepts and catchphrases of globalization theory. In this regard, Quantum of Solace is unique for a Bond movie but not unique among other recent films. The globalization theory that came into vogue in the late 1990s in the halls of academia is now being popularized through suspense-thrillers such as Lord of War (2005), Shooter (2007), Jumper (2008), and The International (2009), as well as the more serious dramas such as Dirty Pretty Things (2002), The Constant Gardener (2005), Babel (2006), Blood Diamond (2006), and Children of Men (2006). But popularized how? The DVD of Children of Men includes extensive commentary about globalization by such renowned academics as Slavoj Zizek, Tsevetan Todorov, and Saskia Sassen, but of course such scholarly special features on a DVD are the exception--not the rule--for how major motion pictures are popularizing globalization theory. (2)

As Zizek says about Children of Men and other movies, Quantum of Solace shows the effects of globalization through an indirect, or slanted, representation--an artistic technique that Zizek in so many of his lectures and books calls "anamorphosis." His point is that the emotional or political truth of a situation sometimes cannot be perceived by a direct viewpoint, and so, as in the famous lines of the Emily Dickinson poem, one should "tell all the truth but tell it slant." The background of the movie is the real story for which the foreground is a formal vehicle. In the foreground of Quantum of Solace, Bond disobeys his own government apparently to avenge the death of his lover, but in the background the constant presence of the displaced and impoverished Native Americans due to global forces provides a deeper rationale for the plot than what takes place in the foreground. The new Bond and other recent action-suspense movies reflect a change in popular consciousness about the world order, and some even seem to perform a slanted, anamorphic critique of market-driven globalization, a critique that can be correlated to a simplified version of academic globalization theory. However, at the same time, their stories also reconfirm the ideology of maverick exceptionalism that has always driven the Anglo-American style of global capitalism and has always been Bond's signature ethos.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Bond provides a uniquely useful point of departure for exploring the aestheticization of globalization, for unlike the thrillers such as The Bourne Supremacy and The International or the movies surveyed in Tom Zaniello's The Cinema of Globalization (2006), only Bond films have appeared continuously in movie theaters around the globe for the half a century since the major institutions of the world order--the UN, IMF, GATT (now the WTO), and World Bank--were created. The first movie, Dr. No, came out in 1962; Quantum of Solace is the twenty-third, and so for the past half century there has been a Bond appearance on the silver screen almost every two years. …

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