At CES there’s a lot of stuff. Too much stuff. Robots, cars, haptic displays and entire houses just sitting in the middle of the convention center. It’s a wacky place. Panasonic brought a little order to the show’s chaos by hosting a sit-down conversation with three directors of the James Bond franchise in honor of the 50th Anniversary Blu-ray set ($199, Amazon.com) coming out this year. After walking for hours across the show floor I was relieved to find a place where I could sit, rest my feet, and listen to three film veterans discuss one of my favorite movie franchises.
Before the old folks came out, former Bond girls Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace) and Caterina Murino (Casino Royale) waltzed out first. After looking beautiful and reading a few platitudes about the Bond series from note cards they introduced directors Michael Apted, John Glen, and Martin Campbell. A few select scenes played on Panasonic’s numerous HD TV displays – an array worthy of a Bond villain – then each director reminisced about each clip.
The first scene was the opening vignette from Octopussy when Roger Moore’s Bond flew a plane through a rapidly closing hangar door. I was never big on Roger Moore; I think once he came around scenes in Bond movies became interchangeable and this scene, while great, is good proof of that. It has nothing to do with anything else in the movie and director John Glen, the older of the three with an ultra-rich British timber in his voice, copped to that then explained how the scene involved a lot of forced perspective and miniature work to get the plane through the hangar moment to look right. Apparently the stunt could have been shot for real, with a real plane going through a real hangar door, but it would’ve looked too boring!
The next scene, from The Spy Who Loved Me, showed Moore-as-Bond escaping from bad guys via ski chase. It was a pretty fun bit, prefaced by some enjoyable cheesy dialogue (“I need you James!” says the girl. “So does England!” Bond replies) though that dated, dated bow-chika-wow-wow soundtrack and rear-projection shots took me out of the scene a bit. Then the critical part of my brain shut up when the incredible and loooong ski jump took place. Bond twirled and tumbled through the air until his Union Jack parachute popped out and the Bond theme kicked in. So cool. The man who did it was a bespectacled, short guy named Rick Sylvester, someone unassuming that you wouldn’t expect to do this kind of dangerous work, but he stepped up to do kickass stunts when the time was right, according to Glen (who edited The Spy Who Loved Me, but didn’t direct it). Glen then laughed and mentioned how Sylvester pulled down his trousers and “dumped in the snow” after the stunt due to his stomach flipping. Manly!
Michael Apted then took the spotlight with a scene from The World is Not Enough. Not my favorite of the Pierce Brosnan Bonds — I forgot all about it — but this scene reminded me how awesome Brosnan was in the role. It almost seems effortless for him. Anyway, they showed the part when Bond roughs up mob boss Valentin (Harry Potter’s Robbie Coltrane, also in GoldenEye), remote control drives his car to fire missiles at a helicopter, then flinches comedically as his car gets sliced in half by a helicopter wielding a gigantic multi-bladed saw. It was a nice scene, full of gadgets and suspense, and director Michael Apted remarked how he loved to chop a BMW Z8 in half. He also mentioned how the main plot of oil in the Caspian Sea was inspired by real-world controversy in that region that is still on-going today.
The final clip came from Casino Royale – the parkour scene. Still a thrilling setpiece, modern and sleek, it amazed how far the Bond movies have come since the days of obvious blue screens and kitschy ’70s soundtracks. Director Martin Campbell revived Bond with a new actor and new dark style twice – once in the 90s with GoldenEye and again in 2006 with Royale, which he mentioned he wanted to hew closer to Ian Fleming’s original book. I’m not sure how parkour, cell phones and 9/11 references fit in that mission statement, but hey, they worked for the movie. Campbell talked a lot about Daniel Craig and the style of Bond they created together, that he’s “a rough diamond” who thinks with his gut or heart and not his head, thus crashing through walls and invading embassies while chasing a man who can jump off high-altitude construction cranes. Campbell even admitted what many of us have thought, that Bond could’ve just waited at the embassy to catch the guy he was after, though that wouldn’t have made for much of a thrilling sequence.
After that the Bond girls returned and shared a photo op with the directors. Although each filmmaker came from a different era and perspective it was obvious the three shared a deep love and understanding for Bond. I can’t think of many other franchises, film, book or otherwise, that has had the benefit of the changing of so many hands over 50 years of existence. Maybe they’re out there, but are they as cool or entertaining as Bond?
As of now there’s no release date for Bond’s golden anniversary Blu-ray set. Obviously it will be this year sometime, most likely before SkyFall comes out. Stay tuned at 007.com for future announcements and stay tuned here as I continue to gush (and gripe) about Bond in time for SkyFall’s release. Meanwhile, enjoy the Blu-ray set announcement trailer: