In this assignment, I will be examining the standard Bond genre from Golden Eye, the seventeenth bond film. I will also be exploring how the audience and I respond to Bond films and what our expectations of the films are.
In the film industry, Genre exists as an obliging system of categorization and allows audiences to sort between films. The industries use the appropriate advertising, marketing and distribution for it to target its audience. Moreover, it allows the audience to filter through films and make a selection on what they want to watch. Genre is a recognizable and established category of written work employing common conventions to prevent readers or audiences from mistaking it for another kind. Narrative is a way of comprehending the story, time, and causality. Since in film there are at least two important frames of reference for understanding the main plot of the story, time, and causality, narrative in film is the principle by which data is converted from the frame of the screen into a diegesis, that frames a particular story, or sequence of action; equally, it is the principle by which data is converted from story onto screen.
Contending that fairy tales could be studied and compared by examining their most basic plot components, Vladimir Propp, a Russian Folklorist from the 1920s developed an analysis that reduced fairy tales to a series of actions performed in each story. Propp argued that all fairy tales were constructed of certain plot elements, which he called functions, and that these elements consistently occurred in a uniform sequence. Based on a study of one hundred folk tales, Propp devised a list of thirty-one generic functions, proposing that they encompassed all of the plot components from which fairy tales were constructed. Vladimir Propp composed a fairytale theory that each folk story had similar characters which had the same purpose in the narrative. His theory on the construction of fairytales can be clearly identified in ‘Golden Eye’. Propp’s fairytale convention has been successfully incorporated in the Bond genre and “Golden Eye” with all the basic characters built-in the film. In Golden Eye, the hero of the film is James bond, as he is seen to be the character with the great courage and strength, celebrated from his bold exploits. James Bond saved his life for Natalya Simonova, the victim of this James Bond film. A villain is a wicked or evil person; a scoundrel – a dramatic or fictional character that is typically at odds with the hero. General Ourumov fits the character of the villain, as he was the one who had access to “GoldenEye” and plotted the plans.
The false hero, Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean) plays the role of two characters. With his 00 status, the audience are deceived into thinking that he was a good character; however he betrays James Bond and turns into the villainous character. He is in fact a Kosovan spy, which is hinted by his name Janus, the Greek God with two faces. This is also shown in the film where he first appears half his face covered in darkness, and the other half visible in light. In Vladimir Propps fairy tale convention, the false hero is a stock character in fairy tales. The character appears near the end of a story in order to claim to be the hero or heroine and is, therefore, always of the same sex as the hero or heroine. The false hero presents some claim to the position. By testing, it is revealed that the claims are false, and the hero’s true. The false hero is usually punished, and the true hero put in his place. Moreover, the Bond Girl Natalya Simonova gets together at the end of Golden Eye. There are stereotypical issues in which the Bond Girls in James Bond are getting more advanced as to before where females were treated differently than today. The clichï¿½ of equality between male and female are shown in James Bond films with the stereotypical James Bond women only used for looks and glamour. In Golden Eye, the Bond girls are becoming more advanced with guns and fighting and are becoming more matched to James Bond.
A narrative film theory is concerned with how stories get told – how they are constructed for and create a viewing subject by camera movement, lighting, editing, and all the available techniques of filmmaking. Vladimir Propp studied the fairytale genre and composed a theory that showed that each folk story had similar characters which had the same purpose in the narrative. This theory, although used by Vladimir in fairytales, can be used in film and has proven to fit the Bond genre well. In fairytales there is always the hero who saves the day, a villain who is up against the hero, the princess who the hero rescues and the false hero who surprises us as we realise he is actually evil towards the end. In comparison, there are other film theories such as the “Feminist Film Theory” which conveys the idea of a film portraying sex equality, and giving equal roles for the women. The Feminist Film Theory criticism was directed at stereotypes of women, mostly in Hollywood films, and now, after twenty years of the film theory, increasing numbers of films include the sex equality of men and women, with equal roles being played out by both genders. There are differences in Vladimir Propps and Feminist film theories as Propp shows the female roles being played as the “princess” and being used for charisma and attraction. This is shown in the earlier James Bond films, where the Bond girls were defenceless and were not portrayed equally. In the modern Bond films, they have more power and control, and become a threat to James Bond.
Bond could be classified as an action, adventure and a spy genre, however as there are now twenty one films made over forty five years, all of which follow the same conventions; it has its own genre, the Bond Genre. The original novels by Ian Fleming produce the formulaic plots and conventional characters which Bond films still follow today and the audience love this. The general conventions the audience would recognise as being part of a “Bond Film” are exaggerated cars filled with gadgets, guns, girls, explosives and gadgets which make Bond a superior character, and the audience envy his qualities.
Even though the narrative is predictable, the audience knows the general plot as it follows the conventions of a normal standard Bond Genre. Every film starts with the Bond opening sequence followed by the opening the scene. The main plot is introduced and comes to a halt where James Bond defeats the villain. This is the normal format of each James Bond which looks rather dull, however each James Bond film have their new setting which is a location unusual to the audience. For example, the setting of Golden Eye was in a Military Base in Russia. Also, the audience look forward to the new Bond Girl and the new gadgets. A Bond audience would be disappointed if certain conventions were missed out such as the new cars, gadgets and bond girls as it wouldn’t make the film stand out and wouldn’t be any different to the 21 films made.
One of the most distinctive features of the Bond films is the gun barrel sequence which opens each movie. The opening credits and the Gun Barrel sequence is a convention in itself. The gun barrel image sequence typically begins with a white dot scrolling across the screen, left to right, leaving a short trail of dots representing a montage of bullet holes that quickly turn black shortly after they appear. On reaching the right edge of the frame, the dot becomes a gunman’s view-to-a-kill, down a gun barrel, its rifling a distinctive spiral. Although suggestive of the point-of-view from a telescopic sight, the gun barrel is actually seen from inside – directly observing James Bond walking, right to left, against a white background.
Aware of being observed, he quickly turns to his left and shoots the gunman; from above, the scene reddens with the gunman’s spilling blood. The gun barrel dissolves to a white dot, roving side to side, most commonly settling in the screen’s lower-right corner. The circle then expands to fill the screen, exposing the film’s first scene, which may be an unrelated “teaser” or may directly bear on the film’s main plotline.The opening bond sequence conveys the idea of significance as it appears in the initiation of every Bond film, and also portrays the idea that it is a James Bond film from seeing this barrel sequence. Other conceptions can be made of the Gun Barrel sequence; it can be seen as the third person’s point of view, and you are the camera following James Bond. The gun barrel sequence has evolved during the fifty years of the James Bond. In the older James Bond films, the sequence was shot through a pinhole camera in an actual rifle barrel until “Golden Eye”. The recent Bond films are CG-animated ever since emphasizing light and shade variations in the rifling spiral as the reflected light shifts with the gun’s movement.
The gun barrel sequence was revised again for Daniel Craig’s first portrayal of Agent 007 in “Casino Royale”, released late in 2006. Unlike in previous films of the series, the gun barrel sequence does not open the film, but instead is incorporated to the ending of the pre-title sequence: Bond’s first “kill” recovers and seizes his pistol to shoot Bond in the back. As the man brings his pistol up, the frame shifts instantly to the gun barrel. Bond spins around and shoots the man. This sequence is noticeably different from the Pierce Brosnan-era of CGI. The gun barrel has 28 shiny riflings, and the blood trickles down not as a slow-moving cascade, but in faster falling, 3D rivulets. This is also the first gun barrel sequence without some variation of the “James Bond Theme” and also the only rendition beginning with Bond stationary and his back to the camera. Because of the tiles on the bathroom wall, Bond is not shown against a plain white background. Furthermore, this is also the only instance in the series where the audience has seen the person whom Bond shoots.
Over half a century of Bond film making, the only momentous difference in James Bond is the actor playing Bond. However, there are distinctive similarities between all the actors playing James Bond. They all are tall, dark and handsome with the Bond girl always new and heart-throbbing to catch the corner of the audience’s eyes. However, in Casino Royal, the conventions of the Bond features have changed, as Daniel Craig is the first blonde haired James Bond actor.
The opening sequence and first few shots of the scene are important as it sets the scene. Mise-en-scene is used with the bird eye view of the whole setting of the military base in Russia – a diverse appearance that would strike the audience as it is a new setting with a dramatic landscape. The plane appears in the frame – the camera is shown tracking a plane which suddenly zooms upwards to reveal a vast dam with the tiny plane in the midst of it. We immediately assume the monoplane is on a mission going somewhere as this is what an audience have come to expect of the opening scene of Bond, although it looks insignificant against the immense area. The diegetic sound of the plane is the only noise we can hear which is effective as the tiny engine is set against the immense mountainous setting and it is the natural sound produced at the time of recording. The setting is conventional for a Bond film as most Bond films start with James on a mission, and gets straight to the point, setting suspense and action at the beginning of the film.
The camera then cuts to a low level medium shot of somebody’s feet running towards something. It’s significant as the shadow covers his face, making us unaware of the figure. The music builds up the tension, as t2he man is panting. He’s running towards something, and has to do it fast! This shot was cleverly included because it involves the audience as it makes them feel as though they are also running behind Bond. Naturalistic sounds are used in this part of the sequence, and only his footsteps are heard. There is a sense of urgency and suspending disbelief is controlled well in this sequence as the audience think the figure is friend or foe. . We then cut to a shot of an electronic metal gate, a barren setting which fits the convention of Bond. We get a full shot, bird’s eye view where we see the huge dam with a medium shot of Bond doing one of his typical stunts as he has a rope around him. We can hear the diegetic sounds of chains and panting which gives us a sense of urgency, until the non-diegetic sound kicks in with the mechanical drum bass and the action and drama speed up.
The camera then comes up behind Bond with a birds eye view of him standing at the edge of the dam; and as an audience we know he is going to do a skilful jump and we are not worried by this as we know he’s an expert and is in control. There is non-diegetic sound used in this clip as it gives a sense of realism. The scene is concentrating more on the sight rather than the sound. The sound effects used in this clip show no music apart from the air sound. This makes the audience focus on the scene, and also adds a feeling of tense into the scene. This part of the scene shows secrecy, and reveals no emotions. There is then a close up of the gadget again as he breaks into the weapon’s factory. Up till now, there has been no dialogue, only action shots and sound effects. The audience get a sense of what is going on; however the opening only slightly hints out the plot, but doesn’t reveal everything. It’s a moving movie, and doesn’t allow much time for the audience to think about what is going on.
The camera zooms in a bird’s eye view looking at a man on the toilet with a shadowy silhouette of Bond apparent. There is a close up of the newspaper indicating that it is set in another country as the language is different. We then have the first piece of dialogue, as up until now the narrative was told through the action, a quirky gag from Bond; “Beg your pardon, forgot to knock!” The toilet humour also symbolises a very British thing to do. From this first piece of dialogue we see an ingredient of Bond, his dry humour, the same as the way he takes his trademark drink, dry martini, shaken not stirred Bond is alone, and the suspense is growing more and more, as Bond moves into a space of darkness.
The James Bond theme music then blasts out, loud, dramatic and quick, to signify the beginning of Bond’s quest to restore world peace. We then see the classic image of Bond with his gun resting on his cheek. This classic pose was selected by the director to appear in each film and advertisements for the movies because it indicates Bond’s control and confidence as he has a relationship with his weapon and protocol in firing.
Bond is then in the shadows again although he can see what is going on outside. This shot is used to leave the audience in suspense as the lighting doesn’t make the shot as clear so they have to make assumptions as to what is going on and use their other senses. This is effective, as it shows that it is re-building the tension. 006 appears in the screen, with the first impressions of him being someone bad. The idea of Janus (Roman God) is created with half of his face in darkness, and the other in light which represents safety. This also suggests the idea of the false hero within Propps fairytale film theory convention. Again quirky British humour is used and the politeness England is renowned for is shown once again; ‘After you OO6’. Bond then reinstates his dedication for his country; ‘For England’ as he embarks on his mission.
The first few sequences in the opening scene are important as it reveals the whole scenario and the setting of the whole film. Golden Eye is a film set in a Russian Military base which would seem impossible to break through, however James Bond encounters this, and does the impossible. The audience thinks that there would be a catastrophic explosion, blowing up the base, completing the mission with a lucky escape. This is a Bond convention which is used in each Bond film, to show the skilled agent in a desolated location, and completes the mission.
Casino Royal, the latest James Bond film has a surprise for the Bond fans, as the Bond conventions are torn away. The film tone was changed for the first time in 21 Bond films in order to get Bond back closer to the original character. Casino Royal was Ian Fleming’s first Bond book, and James was still a human character with receiving a 00 status in his first assignment. He had that licence to kill, however he also had the licence to love. The twist of the Bond girl was how much equality they had in comparison to Golden eye. They were valued more in Casino Royal. Also, being as human as James Bond, he showed emotion, which was a change to the original James Bond convention. He showed anger whilst loosing in the poker tournament “Don’t give a dam!” when the waiter asked him how he would like his Martini. He’d normally be expected to say “Vodka Martini, shaken not stirred” as this is James Bond’s catchphrase, and a convention the audience would recognise as being part of a James Bond film.
In conclusion, the Bond genre has to adopt some conventions to suit a 21st Century audience. Some conventions such as the Bond girls still excites the male audience, however they will have to add more innuendo to make the connection between Bond and the girl, and to make it more humorous. Also, they will have to make the concept cars more unique and different to the original cars found in the 21st century roads. The features of the concept car must amaze the audience such as having the speed of lightning or invisible car that the audience has never seen before, as this is one of the main conventions of a Bond film. Also the gadgets are a key convention, and have to be up to date with the modern society. Although the audience know the outcome of a Bond film, it still excites the audience today; the audience would want to know Bond’s latest mission, cars and the new Bond girl. The conventional plot remains unchanged however the detail is revised, making it a superb film. Knowing the general Bond conventions of the films, and knowing Vladimir Propp’s fairytale theory, it makes the audience safe knowing that “good” will always triumphant over “evil” and that Bond will always win against the enemy.