And You Thought It Was Safe(?)


The Living Daylights (1987)
I might as well subtitle this "The Many Faces of Timothy Dalton."

I might as well subtitle this “The Many Faces of Timothy Dalton.”

Introduction: Why Novels Are Better Than Films (Bond)

Enter Timothy Dalton, to the collective dismissal of a generation. Not my generation, mind  – I was four at the time and at least a year away from achieving what I’d call “consciousness.” I speak of the previous generation of Bond fans Roger Moore created with his twelve year stint in the tux…and the generation before that, who grew to see Moore’s films as a fundamental betrayal of  Ian Fleming’s creation and his suave, snarky, seemingly-detached counterpart Sean Connery and Richard Maibaum created.

Neither group seems particularly concerned with the fact Bond-the-character-in-these-films is an empty suit. As with most literary characters, translating Bond into film removes the one thing that made him bearable in prose: third-person-limited narration. Fleming’s novels are built out of it, their prose colored by Bond’s oft-irredeemable opinions on life, the universe, and everything. He’s exactly the type of “stiff-assed Brit” you’d expect to meet in the better clubs of mid-50s London: defiantly prim and proper; fussy and cynical and racist. Always making snap judgments on the most superficial of things*. But also experiencing the full range of human emotion in a way noneof his actors can. They don’t have the time – most of their movies are already too long and none of the Connery or Moore films dared pause to show Bond agonize over a decision, or ruminate on a long life of forcing himself to do horrible things to worse people.

[*My favorite of these comes in the novel Moonraker – which had little to do with the movie Moonraker apart from the villain, Hugo Drax. Bond decides Drax is The Villain, not only because  because the man cheats at bridge, but because he sweats while he does it.] Continue reading

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The Punisher (1989)
I guess Frank picked up some silver smithing skills in between bouts of punishing the guilty.

I guess Frank picked up some silver smithing skills in between bouts of punishing the guilty.

Like Ghost Rider before him, the Punisher is one of those breakout characters from early ’70s that seemed dark and edgy in his time, only to be surpassed by any given action movie hero on any given weekend of any given summer. Vengeful murder became a novelty in American comic books after the Moral Panic of the mid-1950s sanitized everything. The 60s and 70s were sad times, and they produced some sad sack characters, but at least the wave began to roll back towards a grim, more gruesomely violent place. That’s something, right? Sure as hell makes things more marketable.

But since I don’t do what so many do and confuse marketable levels of violence for “realism” I’ve never been able to take the Punisher all that seriously. He would’ve been yet another one-off Spider-Man villain in an age that already overflowed with them, were it not for the fact he shared Parker’s tendency to monologue like a Spalding Gray robot and constantly question the merit of his own actions…even as he murders bad guys by the mansion-full. The contrast can be hilarious, depending on how overwrought the prose turns out, and so obvious even Marvel’s realized it on occasion. Continue reading