“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”

Hey, look! It’s an Aston Martin DB5.

Such a pretty car. Don’t take your eyes off it. Watch closely and see if you can spot its guns go bang-bang. Just like in Goldfinger. Yeah, that’s the ticket: Skyfall is gonna be just like Goldfinger. Not a doubt about it. You’d have to be blind to miss the Aston Martin DB5 on Skyfall shooting locations! Did you also know that Sean Connery drove an Aston Martin DB5 in Goldfinger?

Ask your dad. Or maybe your grandfather. They’ll tell you: Actors may come and go, but the appearance of an Aston Martin DB5 guarantees a blockbuster James Bond movie.

Okay— let’s talk about that here. Let’s put aside everything else we’re hearing and seeing, and, more importantly, not seeing. And let’s talk about the Aston Martin DB5 model that Sean Connery drove in the James Bond film that made this Eon Productions 007 series iconic.

The Aston Martin DB5 returned for Thunderball, GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, and the 2006 Casino Royale. Seems like Roger Moore had it for Cannonball Run, too, if that’s relevant. Personally, I thought the scriptwriters missed a real opportunity in Die Another Day to evidence Bond’s captivity by having Moneypenny shown briefly, visiting his tarped, obviously too-long-undriven DB5 in storage.

But, other than sorta kind nostalgia, did “the car” really add anything significant to any of those films? Was it even meant to be “the same car” in GoldenEye? With a bottle of champagne evidenced in the console, where had the gadget controls gone?

And that’s before we start talking re-boot.

Daniel Craig’s introduction with Casino Royale sternly slapped long-loyal James Bond fans in the face with insistence that only now, for the first time, did we know anything about “James Bond.” Significantly, that his Aston Martin DB5 was not a Q-Branch issue, foist upon him to replace his trusty Bentley. He won it, fair and square — no help from you or me or MI6 — in a card game.

According to The Sun, Skyfall will mark “the first time since its debut it has been armed and used by Bond in a chase.” (Not to nitpick here, but the Aston Martin DB5 in Thunderball was unquestionably armed, as can be seen in both the pre-title, and teased to great effect when 007 reaches for the weapons console while driving away from the clinic; and it was chased by a bad guy.)

So, is this another Aston Martin DB5, in addition to the one Daniel Craig’s James Bond won in Casino Royale? Or a retro-fit? Or maybe it came with the machine guns, or ejector seat, or whatever, from its previous owner, Dimitros?

You know why this is so terribly concerning?

It’s concerning because people are actually discussing this at all.

The New York Post. Social media. And God-only-knows how many backbenchers on the fanboy forums. Speculating on which gadgets. Desperately seeking to justify its fit and appropriateness to the rebooted, alternative reality James Bond timeline brought firmly about via Daniel Craig. Rationalizing the place of this antique, because, you know: Ian Fleming’s James Bond drove a 20-year-old Bentley in the 1953 novel Casino Royale.

For the record: This is 2012. We all know people who currently drive 1992 cars, today. On the road, they’re neither out of place nor esoteric to maintain. That’s hardly the same as an early 1960s automobile. You’ll see more cars of that vintage on display at The Henry Ford Museum than you will in any given week on mainstream highways (with obvious pockets of exception, of course, e.g., retirement communities). A period so distant that Ford today actually pays homage to the Mustang that shared the road with Bond’s DB5 in Goldfinger.

Bellbottoms recently came back, too. Given allusions to The Spy Who Loved Me in Quantum of Solace, ya think Daniel Craig will have his Skyfall gun barrel reshot in a tuxedo — with bellbottom pants?

The folks at The HMSS Weblog revisited Live and Let Die over this past weekend. Noted that Skyfall director Sam Mendes said something about having seen it. In the novel, Ian Fleming gave 007 then-state-of-the-art diving gear for his assault on Mr Big’s smuggling ship. In the movie, Roger Moore was introduced to the role while wearing (perhaps nothing more than) one of the world’s first quartz wristwatches.

Bond was aspirational. Bond was ahead of his time.

Last week on Facebook, I’ve seen entreats from fans suggesting we “wait and see” before weighing-in on Skyfall. More pointedly, “How do you know there’s a problem? You haven’t even seen the finished movie yet!” Fair question. Although I might ask why similar concern is so hard to find in reverse: What’s the basis for anyone anticipating “Bond with a capital B” in Skyfall? Those people haven’t seen it.

But to answer the question of my concern, I’d start with the trend line. The 2006 Casino Royale is generally thought to be very good, I say, deferring to the masses; but it’s a far cry from Goldfinger. Quantum of Solace was bad (as I’ve already written: Very bad), and Die Another Day is not at all looked back upon kindly. So, the last full decade of James Bond filmmaking is at best not just overwhelmingly disappointing, but significantly so. At worst, its erratic, unpredictable.

And that’ll destroy a brand quicker than anything else.

If touchstones to the glory days of 007 were the key, Die Another Day should’a knocked it out of the ballpark. It promised and delivered a veritable Where’s Waldo of insider references. A room full of relics, even. But they could’a parked the same Aston Martin DB5 on top of all that and it wouldn’t have made a bit of difference. Neither will it make any difference in Skyfall. I don’t need to wait for the movie to know that for certain. Neither do you.

Here’s what we know:

  1. We’ve had a press conference that told us Ian Fleming would have no influence on Skyfall — like that was good news: Because, you know, the 2006 Casino Royale that took a lot from Mr Fleming was so much better than Quantum of Solace which shared nothing but the title with Mr Fleming’s short story
  2. We’ve had 80-something official @007 Tweets since then reinforcing that (i.e., no mention of Ian Fleming)
  3. We’ve had “more of the same” in terms of emphasis on Daniel Craig as primary sex object for Skyfall (am I the only one who’d give Skyfall benefit of a doubt based solely on Bérénice Marlohe’s dress and legs at the November 3 press conference?)
  4. We’ve had legitimate budget questions answered with clever cliché and dodges
  5. We’ve seen a minor character appear significantly on film locations for the last 4 months of a 6-month shoot (because, like Daniel Craig in swim trunks, M is so much more important to 007 success than James Bond could ever hope to be)
  6. We’ve seen the distraction of an added product (beer, no less! not the film) marketing campaign added — before the primary product, Skyfall, has even finished filming
  7. We’ve seen finger-pointing and history-revising rational for Quantum of Solace failures, no sign of lessons learned

The Aston Martin DB5 thing only superficially recognizes that “James Bond” is successful in large part due to its legacy.

In 2006, “the powers that be” decided they didn’t need that anymore. In essence, they traded Connery, Lazenby, Moore, Dalton, and most pointedly, Brosnan fans for the hope they could out-Bourne Jason Bourne. Daniel Craig’s first James Bond can’t now be seen as anything but an anomaly, luck. Does anyone really think its “sequel” flopped solely due to a poor script? I tried to watch it again last night, the camera work and editing from the start having sent me back to a DVD of Diamonds Are Forever before anything else.

“Don’t worry,” we’d been told months before. “Daniel Craig insists on doing a lot of his own stunt work!” Really? As I’ve said before: “With live ammo in the guns?” If not, how ’bout if professional stunt men do the stunt work? Maybe then the lead could work on delivering really convincing love scenes with Agent Fields. You know: The part that the actor is supposed to be good at.

Better economics, too. That means more money on the screen.

I can rent an Aston Martin DB5 a short distance from my office here in Michigan, as it turns out. Fundamentally, an Aston Martin DB5 is a commodity. When I wrote above that one had appeared with Roger Moore in Cannonball Run, some of you reading this immediately thought, “That doesn’t count! That’s not a James Bond movie!”

Agreed. And it won’t make Skyfall a Goldfinger-class James Bond movie, either.

Take a lesson from Toto here: Forget the bright belches of flame. Keep your eye on what the curtain can’t hide.


Add yours →

  1. One more DB5 reference: George Lazenby drove one in The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E. television movie in 1983. He played “JB” so while not officially 007 it’s about as close as you can get.

  2. Gary J. Firuta

    2012-02-13 — 5:17 pm

    Wonderful article!
    (Also, the Aston is at the end of THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH as a ‘heat image’ parked outside where Bond and Christmas are located)

  3. Dell,

    An excellent piece. Well done, and thanks for the HMSS mention.


    I am not the type of fan who grasps at any sniff of “breaking news” for this or any new Bond film. The Aston-Martin? Its history is so muddled it doesn’t matter. The watch? A cool but very small small piece of the film. Heineken? Well it’s a step up from Busch (Licence to Kill) but perhaps not as good as Red Stripe (Dr. No.) The budget? Perhaps the absolute least of my concerns. Put a good script together, surround the project with quality professionals, and the film will take care of itself.

    I myself have the same cautious optimism for this next Bond (small or capital “B”, it has no meaning and why Craig said it is a mystery) film “SkyFall” that I have had for each film since 1971. Some of the time I have been only moderately satisfied, too often disappointed, and then sometimes (SOMETIMES), EON knocks it out of the park. I would include CR in that last segment.

    Have a look at my portion of the HMSS Editor Survey on the Bond films at http://www.hmss.com/films/survey/
    The AVERAGE grade I have for all the films is only C+!

    The truth is, the quality of the EON product since the 1960’s has been pretty erratic. But there is usually at least enough juice to keep it interesting And to give me the pleasant feeling of anticipation for the next one in the series.

    I said it on FB, and I do mean it. If fans “Hate” (capital “H”) Daniel Craig to the point of ridiculing and distorting his picture(s), why be a fan at all? I feel sorry for them.

    I rarely enjoyed Roger Moore’s portrayal of 007, but never hated him. That’s ridiculous.

    The James Bond films have been important to me since I was a young boy. My work with Paul (and Bill) on HMSS has opened some very cool doors for us, and introduced us to a lot of cool people associated with the series. I’ve made some great, intelligent, witty friends.

    But in the end… it’s only a movie.


  4. James Chapman

    2012-02-15 — 3:44 am

    Amusing article – many thanks!
    I can live with the return of the DB5 if it means we also get other traditional Bondian motifs, such as the gun-barrel sequence at the beginning of the film and not the end (what were they thinking in Quantum?)
    It might be that it’s one of those Eon bluffs, such as the story-that-never-was about all the former Bond girl cameos in TWINE, the purpose being to generate interest in the film while in production (successfully too).
    Or there again it might just be that the third assistant director is using the car to fetch the coffee and sandwiches – as allegedly happened with the trick car on location for Goldfinger!
    All best,

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