Two Multicultural Man columns on the subject of James Bond within a month? Surely that’s too much – even two too many. But I cannot restrain myself: I feel that if I was to go to my grave without getting this heavy 007-shaped weight of my chest, I’d be even less likely to be resurrected than… well, James Bond after the fiery Götterdämmerung that immolates him at the end of No Time to Die.
Oops! Was that a plot-spoiler? And have I therefore just ruined the film for those New European readers yet to be lured back into the cinemas by this allegedly delectable treat, one that’s been lauded by all and sundry? I do hope so. Frankly, if it wasn’t that I’d probably get arrested I’d be prepared to hang about outside my local multiplex handing out leaflets bearing news of this fictional fatality to prospective viewers in the hope of dissuading them from buying a ticket.
And if that didn’t work, in true macho Bond fashion I might just wrestle them to the foyer floor.
Because it’s crap, No Time to Die – utter dreck: a world-bestriding turkey gobbling loud enough to be heard even in your sleep; or at any rate, mine. It doesn’t even possess the kitsch charm of the feeblest 1970s Bond films, wherein a ham-faced Roger Moore hammily saved the world while sporting a pastel-coloured safari suit.
The dialogue is crap and the stunts are all tedious retreads, while the dramatic arc has all the tension of an old laundry line left out in the rain. As for the acting, I can’t say I suspended by disbelief in any of the characters at all – this was just watching a lot of drama school graduates go through their highly paid motions.
I’ve admitted in MM passim to this strange foible of mine: despite being an effete republican, I’ve watched every single one of the films in which Ian Fleming’s pseudo-secret agent commits murder on Her Majesty’s secret service. Why? I can’t altogether say – I’m no sort of fan-boy or otherwise cultural completist; the only other body of work I’ve consumed exhaustively is that of Edgar Allan Poe, and that was because I agreed to write an introduction to a collection of his complete short stories and poems, thinking it was only a selection.
I don’t regret having read in Poe in toto – and I don’t regret having watched the Bond franchise in its entirety either, not if it helps me to dissuade just one of you out there not to waste your time – and money – watching this latest instalment.
Think of me as a sort of anti-M, possessing the wisdom and gravitas of the fantastical spy chief, while deploying them in a very realistic way: you don’t need to do this to yourself: you don’t have to have your eyes and ears bombarded with this utter bollocks. And by extension: you shouldn’t waste any more of your time consuming culture on the basis of critics’ recommendations. Because that’s the grim truth about No Time to Die: this was not the time for this film to, um, die. The cinemas needed a hit, the film producers needed a hit, the actors and crew all needed a hit – everyone, including me needed a hit, and most especially: the critics needed a hit, so they ordained – despite all evidence to the contrary – that this would be one.
This was the weird psychology of so-bad-its-good operating at a mass and collective level, and in the process of convincing us of this – and thereby generating millions in revenue – our cultural gatekeepers devalued everything and destroyed whatever residual faith we may have had in their own judgment and objectivity.
As for the tedious canard that Bond is some kind of poster boy for diversity and inclusion, No Time to Die certainly gives the lie to this: in the film Bond has retired to Jamaica and the new 007 is sent to stop him getting involved in any more capers. Posing as a young Jamaican woman, she seductively gets him on the pillion of her scooter – but when they get back to his, off comes her bouffant hairdo, and with it her Jamaican accent.
Yes: the new 007 may be a young black woman, but she’s a young black woman who speaks BBC English, and who – when the going gets rough – steps aside so Bond can, once more, do his fit bit.
So, what’s the message here? Why: business as usual, of course – because au fond that’s what showbusiness always is.