Home > Comics, Movies, Storytelling, Weekend Feature > James Bond and Batman show that old dogs still have bite in 2012

James Bond and Batman show that old dogs still have bite in 2012

Daniel Craig James Bond with Judi Dench M in Scotland Skyfall 007

“Orphans make the best recruits.”

So says MI6 chief M (Judi Dench) in Skyfall, the latest (and arguably greatest) James Bond film. Director Sam Mendes offers a lot more of 007’s background in Skyfall, including a visit to the mansion where Bond lived before his parents died.

Rich orphan loses his parents and becomes an above-the-law agent of justice. He’s awesome at his job but then he gets a little old, a little rusty, and the job keeps demanding more of him – maybe too much.

Sound familiar?

Watch Skyfall and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises back to back and the two films are striking in their thematic similarities. James Bond and Bruce Wayne get old in 2012, but they don’t lose any of their edge at the box office. For two franchises that rebooted around the same time (2005 for Batman Begins, 2006 for Casino Royale), their gritty, realistic approaches have led both to challenge the onset of age by their third chapters.

M perfectly sums up the struggle against time when she quotes Ulysses by Alfred Tennyson. M is defending the relevance of her seemingly outdated organization, but her words are apt for Bond’s struggle to rediscover his ruthless edge. They also would be just as poignant coming from the lips of Michael Cain’s Alfred Pennyworth in The Dark Knight Rises.

Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are…
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

These films are significant in that they’re so clearly geared toward glorifying the struggle against old age and time. Remember, the baby boom generation is silver-haired now and on its way out of the workforce. What sixty-something person isn’t going to cheer for M fighting to keep control of her director position? How great is it to see a crippled Bruce Wayne strap on a knee brace, throw his doctor’s advice out the window and get back in the fray one more time?

The Dark Knight Rises Christian Bale Alfred Michael Cain

In a movie era where weakness and character flaws are equated with realism, showing a hero in his twilight years has proven to be the next, logical progression for Batman and James Bond.

In looking at the current status of Batman and James Bond, it’s worth looking back at their most recent film rebirths. These are two pop culture pillars that were given the same gritty reboot treatment in recent years, and both benefited from it. Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005) offered us a young Bruce Wayne gathering the skill, allies, equipment, and knowledge necessary to become the Batman. It also wiped away the gaudy style and camp of the earlier Batman and Robin.

Batman and Robin George Clooney Bat nipples Joel Schumacher

Remember George Clooney’s Bat-nipples?

Similarly, 2006’s Casino Royale set out to trim a tired franchise of the glib one-liners, ridiculous villains and easy-as-pie Bond girls that had turned Bond into a parody of his former self. Like Bruce Wayne, 007 became real. That means struggle, difficulty, loss, and weakness.

Batman Begins focused on Bruce Wayne and didn’t reveal him as Batman until over an hour into the film. Bruce Wayne had to earn his alter ego. He travelled the world. He got beat up – a lot. He stumbled over rooftops and woke up with bruises. It was a tough road to becoming Batman.

Bond became Bond right away, but it was a brutal process nonetheless. Who could forget the brutal black and white opening sequence to Casino Royale when our new, blonde, muscle-bound Bond viciously beats a man to death in a bathroom to earn his first kill as a double-0 MI6 agent?

Casino Royale 007 Daniel Craig James Bond Bathroom opening sequence black and white

Casino Royale and Batman Begins are shining examples for getting a reboot right. It’s only fitting, then, that the third chapters in both of these franchises should so clearly reflect each other. Sam Mendes didn’t direct Casino Royale – or the forgettable Quantum of Solace – but he did do his Batman homework. He admitted in an interview leading up to Skyfall‘s release that he was “directly inspired” by Nolan’s The Dark Knight. For Mendes, Nolan’s accomplishment proved that taking a darker tone would not scare off the box office success.

And both films did fantastic at the box office. The Dark Knight Rises was second only to Marvel’s the Avengers this year, and Skyfall is poised to take the fifth spot on the money list from The Amazing Spider-Man. The other two films in the top five are teenie-bopper favourites The Hunger Games and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2.

Action movies are centered around ideas of power, and this year, Skyfall and The Dark Knight Rises put power in the hands of people clearly past their prime years.

Never has being old been so cool.

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  1. December 10, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    great post, check out mine on this subject and see what you think http://wellthatsdifferent.wordpress.com/2012/12/10/the-worst-evil-plan/

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