When Ian Fleming created James Bond for his 1953 novel Casino Royale, he had no way of knowing the character would be central to one of the most successful franchises in movie history. The passage of time and the change of medium from book to screen has seen both the man and the overall feel of the Bond stories change with the times.
Bond movies have never pretended to care much for realism. If you want a genuine portrayal of life in the British Secret Service, watch Tinker Tailor Soldier, Spy – all bureaucracy and old men in brown suits. But while we accept that Bond movies take place in a fantasy world, the events usually remain within the bounds of plausibility. Here, however, we look at some classic – if sometimes somewhat cringe-inducing – moments when things went a little too far, even for Bond when it came to “jumping the shark.”
Love at first bite
A movie desperate to cash in on the Star Wars-induced space obsession of the late 1970s, Moonraker jumps one shark after another – most of them in zero gravity. The laser fight is silly, but what really jerks us out of Bond’s universe and reminds us we are watching a movie is the “love at first sight” scene between steel-mouthed 7-foot Jaws and bespectacled and pig-tailed Dolly.
Two years earlier, in The Spy Who Loved Me, Bond had a chance to do some genuine shark-jumping without even having to get out of the car. This was one of two occasions on which Bond forsook the traditional Aston Martin for a Lotus Esprit. There’s an old joke among classic car enthusiasts that LOTUS is actually an acronym for Lots Of Trouble, Usually Serious, so some might say the fact that the Esprit started the first time was already pushing the bounds of plausibility. However, the conversion from car to submarine and back to the car, complete with Bond dropping a fish out of the window as he emerged on the beach, pushed this one into the realms of fantasy.
Riding the Cello
With The Living Daylights, the idea was for Bond to “sensible up” after the increasingly camp and comedic antics of the Roger Moore era. Mostly, it succeeded, and Dalton’s Bond delivered a gritty realism that soon evaporated again with Pierce Brosnan. Yet there was one scene that seemed to have been lifted directly from a Roger Moore script, when having crashed the Aston Martin, Bond and Kara ride down a snow-covered mountain in a cello case, dodging bullets and even waving their passports as they cross a border into the relative safety of western Europe.
That poker scene
Casino Royale, the book, is centered around a game of high-stakes baccarat. In the movie, it is poker. The change was understandable, as in the early 00s, nobody played baccarat, while the World Series of Poker had made Texas Hold ’em fashionable. To give Casino Royale its due, the scene observed the rules of Texas Hold ’em with reasonable accuracy. The shark-jumping moment was the dénouement. $120 million in the pot? Even with no limits, that’s ten times anything that has ever been played anywhere in poker history. Then Le Chiffre has a full house of Aces and Sixes, an incredibly good hand. For Bond to beat it with a straight flush took things several steps too far.