Why Britain’s greatest super spy may lament the lack of light-hearted espionage.

James Bond must be at least a little irritated that he never gets to have any fun anymore. His new on-screen outing, Skyfall, comes out later this year and the film’s PR campaign has stepped up a few notches. We’ve had a bunch of new press reports and production photos showing the cast brandishing guns and stern expressions.

Daniel Craig’s Bond is steely-eyed and pretty ripped, largely making do with his little spy gun, physical brawn and a pair of speedos (okay, and the occasional tux). The likes of Connery and Moore, on the other hand, got to play around with submarine-cars, jetpacks and Miss Moneypenny. It seems that gone are the days when an entertaining stunt set-piece involved a villain with metal teeth, a large electromagnet and a swimming pool full of sharks.

Perhaps it’s because that, about the same time that John Cleese gave Bond an invisible car, the world was also introduced to Jason Bourne. Bourne made Hollywood think that Joe Cinema Goer was apparently a lot more interested in the disaffected, introverted spy. Bourne was more likely to confront an office-monkey villain in a seedy French apartment block than exchange pithy one-liners with a cat-stroking megalomaniac in a remote hollowed-out volcano.

Bond can’t be happy. The Movie Land version of MI6 evidently took notes from Bourne’s adventures and within a few years Bond was breaking a sweat chasing bombers through dusty Madagascan building sites and scrapping with villains in public urinals in grainy monochrome. Successive directors have probably been repeating the same line: “Again, Daniel, but more gritty this time, yeah? Don’t be afraid to really smack his head into the grimy sink!”

Perhaps the Bond team is waiting for its triumphant showdown with Bourne himself. Kidnapped from his hiding place ‘off the grid’ in Toulouse, Bourne will wake up bound, gagged and hooded, and hearing the heavy breathing of Team Bond.

The accent is clipped and British (which helps here as they’re taking the villain role): “You’ve made our life a living hell these past ten years, Bourne. It’s not easy being a suave spy for the British Government and one of cinema’s most enduring brands. But you know what the real bummer is? Bond can’t be light-hearted anymore. Do you have any idea how that feels?

“Back in the day we had the Cold War and that was pretty wild. There were the Russians and then guys like Blofeld, Goldfinger and Scaramanga. Much like now Bond was about the only decent agent MI6 had, but that was okay. There were lots of cool gadgets to play with and Bond liked to have some fun – a lot – to take the edge off moments of real peril. A one-liner here, a fight with a sociopathic dwarf there.

“Then you came along, Jason, and everything changed. Now Bond has to do real action. Everything has to be gritty and realistic. When Bond first started out, about the closest he got to real torture was a table and a laser beam edging threateningly up between his legs. Nowadays he get stripped, tied to a chair and some goon pounds his groin with a piece of knotted rope. I mean, sure, it makes gripping cinema but wow, times sure change!

“So Jason, why don’t you lighten up a bit, eh? Give the established cinematic icons a chance to enjoy themselves a bit. Maybe crack a joke or two in the middle of one of your savage fistfights? Bond’s becoming an old man, Jason – despite technically getting younger over the course of time for commercial reasons – but people look to you and Jeremy Renner for leadership in the spy genre. I’m sure we can peacefully co-exist.”

Bourne gets a playful slap on the cheek and strains to here as his interrogator slips quietly into the night. Probably off to the nearest Aston Martin dealership to see whether ejector seats are available yet as an optional extra; that was a cool toy.

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Nick Goundry
I'm a film journalist and comedy writer. Career highlights so far? Shaking Werner Herzog's hand, disrupting a David Cronenberg interview with an antique Dictaphone and getting chased by the Western Norway Film Commission in a speedboat. I also run the daily news blog at location filming specialist The Location Guide. Drop me a line at nick.goundry@gmail.com.