Is there another line of cinematic dialogue as iconic as “the name is Bond, James Bond”? When the line is spoken in GoldenEye, released in 1995 after a six-year hiatus for the series, it serves a clever dual purpose. The character introduces himself to someone else in the scene, while the actor Pierce Brosnan introduces himself to worldwide audiences as the latest iteration of their favourite British spy (all due respect to the other international man of mystery who would make his way onto the screen two years later). GoldenEye was the first of a modern era of Bond, reestablishing the viability of the brand after some patchy years with legal disputes and a rotating cast of actors dimming the once golden run of adventures that started the original and hairiest Bond, Sean Connery in 1962. With one line of dialogue, audiences were taken in by the charm, unshakable bouffant and steely gaze of Brosnan, previously best known for the daytime series Remington Steele; forever after associated with the beloved spy.
There is no other cultural property with the longevity and massive worldwide reach of the James Bond series. The only thing that comes close is another British invention, Doctor Who. The wonderful thing about a film series which is so far removed from the everyday – underwater cars, shark tanks, jet packs – is that the audience gleefully participates in the suspension of disbelief to the point that it allows the film and the actors who play the beloved characters of Bond and his colleagues at MI6 within to be refreshed as required.
The franchise is remarkably resilient, with the 25th the latest in a more or less continuous release schedule over 58 years. It's a testament to the desire of audiences to escape through cinema – the exotic locales, the beautiful conquests, the dangerous missions (although there’s never any doubt about who will prevail against evil masterminds who always confess their secret plans with little provocation). And the films stand as valuable artefacts of the decades in which they were produced: the oh so stylish costume and set design of the 60s (Dr No, Thunderball), blaxploitation tropes in the 70s (Live and Let Die), and the glamour and excess of the 80s as personified by the iconic Grace Jones (A View to a Kill). The sexual and racial politics of the films have not aged well (look no further than Bond going undercover as a Japanese man in You Only Live Twice) but they provide a valuable opportunity to have conversations about changing expectations of representation in cinema.
The appeal of James Bond as a film series crosses generations and demographics like no other. It is arguably the most consistently entertaining series in popular culture and with no shortage of iconic moments to revisit it will no doubt remain in the collective consciousness for years to come.
– Tiana Stefanic