This article contains major spoilers for the ending of Skyfall.
When you spend your weekdays riding motorcycles across European rooftops, engaging in fisticuffs atop moving trains, downing every glass of liquor you can find, bedding random women without so much as a "So what do you do for a living?", and killing everyone who gets in your way without so much as a quaver, you're probably trying to make up for some longstanding mommy or daddy issues. We've got to imagine that James Bond turned out the way he did in part thanks to a healthy dose of childhood trauma linked to ol' Ma and Pa Bond.
As far as Bond's parents go, all we've ever really had were our own machinations. For the past 50 years, the issues of 007's family and childhood have been skirted by the film franchise, with nary a mention of whomever his parents might be. But if you've already seen the new release of Skyfall (which, if you're reading this spoiler-filed article, you should have!), then you know that some of our questions regarding the lineage of 007 (Daniel Craig) are brought to light in the third act. Hoping to find a secure residence for himself and his beloved boss and mother-figure M (Judi Dench) while awaiting the arrival of the film's villain (Javier Bardem), Bond chooses to retreat to his childhood home — a remote ranch in the foggy hills of Scotland.
There, Bond revisits, and introduces audiences to, the graves of his deceased parents: Andrew Bond and Monique Delacroix Bond, who died when Bond was just a young boy. As the still-living ranch caretaker Kincaide (Albert Finney) reveals, a preadolescent James took hospice in a cavernous tunnel beneath the family's property immediately following his parents' passing, surfacing several days later with the darker, steel demeanor that envelops the Bond we know.
It might well be the first time the movie series has treated its audiences to such substantial information about its super spy's upbringing. But to those who have traveled beyond Eon Production's Bond pictures in their investigations of MI6's golden boy, this scene might serve as more of a callback than a revelation.
The Bond Backstory
In Bond creator Ian Fleming's twelfth (and second to last) book about the secret agent, You Only Live Twice (published in 1964), the author first expanded upon his mainstay character's mysterious background. In this book, Fleming introduced his readers to Andrew Bond (a Scottish representative of an armaments company, educated at Fettes College in his nation's capital of Edinburgh) and the Swiss-born Monique Delacroix Bond. The pair was said by Fleming to have died mountain climbing when James was only 11, which is in keeping with the vague information provided by Finney's character in the conclusive chapter of Skyfall. The same novel introduces a paternal aunt who raised James in England following the death of his mother and father.
Following Fleming's initial foray into the Bond backstory, other media began exploring these elements of 007. In 1973, Fleming's biographer John Pearson wrote the book James Bond: The Authorized Biography of 007, which extrapolates upon the character's personal and professional histories. Bond's family members — "authorized" and otherwise — would find life in their own material. Most notably, Bond's nephew, James Bond, Jr.... a relative who, for all intents in purposes, cannot exist.
The Junior Problem
This character first came to fruition in the 1967 novel The Adventures of James Bond Junior 003½, penned by a still unknown author (using the nom de plume R.D. Mascott). A quarter of a century later, the character was revived in cartoon form for the short-lived series James Bond Jr., which featured the iconic hero's sprightly young nephew grappling with the offspring of Bond nemeses and their respective offspring (i.e., Goldfinger's nefarious daughter Goldie). But to those affixed on the consistency of the Bond universe, there arises a fatal error with James Bond, Jr.
Despite Junior's accreditation as Bond's nephew in both incarnations of the character, Fleming's texts have cited Bond as an only child. If one was impassioned enough to preserve the canon of James Bond, Jr., to seek a loophole in the form of dubbing the aspiring agent a nephew not by blood but by marriage, they'd still be sorely disappointed. Bond has been married once: to the ill-fated Teresa "Tracy" Draco (as featured in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, played by Diana Rigg) a reformed con artist born to criminal kingpin Marc-Ange Draco and an unnamed mother who died when Tracy was young. Like Bond, she was an only child, incapable of herself having any nieces or nephews that she might then transmit, by marriage, to James' claim.
There is truly only one possibility: Tracy's first husband, the duplicitous Count Giulio di Vicenzo. In the interest of keeping James Bond, Jr., a legitimate possibility in the reality of Bond, one could surmise that the boy was a child of one of the Count's siblings — we have no reason to believe that he, unlike his wife and her next husband, was necessarily an only child. Perhaps the child was born during the brief period of time that Tracy (still close with her in-laws despite a failed marriage to Giulio) was married to James prior to her death. And maybe James, too, had warmed his way into the hearts of the considerably less seedy di Vicenzo sibling and spouse, earning a namesake in their son, his nephew-by-marriage-by-marriage. Okay, it's far-fetched, but it's the only way it works.
The point is, even with Fleming's suggestions, with Pearson's followup tome, with the sort of roundabout rationalization you'll find above, and with the ending of Skyfall, James Bond's childhood is moreover a mystery. How the cold, dark man came to be is left largely up to the imaginations of fans... and honestly, that's not a bad thing. Such an iconic figure, who has maintained such a cherished position in the hearts and minds of audiences since the 1960s, deserves a malleable personal history. A tale we can create for him, in the way we deem most suitable for the hero. And, if we can all be a little bit honest, in a way that we deem most suitable for ourselves... after all, who doesn't want to believe that he or she is kind of like James Bond?
[Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures; United Artists]
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While recent animated blockbusters have aimed to viewers of all ages starting with fantastical concepts and breathtaking visuals but tackling complex emotional issues along the way Ice Age: Continental Drift is crafted especially for the wee ones — and it works. Venturing back to prehistoric times once again the fourth Ice Age film paints broad strokes on the theme of familial relationships throwing in plenty of physical comedy along the way. The movie isn't that far off from one of the many Land Before Time direct-to-video sequels: not particularly innovative or necessary but harmless thrilling fun for anyone with a sense of humor. Unless they have a particular distaste for wooly mammoths the kids will love it.
Ice Age: Continental Drift continues to snowball its cartoon roster bringing back the original film's trio (Ray Romano as Manny the Mammoth Denis Leary as Diego the Sabertooth Tiger and John Leguizamo as Sid the Sloth) new faces acquired over the course of the franchise (Queen Latifah as Manny's wife Ellie) and a handful of new characters to spice things up everyone from Nicki Minaj as Manny's daughter Steffie to Wanda Sykes as Sid's wily grandma. The whole gang is living a pleasant existence as a herd with Manny's biggest problem being playing overbearing dad to the rebellious daughter. Teen mammoths they always want to go out and play by the waterfall! Whippersnappers.
The main thrust of the film comes when Scratch the Rat (whose silent comedy routines in the vein of Tex Avery/WB cartoons continue to be the series highlight) accidentally cracks the singular continent Pangea into the world we know today. Manny Diego and Sid find themselves stranded on an iceberg once again forced on a road trip journey of survival. The rest of the herd embarks to meet them giving Steffie time to realize the true meaning of friendship with help from her mole pal Louis (Josh Gad).
The ham-handed lessons may drag for those who've passed Kindergarten but Ice Age: Continental Drift is a lot of fun when the main gang crosses paths with a group of villainous pirates. (Back then monkeys rabbits and seals were hitting the high seas together pillaging via boat-shaped icebergs. Obviously.) Quickly Ice Age becomes an old school pirate adventure complete with maritime navigation buried treasure and sword fights. Gut (Peter Dinklage) an evil ape with a deadly... fingernail leads the evil-doers who pose an entertaining threat for the familiar bunch. Jennifer Lopez pops by as Gut's second-in-command Shira the White Tiger and the film's two cats have a chase scene that should rouse even the most apathetic adults. Hearing Dinklage (of Game of Thrones fame) belt out a pirate shanty may be worth the price of admission alone.
With solid action (that doesn't need the 3D addition) cartoony animation and gags out the wazoo Ice Age: Continental Drift is entertainment to enjoy with the whole family. Revelatory? Not quite. Until we get a feature length silent film of Scratch's acorn pursuit we may never see a "classic" Ice Age film but Continental Drift keeps it together long enough to tell a simple story with delightful flare that should hold attention spans of any length. Massive amounts of sugar not even required.
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox]
In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.