WashU Expert: New James Bond film returns to emotional roots

Film & Media’s Colin Burnett on 'SPECTRE'

Colin Burnett, assistant professor of film & media studies
Colin Burnett, assistant professor of film & media studies in Arts & Sciences. Photo by Joe Angeles/WUSTL Photos

It is the eternal dilemma of serial fiction: Things happen, but nothing changes. James Bond forever sips martinis, forever unaffected by his own life of violence.

Yet the film Bond, unflappable and aloof, stands in marked contrast to the character described in Ian Flemings original novels, argues Colin Burnett, assistant professor of film and media studies in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, who teaches the freshman seminar “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: James Bond in Film, Literature and Popular Culture.”

In “Serial Bonds: What the ‘SPECTRE’ Teaser Reveals About the James Bond Franchise,” Burnett writes, “What distinguishes the Bond of the novels from the irreverent, superhuman hero laid upon us by Roger Moore, let’s say — a character whose lack of development is guaranteed by the amnesia he apparently suffers between assignments — is that Fleming created a protagonist whose traumas remain with him, who remembers and learns.”

Bond consoles Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) in “Casino Royale” (2006).

It is this Bond, the Fleming-era Bond, who promises to return to the big screen Nov. 7.

“Daniel Craig’s Bond, introduced in 2006’s ‘Casino Royale,’ is a character with a past, a Bond who endures or witnesses trauma,” Burnett writes. “The world around Craig’s Bond shows wear and tear, and so does he, not only because of the physical demands of the job, but because painful memories continue to force their way back into his life, coloring his outlook, his missions.”

What’s more, “SPECTRE” could finally resolve important plot threads that previous Bond iterations have left hanging. For example: early indications suggest that Bond may at last confront those responsible for the suicide of his “first true love, the double agent Vesper Lynd” — a character Fleming introduced with the first Bond novel in 1953.

“It reveals that the Bond franchise … has a sense of its own history,” Burnett writes. “Producers finally seem ready to cash out on 60 years of serial Bonds.”