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The Deteriorating Essential Element of the Formula: The Bond Villain

By Adam Farrington-Williams (FelixLeiter)
December 23, 2004


Robert Davi as Franz Sanchez

One of the quite plausible reasons the films of the 1990s and onward will never match the heroics of a Fleming story is the simple reason of the deteriorating Bond villain. A villain as a true nemeses has been almost non-existent since Licence to Kill, which was the last film in which the main 'bad guy' (Robert Davi’s, Franz Sanchez) lived up to his true title.

Since 1989’s Licence To Kill, we’ve yet to see a villain that makes you really fear for Bond’s safety and it’s about time we got a brutal, sadistic enemy that harks back to the Blofeld’s and Drax’s of yesteryear! The villain in a Bond adventure is just as important, if not more so, than Bond himself! If a villain is boring, predictable and less than intimidating, the story suffers because of it. A prime example of this can be found in Die Another Day. The villain, Gustav Graves, is unoriginal, uninspiring and far from being menacing. His real identity makes for a twist in the plot that the audience can see coming from the conclusion of the pre-title sequence!

Screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade don’t help the situation. Rather, they ignite piteous with their insipid recycled storyline. Still, the fact that Gustav Graves is such a pitiful character is what ruins the entire film, for me!

The original super-villain, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, in From Russia With Love

When comparing the latter films with those of the early Connery era, no comparisons can be found, which rather underlines my theory that when a film has a strong villain at its helm, the rest of the story tends to be more effective and enjoyable to view. For example, the intrigue drawn by the character Blofeld in both From Russia With Love and You Only Live Twice is an essential part of the Bond formula. Without it, the action and the plot have nothing to work with.

In fact, I adore both those Connery flicks, whereas Die Another Day, I cannot stand! Therefore, in my eyes a Bond film is made what it is by its villain. Now, all of this is not to say I dislike the actors portraying a Bond villain in the 90s and beyond, nor that they play their roles inadequately, it is simply the lack of depth and attractiveness given to the character by the screenwriter(s).

Toby Stephens as Gustav Graves

The film series needs a new super-villain, not a face-changing, corrupt, North Korean diamond smuggler! The main antagonist, like the rest of the series, needs to return to the basic Bond formula: something original, yet at the same time, “Blofeldesque.” Something people at EON like to call returning to the roots of the series.

This task is clearly manageable and with the correct screenwriters in place, the franchise can return to an era that holds villainous foes that even Fleming himself would be proud of!

Author’s note: I deliberately leave out a Thunderball reference when talking about Blofeld’s intrigue, due to its relevance to the subject.

Article written by Adam Farrington-Williams (FelixLeiter)

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