Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bring Back the Man

So the next Bond instalment is almost upon us. Picking up where Casino Royale left off, Quantum of Solace promises the usual 007 prerequisites of danger, betrayal, and forbidden love.

It’s what we’ve come to expect of a brand that has become a genre in itself. A formula that has stood the test of time by adapting to the times – politically and socially.

And when it comes to the latter, Bond himself is the masculine zeitgeist. The man every woman wants, and every man wants to be - even before we know it ourselves.

Consider the turnaround in sentiment for Daniel Craig.

I wasn’t the only one to question his appointment in late 2005. Critics were thick on the ground. Could a 37 year-old English actor, little known outside his native Britain, take up the revered Bond mantle?

A sixth successor. And the first blonde.

Perhaps that’s what first threw me. The blonde hair – it didn’t look right. Then again, he just didn’t seem right altogether. It was hard to put my finger on at the time. But like most of my friends who fell for the new gritty version, I would soon learn that Bond is always ahead of the time.

Sure, Pierce Brosnan was good – he must have been doing something right to last four films. But in the wake of a 90s metrosexual onslaught, women were craving something more of their leading man, on and off screen. Something more… manly.

The relatively short-lived ideal of the modern male as someone who cared about fashion and skin care as much as women was losing steam. Just not with men.

Research shows that the international market for male skin care products has jumped 40 percent since 2001. Companies are investing huge amounts of money in men’s skincare including L’Oreal Paris, which hired Brosnan, to spruik its Men Expert skincare range.

And while men’s wanting to take of themselves is all good and well, I don’t want Bond telling me that “he’s worth it”. That’s a line reserved for his female counterpart Halle Berry.

It was the melting icing on the cake of the Brosnan Bond reign. And taking its place, a buffet of masculine grit a la Daniel Craig.

The new Bond doesn’t need fancy gadgets. He uses his bare bloody hands. He makes mistakes and he pays the price. He’s suave without trying. And the female clincher, he shows emotional vulnerability.

Like Christian Bale’s raw new Batman, Craig’s Bond is refreshingly flawed and that’s what makes him so appealing. He displays a brooding intensity that delves beyond the cinematic fantasy and a gritty realism that shows on his face.

Call me old fashioned, but rugged and weathered beats line-free on a man any day. A man who spends more time in front of the mirror than a woman? A smooth fore headed Bond? No thanks. Perfection is not the ideal. Bond should come rough and ready. And I keenly await his return on November 14.