James Bond Dies in the Opening

This is one of my peeves. I’ve never understood why they do this, but in several of the James Bond Films, Bond apparently is killed or has just been killed in the opening sequence, before the credits.

It gives an emotional shock, but it’s also completely bogus, since the audience knows Bond isn’t dead, and that they’re never going to tell a story in retrospect (a la Lawrence of Arabia). So why do it?

If it’s not Bond, then it’s the prominent villain, which is almost equally ridiculous.

Spoilers, I guess, in case anyone’s interested.

They didn’t do it with Dr No, the first Bond film, but we didn’t know who he is, so there’s no point. But they started with the very next.
From Russia with Love – Bond gets hunted through the gardens of an ornate European estate by assassin Red Grant, and strangled by him. Only, it turns out, it isn’t Bond, but someone wearing an unbelievably convincing Bond mask, for no good reason that I can see

Thunderball – The “gun barrel” openin irises out on a coffin with “JB” ostentatioosly on the lid of a coffin, in the middle of an elaborately tiled church floor while a funeral service is uner way. Only it’s not Bond. he initials are for Jacques Bouvard who, it turns out, isn’t dead, either. We just wanted that teaser image.

You Only Live Twice – Bond gets assassinated in bed, and we see red blood under him. It isn’t until after his RN funeral at sea (and after we see his obituary, just as in the novel) that we see that it’s all an elaborate sham “to give him some elbow room”. Yeah. Right. For the first time in the series, James Bond is apparently a Famous Secret Agent, a contradiction if ever there was one. He shoulda been retired, or kicked upstairs.

Diamonds are Forever – the first gillain fake-death. Ernst Stavro Blofeld, looking completely unlike his bald other self as portrayed previously (by Telly Savalas and by Donald Pleasance), loses his facial scar and attenuated earlobes and gains a head of hair to look and sound exactly like Agent Henderson from You Only Live Twice. He’s getting doubles of his newly handsome self made up, one of whom is despatched by Bond, and apparently gets himself killed by Bond as well. Only, if you saw the trailers for this film, you know he’s not dead. So why bother?

The Man with the Golden Gun – after killing off his other mark, Scaramanga whirls around and evidently shoots Bon. Only it’s just a manikin.

Moonraker – Another villain fake-death. “Jaws” , the heavy from the previous film, The Spy Who Loved Me, has his parachute fail in the opening sequence after trying - twice - to kill Bond (in what is probably the best part of the entire film). Had this been any other film, he’d now be very squashed toast. But, this being one of Christopher woods Looney Tunes Bonds, Jaws lands on a circus tent and survives, he Indestructible Man.

For Your Eyes Only – a real villain death, although it looks fake. They clearly wanted to tie up the loose end about Blofeld, but had lost the rights to the character (Mcrory and company had them, and resurrected him for their competing Never Say Never Again), so they simply have an un-named bald (again!) white cat-petting Bad Guy in a wheelchair (presumably from injuries sustained his his mini-sub at the end of Diamonds are Forever) trying to kill Bond and getting the tables turned on him. It would’ve been pretty good, except for the hih camp touches (“I’ll buy you a delicatessin! In stainless steel!”), but it must’ve been cathartic to finally kill off a long-running character, even if it had to be implied.

After this they took a break from it. Sean Bean’s character dies at the start of Goldeneye, but we don’t know he’s the villain of the piece, so it doesn’t really count. Bond gets captured and imprisoned at the start of Die Another Day, but he’s released in an exchange.

But, dammit, they did it again in Skyfall, where Bond gets shhot and falls an incredibly long distance into water at the very beginning. He survives. Just lucky, I guess.

There are so many formulaic bits in JB* movies that I find it hard to get worked up about this one, which is at least mixed up a bit in between iterations. One thing I like about the better Bond movies is that they tend to start mid-adventure as he wraps up some prior case; it’s dull to have him sitting at ease, waiting for the world to need saving again. Bond is about the action and the stunts, so it’s like a band set: begin with the second-biggest set piece and get it over with, so we can settle down to building the current story.

BTW, I subscribe to the theory that “James Bond” is a cover name for licence #007, and the holders thereof have been killed and replaced many times.
*James Bond, not Jacques Bouvard. Just in case you were confused.

Somebody is watching the 21 Days of Bond on cable, methinks.

I really can’t get too worked up about this one. Not when there are so many other things to bitch about with Bond.

I, too, believe “James Bond” is a cover identity, no matter what Skyfall showed.

I like the one where he dies at the end (along with everyone else).

That’s also why I won’t watch Bond films. Fucking reboots. They’re just cheesy-assed ways for unimaginative producers to milk more and more money out of a franchise, and they all suck.

I wouldn’t pay to see one, but from any streaming or library source they’re very watchable entertainment. Daniel Craig has taken the character back to Connery class with 21st-century sensibility.

I am, but this has annoyed me for years.

In From Russia With Love (still the best Bond film, though I haven’t seen Skyfall), their training Red to kill Bond, so what better way than to use a victim who looks like his quarry?

And Bond was never about keeping his identity secret. He never uses an alias; any opposing spy organization would know his name at once. Bond faked his death so he could actually operate like a secret agent.

Finally, these are all James Bond Films. Asking for realism is missing the point. If you want realistic spies, watch The Sandbaggers instead.

This isn’t even a questuion of realism – it’s the pointlessness. You know Bond isn’t going to be killed in the first three minutes, unless they’re planning on making it into a short*, so why do it? The thrill of seeing your hero killed won’t even fool the dullest member of the audience. So why bother?

  • interesting idea, that.
    As for putting your quarry in a rubber mask (a pretty damned heavy one at that) is a pretty severe handicap, and don’t do a thing for red Grant. It’s a pretty pointless piece of chicanery that holds the audience interest so that they don’t go jumping up for popcorn before the Maurice Binder nude silhouettes (which this film, alas, did not have).

I thought this was going to be a thread about movies where the James Bond type IS killed requiring or leading to the movie’s protagonist to become involved.

XXX with Vin Diesel.
If Looks Could Kill with Richard Greco
(trivia- the Bond character is played by Roger Daltrey from the Who)

Well, that’s happened in the Bond films, too. Look at Octopussy, for instance. Or the very first, Dr No, with Strangways and his secretary being killed at the very start.
And some Good Guy always gets killed at so,me point. Robert Bensen called them the “Sacrificial Lamb”. It’s just not always at the beginning.

but this thread is about the inanity* of syupposedly killing off James Bond at the very beginning of the film.
*this has nothing to do with how realistic the film is, or how reasonable it is for the internal reality. Even in the dumbest Christoppher wood screenplay, nobody believes that you’re going to off the hero before the credits roll. So why do it?

Because JB films are all about getting Bond into the most improbable situations and then getting him out of them. The film makers don’t usually cheat on these - that is, we get to see the improbable way he gets out of the situation - and it’s part of what makes a Bond film a Bond film.

Bond is formula. It’s what the audience wants from a Bond movie, otherwise he’d be some other JB Identity.

If there wasn’t a threat to Bond in the beginning, we wouldn’t get things like that magnificent parachute jump in The Spy Who Loved Me. As for killing the hero before the credits…interesting idea, although Police Squad! has probably come the closest.

Executive Decision killed off Steven Seagal about eight minutes in, IIRC. Since he was co-billed with Kurt Russell, that was pretty ballsy.

But it’s not a threat in Thunderball, where we start with the “JB” coffin, or in You Only Live Twice, where he’s pre-emptorily shot without a chance. It’s a fait accompli, without giving Our Hero a chance to exercise his resourcefulness, and to have the audience wonder How He’s Going To Get Out Of This One. Putting your hero in danger is the first law of thrillers.

Having your hero be dead is just dumb.

John Dies At The End

I was hoping someone would notice.

There were other issues with Skyfall. Three of the films featuring Dame Judi Densch as M (Goldeneye, The World is Not Enough, Skyfall), almost half, are about a renegade ex-agent or friend she has somehow dicked over in the past and now needs to get blown up by Bond. Bond fans are big on familiarity and not so big on noticing the same story over and over.

Because the audience is curious what the catch will be. Obviously, we know Bond isn’t dead, but so what? Because Bond isn’t dead, there is clearly something we aren’t being told yet. What is it?

We know James Bond won’t really die at the end of the movie, either, and the bad guy won’t get away (though his boss, if he has one, likely will), so what’s the point of any of it? To see how it happens.

Yes. we all like a good “hook”. Good storytellers don’t usually start off by saying that their hero is already dead.

I also would subscribe to this theory, if there weren’t too many story elements that contradict it. Especially in Skyfall, where his past is directly addressed.