Saturday, May 25, 2013

Live and let die

I just re-read Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming for the first time in a very long time.

I started reading the books fairly early in my development as a young James Bond fan, which still colors my take on the movies. Honestly, I'd like to enjoy the movies for what other people like - and even expect from them. Those movie elements that are different than the books are frequently things I enjoy very much in non-Bond movies, however my brain is so imprinted with that expectation that I can't help viewing them through that sphere.

That's not helped by the fact that so many of the books would indeed make terrific movies with a pretty straight adaptation. Of course, Casino Royale is a thrilling novel, but really does spend most of its time following a high stakes baccarat game which is perhaps not the most cinematic event. The movie, Casino Royale, solved this problem rather neatly, I thought.

It struck me reading it how much the literary Bond resembles "What if Mike Hammer were a snob?" while reading it. Fleming's primary points he develops Bond from are his anger, at this point quite righteous, following the events of "Casino Royale", and his very particular tastes in food, clothing, decor, cars, travel, etc.

For me, it feels very much like a fairly direct adaptation would have been much better than the movie made from it, Live and Let Die, although, in fairness, it has been some time since I revisited that movie. This one does have a number of exciting bits that didn't make it in to the movie, including a famous one that takes place away from the main action and was later co-opted for the movie Licence to Kill. More importantly, it also has a training sequence, which could have been a very dramatic piece in a straight adaptation.

I found myself later daydreaming that if the movies weren't doing so well - and, in this, I mean no ill-wishes to the series, Eon Productions or Daniel Craig - one could do a very nice HBO, or HBO-type, TV series adapting the novels fairly straight, bringing the threads together. With twelve novels and nine short stories by Fleming, one could do three or four seasons, a consistent cast, one could cover it all very nicely. It could even be done period to preserve the period detail of the specific things Bond shows such appreciation for.

Obviously, however, the movies are enormously successful and the cinematic character is now much more ingrained in the public consciousness, so that nothing like that could be - or would be - done.

Anyway, on to Moonraker...

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