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Sunday, November 9, 2008

Americans--Less Relevant, But Still Sucky

Time for the third installment of our look at how the Bond franchise portrays Americans.

So far, through the Connery and Moore eras, we've basically been a bunch of slack-jawed yokels. Not only have we been completely unable to protect ourselves from various espionage threats, but we've been dependent on the British to bail us out. Not to mention, American is crime-ridden, occupied by a bunch of racist rednecks, and we can't drive worth a damn.

So let's take a glance at how the Dalton/Brosnan dynasties dealt with the good old U.S. of A., shall we? Ratings, as always, are on the Cletus scale:

The Living Daylights: Not a lot of American involvement here, with the exception of the villain, "General" Brad Whitaker. He's a greedy braggart, an oaf with pretensions. I suppose, if you wanted to. you could read General Pushkin's denunciation of him as a preening wannabe who's over his head as a stab at Americans in general. Probably not, though.

When Whitaker and Koskov want Pushkin assassinated, they don't go to the Americans, but rather MI-6. Does this mean they feel A) The British are better at this type of thing, or B) The British are more gullible?

Oh, Felix and the Leiterettes show up, but they don't have any impact whatsoever.
Score: Just one Cletus.

Licence To Kill: Ouch. Not only are Americans completely unable to tame the drug problem; they can't even trust any of their own people. Sanchez's standing $2 million dollar bribe converts Killifer easily enough. And all of Sanchez's top cronies are Americans: Heller, Truman-Lodge, Krest, Professor Joe. So apparently, offer enough cash and you can get Americans to do most anything for you.

Even worse, of course, is the American refusal to try to go after Sanchez again, or to seek any retaliation for the maiming of Felix Leiter and the killing of his bride. You might rationalize that they were laying low until Pam could get the Stinger missiles from Heller, but it still looks pretty awful that no one from America could infiltrate Sanchez's organization while a rogue British agent (who admits that he's a rogue British agent!) just walks right in.

Oh, and those Stinger missiles--Sanchez got those from the contras, who probably got them from the U.S. Which means ultimately that America is providing Sanchez with the missiles to shoot down our own planes.

Drug lords walk away from custody in broad daylight!! DEA agents murdered with impunity!! U.S.-made weapons falling into terrorist hands!! America really does suck! Five Cletus'!

Goldeneye: Not too much American involvement here, as Jack Wade is annoying but not particularly incompetent.

However, having the Russkies able to build such a huge complex in Cuba completely undetected earns a definite demerit for America, especially after hearing Wade boast that it could never happen.

Two Cletus'.

Tomorrow Never Dies: Nothing to see here, right? Just a war between Britain and China caused by a British media mogul, right?

Well, two important America-related items to note. First, the U.S. somehow lost the all-important GPS encoder to begin with...we're never given explanation how it was "lost," but seeing the damage it can cause, that's a pretty dang huge security breach. Plus, someone can transmit bootleg signals over the GPS frequencies, and the U.S. can't detect it while Britain can?!?

Secondly, when they discover that Bond's drop zone is going to be in Vietnamese waters, Wade, Dr. Greenwalt and the marines practically poop their pants like frightened babies at the prospect of a diplomatic incident with Vietnam. Note to British screenwriters: no, we don't go around cowering in terror over the prospect of a dustup there, especially CIA and military people.

4 Cletus'.

The World Is Not Enough has no American involvement whatsoever, except for Dr. Christmas Jones, and I'm more likely to blame Charlie Sheen for that than I am America in general. So let's skip ahead to

Die Another Day: Again, the American involvement is mainly peripheral. Jinx is pretty clearly the best American Bond girl ever (I'll let you decide if that's a left-handed compliment or not). And while the other American we meet, Damian Falco, is an arrogant, overconfident jerkwad, the British actually come off worse: they can't even do their own background checks on their agents, and the Queen will knight any old billionaire who mysteriously appeared out of nowhere a year ago and sells conflict diamonds.

Two Cletus'--it probably should be one, but I'll give it one extra because Damina Falco irks me so much.

Casino Royale (2006): What have we here? A movie that has the Americans pursuing their goal on their own at first, independently of the British? An America not too arrogant to realize that Bond is the best man to beat LeChiffre, even when England has cut him off? Willing to make a deal with Bond, and not try to just muscle their way in? Willing to play to their strengths ($$)?

I know it's just a couple of scenes with Felix Leiter, but CR06 might have the best, most realistic treatment of Americans of any of the Bond movies. Which should tell you something right there...
CR gets the coveted ZERO Cletus'!!!

One trend I've noticed is that, over the past couple of decades, is that American involvement has become much more peripheral in Bond movies....and their treatment of us somewhat better (relatively). In the early days, Eon films loved to tell us how inferior and bumbling Americans were. But later on, especially over the last 3rd of the series, the emphasis has been less on how much better MI-6 is at everything than the CIA (has Felix leiter even once had a gadget?!? Jinx?!?), and more on Bond versus his own bureaucracy...with American becoming less and less relevant. Is that progress?? I report, you decide...

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