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“This Bond Ripples with Muscles”


Richard Cohen:

This Bond ripples with muscles. Craig is 44, but neither gravity nor age has done its evil work on him. Nothing about him looks natural, relaxed — a man in the prime of his life and enjoying it. Instead, I see a man chasing youth on a treadmill, performing sets and reps, a clean and press, a weighted knee raise, an incline pushup and, finally, something called an incline pec fly (don’t ask). I take these terms from the Daniel Craig Workout, which you can do, too, if your agent and publicist so insist. Otherwise, I recommend a book.

“Skyfall” is a lot of fun — don’t get me wrong — but it still says something about our culture that, in the autumn of my years, I do not like. To appreciate what I mean, contrast this new Bond to Roger O. Thornhill, the charmingly hapless advertising man played by Cary Grant in “North by Northwest.” Like Bond, Thornhill pulls off some amazing physical feats — his mad frantic escape from the crop duster, the traverse of Mount Rushmore — and like Bond he wears an expensive suit. Unlike Bond, though, when he takes it off we do not see some marbleized man, an ersatz creation of some trainer, but a fit man, effortlessly athletic and just as effortlessly sophisticated.

Indeed; casual fitness…

and effortless athleticism…

were totally a thing for major male stars in the 1950s. Maybe SEK should write something on it.

See also Alyssa; one of the most interesting developments in the Craig Bond films is that the camera treats Bond in a fashion normally reserved for a Bond girl. I should note that while I didn’t love Skyfall (James Bond does not need to become Bruce Wayne), I did find the first Bond-Silva meeting to be a very interesting. While villains over the years have certainly threatened Bond with emasculation, Silva implies a very different kind of sexual assault. I also found it interesting that Bond makes his “how do you know it’s my first time?” comment after Silva mentions Bond’s childhood trauma, leading me to wonder whether Bond is trying to imply that a) he’s had a sexual encounter with a man before, or b) he’s been sexually assaulted before.

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    Richard Cohen is an insightful film critic. This is well known in certain circles, which is why, even back in elementary school, he was sometimes asked by the teacher to “critique a film insightfully.”

    • snarkout

      Only a fool or a Frenchman could disagree.

  • The Dark Avenger

    “I’ve got I, Claudius, on tape.”

    “That’s a good idea, I always like gladiator movies.”

  • Fred

    At least you could have put up the scene from “The Vikings” when Kirk Douglas walks across the oars. He at least did his own stunts. But in Cohen’s defense I guess he does write his own crap.

  • jsmdlawyer

    I read this earlier today. My first reaction, and still the strongest one, is that Richard Cohen is resentful that after Daniel Craig, he’s not not likely to impress the young, wide-eyed interns anymore.

    Boo hoo. You’re old, Dick. Get over it.

    • snarkout

      In Cohen’s defense, he’s probably almost as sexy as “A View to a Kill”-era Roger Moore.

      • laura

        Don’t diss View to a Kill. The theme song alone is too cool for school.

        • Grace Jones is cooler than anything or anyone in the last 20 years.

          • laura

            Grace Jones and Duran Duran in the same movie. Makes me wish I was 10 years older!

            • Grace Jones and Christopher Walken in a kung-fu sparring match that ends in a sweaty fight-kiss.

              Roger Moore? I don’t care if it was Roger Ebert playing Bond, that movie had all kinds of cool.

              • laura

                Anyway Moore was the right Bond for that one (and Moonraker and a few of the others.) Pure camp; he’s just there to give us an excuse for the fun bad guys and worse double entrendres.

              • Anonymous

                Roger Ebert might have been more realistic for Bond than the sixty-year old Moore was.

            • ploeg

              And an actual freaking blimp. If we had some laser-equipped sharks it would be perfect.

              • FMguru

                A blimp that actually sneaks up on an unsuspecting Tanya Roberts, allowing Walken to snatch her and set off the chase that leads to the big finale.

                • Bill Murray

                  well blimps don’t make very much noise, and Tanya wasn’t the Charlies Angel known as the smart one

  • NonyNony

    See also Alyssa; one of the most interesting developments in the Craig Bond films is that the camera treats Bond in a fashion normally reserved for a Bond girl.

    Thank you. As I was reading the Cohen blockquote I was wondering if anyone was noticing that what Cohen’s describing here is the impossible body image standards that women have faced forever, but now since it’s a white dude whose facing it that suddenly it “says something about our culture that, in the autumn of my years, I do not like”.

    (Not to downplay the other point that there has always been a thread of “impossible body image standards” for men in film, but I tend to agree with Alyssa that there is more of it now than at least in the recent past. Probably largely because Hollywood – capitalist paradise that it is – has finally figured out that women will spend money to see movies and that a sizable chunk of those women like to look at good looking, half naked men.)

    • STH

      I notice that male stars are getting thinner and thinner; I think Daniel Craig has gotten thinner with each successive Bond movie. So, yes, the attractiveness standards for men are now coming closer to those for women. (Personally, I think Daniel Craig would look better with a little more weight, but I think that about most actors, female and male. Remember the young Burt Lancaster? Yowee.)

      • Bart

        We watched the remake of Thomas Crown with Pearce Brosnan. He was very thin in that; more so than the Russo woman.

    • Fighting Words

      As a short, fat, balding guy (I got a face for radio), I must say that I have always been keenly aware that there has been “impossible body image standards” for men in film, television, music, or any media (except for right-wing radio bloviator).

      I do not think that there is more emphasis on the male body now than before, but rather that the beauty standards for guys have just changed over time. Pre-1980’s, men were supposed to have a comely leanness. During the 1980’s to early 1990’s, big bulging muscles were in. From the late 1990’s to the present, there is an emphasis on a lean, defined, and toned physique.

    • seeker6079

      in the autumn of my years

      Cohen has been in the autumn of his years for decades now. He’s like the dad in The Last Remake of Beau Geste:
      “How’s father?”
      “Still dying.”

  • ploeg

    And major male stars of the 1950s didn’t care to eat snails either. Or at least let the public know about it.

  • laura

    Skyfall was ok. I could have done with less backstory and M-as-Bond’s-surrogate-mother and more chasing bad guys with forklifts on trains.

    I was drinking with some colleagues, all men, a couple of weeks ago and they were complaining about Daniel Craig as Bond. I opined that Craig is really hot as Bond and that’s what’s important. And this confirmed it for them. I paraphrase very slightly: “Bond is not supposed to be for chicks. That is the problem. Bond is for guys. Daniel Craig is for chicks.”

    The fact that Daniel Craig apparently hates playing Bond just makes it sexier.

    • Keaaukane

      I can just hear Tom Servo and Crow singing “They tried to kill Bond with a forklift”.

    • MAJeff

      “Bond is not supposed to be for chicks. That is the problem. Bond is for guys. Daniel Craig is for chicks.”

      Well, and for a few of us not-men men.

    • Fighting Words

      That’s interesting. I love Daniel Craig as James Bond. I think that he is easily the second best James Bond after Sean Connery, and the perfect James Bond in the post-Bourne Identity and post-9/11 era. I think that Skyfall and Casino Royal are two of the best Bond movies ever. Daniel Craig brings a lot more physicality to the role. The most common complaint I have heard about Daniel Craig Bond films is that they tend to not follow the typical Bond formula that has existed for most of the films.

      I have honestly never heard “Daniel Craig is for chicks.”

      As to your final point, I might be wrong on this, but I think that all the actors who played James Bond hated the role.

      • Go back to the internet archives back when Craig was announced and there was huge blowback about “James Blonde.”

        • Just wait until Idris Elba gets cast as the next one.

          • laura

            I am very excited about that!

        • Fighting Words

          I might be misremembering things, but I thought the big kerfuffle when Daniel Craig was announced as the new James Bond was that nobody knew who the guy was. I thought many people were hoping that Clive Owen would get the role.

          • He was also seen as “mancandy” for the ladies, rather than as an acceptable fantasy vehicle for men.

      • Woodrowfan

        Last night in class I was trying to think of a modern movie action hero to use as a comparison for my students and I mentioned Daniel Craig. About 5 girls in the back row all heavily sighed in unison.

    • witless chum

      I’m really, really sure the fact that superheroes, Ellen Ripley, Kyle Reese, Sara Connor and John McClaine occupy the place for me that Bond seems to occupy for others makes me a more sensible, discerning person. Also, it proves I grew up in the 80s at sorta the low point in Bond stuff.

      Bond never connected to me as anything but sort of a weird old person thing that my dad sorta liked. Like Beatles movies, which were kind of fun, but just didn’t have anything to do with me culturally in the same way as Lethal Weapon movies did.

    • Isabella

      I really like Craig as Bond. I think part of that is due to the fact that the Craig Bond movies cater to the female gaze more than the prior movies (or most other movies). Comments like Cohen’s or your colleagues’ show that men are noticing that and some aren’t comfortable with it.

      I’ve read that Craig’s dislike of playing Bond was due to his experience with Quantum of Solace, but he was really happy with Skyfall and is looking forward to future Bond movies.

      • laura

        I love Quantum of Solace but Craig sides with the critics on that one.

  • You know, it’s the funniest thing: I was watching those Sparticus clips, and I suddenly had a craving for snails.

  • JustinV

    …if your agent and publicist so insist. Otherwise, I recommend a book.

    Ugh. Or, go to the gym and read, like I and millions of other people do. Also, Cary Grant was 55 in North by Northwest; so, yeah, softer than 44-year-old Craig. Besides, even if folks were less ripped in the ’50s, it’s probably a result of less sophisticated training and nutrition regimes, not a superior moral interest in making doughy, middle-aged dudes feel better about themselves and their chair-based lifestyles.

    • Charrua

      From what I’ve heard, bodies were supposed to be “natural” in the fifties. Actors and actresses worked out, of course, but discreetly, and avoided looking TOO buff. Exercise, surgery, etc. were used, but not talked about.

      • Even when I was a kid in the late 70’s you’d still hear stuff about how “weightlifting is for fags.” It wasn’t until football and baseball trainers stopped with the stupid “weightlifting makes your muscles tight” stuff and those guys started doing power training, combined with Arnold and Lou Ferrigno becoming the faces of body building, that that crap faded away.

        • mpowell

          weightlifting makes your muscles tight

          Well, it does. You just need to stretch as well.

          • What makes your muscles tight isn’t lifting, it’s not stretching. Do pretty much any activity, such as running, and if you don’t stretch you’ll be tight.

            In fact, lifting properly–full range of motion, taking twice as long to lower the weight as it took to lift it/contract the muscle–will often make you more flexible.

        • rea

          I can remember back in the early 80’s when the Tigers ordered catcher Lance Parrish not to do weight training, for precisely this reason.

    • Anonymous

      It wasn’t as if Connery or Lazenbury had physiques similar to that of the average male of their time period. Craig’s “new Bond” is no different in this respect.

      • Fighting Words

        Well, Sean Connery was a former bodybuilder before he was James Bond.

  • “Richie, do you like movies about gladiators?”

    • Bart

      “Timmie, have you ever seen a gladiator naked?”

  • blowback

    Roger O. Thornhill was a complete amateur while James Bond is supposed to be the consummate professional, which might explain the difference

    I also found it interesting that Bond makes his “how do you know it’s my first time?” comment after Silva mentions Bond’s childhood trauma, leading me to wonder whether Bond is trying to imply that a) he’s had a sexual encounter with a man before, or b) he’s been sexually assaulted before.

    British public schools (Fettes is a Scottish one) have a certain reputation which might explain James Bond’s comment. The head of boarding at the public school where my brother was a day boy was said, upon his retirement “to have known each of his charges personally”, and I did hear mention of “medical examinations” the head of boarding undertook even though he had no medical qualifications. And at the prep school I went to, you never used one specific toilet block unless you had particular tastes for other boys. It was just part of the culture.

    • I recall hearing somewhere that in the UK cut, the line is “I went to Eaton. What makes you think this is my first time?”

      • ajay

        It isn’t. (But it should have been.)

      • blowback

        It’s Eton btw.

    • evodevo

      Beat me to it….

  • I always read Bond’s heavily-worked physique as a consequence of his military background. Isn’t he supposed to have been a front-line infantry soldier? Lotsa weight-lifters in that crowd.

    • wjts

      A commander (or maybe lieutenant commander) in the Royal Navy, as I recall.

    • Linnaeus

      He’s a Royal Navy officer. Unless that’s changed in Skyfall.

      • snarkout

        Nope, his status as “Commander James Bond, RN, CMG” is explicitly mentioned in “Skyfall”. (And I believe that the Craig “Casino Royale” mentions that he’s ex-SBS, although I could be mistaken in my recollection.)

        • John Revolta

          Well, hello sailor!

        • Nathan of Perth

          Always loved the Yes, Minister explanation on the CMG abbreviation (in actuality, Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George) in that the CMG stands for Call Me God, the KCMG stands for Kindly Call Me God and the GCMG stands for God Calls Me God.

      • Which could explain both the weightlifting and the same-sex experience.

    • mpowell

      This overexplains it. He’s a secret agent who frequently has to fight people and perform daring stunts. Of course he would be in top physical condition. Anything else would be suicidal. Daniel Craig doesn’t look like a body-builder type. Sure he lifts weight, but he’s not huge, he just has very low body fat and a strong powerful core (giving him his abs).

      • STH

        Yes, and it’s made excruciating clear in the movie that he has to be in top physical form–and actually isn’t–in order to do his job well.

  • Gary K

    It certainly looks like “causal fitness” to me, the cause being survival.

    • Robert Farley


  • lev

    Skyfall, like all Bond films, has as its central secret subject the decline and fall of the imperial version of the British nation. Most of its predecessors dealt with the problem of loss, disappointment, what Paul Gilroy calls ‘postcolonial melancholia’, with forms of denial, compensatory consumption and flashy technology, with the British agent imagined as physical superhero, and with the Americans providing back up. Skyfall instead confronts the loss– there, in a Hong Kong, whose return to China in 1997 marked a poignant coda to decolonisation, here in the old ancestral home in a cold, irrelevant Scottish wilderness, that old house, now almost abandoned, now to be obliterated in a confrontation between two bits of the self, in which the ego is physically diminished and mentally weak. It tries to negotiate a new kind of British (masculine) self, a new kind of patriotism and loyalty. Literally and metaphorically, the ceramic union jack bulldog piggybank is passed clumsily from one generation to another, with the recipients not quite sure what to do with the legacy.

    At the centre of that enterprise, for this film, is a renegotiation of the relationship of the child to the mother. Skyfall, whether its writers were conscious of it or not, is a dramatization of the psychoanalytic ideas of Melanie Klein. We have ‘M’, Judy Dench, at once an avatar of the Queen (repeatedly addressed as M’aam) and of the mother, with her two sons: the loyal golden Bond and the angry disloyal older brother Silva, he who is masked in foreignness in order to alienate his shameful rebellion as much as possible, a self actively repressed in the memory, but now rising up to find a kind of revenge…


    • Dave

      ‘Kin ‘ell mate, you need to get out more.

    • blowback

      The apostrophe’s in the wrong place – it should be ma’am, short for madam.

  • I love Daniel Craig as Bond. His physicality is part of it. But it’s also his demeanor and how he carries himself. Not to mention how the character’s been written. I didn’t love Skyfall quite as much as some. But I really enjoy the Craig Bond films and fully embrace how different they are than the rest of the franchise.

    Andrew Sullivan had an interesting take on this topic. He thinks Craig’s Bond is a reflection of the steroid induced image of our modern male actors/celebrities. I think there’s something to that, though more so in other areas. Bond being ripped works because his job is inherently violent. Being ripped and in great shape could be the difference between life and death. And Craig’s body lends credibility to the physical things Bond is asked to do.

  • I thought this was going to be another Krugman column about vigilantes.

    • JKTHs

      Invisible Bond vigilantes. There’s an idea for the next film

  • Anonymous

    Also, despite manly men discontent with the ostensibly girl turns the Craig franchise is taking, Skyfall had plenty of rape-y qualities those butch boys are failing to appreciate.

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