Dr.No & The Evolution of The Anti-Hero
Here’s an idea Ian Fleming’s Dr.No brought in a new form of action adventure genre into film influencing 1990's thriller Rising Sun, bringing in a new state of self awareness in Hollywood movies.
From the start of the 1960's Dr. No is the first of the James Bond series of action-packed spy thrillers, and it played a key role in establishing the Bond character as a popular icon film culture. Bond started from the works of British writer Ian Fleming, who was he himself was affiliated with spies at his job with the British Naval Intelligence Division. Flemming himself was not a spy instead he worked a desk job which gave him time to dream up the secret agent life he secretly yearned for. Flemming would write a series of books with the main character named James Bond (a name he found in a children’s book). After many years of delays Dr.No finally was made. Terence Young , the film’s director, instilled the character played by Sean Connery into real life. Bond was a classy, smooth killing ladies man.
The film opened to an array of success. There really wasn’t anything like it at the time. The film captivated the entire world. America to Britain the film was a landmark in pop culture. Even my uncle from Haiti is a die hard Bond fan for almost 5 decades. The appeal was not just the movie but the character Sean Connery portrayed. James Bond himself was the essential ladies man. From the suits he wore to the females he flirted and eventually slept with Bond was the “man”. Bond can escape dangerous situations and be unscathed through it all .Ladies wanted him , men wanted to be him. He brought in a new form of hero to film. Bond is always cool, relaxed, and in control. Bond can handle any situation with expertise skill, rarely with any luck. He has knowledge on almost everything, from various alcoholic mixes to expensive foods, to exotic animals. Bond is the best thing to stop any weapon, he is the ultimate weapon. Bond’s adversary was Dr.No , but mainly Dr.No’s weapons. Bond is superman and batman in one human form. Independent(Batman),but at the same time loyal(Superman) to the agency that gives him his code name.
Bond is known for his drinking his gin shaken and not stirred, a phrase that’s been said numerous of times. Bond drinks so much , but rarely or never seen drunk (not including poison pills) which works well with a cool and in control persona , but it may even show his humanity. The fact that James is based off real spies Flemming has heard of or met could be a sign of what those spies did, drink heavily. Drinking might be a just thing spies do as a coping mechanism to deal with their stressful lives. The acceptance of death on both sides , either I will die or my foe will. Something that seemed like a flaw made a god like figure, human.
The suave debonair was a relaxed cold blooded killer, something that the made film strangely standout. Bond , even though is the protagonist kills people without an inch of regret. Not only does Bond do these things , he’s also a heavy drinker and today’s standards a deliberate womanizer.
Does that make Bond a anti-hero though? Especially in a time when the hero in most movies had a very clear moral compass, Bond was a bit askew to that formula. He killed people , but he did it so relaxed and said some type of pun that would diffuse the feeling he did anything wrong. Probably making the viewer think to themselves “Yes, he shot that guy ,but it was probably okay. He said a funny pun so it’s not that bad” . Bond was fighting for the good guys right? He was fighting an evil force to save the Western world. Bond is a complex character that seemed easy at first glance.
The James Bond that Connery portrays is still a hero. He’s the prototype of the anti-hero. Yes he might drink too much, kill people and is a womanizer, but he is at the end of the day a civil servant. He ultimately takes orders from someone, he might not follow them precisely but he will get the mission completed. He does what he thinks is right and that’s to stop anyone from hurting the Western world. Bond isn’t just a hero, but a cold war hero too.
The argument of Bond being a hero or anti-hero can be very hard to decipher, in Dr.No it isn’t though. Since the movie and the series just started Bond character is not developed enough for him to be an anti-hero. Daniel Craigs Era has shown why Bond has so many female counterparts , because he can’t truly have a family. Writers have enough history to build off of. Todays Bond portrayed by Daniel Craig , can withstand this argument better compared to Dr.No’s Bond. Both Bond’s are smoove and kill , but the story lines in the new James Bond films make the super spy more human and vulnerable. Dr.No’s plot makes Bond inherently a hero. A hero with a few noticeable flaws, but a hero nonetheless.
Fast forward decades later to 1993 , Phillip Kaufman directed Rising Sun. Starring Wesley Snipes and the original James Bond , Sean Connery. The film serves as an mix of mystery, crime drama, thriller. Wesley Snipes plays a cop trying to figure out a murder and Sean Connery plays the wise cool and relax mentor. It’s very possible in alternate universe James Bond became John Connor after retiring from the spy business(but that’s besides the point). Rising Sun starts of as self referential film, foreshadowing its plot in various early scenes. It is definitely one of the first major films to start meta narrative to the forefront. The film is based on playing with “not knowing who to trust and who not to trust”. Which makes sense since it is a “who done it” movie. Ambiguity is a major element used in this film. The protagonist was thought to be Snipes character Web , but then it turned to Connery’s character Connor , then it turns out you can not trust Connor.
Snipe’s & Connery’s characters aren’t the only ones put question on the scale of status. Every character that’s connected to the plot real identity is constantly juggled. Eddie who was originally believed to be the murderer turned out be a hero sacrificing his life twice. While Webs partner is found to be a corrupt cop if the price range is enough.The amount of villains you think there initially are fluctuate throughout the film. Rising Sun ends with the idea that the culprit might not have been found and that Connery’s character might have been a villain instead of anti-hero.
The ambiguity in this movie seems like a good effort in being complex , but a bit too complex. The film seems to take a Taoist approach to solving the mystery, which works, but makes caring about “who done it” seem a bit pointless at the end of the day. Which isn’t great for a film where you want to know who the culprit is. There other films made outside America that have dealt with this solution in a less confusion between what are the initial goals of a character.
Rising Suns character development is incredibly more diverse compared to Dr.No , were Bonds & the villain are the only characters that are really questionable. Rising Sun does show the development of Hollywood films who really have become . The action movie thriller has evolved into a completely new beast of its own. What once was a standard for film , now is a stepping stone in history. Dr.NO had its limitations like their one dimensional female characters, Rising Sun makes up for it by having a more influential female characters that pretty much drives the plot forward. There are still films that have progressed the idea of thriller meta in more movies. Movies like Fight Club (which released 6 years later) pushed on the idea of a meta film and did a great job at it . It also was a great mind bending film with a hero ultimately becoming the anti-hero.