|BlogalongaBond: GoldenEye (1995)|
|Written by Ivan Radford|
|Saturday, 26 May 2012 12:53|
BlogalongaBond. One Bond film a month until Skyfall arrives in November.
Pierrrrrce BROSnan! That was how they introduced 007 on the highly underrated Muppets Tonight (see here for a wonderful Brosnan-fire-eating anecdote). But before that he had an even better introduction. No, not that 1987 Diet Coke ad: GoldenEye, one of my favourite Bond films.
Taking its cue from Dalton’s James Bond-goes-rogue tradition, GoldenEye was a gritty outing for 007 with a liberal sprinkling of Roger Moore, an update smartly centered on the Anglo-Soviet aftermath of the Cold War. The result stayed true to Fleming's character (and the series' ludicrous 1970s-esque stuntwork) but positioned him firmly in the 1990s.
At least 90% of that was down to casting Sean Bean as the bad guy. One of the few other 00 agents we actually get to know, Alec Trevelyan is one of the best Bond villains in the whole canon. He’s menacing, he has a good line in pop psychology and he gives Brosnan a chance to define his twinkly-eyed 007 by wreaking some personal revenge.
Where GoldenEye succeeds is keeping the balance between serious and silly. Giant EMP-firing satellite in the sky? Silly. Russian dominatrix who squeezes men to death with her thighs? Sexy, but ridiculous. Unlike Moore or Die Another Day, though, the silly is never out of control – even Q’s scene, which sees Desmond Llewelyn snort with laughter, is balanced out by Judi Dench's steely turn as M (even if she does recycle the same old "personal vendetta" dialogue).
A three-dimensional bad guy, a rounded 007, a spot-on storyline, a cracking Bond theme song by Tina Turner/U2 and some superb action? Director Martin Campbell deserves a lot of credit: GoldenEye is just the entry the franchise needed after six years of confused waiting. Especially when we came so close to Kevin I-own-the-rights-to-Thunderball McClory doing yet another Never Say Never Again-style remake in 1990, starring Brosnan (called Atomic Warhead).
But GoldenEye is arguably most famous for giving the series something it never had before: the chance for the audience to pick up a gun and join in. Yes, GoldenEye 007 on the N64, which set the standard for film-based video games by joining the two rival mediums together with flawless precision. In fact, Rare's radical creation has never been bettered by a film game tie-in, let alone a general FPS - certainly not a Bond one, at least.
Yet 007 games have become as much a staple as the already-extensive list of brand names and merchandise associated with the franchise. So what made GoldenEye 007 so special? This informative pamphlet which I found in my DVD case explains it all…
How to Make a Bond Video Game
Stick to the script
David Doak (immortalised forever as unflappable scientist "Dr. Doak") knew what he was doing when it came to writing GoldenEye the game: sticking to the movie's script. The result is a faithful 007 experience, which adds some variation for extra missions and objectives, but retains the film's clever post-Cold War scenario - and, of course, Robbie Coltrane's cameo as Valentin Zukowsky.
Blood – and lots of it
It sometimes surprises me that, uncut DVD release aside, GoldenEye was awarded a 12 certificate by the BBFC because there's quite a lot of killing in it. And most of that is by Xenia, a woman who likes killing people so much she orgasms every time she touches an AK-47. Even away from the homicidal sex-addict, the final punch-up between Bean and Bond has all the brutal impact of the train brawl in From Russia with Love. Accordingly, the video game dishes up some wonderfully fun violence with endless Bond henchmen to shoot. Yes, the bodies disappear but not before the blood stains build up. Tasty.
No stupid voices
Would you want that in your computer game? GoldenEye was smart enough to avoid the minefield of voice acting (and Pierce Brosnan) and kept things low-tech. Perfect for playing into the wee small hours of the morning without keeping your family awake. Shame we don't get Sean Bean's dulcet Sheffield tones, though.
Oh, the Byelomorye Dam jump. Has there ever been a more stunning way to meet a new Bond than leaping off the side of a giant concrete edifice in the search of the bog? Best of all, GoldenEye's digitised version had none of that cinematic rubbish. The game's crappy cut-scenes were slightly-pixellated artwork that bordered on GIFs - these were the good old days when games were games and movies were movies and they didn't try to copy each other.
Location, location, location
One thing GoldenEye does very well is use its locations; fisticuffs on satellite arrays, showdowns in jungles, claustrophobic trains set to self-destruct, it's no wonder production designer Peter Lamont (who worked with Ken Adam on The Spy Who Loved Me) designed 007 locations from For Your Eyes Only right up to Casino Royale. So Rare did the smart thing: visited the movie set and took a ton of pictures, then built the levels from that:
And what they achieved was nothing sort of incredible: the flawless recreation of the big screen on your living room telly, to the point where environments developed organically, avoiding the linear structure of many FPS games. Most famous of all, perhaps, remain the toilets in the gorgeous, atmospheric Arkhangelsk chemical weapons facility. Ken Adam's classic sets may have been used for EA's flawed computer game GoldenEye: Rogue Agent in 2004 (Ken's even credited on IMDb), but Lamont's 64-bit world kicked Ken's butt.
Don’t have too many gadgets
Yes, there's a spy camera and yes, you run up to computers and press a button, but GoldenEye N64 follows the movie's clever decision not to have too many gadgets. Like Casino Royale's modern update, we've moved on from toothpaste and garrote wire. We don't need a button-filled car: we have a tank. Even the gimmicky laser watch is integrated into part of the game's menu system; a move that, like the film, stops the silly from becoming too silly. (I dread to think what a Roger Moore game would be like.)
Have a proper soundtrack
There's nothing like an orchestral flourish during the middle of a cracking action scene. Rare knew it, even if Bond composer Eric Serra didn't. So while EON were busy running to the phone and hiring John Altman to write some proper symphonic stuff for the St. Petersburg tank chase, the developer made the most of having the licence for the official theme.
To this day, Serra's adventurous cacophony of percussion is (a little too harshly) slammed by fans, but the N64 proved that the synth-techno treatment of John Barry's legacy can yield good results: composers Graeme Norgate, Grant Kirkhope and Robin Beanland all borrowed from Serra's movie score, mixing timpani and synth stings with strings and brass to create a fleshed-out and - thanks to Serra's inspiration - modern Bond soundtrack.
Keep the best set pieces
Who didn't watch the tank chase and instantly want to relive its exploding metropolitan mayhem? The N64 outing knew exactly which set pieces to include and which to omit (bye bye Brosnan's naked towel fight in a Turkish bath). This flagship level topped many on-rails driving sequences in other 007 games by allowing you to choose where to direct your vehicle of destruction, or even not to drive the tank at all - although that would mean missing out on the satisfying squishes and yelps as you crush people to death.
Make it realistic
Aside from the blood, locations, music and lack of gadgets, GoldenEye 007 was careful to stick to the franchise's modern, realistic tone. How? Guns. Meticulously researched and correctly named weapons, your arsenal extends all the way from zoomable sniper rifles (an FPS first) to the Walther PP7. You can even go around slapping people to death if you want to be really realistic.
Look nothing like James Bond
Less chiseled jaw and more Spongebob Squarepants, Pierce Brosnan's cuboid likeness is another sign of the era: this was a computer game designed to recreate a movie, but never replace it. Today's developers could learn a thing or two from that.
Let everyone have a go
After years of shouting at Roger Moore's on-screen buffoonery, Brosnan's eyebrows were a worrying harbinger of a return to shallow circus acts. But Casino Royale director Martin Campbell and Rare realised that the 007 series needed two things: one, a cold-hearted Bond who wasn't afraid to kill a guy not for England, but himself; and two, the chance for the public to prove that, if they did hate Pierce Brosnan, they could do it better.
The chance to be Bond or beat him by shooting your friends in the face? Multiplayer gaming has never been so satisfying.
BlogalongaBond will return next month in Tomorrow Never Dies. For more BlongalongaBondage, head this way.