Conventional definitions of genre are based on the assumption that they constitute a repertoire of conventions of content such as settings, structure and style which are shared between media texts that arguably belong to that genre (Chandler, 1997, p.2). Although Steve Neale argues that ‘genres are instances of repetition and difference’ (Neale, 1980, p.48) he puts emphasis on that the difference is absolute essential to the economy of genre; As the mere repetitions would not attract an audience as in today’s society audiences are more sophisticated and prefer some challenge. Through out this essay there will be a discussion and analysis of the films Skyfall, Sam Mendes 2012 and Goldfinger, Guy Hamilton 1964.
Skyfall, starts off at a hectic pace as James Bond’s (Daniel Craig) assignment is unsuccessful and leads to the start of catastrophic events. Tragedy strikes as deep undercover agents identities are exposed as MI6 is under attack and the death toll increases. The battle between two ‘brothers’ in this patriarchal hegemonic race to ‘save’ M (Judi Dench) ends in tragedy. Bond, alone must put a stop to the plans of Silva (Javier Bardem) a rogue agent who wants revenge. Assisted by one field agent (Naomie Harris) Bond faces old demons in order to ensure the safety of British society. Goldfinger, has a similar narrative to Skyfall; 007 (Sean Connery) is out to save the world, in this case the economy. As one of the most notorious villains of all time Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) tries to raid Fort Knox, Bond must do whatever it takes to stop the world from crashing down- including coming face to face with Goldfinger’s pilot Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman).
Genre has been described as dynamic in order to survive it needs to evolve and have a fluidity so that it can keep up with the change in demographics and audience expectations. Buckingham states that ‘genre is not, simply given by the culture; rather, it is in a constant process of negotiation and change’ (Buckingham, 1993 p.1). Skyfall, arguably is dynamic it has evolved to a certain extent from previous adaptations and films in the Bond genre such as Goldfinger, so that audiences are still engaging in the product- it has negotiated and exceeded the demands of the changing audience.
The film has targeted a younger audience ageing from 14-25 and so that they still remain interested; Skyfall has included a ‘tech savvy’ younger version of Q, who is not only younger in appearance but is able to assist Bond through the use of a laptop and high tech gadgets such as a hand gun which only 007 can use. This genre convention is different to Goldfinger as the technology has advanced so that the new audience can relate to the film; including cultural relative crimes such as cyber terrorism. Although there is use of the traditional gadgets and props including product placement of the iconic Aston Martin DB5, as older audiences are familiar with the iconography and are able to create links between the similarities in the films.
The use of the male gaze (Mulvey, 1975, p.1) is still present in Skyfall, as Moneypenny is represented as a beautiful assistant to Bond and a sexual object. This is apparent in the hotel room as Bond prepares to infiltrate the casino, this accounts for similarities to previous films in the Bond genre as beautiful women are iconic in the franchise including Pussy Galore in Goldfinger. However, Skyfall challenges this genre convention by representing Moneypenny as a black woman from an ethnic background, allowing for a more sophisticated and culturally diverse audience taking pleasure from the difference.
Through the use of repetition of particular genre conventions Skyfall’s audience is put in a false sense of genre security as they are intelligent and understand that 007 is unable to die within the first five minutes before the title sequence. As Uses and Gratifications theory argues that recognition of key conventions in the narrative derived from previous knowledge of its genre and previous films, is necessary in order to understand the plot. The audience has previous knowledge of Bond films and recognises that 007 must still be alive as the film has just started; the main character cannot die otherwise the film wouldn’t exist. Another example of why Skyfall is able to account for differences in genre is that there is a post-modern representation of Bond. Compared to previous films in the Bond genre, Skyfall accounts for a change from the more traditional conventions of sexuality of a hero in typical action films. During the film Bond is seduced by Silva as an audience we expect Bond to be heterosexual but the audience is challenged by the words “what makes you think it’s my first time?” Suggesting to the audience that 007 has had previous relations with the same sex, a more homosexual characteristic which is not present in previous Bond films including Goldfinger.
The technical and audio codes used in Skyfall can account for the similarities between the genre as fast-paced editing and cuts are evident the opening sequence. The construction of scenes that build tension using low key lighting and non-diegetic dramatic music allows for the intensity of the action to be evident. An example of this is during the fight scene between Bond and Patrice in the Shanghai high-rise block. The shots are juxtaposed between long, closeups and point of view shots of Patrice’s demise. The camera cuts to shots of Serverine in the opposite building simultaneously the Bond theme plays and the audience is able to feel the intense atmosphere of the shot sequence but also have a nostalgic moment as the iconic theme plays.
Goldfinger, is similar to Skyfall in terms of narrative structure, Todorov stated that all films and media texts follow the same narrative structure of equilibrium, disequilibrium and restoration or new equilibrium. Goldfinger’s disequilibrium is the raid at Fort Knox, whilst Skyfall’s is the destruction of MI5 and cyberterrorism. This genre convention is similar in all of the films that belong to this particular genre and Bond franchise. A difference in genre conventions in Goldfinger is that the Bond girl is not of an ethnic minority and her representation conforms to the traditional aspects of the time period of beauty rather than intelligence; her name is also a double entendre (Pussy Galore) which follows the tradition of previous films and is open to interpretation.
Goldfinger is similar to Skyfall as it establishes the film in the first few minutes and has a pre-credit sequence normally accompanied by an artist in this case Shirley Bassey. Similar to Skyfall, Goldfinger is action packed with intense lengthy car chases starring Bond’s Aston Martin in the upmost dangerous situations including an ejected passenger seat. The editing sets the tone for Bond films in the future as they too are fast paced and require close ups and medium shots to capture the action present. This Suggests that audience prefer similar conventions that belong to a particular genre as they know what to expect. An example of this would also be various catch phases used throughout the franchise as the iconic ‘the name is Bond, James Bond’ is used in both films.
The difference within genres can be seen through Propp’s character functions in Goldfinger compared to Skyfall. In Goldfinger there is a clear division between good and bad, the villain being Goldfinger himself and his various henchmen, Oddjob, whilst the hero is clearly 007. Skyfall has merged the fine line between character functions and represents 007 as a ‘broken’ hero. Bond in this film is represented as a two dimensional character as historically this is what the audience expects so therefore Goldfinger is fulfilling audience expectations. However the use of differences in genre stated by various contemporary theories suggest that genre has to differ to an extent in order to progress.
Whilst the purpose of genre is the means to organise and categorise film texts, genres in general are fluid, evolving and often considered historical after its release such as the Bond franchise. Neale insists that there would be no pleasure without difference, Abercrombie suggests that audiences enjoy the challenge of differences in genre and the consequent of shifting our expectations results in pleasure for the audience (Abercrombie, 1996, p. 9). Genre is a term in which should be manipulated so that audiences are constantly challenged in their perception of typical conventions in order for the entertainment to continue, again emphasising the shift in expectations. As an audience we do not consume films as individual entities, but as a more intertextual practices, as films are considered a post-modern medium due to them making sense in relation to other texts not necessarily reality. Therefore genre deviates from a cliché formula so that a more interesting experience is created for the viewer, but for this to happen an audience must have these preconceptions of genre conventions. This is shown through the difference in the films discussed as audiences must allow a change in conventions so that the primary function of films in general, which arguably entertainment but also escapism can fulfil audience expectations.
Genre is a contract between producer and consumer and through a set of conventions films are easy to imitate and mass produce but ultimately discourages innovation. However this innovation must occur as genre must adapt and be dynamic in nature so that it can keep up with its ever demanding and changing audience. Skyfall and Goldfinger show the progression in time of the differences but also similarities within genres. As genre theory argues that equally differences and similarities must work together in order for a film text to be as successful as previous texts as well as provide the pleasure audiences gain from them.