Kiwi-directed Bond films are the most violent

By Peter Griffin 11/12/2012

If you haven’t seen the latest 007 installment Skyfall, do so – it is great. It is also pretty violent as the climax plays out like a version of the three-way graveyard gunfight in The Good the Bad and the Ugly.

Director Lee Tamahori – nasty Bond creator

But how violent are the Bond films, which after all, are rated “as suitable for children or adolescents with parental guidance”?

Well a team of researchers, including the University of Otago’s Associate Professor Bob Hancox, set out to answer that exact question and they made a couple of remarkable discoveries.

Firstly, Bond movies have got gradually more violent over the 46 year history of the series (Skyfall wasn’t included). The researchers write:

In this review of 22 films spanning almost half a century, portrayals of violence increased such that rates of violence in 2008 were double those observed in 1962. This was due to an increase in severe rather than trivial violent imagery. The findings support our hypothesis that movies, in general, have become more violent.

Also – two of the three most violent of the Bond movies – 1995’s Golden Eye and 2002’s Die Another Day  – were both directed by New Zealanders – Martin Campbell and Lee Tamahori respectively. 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies was the most violent overall – directed by Canadian Roger Spottiswoode. Pierce Brosnan played James Bond in all of those movies boosting the 007 violence stakes considerably (see chart).

Daniel Craig’s first effort as Bond, the fantastic Casino Royale was fairly tame in comparison to the preceding decade of carnage, partly overseen by our bloodthirsty kiwi directors.

So, what does this all mean? Violence doesn’t add greatly to the mix of what makes a great Bond movie – Pierce Brosnan’s Bond movies aren’t as memorable as classics like Moonraker, Goldfinger and even 1973’s Live and Let Die – the lest violent of the series.

But what the researchers have shown – via one of the most consistently popular movie series ever, is that the films have become more violent over time, something that concerns Prof. Hancox and colleagues:

“There is extensive research evidence suggesting that young people’s viewing of media violence can contribute to desensitisation to violence and aggressive behaviour.”

So how did the researchers, who have published their results today in Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, determine levels of violence? Here’s their methodology…

Violent imagery was defined as any scene in which there was an intentional attempt by any individual to harm another. This definition includes failed attempts at violence (eg, gunshots that miss) but excludes accidental acts that lead to harm.

Using a scheme modified from the 1997 National Television Violence Study,  each time the perpetrator, action, or target (PAT) changed, a new instance of vio- lence was counted. The total violence in each film equaled the number of PATs. Violent acts were further divided into whether the violence was trivial (eg, an open-handed slap) or severe (punching or kicking, attacks with weapons). Mass scenes of violence, in which it was unclear how many people were engaged in a fight and how many were actually harmed, were noted and an arbitrary 10 PATs per mass scene were added to the total violence score for each film. To ensure reliability, ran- domly selected films were independently coded by a second coder. There were no differences in the mean number of violence instances each coder recorded across these 6 films.

0 Responses to “Kiwi-directed Bond films are the most violent”

  • Hmm, I wonder if there’s also an adjustment for the length of the movies as well.

    Results aren’t surprising but I guess with this sort of movie-genre, you need a villain to be opposing Bond of sufficient menace to make the story compelling. I guess violence is a convenient way for directors to convey that sense of menace. Whether it’s done deftly or in a heavy-handed fashion is ultimately of interest, and the results cited show heavy-handed isn’t always best.

  • good point on length of a movie – Dr. No was 110 minutes long, Skyfall (not included in the study) was 143 minutes. Quantum of Solace was 106 minutes and Moonraker was 126. So there’s a fair bit of variation in screentime which you think might impact on the amount of violence in each film.

  • There’s also some variation in the actual levels. It looks actually pretty stable from late 60s to mid 90s. The Brosnan films could be exaggerating the upward trend.

    (I’m not contesting there has been an upward trend, just concerned that the scale of it is unclear btw)