Heroic action dramas have a tendency to rely heavily on rebirths, whether it’s the character that experiences it or the content. Many have lived to see the unrecognizable reincarnation of Batman and the graphically enhanced return of Superman. Many have cheered for the re-emersion of Indiana Jones and John McClane. Many have even anticipated the reawakening of Jason Bourne’s less-than-docile inner assassin. But the last example differs a great deal from the others in one important aspect: Its producers didn’t have to resell it.
While reselling a franchise may seem easy because it already exists within the pop culture vernacular, already has a fan base, and already has proven to not suck, there are, of course, a few catches. For example, if you bring Indiana Jones back, he has to have his whip, his fedora, and most importantly his attitude. If you bring back Batman, he must have his father-figure butler Alfred, his ridiculously sick batmobile, and a hot girl waiting for his safe return. But for John McClane, there’s really just one thing that he must have: his catchphrase: “Yipee kayay mothafucka.”
Now, while I agree that someone like, perhaps, James Bond requires a little more than a catchphrase—M, his superior, Q, his gadget-expert, and his suave Casanova-ways are a must—that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a vital part of the franchise. Fine, you can take away the bat signal—as they did in The Dark Knight—give Indie a son by the name of Mutt, and even nix Bond’s signature brunette mane, but don’t delete the catchphrase.
Sure, saying “Bond…James Bond” sounds a little kitschy and maybe even a bit dated, but it’s an iconic phrase, like the title of Sidney Poitier’s They Call Me MISTER Tibbs! and Clint Eastwood’s legendary threat, “You feeling lucky punk?” Deleting the catchphrase from Quantum of Solace may not destroy our viewing pleasure, but it will taint it.