The Aston Martin DB5 and James Bond are both icons in their own right, and bringing them together for the first time in 1964's Goldfinger was a partnership so perfect the car has appeared in the spy's stories six more times in fifty years. And it has to stop - now.
The DB5 is the ultimate icon of 1960's luxury - a timeless and elegant design that perfectly balances elements of it's predecessors, while simultaneously leaping into the future. It's strong and smooth, like an athletic build in a perfectly fitted suit. It wants to be taken seriously, and is, but with hints of youthful excitement lingering just beneath the surface. It is confidence over the cockiness of other desperate designs. It doesn't ask for your attention, it charmingly steals it from you.
When filmmakers began planning James Bond's third installment, Goldfinger, in their new blooming mega-hit film franchise they knew they wanted to go all out. They had put in their work with the first two films, and now it was time to have some fun. Looking at their source material, the novel of the same name by Ian Fleming, James Bond drives an Aston Martin DB Mark III - but by 1964 it was an outdated model. The filmmakers went to Aston Martin with hopes for something new, and luckily for them the company was just completing its DB5. After a lot of convincing - and money - Aston Martin reluctantly allowed the film to use its original development cars, as well as a few production models for modifying the now famous gadgetry for filming.
It worked out great for both parties as Goldfinger immediately soared to heights of popularity the World over never seen for a film before, and a good-while after. They go together like the Beatles and earmuffs, a Dom Perignon '53 below the temperature of 38°F, henchman and deformities, or the 1960's and World domination. Starting with Goldfinger, the DB5 has appeared in seven of twenty-three Bond films over the last fifty years, and while that may not sound too ridiculous, it is slowly killing the iconical allure of the car.
The problem comes when you look at which films the car has starred in:
- Goldfinger (1964)
- Thunderball (1965)
- GoldenEye (1995)
- Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
- The World Is Not Enough (1999)
- Casino Royale (2006)
- Skyfall (2012)
Do you see the problem? From 1964 to 1994, a span of forty years and sixteen films, the DB5 only appeared twice, in consecutive outings. From 1995 to 2015, a span of twenty years and seven films, the DB5 has appeared five times. That is a change from being in 12% of films up to 1994 to being in 71% of films from 1994. The car is almost six times more likely to be in a Bond film today than it was twenty years ago.
We need something new. I had a lot of hope with the release of Casino Royale in 2006. It was new; it was Bond's origin story - finally. It was grounded in our World, with real risks and real enemies. Yes the DB5 was there, but they stirred up the pot by having Bond win it in a poker match, unequipped with gadgets and not handed to him from Q for the first time. It was a subtle wink to the audience, without throwing the car in our face desperately asking us to remember the good ol' days. The beautiful Aston Martin DBS was tasked for the real Bond-car work. It was a perfect blend of Ian Fleming's first story with the spy, and everything great we remember from the films - yet the film was still it's own, and did not rely on throwbacks to feel like a Bond film.
With 2012's Skyfall, it was the fiftieth anniversary of the Bond franchise, and fittingly the creative team behind the film went with a strong throwback vibe. I can not fault them for that. The entire final act of the film is meant to feel like it could take place in the 1960's with Bond in the DB5 at his Scotland estate, void of big buildings and an onslaught of modernness and technology. This time it was almost exactly the famous Goldfinger DB5 - only the steering was on the wrong side. Ejector seat, forward machine guns and the rest of the original gadgets were back and in use just long enough to save the day, and then they blew the car into oblivion. I thought that perhaps that would be the moment we last saw of the DB5 in the Bond films - at least for awhile. But no.
Without spoiling too much, this article was inspired by the news that the current Bond film, the twenty-fourth in the series, SPECTRE has filmed with Daniel Craig and the DB5 yet again.
While the easy argument is that the DB5 and the relationship with James Bond has only grown in value and iconography as time has gone on, thus growing the allure of the partnership, the statistics show a worrying trend that will eventually kill the influence the DB5 has on the Bond franchise, and on the public as a whole. It is the too-much-of-a-good thing predicament. Over-saturating new Bond films with the DB5 is a path of temporary enjoyment and inevitable destruction. Continuing to relive the golden days and not making the attempt to continue forward onto new iconography will eventually implode the creative process.
We kn0w the Bond production team can shake things up and still be successful. The second-most popular car in the film series is a Lotus Esprit, which managed to make it into two of Roger Moore's films. There was even a throwback Lotus Evora mimicking the Esprit Turbo from For Your Eyes Only a few years ago.
There is the 1969 Aston Martin DBS from On Her Majesty's Secret Service that is overdue for an appearance, or perhaps something new entirely - like the Aston Martin DB10. When it was first announced that Aston Martin would be making a bespoke model specifically for SPECTRE it was huge. I thought - finally, something new - and I genuinely believe it has the chance to be just as big as the DB5 or Lotus Esprit. But with the news that Bond is back in the DB5 anyway completely washes away any impact the new car has a chance of making.
Today we look back fifty years to the DB5 and it's perfect fit in the James Bond World, and we pay homage to it's uniqueness and impact. But ask yourself - looking at the latest Bond films and culture in general.. in fifty more years what are we creating that we will have to look back on with the same admiration? Will seeing the DB5 inspire the same reaction then as it does today? All we'll see is six movies - out of eight since 1994 - begging us to remember that time James Bond drove a DB5. It's time to kill your darlings.
"History is moving pretty quickly these days, and the heroes and villains keep on changing parts." - Ian Fleming
Perhaps the once-hero DB5's over-stayed welcome may begin to detract from the franchise it's history is so engrained with. Do I expect you to stop? No, Mr. Bond, but at the very least I expect you to try.
You can read more about the expansive World of James Bond over at beyondjamesbond.kinja.com, and follow the author on Instagram at beyondjamesbond for daily posts on everything Spectre (2015), James Bond movies and novels, and beyond.