Monthly Archives: December 2016

Goldmember, Spectre, & the occasional redundancy of parody

SPOILER ALERT: if you still haven’t seen Spectre, then get on with it before this article ruins its one, tawdry, little twist. And if you somehow watch the Austin Powers films for plot, then beware of an Austin Powers in Goldmember spoiler, too.goldmember

Austin Powers 4 is forthcoming; what hasn’t exactly been forthcoming is details. Last time around, with 2002’s Austin Powers in Goldmember, the Bond parodying got to be a little tired once we actually saw that year’s official 007 adventure, Die Another Day; in some ways, it was less absurd*. But given that, since then, we’ve seen a whole new Bond universe, occasioned by a gritty reboot, couldn’t the Austin Powers series get some comedy mileage out of doing its own burlesquing of reboots, touching not just on Bond but also Batman BeginsStar Trek, X-Men: First ClassRise of the Planet of the Apes, Man of Steel, Godzilla, and so on. It’s either that or do the inevitable, which is rehashing the same old jokes, but in the 1980s this time.

That’s all well and good. But last time I watched it I made the troubling discovery that Goldmember is already a forward-looking parody of the new Bond continuity. First of all, as many fans have already pointed out, Spectre‘s little stroke of idiocy – making the reason for Bond & Blofeld’s animosity a brotherly conflict that’s gotten far out of hand – was presaged by Goldmember, which plays a similar twist with its Bond/Blofeld counterparts, Austin & Dr. Evil. In fact, the details stand in exact opposition – Blofeld hates Bond due to being an older adoptive brother who saw Bond as a cuckoo’s egg, whereas Dr. Evil, an orphan, is unaware that he & Austin share biological parentage, and he ceases his combat with him upon the discovery – but it’s still a remarkable thing. In Goldmember, the joke seems mainly to be on how silly including such absurd soap-opera elements in a spy story – even a larger-than-life one – would be. Joke’s on you, Spectre.

Secondly, Goldmember makes no attempt to hide its crass Heineken product placement, which is as expected given how much product placement has been a part of Bond since the start, but the brands are supposed to be aspirational: Aston Martin, Bollinger, British Airways, Walther. If you want to be like Bond then you know the best brands to wear, to drive, to drink, and to shoot. Heineken, about as perfectly middle-of-the-road a lager as you could hope for, isn’t something you’d expect to see passing the lips of the world’s most famous cocktail drinker, but Skyfall upset those expectations with a prominent early scene that looked more like a beer ad than a Bond movie. Admittedly, Bond was only seen swigging the stuff when he was at his lowest point in Skyfall, which is a nice touch, but then Spectre, which is meant to finally represent Bond back at his 1960s best, keeps the endorsement going.

Finally, an early scene in Goldmember shows Dr. Evil in one of those high-tech containment facilities popularised by The Silence of the Lambs. The prophetic production design doesn’t bear a terribly close resemblance to Dr. Lector’s holding cell, but it looks a lot like scenes from two future films: Magneto’s cell in 2003’s X2: X-Men United, & Silva’s cell in Skyfall. Theoretically, it’s no big coincidence that three films all happened to copy an iconic moment from an iconic film, but what’s a Silence of the Lambs reference doing in what is ostensibly a spy-movie parody anyway? You might say it’s a sign that Austin Powers was running out of ideas, like the many non-scary movies parodied in the later Scary Movies. Or maybe they weren’t running out of ideas, it’s just that those they had were ahead of their time. Either way, Goldmember‘s parodies of Bonds yet to come are actually funnier than its parodies of Bonds past.

*Incidentally – Goldmember‘s predecessor, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, stole a march on Die Another Day, snagging Madonna three years earlier, not to mention getting a much better song out of her (the Galvanic psychedelic-soul of “Beautiful Stranger” vs. the robotic disco-rap of “Die Another Day”).