Bond twice as violent, study shows
An Otago University study shows recent James Bond movies are more than twice as violent as earlier films in the series.
The researchers believe the rise in violence in the Bond movies is indicative of increasing levels of violence in films more generally, and they are worried about the impact on viewers, particularly younger members of the audience.
They analysed 22 official Bond franchise films from Dr No in 1962 to Quantum of Solace in 2008, counting 109 violent acts in the first film compared to 250 in the latter.
Portrayals of severe violence, which would be likely to cause death or injury if they happened in real life, rose even more sharply, with nearly three times as many acts of severe violence in Quantum of Solace as in Dr No.
The latest film in the Bond series, Skyfall, is not included as it was not released at the time the study was carried out.
Study co-author associate professor Bob Hancox of the university's department of preventive and social medicine said the increasingly violent nature of the movies was concerning.
The films were popular and had no age restriction, so they would be seen by many children and adolescents.
"There's a huge amount of information that exposure to a lot of media violence encourages aggressive and anti-social behaviour, particularly among children," Hancox said.
"There is a lot of concern, and quite a lot of research to back it up, that a lot of violent imagery in the media may lead to behavioural problems."
It was an issue those who classified movies should be thinking about when deciding whether to put an age limit on a film.
Personally he did not have a strong opinion on whether age restrictions should be put on the Bond movies, but said it was reasonable to prevent younger viewers watching films with excessive violence.
While there had been an overall trend towards greater violence in the Bond films, it was the movies made in the 1990s with Pierce Brosnan as Bond, such as 1997's Tomorrow Never Dies, that had been the most violent, Hancox said.
The aim of the research had to been to test the hypothesis that movies had become more violent over time.
Focusing on the Bond movies allowed the researchers to look at very similar films over a period of nearly 50 years, with the idea that what was happening in the Bond series was likely to represent what was happening in mainstream movies.
"I suspect there's a perception they need to be violent to appeal to people, but I think there's not any really good reason to expect that is true," Hancox said.
"For example, the more violent Bond films aren't necessarily more popular and successful than earlier Bond films."
It was possible those making the more recent films did not think their movies were more violent, given the people making the films now were not the same people who made them in the 1960s.
In counting and classifying violent imagery in the films the researchers used a scheme modified from a 1997 national television violence study in the United States. Violent acts were defined as attempts by any individual to harm another and classified as severe (such as punching, kicking, or attacks with weapons) or trivial violence (such as a push or an open-handed slap).
The research is being published online by the journal Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine.