LONDON Another Bond film, another debate about the role of women in the long-running franchise.
In "Quantum of Solace," released in the United States on Friday, Olga Kurylenko's character Camille has been held up as a model female foil for today's 007 -- tough, independent, modern.
She shares the movie poster with James Bond, is on a dangerous mission of her own and, unlike most other leading ladies, does not end up in bed with the fictional secret agent.
Not everyone is impressed, however, with several critics calling for more sex, not less, and fan sites arguing that the majority of Bond women, Camille included, are of little consequence to the plot or popularity of the movies.
Rolling Stone magazine, in its review, called Camille "perhaps the dullest Bond girl ever."
The portrayal of Bond women has been argued over since the 22-film franchise kicked off with "Dr. No" 46 years ago, and descriptions of the characters have ranged from under-dressed fodder for a misogynist master spy to feminist icons.
When Bond producer Barbara Broccoli recently described as "progressive" some of the early female leads, who had careers and were sexual predators in their own right, Fay Weldon, a writer associated with feminism, was quoted as saying:
"These films were attempts by men to keep women in their place and to ensure they still ironed their shirts."
Samantha Weinberg, author of stories about the life of Bond character Miss Moneypenny, jumped to Broccoli's defense.
"Seduction is a two-way street, and as frequently as not, the Bond women were the hunters and 007 their prey," she wrote in the Daily Mail. "Good on them."
WOMEN OF THEIR TIME?
Ukraine-born Kurylenko believes Camille differs from most earlier Bond women.
"Now the Bond girl has become very different, and mine is very different," said the actress, who turns 29 this week.
"This one had a lot more things involved, much more than the others did," Kurylenko told Reuters in a recent interview. "She's very strong, almost an equal to Bond, very feisty, has her own mission, independent. She's just a strong woman."
Bond aficionados argue that while there has been no steady progression from submissive "eye candy" to assertive, independent characters, Bond women tend to reflect the times in which they appear.
"As times change, so does the approach to how Bond's foils are developed," said Tom Buxton of Bond fan site www.mi6.co.uk.
"Political sensitivities have to be considered whilst pushing boundaries at the same time.
"It wasn't until 1973 that Bond was seen in his first inter-racial relationship. During the 1980s ... when the AIDs epidemic was high on the global agenda, there was a conscious design to tone down Bond's rate of conquests. It took 35 years before the lead Bond girl was Asian."
But for Graham Rye, editor of 007 Magazine and author of "The James Bond Girls," Vesper Lynd, played by Eva Green in Craig's first outing as Bond two years ago, eclipsed Camille's "paper thin" character.
"I think the story of Casino Royale, where Bond falls in love with her (Lynd) and she with him, will appeal to women more than a film where he just has sex three or four times."
He added that for all the talk of Camille's strength and independence, the other leading lady in Quantum of Solace, agent Fields, ends up in bed with Bond with almost unseemly haste.
(Editing by Paul Casciato)