Though these photos don’t do it justice, Craig’s posture on the bike reflected McQueen’s “cooler-than-cool” iconic staus from The Great Escape (1963). The way he sat, held his arm at just the right angle and squinted his eye had to be intentional. There’s no other way around it.
We haven’t seen this type of copying since Adam Sandler’s Bob Dylanesque character in Reign on Me.
Though some may lament to Hollywood’s purposeful recalling the past, these instances show the power of visual icons to postmodern popular culture. There are images so powerfully embedded into our culture today, that we are subconsciously drawn to their reincarnations whether we realize it or not.
As Daniel Boorstein lamented in his influential book The Image (1961):
We are haunted, not by reality, but by those images we have put in place of reality (p. 6).
Forty-plus years later, I wouldn’t say “haunted,” but I will say that many times, it is the image — not the reality behind it — that we best remember. It is those images that make up our cultural knowledge; a cultural knowledge that helps us negotiate our way through life.
Daniel Craig-as-Steve-McQueen-as-James-Bond adds to the myth, and cultural knowledge, of all three. James Bond is a little grittier; and Daniel Craig is a little cooler; and Steve McQueen lives a little longer.