Licence Revoked: Where Bond Went Wrong

Bond.  James Bond.  So goes the most recognizable cliché for any fan of the 007 franchise. 

As we prepare ourselves for the twenty-fourth film version of Ian Fleming’s literary British spy – which has already been full of buzz regarding replaced screenwriters and other problems behind the scenes – I thought I’d throw out a few of my own observations about the series and my opinion of where it went off the rails.

The ‘movie’ Bond bar was set sky-high by the one and only Sean Connery.  While I was born early into the Roger Moore era and waited until later in life to appreciate Connery’s take on the character, I have come to accept that every actor who steps into the role will ultimately be compared to the original.  Connery was just that good.

The Roger Moore era is often regarded as one of the low points in the series, which I have always disagreed with.  Bringing more style and wit to 007, Moore’s work as Bond is actually quite good.  In retrospect, the problems had more to do with plot than with acting.  Moore’s Bond started strong with Live and Let Die – one of my all-time favorites.  But by the time the late 1970’s rolled around, the Bond films had become a little too cartoonish in its feel. 

Questionable decisions also hampered the era, such as pushing back For Your Eyes Only (one of the best Bond films ever) in order to capitalize on the Star Wars/space trend with a rushed Moonraker (1979).  That release is perhaps the most frustrating of the entire series due to the fact the first half of the film is excellent as is the nemesis Drax, played chillingly perfect by Michael Lonsdale, but then falls into a Bond in Space caricature at the end.

In a perfect world, Moore would have stepped away from the role after 1983’s Octopussy (he was already getting a little long in the tooth age-wise by that point), but because heir apparent Pierce Brosnan was shackled to a television contract, Moore came back for one last shot: 1985’s View to a Kill.  The high points (Grace Jones, Patrick Macnee, the always weird Christopher Walken perfectly cast as the baddie) were cancelled out by some ridiculous scenes (a fire engine car chase?) and the worst ‘Bond girl’ of all time, Tanya Roberts.  It was an unfortunate end to a rather good run for Moore.

Currently the title of Bond is held by Daniel Craig.  Full disclosure: when he was announced as the latest actor to fill the role, I immediately hated the choice.  When I learned the direction the franchise was going to take it made it even worse.  I have watched all three Craig/Bond movies in full.  I’ve given them every chance to impress.  They don’t. 

As a stand-alone set of films, they aren’t bad.  As action flicks, they hit the mark.  But they just don’t feel like Bond films.  It seems former ‘Q’ John Cleese agrees, calling the latest films ‘gritty and humourless’. 

Perhaps in time my opinion of the Craig carnation will change.  It certainly did in regards to the Timothy Dalton Bond films, which upon release I despised – ‘That’s not Bond!’ 

Looking back, Dalton’s take on Bond was understandably different than Moore’s, as was the feel of the films which wanted to lose the borderline slapstick and bring back a more serious 007.

The difference between the Timothy Dalton and Daniel Craig flicks is simple: the Dalton movies felt like Bond movies.  The Craig versions do not. 

If the Bond franchise is going to continue on in the future, it is inevitable that more actors will step into the role of 007.  From this Bondophile’s point of view, the sooner they find a true Bond and return to the basics, the better.

One last note: James Bond doesn’t cry.  Ever.

Ranking 007 

Sean Connery  10/10  (1962-71)
Set the standard by which all who follow will be measured – and will ultimately come up short.

George Lazenby  7/10  (1969)
Ian Fleming called Lazenby’s portrayal ‘the closest in appearance and manner to the literary Bond’.  The movie is far better than the character.  Not great, not bad.  A one-off.

Roger Moore  8/10  (1973-85)
Style and strength.  Pulled it off even when the material was near impossible.

Timothy Dalton  7.5/10  (1987-89)
His two turns at the character are more than worthy.

Pierce Brosnan  9/10  (1995-2002)
The almost-perfect Bond.  A mix of style and grit.  A wonderful era in Bond-dom.

Daniel Craig  1/10  (2006-present)
 It’s just not Bond.

1 comment:

(c)2014 Richard L. Kent, Esq. (MichiganSilverback at gmail dot com) said...

The key to understanding Bond is knowing that he is a Timelord.

It all falls into place after that.

His Name Was Steven