|Posted on November 7, 2012 at 11:45 AM|
Let's Talk Bond...James Bond
I've seen every single James Bond movie. In many cases multiple times. However, that wasn't always the case. Hell, I wasn't even aware James Bond was really a "think" until there was a James Bond Jr cartoon, an N64 Goldeneye game and James Pond, the spin-off videogame where you played as a fish-spy.
Around my junior year in college, I suddenly had an itch. I can't quite recall how it suddenly came up and began to aggravate me, but I found myself obsessed with James Bond. Perhaps it was the book, Casino Royale, I had read and I asked myself "why hasn't this been made in to a (non-parody) movie yet?" Keep in mind, this was years before Daniel Craig came in to the picture as the new "hip" James Bond and they finally did the adaptation.
But if it wasn't that, it might have been my love of just great action films, and there's no franchise that has consistently delivered like the James Bond films. I think I re-started getting in to them with Goldeneye, a pretty solid Bond flick and probably the biggest Bond movie from my generation. Well, at least that time of being impressionable and feeling nostalgic about it. It did have a huge videogame based on it, afterall.
After that, though, I just started watching everything I could get my hands on. I was in my "I'm too cool to watch off of TV/non-letterbox film snob" mode so I sought out the DVDs. The problem around this time is that finding James Bond DVDs was actually tough to do for some reason. There was a first printing, but they hadn't been re-released yet and the internet world wasn't as film-savvy and easy to find movies as it is today, so I resorted to renting. A lot. I decided the best place to start is entirely by timeline, so here we go: a quick and brief rundown of my James Bond watching experiences. At least, the best I can remember.
Oh, I'm sorry, were you saying something?
The Connery Years
Dr. No has easily one of the best introductions of a character. Ever. Bond is sitting at a card game, drinking and smoking like crazy. This was when heroes could smoke. Bond hasn't smoked in years. Of course I remember the one-liners and the villain, not to mention a bit of clumsy fight-sequence, but overall it's just a solid flick and not something overly special. It set a great foundation that would soon grow exponentially. Things really didn't start getting good until From Russia With Love. I read somewhere this was JFK's favorite film at the time, it certainly is a polished thriller. And that's something that makes it so unique: Bond wasn't quite the action-crazy guy yet with all the gadgets and goodies. From Russia With Love is a taught little spy-thriller that I'd consider one of the best espionage movies ever made. Yes, it's a Bond film, you expect action, but it really doesn't have a lot of that which is why I think so many people like it.
All you need to know about James Bond is found in this picture.
Then along came Goldfinger. This was the one I was looking to the most because it's the one I saw snippets of whenever TNT did their annual Bond marathon. It's amazing how well it still holds up. Dr. No feels a bit dull and dated at times, even From Russia With Love, but Goldfinger is arguably the most influential Bond flick and one of the most influential action movies of all time. It set up all the tropes and beats that we've come to know and love, and Goldfinger himself is such an enigmatic Bond villain. It was here the Bond villains really started to take shape and become the larger-than-life creations we know and love. Plus, it had "Pussy Galore." Subtle.
To this day Goldfinger is probably my favorite Bond flick. So many memorable moments, a great cast of supporting characters, a fantastic finale and even a great and ludicrous plan by the villain. It really does little wrong, if anything. After that, we had Thunderball and You Only Live Twice, neither of which are bad, but I can't say I loved them either. You Only Live Twice just feels...weird. I don't know, it's the clunky climax at the end an Connery made up to look Japanese I think. It did have Blofeld, though, and that's a major plus. Thunderball is the "underwater one" as I call it, and it feels slow and often dull. As always with these, though, it's a) hard to follow up Goldfinger and b) still has Connery so they aren't so bad...
I mean, Connery isn't just the best Bond because he's the first. It's easy to assume that. He's the best because he is so in to the role, you forget he's acting at all. He didn't draw attention to himself playing a part, he simply was and obviously had a lot of fun playing the part. But then, Connery took a hiatus. And the actor put in to replace him is one that draw attention to himself at every given chance and I was left confused and disillusioned because I was just getting in to Bond and had no idea who this guy was.
The Hell is Happening Here?
At the time, my Bond knowledge was pretty miniscule, so I was a bit surprised about On Her Majesty's Secret Service and the new Bond, George Lazenby. I knew of Connery, Moore, Dalton and Bronson...but Lazenby? Who the hell is this guy? A model? Are you kidding me?
"Kirk Douglas's Chin has nothing on my chin."
But you know what? It's actually a damn ambitious little Bond flick. Lazenby is serviceable, but not really captivating or enigmatic (and the 4th-wall breaking joke took me right out of the movie...Bond fans know what I'm talking about). But from a sheer action standpoint, it had some of the best sequences of the franchise. That ski-chase sequence? Man, that's still fantastic. For me, personally, the jury is still kind of out on Terry Savalas as the new Blofeld, but he doesn't hurt the film at least and I love how big of a part he has in it. A pretty damn good Bond flick, even if Bond himself leaves a bit to be desired.
Apparently, though, people were in agreement and Lazenby was out and Connery back in with Diamonds are Forever. This, to me, is when Bond started to get really really goofy. It's also when he started to become less spy-action-thriller and just a lot of silly fun. People often look at the Roger Moore Bond movies as when Bond began to just get ridiculous, but really it's this one. I have a love-hate relationship with it. Some things I like, other things feel tired as though the writers were drunk and just started throwing darts. Also, I didn't like the Vegas setting. Again, I can't quite claim why...perhaps it's not "exotic" enough or it lacks variety (it is just a desert with buildings afterall) but I just wanted more. More...Moore...oh no.
Here He Comes
There is only one Roger Moore flick I found myself liking and one I loved. Everything else I felt was just...well it just wasn't that good. Now Moore himself I liked. He was a pretty decent Bond, and the tongue-in-cheek humor felt natural for him. He was a good change of pace from Connery, even though we saw touches of the style Moore's movies would be known for in Diamonds are Forever and even though I, certainly, preferred the way Connery approached the character: A little more grounded with a tongue in cheek humor rather than someone playing up for spectacle and not really caring if the character feels real or not (Moore's Bond, to me, was more snarky superhero than hero at times).
Anyways, the one I liked: For Your Eyes Only. It was one of Moore's later ones, but it did something the others didn't: play it straight. It had far little humor and concentrated on a pretty awesome spy-thriller. According to Bond lore, the producers felt the series was getting too crazy, especially after Moonraker, the most over the top Bond movie in history so they looked to reel it back, ground it, and just make a good action-thriller. They did, and even though there's one Bond flick of Moore's I liked more, I think Moore himself is incredibly in this one. The story was restrained, and so was Moore and it was awesome.
Don't write all mine off...a few are damn good.
The one I loved, though, was The Spy Who Loved Me. Hell, I think everyone loved that one. It's about as balanced of Bond movie as you can ask for, and really just threw everything out there without getting nuts. It comes down to this: Stromberg. Stromberg was the villain, and every bit as memorable as a Blofeld. He was a flat-out anarchist, not looking to take over the world but looking to "rebirth" it. That was just cool. Plus...JAWS. No not that Jaws as in a giant shark, but Jaws played by giant man Richard Kiel (a man I'm sure MST3k fans are familiar with).
After that, the Moore films are kind of indifferent to me. Live and Let Die and Octopussy are solid, The Man with the Golden Gun decent (the third nipple thing is just silly, and it has a dumb finale and I only like it because of Christopher Lee), and Moonraker and A View To a Kill are probably my two least favorite Bond movies. Moonraker is just too over-the-top and A View to a Kill full of a dumb plot despite an awesome use of Christopher Walken. So, if those two are my two least favorite Bond movies...then what does that say for...
Timothy Dalton was a damn good James Bond, even if he wasn't the first choice, he just didn't have the movies to show it. The man really gets an unfair shake, if you ask me. He's incredibly well cast, had a great delivery, a great look. He played the role incredibly well and played it straight. And you know what? People didn't give him a chance because The Living Daylights is, and I'm not the first to say this, probably the most under-appreciated James Bond movie out there. Whereas a Goldeneye gets way too much praise, The Living Daylights gets none.
I don't always play Bond, but when I do, I'm often under-appreciated.
But then you have the other one. Yeah, License to Kill. That one. The disdain for Dalton's Bond stems entirely from this film. What Moonraker was to Moore, License to Kill was to Dalton, only Dalton didn't have a movie after to make up for it. The thing is, if you take Bond out of the equation, License ot Kill is a decent action flick. Well directed, fun story, Dalton is playing the role very well. It's kind of your typical 80s-violent action flick. Hell, it even had the budget of one, coming well under the usual Bond movie budget as the franchise was already readying the noose.
At the end of the day it isn't Bond. Bond isn't an 80s action hero, he's James Bond, and I'm most certainly in the camp that License to Kill nearly destroyed the franchise. Bond movies have a "feel" to them, a certain texture that establishes itself as a Bond movie. This one didn't have that. It's not bad if you just want action. But it is if you want Bond.
After all negative criticism followed by the legal problems that followed this flick (you can read up on it, it's actually extensive) Dalton had no interest in returning. I can't blame the guy, he could have been one of the biggest stars of his era but it all just fell wrong for him. So now, many years later, they had to find a new Bond. A Bond I actually grew up with, but he actually has the same problems that Dalton found himself in: strong first outing, then diminishing returns.
The Bond You Deserve
I love Pierce Brosnan as Bond. He really had all the qualities of all the best Bonds. Suave like Connery. Humorous like Moore. Could turn serious like Dalton on a dime and he damn sure had the look. I remember when he was announced as the new Bond and came out to an uproarious crowd.
Oh, thanks internet. You keep my memories for me. I forgot the 90s for five seconds.
It all kicked off with Goldeneye, and Goldeneye was a phenomenon. The promotions were off and running, and the movie itself a damn good action movie, damn good Bond movie. It just had everything you really wanted in a Bond movie, most notably a good villain which had been lacking for a long while in the franchise. Sean Bean's 006 is so incredibly memorable, and Bean just as well-cast as Brosnan here. The plot had a variety, plenty of twists and espionage thrills, felt relevant in a post-cold-war world, had sex appeal and enough action moments to keep it all running. Having the budget back where it needed to be helped, (about twice that of License to Kill).
Goldeneye is often praised, overly so, by people of my generation. As I said, we kind of grew up with it and it was the first Bond movie to really make an impression. Having an awesome N64 game based on it certainly helped, it just started to become part of our culture much like past generations - where Bond was a bigger part of the culture than what it was in the 80s when it it was absent.
However, it is a bit of a mess of a film. It has pacing issues, the plot is unnecessarily convoluted at times and Sean Bean's 006 had odd motivations if you ask me. But, it's still a damn good flick, and most notably is that it is, without question, the most important James Bond film. If this one didn't nail it, kiss Bond goodbye. Sure, it has some issues and is often over-praised, but it still nailed what Bond is supposed to be and was a fun ride while doing it.
Brosnan, like Dalton, suffered from some god-awful scripts. It also started to veer towards just being flat-out ridiculous, as in Moonraker/License to Kill ridiculous. It also was unfortunate to come out of the gates so strongly with Goldeneye, because it would be tough to follow up any Bond movie with that one.
Actually, I can't even say that. To be honest, outside of Goldeneye, the rest of Brosnan's films are kind of forgettable. For example, I always get Tomorrow Never Dies and The World is Not Enough mixed up. They lack identity, a strong villain, memorable action moments. They kind of just ran together. I wouldn't say either are horrible movies, just bland Bond stories and bland Bond villains. I couldn't tell you the stories of either, and I know I saw The World is Not Enough at least five times back then and re-visited years later on DVD when I started to watch every single Bond movie. I saw it as much as I saw Goldeneye and I can't even remember the thing.
Brosnan is a strong enough Bond to carry the bad ones, though.
But then you had the one I do remember for all the wrong reasons. Die Another Day was the Moonraker/License to Kill of the bunch here. Ok, not as bad as those, but it's up there. As I was watching, it just screamed "alright, we give up." It pandered, it lacked any sense of Bond actually being a human (something Brosnan did well in all his flicks sans this one) and had some of the dumbest locals in the series. An ice hotel? Really? That's Moore-era dumbness right there. Why not give Halle Berry a third nipple while you're at it?
Actually I wouldn't mind seeing that.
Die Another Day was Brosnan's last. His effort was "solid" in the movie department and "great" in the Bond-portrayal department. As for the one the jury is still out on:
A New Generation
Die Another Day was the last Bond flick I saw when I was doing my "Let's watch all of 'em" marathon. My impressions were pretty standard for the course, save for the fact I think Dalton gets too much crap and Goldeneye too little, but let's just say I fell in love with the franchise. To see all of them, repeatedly in some cases, just made me an uber-Bond fan as a result. I started drinking martinis, wishing I had a classic Aston Martin and did my best to always look suave and think of things misogynistic to say to women.
After all that died down, Bond was dormant again. Die Another Day was the last hurrah, and it all was about to come full-circle. Remember when I said I was reading Casino Royale while watching all these Bond flicks and asking myself "why hasn't this been made in to a movie yet?" Well, finally they did, and they crushed it.
Hi, I'm Daniel Craig and I always have this expression on my face.
First off, I like Craig, don't love him. But he's far from done so I'll save that for another time when we have more to discuss. I feel Casino Royale would have been a strong movie no matter who was playing Bond. The directing was top-tier and the story just fantastic. They took it back to its roots, and I'd be lying if I didn't feel a lot of the classic 60s Connery movies in the way this movie handled itself. It had the big-spectacle sequences, the parkor chase is arguable one of the top two or three action scenes in Bond history, but focused entirely on tense situations at our Casino itself and the chess-like game with our villain(s). Though it probably could have left the romance angle out (it did in the book, Bond's emotions are pretty cold for the most part), I'll give it a break as it's a different take on an earlier/rougher Bond still not quite refined and probably getting too attached to a gorgeous woman.
I have little to gripe about that movie, the follow up, Quantum of Solace, just the opposite. It's an example of a movie's reach exceeding its grasp, and we just end up with a bit of a messy flick. While it's pretty cool that it's an extension of the first film (the plot/themes/ideas carry over, and watching them back to back actually is kind of cool), it still mismanages itself with clunky action scenes, a forgettable villain (especially after Royale) and a very convoluted plot. Not awful, but mid-tier Bond at best.
Now we have Skyfall coming out this weekend. The reviews have been stellar, fans that have already seen it in other parts of the world laud it, saying it is easily the best Bond in years. More interestingly, though, is my hype level for the thing. Sure, listening to all those people have a love fest over it is great, but I've been awaiting this one for a while just because I love Sam Mendes as a director and John Logan as a writer (who was attached alongside the other Bond writers, probably do some fixing of the script and so on). It's the first, ever in my memory, Bond movie I've actually been hotly anticipating and to see and hear that it got everything right makes me want to take Friday off and go see it.
But, duty calls. I have my job that doesn't involve world-travel, shaken-not-stirred martinis or exotic women coming out of the ocean. That's why we have Bond, though. It's male-fantasy, what we always wanted to be: cool. Maybe that's why I want to see Skyfall so bad. I just want to vicariously be cool for a couple of hours. Watching all these movies in marathon form certainly gave me that opportunity, and it could very well be something I do again at some point.
Well, except Moonraker and a couple of others. Those make me feel nauseous, not cool.
What are You Talking About?
I'm a new Bond fan. Sure, I grew up with the Bronson Bond flicks, but I hadn't seen a single Connery, Moore or Dalton (and I guess Lazenby, let's throw the guy a bone) until I was well in to college and I damn sure didn't become a fan until that time. My marathon DVD watching was a visual history lesson and timeline of action films and, as a result, I grew increasingly fond of the entire franchise. Even the bad movies. Sure, I might get that bit of bile in the back of my throat on some...but that's good bile that only my fondness of a franchise could generate. You know, in the same way Attack of the Clones made the Star Wars fans feel.
So if you have the time, use this as a guide. If anything. From one fairly new fan to someone who's hoping to be. Watch the first three Connery films, the one Lazenby, the two good Moore films, the one good Dalton and Bronson film and the first Craig film. Then, you grow from there and realize that is is probably the best film franchise, consistently, in the history of cinema.
Plus, it's election night, and I've been in meetings all week, and I just wanted to share my Bond experiences more because I really didn't have much else to talk about other than that I really, really, really, really, really can't wait to see Skyfall
Oh, and if you're wondering where Never Say Never Again is...I really don't know how to approach that movie at all. It's not canon, but it's been said it's the better version of Thunderball (I really need to see it again, to be honest, but I know at the time the old-Bond didn't really feel right to me)