The James Bond Movies

As I wrote in an earlier post, I’ve used some behaviour modification procedures on myself, as I was creating my behaviour modification course. My reward for finishing a lecture was to allow myself to watch a James Bond movie. I had to write 21 lectures, and there are 24 movies. What’s that you say? There have only been 23 movies to date? Don’t forget Never Say Never Again. (But please leave out the silly 1967 version of Casino Royale.)

I was asked about my favourite James Bond. In thinking about this, the best answer I can come up with is: yes. (Wait, what?) I think there has been an interesting match between actors and the time in which they played Bond. Sean Connery was great in establishing the character; a hard-edged portrayal of Bond in the depths of the Cold War. George Lazenby’s one-film tenure and Connery’s reluctant return for “one last film” reflected the turmoil of the 1960s, an era grappling the fallout from the Summer of Love. Roger Moore’s softer-edged, more humourous portrayal fit well in the era of d├ętente. However, as the political climate shifted from doves to hawks, Moore’s Bond seemed increasingly out of sync with the world. I think this is where a lot of the criticism of Moore comes from--despite the fact that Moore has won several “Best Bond” polls.

By the late 1980s, the world was ready for a grittier Bond, ready to deal with a global stage in turmoil in which there was no longer any Soviet Union or East Germany. Timothy Dalton wanted to return Bond to his roots, to show him conflicted by killing and less reliant on gadgets and gags. Trained in Shakespearean theatre, Dalton is arguably the best pure actor ever to fill the role. After legal wrangling (and the pretty awful Licence to Kill) led Dalton to bow out, it was Pierce Brosnan’s turn at last. Often described as “born to play Bond,” Brosnan struck the perfect balance, easily moving from deadly seriousness to one-liners. But then, after 9/11, the ground shifted again.

It’s no secret that Brosnan was disappointed at being dropped from the Bond role, but just as the events of 9/11 required a fundamental change in the way we viewed the world, they also created the need for a new James Bond who could deal with the new threats on their own terms. Hence, Daniel Craig: rough, tough, uncompromising. I think it’ll be interesting to see who follows Craig--and what world events will shape the choice for the next James Bond.

OK, so long answer short, I don’t really have a favourite Bond actor. But I do have some favourite films. I’m not going to do a collection of movie reviews--others have done that to death. (Hmm, possible Bond movie title: Done to Death.) Instead, here are my favourite James Bond movies of each decade:
  • 1960s: Goldfinger. Of course, right? It’s got gadgets, great lines, and lots of action. Also, Sean Connery.
  • 1970s: The Spy Who Loved Me. Roger Moore’s best Bond. Isn’t he the most handsome man? (Yeah, man-crush.) The Lotus Esprit submarine-car. (Too bad it wasn’t really a functioning submarine. Love what you find out in the behind-the-scenes featurettes.) Exotic locations. It was also the first Bond movie I actually got to see in the theatre.
  • 1980s: The Living Daylights. Not the strongest decade for Bond movies, TLD is a high point. Timothy Dalton’s Bond is grim and focused as, in real life, the Iron Curtain was falling. Too bad the next movie, Licence to Kill, went too dark and grim.
  • 1990s: Goldeneye. Finally, Pierce Brosnan gets to be Bond. The title comes from the name of the estate in Jamaica where Ian Fleming wrote the Bond novels. Great stunts and action. Bond + tank = fun!
  • 2000s: Casino Royale. Welcome, Daniel Craig--welcome to a ton of criticism about you playing Bond before anyone even got to see a frame of film. Also, way to blow people away, with your hard-edged, no-nonsense portrayal of 007. It’s difficult to watch the torture scene. The ending is classic: “The name’s Bond. James Bond.”
  • 2010s: Skyfall. Flawed, with an outrageous villain and convoluted, ridiculous plot. It still hits the right notes that you’d want in a popcorn movie.
Other random things:
  • The 2006 James Bond Ultimate Collector’s Set, containing the first 21 movies on DVD (except Never Say Never Again) is amazing. I love behind-the-scenes stuff--it’s one of the reasons I started this blog. And this DVD set is packed with behind-the-scenes extras. There are often multiple commentary tracks--Roger Moore even gives his own separate commentary on every one of his movies. I have over 50 hours of commentary loaded onto my digital audio player.
  • Because I’m cheap, I borrowed each movie from the Edmonton Public Library (except Never Say Never Again, which they didn’t have). Just go online to place a hold, and a few days later, you’ll usually get the DVD. All this for $12 a year.
  • 1983 was a weird year, with two competing Bond movies: Octopussy vs. Never Say Never Again. People often forget the latter. It was a remake of Thunderball, but failed to match the original’s success. Octopussy ended up earning more at the box office.
  • The so-called “Bond-girlformula (apparently good girl turns out to be bad, and apparently bad girl turns out to be good) is not true. Yes, there are many examples of “bad girls” that Bond manages to turn “good” (just by sleeping with them!), like Pussy Galore and Holly Goodhead. But, although there are “bad girls”, they don’t start out seeming good. And not all Bond movies have both good and bad girls (like Diamonds are Forever, and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service).
  • It’s also surprising how seldom Bond finds himself up against the Russians/Soviets. It’s usually a ruse by SPECTRE (From Russia with Love), for example, or a rogue Russian general (The Living Daylights). Heck, Bond usually teams up with Russians--if they’re beautiful women, that is (see The Spy Who Loved Me, and Goldeneye).
  • The movies are so different from Ian Fleming’s books, sometimes there’s no resemblance at all. (For example, Moonraker the novel has a villain named Hugo Drax, but otherwise is completely different from the movie.)
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