Everyone knows there is only one ultimate secret agent and his name is Bond – James Bond. The Bond franchise has turned 50 years old this year and has spanned 23 movies from “Dr. No”(starring Sean Connery) all the way up to the current film “Skyfall (with the new guy who’s taken over in the form of Daniel Craig). Craig has taken over and done an incredible job to date. (There is an interesting opinion for someone who has never seen a Bond movie – poor Shawn!) I decided we needed a fresh look at Bond since we have some new team members on the team and there might even be some great gadgets with the women mixed in too. Let’s have that Martini shaken, not stirred!
“License to Kill” (1989)
As far as movies go, I’ll stick with my stepfather any day of the week, which is why I’m willing to go out on a limb and state the most recent actor to don the James Bond mantle, Daniel Craig, is quite possibly the best to ever portray the British super-spy. Back in the 1980s, however, it was Timothy Dalton and the John Glen-directed “License to Kill” that got our adrenaline up, despite the fact that it faced some stiff competition back in 1989, namely “Back to the Future Part II,” Michael Keaton’s (actually Jack Nicholson’s) “Batman,” “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (featuring former Bond actor Sean Connery)” and “Lethal Weapon 2.”
Needless to say, 1989 was a great year to be a 12-year-old with the ultimate movie buff as your step-dad.
As for Dalton’s portrayal as 007 ... let’s just say I was a fan. And while “License to Kill” may seem outdated in retrospect, it gave us a glimpse into a different kind of Bond, one who’s been suspended from M16 while he pursues ruthless drug lord Franz Sanchez following Sanchez’s attack on CIA agent Felix Leiter – a close friend of Bond’s – and murders Leiter’s wife (during the couple’s honeymoon, no less).
This is, with no strings attached, Bond out for revenge, plain and simple.
As a character, James Bond is truly timeless, whether he’s being portrayed by the legendary Sean Connery (number two on my list of all-time great 007s); Roger Moore (too campy for me); Pierce Brosnan (gag me, please); or the aforementioned Timothy Dalton (number three on my list). Daniel Craig’s performances as Bond, however, have returned an edginess and a darkness to the character, something I think “License to Kill” hinted at thanks to its excellent plot. Sure, the special effects (and budget, I would imagine) aren’t what they are today, but Dalton – despite only two appearances as Bond – was solid, in my opinion. And while he may not have been the best Bond, he certainly wasn’t the worst.
“Everything Else James Bond(ish) But Forgot To Ask” (2012)
I’ll be upfront. I’ve never seen a James Bond film. Ever. It’s surprising, really, considering there’s like 63 of them, and the fact that I haven’t seen any of them, even if only by accident, leaves a lot of people wondering if I really do live under a rock. Yet despite my never having seen 007 in action, somehow I think I know more about him than some of my own family members. This speaks volumes for a movie that’s had such an immense impact on our culture.
So what is it that causes the James Bond appeal? How is it that I know so much about a fictional character I’ve never actually watched first-hand? Part of it must be the countless spoofs and James Bond copycats I’ve seen in leu of the real deal. From the (unfortunate) “Austin Powers” movies to the latest Saturday Night Live “Girls of James Bond,” parody, it seems that James Bond has had a lasting impression on pop culture ever since he first got a learner’s permit to kill.
There’s so many aspects of James Bond that make him memorable too. From his cool, fearless sense of danger to the self-righteous demeanor that made the women want him and the men want to be him (at least in the films, or so I’ve heard). I know he likes his martinis “shaken, not stirred,” he has the coolest devices and drives the most posh cars, and did I already mention the women? Perhaps I know so much about Bond because he is, in fact, the ultimate macho-fantasy guy.
While the new James Bond movie is breaking huge in the box office and quickly being hailed as one of the best Bond films yet, I’ve no plans to see it. I missed the last five decades of Bond films, why would I start watching them now? All the same, I’m sure I’m sure I’m not missing out on too much, that is, unless he decides to order a martini, stirred (cue James Bond theme. I know that too).
“On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” 1969
Oh, George Lazenby, we hardly knew ye. Donning the tuxedo just once, Lazenby lives in infamy as a one-shot James Bond. Though pale in comparison to Sean Connery, Lazenby actually makes a decent 007 – and more importantly, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” is one of the best films of the series. And its most tragic (until “Quantum of Solace,” maybe), but we’ll get to that later.
We meet Lazenby-as-Bond in a traditional action-packed pre-credits sequence, in which the spy rescues beautiful damsel in distress Contessa Teresa “Tracy” diVicenzo (Diana Rigg). Pausing to pick up the shoes she lost during the melee, Bond breaks the fourth wall and mugs for the camera, “This never happened to the other guy” – the first of a few such tongue-in-cheek references to the Bonds Before.
Tracy is a formidable match for Mr. Bond, a far cry from the helpless dames who’ve fancied him in the past. Perhaps that’s because Tracy is in reality the daughter of Draco, the head of a European spy syndicate. Bond pursues Draco because of his connection to archenemy Blofeld (he of “You Only Live Twice” and “Diamonds Are Forever”), here played by Kojak himself, Telly Savalas. I’d get more detailed about the plot, but it’s a James Bond film – and I only have one page in the newspaper to spare.
By the end, Lazenby’s Bond does something he’s never done before – truly falling in love with Tracy. And even more monumental, he marries her – making “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” unique in that regard as well. Of course, we can’t have our favorite License to Kill tied down with a wife and kids, so just as soon as James and Tracy marry, she’s cut down by a spray of bullets courtesy of Blofeld. It’s a rare, tragic and compelling ending for a Bond movie.
Lazenby may have only been Bond once, but he made a great first impression.
Last Friday, Eon Productions bestowed upon the American public their 23rd installment in the 007 franchise. The newest James Bond film, “Skyfall,” is in my opinion the greatest Bond movie to date. Period. The film managed to mesh a number of outwardly contradicting elements into a seamlessly flawless film. It was high brow, without being pretentious, and although it was a fresh and unique 007 adaptation, it effortlessly harolds back to the golden age of Sean Connery. “Skyfall” displayed impressive and original action sequences without reverting to the monotony of repetitious chase scenes that plagued “Quantum of Solace.”
Many critics have claimed that Daniel Craig has firmly solidified has mark on James Bond. Having watched “Skyfall,” it’s hard to disagree, if Craig is able to replicate the otherworldly success of the film, even once or twice more, people may not even be able remember anyone else ever having sported a walther ppk and introduced themselves as, Bond, James Bond. In “Skyfall,” Craig’s Bond reaches a level of depth and character development hitherto unheard of in the franchise. There is a clear and traceable character arch throughout the three Craig movies in which audience members can enjoy the appeal of Bond’s struggle with physiological and physical adversity. I am a huge fan of Sean Connery as well as Pierce Brosnan’s 007, but the truth is they made for stagnant and two-dimensional Bonds. They never change nor were they ever perceivable challenged in any great measure. Craig captures the essences of the stoicism and charm for which the character is famous, but also manages to take it further, to a point were it does not feel as though it is charade that is the defining feature of Bond. Instead they are physiological facets of an ever complex and growing character.
Javier Bardem faces off against Craig as the movie’s antagonist. Bardem, a remarkable and renowned actor, also leaves his mark on the franchise as one of, if not the greatest, Bond villain.
Aside from superb acting, “Skyfall” features many excellent and original action sequences. Heroes not looking back at explosions is brought to a new level when Craig lands in a train car full of people, calming straightening his suit, as the rest of the train car tears away behind him. Other action segments are distinguished by a subtle and almost comical tone such as a scene in which Craig noiselessly struggles to maintain his grip on a raising elevator. Then of course there are the explosive and exhilarating action scenes, such as the split second gunfight on Bardem’s island base in which Bond goes from being a captive to gunning down around five bad guys almost quicker then the eye can processs.
Yet for all its action, “Skyfall” is character driven movie and it concludes by setting the stage for a growing and dynamic relationship between Daniel Craig and Ralph Fiennes. Twice nominated for the Academy Award, Fiennes is no doubt going to take a much greater role in the future Bond films as his part in “Skyfall” served more as an introduction to the new M, then as a part of the plot itself.
“Never Say Never Again” (1983)
I have to admit that Sean Connery is perhaps considered the best Bond there has ever been. I can’t disagree but I think all the other actors who have played Bond have put their stamp on the character and also bring something different to him. That being said, it was really hard for me to pick just one Bond, but Connery coming back to Bond one last time in this go around needed to be mentioned. For a long time, it seemed the folks who take care of the franchise didn’t want to admit that this movie was ever made. Connery and the original producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli had a falling out some years ago which led to Connery leaving the role.
Connery once said he would never return to the role. One thing I’ve learned about movies: Never Say Never.
Connery returned to the role that made him a star as somewhat of an aging secret agent and falling victim to the bean counters of the time who figure Bond has outlived his usefulness. That is until the secret organization Spectre and their agent Largo (Klaus Marie Bandauer) steal a pair of nuclear missiles. Bond is called back into service to track them down and to stand in Spectre’s way again. Along the way, Bond meets one of Largo’s people Fatima Blush (Barbara Carrera) who loves and hates men at once. James also has to save the lovely Domino (Kim Basinger) from Largo and his organization. Using everything from a super motorcycle and a floating hovercraft to a rocket firing pen, Bond has everything in hand with that ever-present martini just in the next bar.
This one, in my opinion, is the best Bond starring Connery. I never have really liked Connery in any of the others. I do enjoy his non-Bond work. I do have to give any honorable mention, though, to Roger Moore. My favorite of his is “Octopussy.”
All these Bonds are now available in stores now by themselves or in the new Blu Ray collection which include the first 22 movies of Bond. We’re back to business next time with an all new Toddster’s take for “Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2.”