Saw Casino Royale last night – it was the best Bond movie I’ve seen in years. Daniel Craig really is Bond, it’s uncanny how good he is in the Bond role. The movie itself is a welcome change from conventional Bond films; no gadgets, a surprisingly emotional Bond and a much more awesome villain. It’s easily one of the best 007 films ever.
This kind of inspired me to do a review of previous Bond actors; this blog’s been sorely neglected in light of all my travels and crazy busy weeks. I’m a huge fan of the 007 series, so why not take up valuable blog space with some completely frivolous reviews of past Bonds?
Sean Connery (1962-1971)
Movies: Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, Diamonds Are Forever
Defining Bond Traits: Cold, steely demeanor, emotionally detached, smoothly cruel, lover of insanely over-the-top gadgets, tough guy approach, a paragon of Cold War paranoia and 60’s sexism.
Strengths: The prototype for all Bonds after him. Connery’s version of Bond exemplifies everything in Ian Fleming’s novels about Bond, Mi6 and being a spy. All the Bond films of the Connery Era are largely awesome because of him and him alone (and, of course, Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder, the ultimate Bond Girl)
Weaknesses: Not many, but one major complaint: Connery acting in the kind of lame, non-007 canon film Never Say Never Again, which was a re-make of Thunderball, released the same year as Octopussy (1983).
Grade: A. Connery has, is and will always be the finest Bond there is.
George Lazenby (1969)
Movie: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Defining Bond Traits: Super masculine, dark-edged Bond, ruthless but masking a sentimental side. Only Bond to ever get married in a Bond film (and featuring a very unconventionally sad ending).
Strengths: George Lazenby has gotten a bad rap in the past. It’s completely undeserved – he’s a very strong Bond in arguably the best Bond movie ever. He fits the role very well, it’s just too bad he didn’t get another chance.
Weaknesses: Turning down a seven-film contract due to political views may have been the worst decision he ever made.
Grade: B+. Hard to judge him on one film, but he made a good impression as Bond.
Roger Moore (1973-1985)
Movies: Live And Let Die, The Man With The Golden Gun, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy and A View To A Kill
Defining Bond Traits: The polar opposite of Sean Connery’s Bond – ultra-suave, comical, the living embodiment of elitist, oozing charm. Also, the most wildly inconsistent Bond of any era.
Strengths: Moore was a lot of things, but when he had a great script, he was near-perfect as Bond. That’s also the Moore Era’s problem (see below).
Weaknesses: While Roger Moore was good as Bond, it’s really a shame the 007 series went into the tank more often than it should have in his era. For every brilliant Moore Bond film (Live And Let Die, The Spy Who Loved Me, For Your Eyes Only and the best Bond movie ever, Octopussy), he had some real clunkers. The Man With The Golden Gun is exceedingly bad (Christopher Lee on a remote island with a solar laser… ok…) and then, of course, there’s the 007 series lowest point ever, which was the Star Wars-inspired Moonraker, which ranks up as the worst Bond movie ever. Finally, instead of bowing out gracefully after Octopussy, Bond stars in A View To A Kill that features a pre-Cowbell Chris Walken, a scary Grace Jones as a Bond Girl and a moronic plot that culminates with a fist-fight on a suspension bridge axis on the Golden Gate Bridge? Huh?
Grade: B. Moore was great as Bond only when the scripts were great. Otherwise, you could have put Connery back in with greying hair and it would have been a-ok.
Timothy Dalton (1987-1989)
Movies: The Living Daylights, License To Kill
Defining Bond Traits: A much more human Bond after the cartoonish qualities of Moore, the Dalton Era was typically rougher and a more emotional Bond.
Strengths: Dalton is the most underappreciated Bond of them all. Audiences may have been a bit wary of such a radical shift in approach between Moore and Dalton, but Dalton’s approach is far, far better. This Bond, while vicious and tough, also seems capable of empathy and even love.
Weaknesses: It’s a shame that Dalton, scheduled for three Bond films, left the role after endless legal battles between United Artists and MGM after License To Kill. Dalton’s Bond is much more in the spirit of Daniel Craig’s Bond – more human and less gadget-driven, which, unfortunately, audiences may not have been ready for back in 1987.
Grade: B+. He deserved better treatment and could have used a better script for License To Kill (watch for a young Benicio Del Toro as a bad guy and Law & Order’s Carey Lowell, a.k.a. former ADA Jamie Ross, as a Bond Girl, and Wayne friggin Newton!), but his performances get better with age.
Pierce Brosnan (1995-2002)
Movies: Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, Die Another Day
Defining Bond Traits: An amalgam of virtually every previous Bond’s characteristics; oozes charm, viciously cold and comically suave.
Strengths: A much-needed change in Bond’s personae in 1995.
Weaknesses: The most overrated Bond of them all. I still don’t get how people thought Brosnan was the best Bond ever when he debuted with Goldeneye. It took Brosnan an unusually long period of time to get comfortable with the role (to describe his performance as wooden in Goldeneye would be risking offending maple trees far and wide) and, quite frankly, all four of his films kind of sucked. Goldeneye was passable, Tomorrow Never Dies beyond belief lame (wow, a media tycoon starts a war! Holy crap, that’s too edgy for post-Cold War Bond!), The World Is Not Enough laughably written (Denise Richards as a nuclear scientist still seems like a bad, bad joke) and Die Another Day… well, let’s not go there (there’s only one good part of that movie, and it isn’t the invisible car, it’s the super-talented Rosemund Pike).
Grade: C+. Like the Bond films of the Brosnan Era, passable but not spectacular.
BOND MUSIC: Naturally, one can’t review Bonds without the seminal music tracks that go over the crazy animated lead-ins for the films.
For Your Eyes Only – Sheena Easton
Grade: B – not bad, early 80’s goodness. Too bad it’s Sheena Easton performing it.
Octopussy – “All-Time High” – Rita Coolidge
Grade: D – wow, this is crap. Belongs in the late 60’s Bond music canon, not 1983. It sounds like pure schmaltz, the kind of music that belongs in Marge Simpson’s music collection.
A View to a Kill – Duran Duran
Grade: B – passable Duran Duran just after their 80’s fame had started to wane a bit, but it’s still one of the few aspects of that Bond film worth paying attention to still.
The Living Daylights – a-ha
Grade: A – pretty sweet 80’s Bond with the ultimate 80’s band playing with the ultimate 80’s synth-and-voice modulation and pretensious Eurotrashy voices. Deliciously over-the-top.
Licence to Kill – Gladys Knight
Grade: F – Oh. My. God. Gladys Knight? Good God Why? Beyond belief bad.
Goldeneye – Tina Turner
Grade: C – you’d have thought a song written by Bono and The Edge and performed by Tina Turner would be amazing. But no, not really. It’s shamelessly bombastic and not in a good bombastic, Bond-esque sort of way. LAME.
Tomorrow Never Dies – Sheryl Crow
Grade: D – Sheryl, to quote Homer Simpson: “you tried hard and failed miserably. The lesson here is, never try.”
The World Is Not Enough – Garbage
Grade: A – finally! Someone gets it right! Mind you, when you have Shirley Manson’s voice at the helm and three producers doubling as your band, it’s got to be good.
Die Another Day – Madonna
Grade: F to the power of infinity – this is the worst 007 theme song ever. EVER. Who thought using voice faders, trippy hooks and obvious AutoTuners and a video that looked and sounded like an S/M how-to guide was a good idea?
Casino Royale – “You Know My Name” – Chris Cornell
Grade: B – not exactly Mr. Cornell’s finest hour, but it’s still a heck of a lot better than Die Another Day.