Greetings, and welcome back to another Bond post! Happy October, everybody! As we quickly approach Halloween, the Critic, that is, me, grows increasingly apprehensive about watching horror to review for this month. As a reminder, I’ll be doing 1 horror movie every other week this month, and also one on Halloween itself. I lack knowledge on the horror movie genre, so I am very open to suggestions in the comments, so long as they follow these stipulations: 1. I must not have already reviewed it. That means no Alien. Sorry. 2. No Saw sequels. Not happening, you guys. 3. Absolutely zero Human Centipede. I have refused to watch even a second of those films based on principle. And, finally, 4. I would prefer if the film is either really good, or horrifically bad. That is, I would prefer either Halloween (1978) or Leprechaun: Back 2 Tha Hood to anything in between that spectrum. Either great, or laughably bad, is basically what I’m saying. So, if there’s something you want me to review this month, leave a suggestion in the comments, and I’ll probably do it. So, yeah. Anyways, what were we talking about? Oh, yeah!
More Bond comin’ right up! So, Bond’s great, right? The character is so iconic, except he’s not really a character at all, now is he? James Bond, if he were a real person, would probably be diagnosed with some sort of split personality disorder, considering his shift over the years from suave brute to frilly softie to witty gentleman to icy killer to quipping maniac to blunt instrument, in that order. The character of James Bond evolves with the decades, embodying what’s popular and “cool” at the time, which is why Daniel Craig didn’t consistently wear suits until Skyfall. Bond’s personality is different, his mannerisms unique, his personality anywhere from affable (Moore) to laughable (Lazenby). And that’s what we’re going to break down today, each actor, their best (and worst) film, what could’ve been done differently, and whether or not they were right for the role. So let’s start!
Non-Official Bond #1: Barry Nelson
Best film: None
Worst film: None, Casino Royale (1954) was an episode of an anthology TV series.
Barry Nelson is not James Bond. He’s not even Jimmy Bond, the off-putting Americanized version of the character present in the episode. He lacks any believably as an undercover agent, and has little screen presence compared with his competition. A poor choice on the casting department, indeed.
Non-Official Bond #2: David Niven
Bond #1: Sean Connery
Best film: Goldfinger (1964)
Worst film: Thunderball (1965)
Sean Connery’s James Bond is the definitive performance, the character that one thinks of when they hear the phrase “Bond, Jamesh Bond.” The Scottish accent that the character is not supposed to have, but which led Ian Fleming to retcon the Bond of the books into a man of Scottish heritage, the trademark charm, the brutish good looks and tough guy attitude, the dirty fighting, it all contributes to the drunkard of an agent Bond is. Connery’s Bond isn’t a so much of an agent as he is a guy who just drinks and seduces women until the problem is finally solved. Though unrefined, Connery’s Bond is still a man of fine tastes, and knows his way around wine. It’s thanks to him that I know never to drink red wine with fish, and that “there are some things that just aren’t done, such as drinking Dom Perignon ’53 above the temperature of 38 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s just as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs!” Ooh, did he just diss the Beatles? That’s going to take points off from me…
But Connery was still iconic in the role, embodying an entire generation of action stars, and kicking off a strong start to a wonderful series.
Any Regrets?: If only he would’ve been in OHMSS, perhaps DAF would’ve been a serious revenge story, a la Licence to Kill…
Speaking of OHMSS…
Bond #2: George Lazenby
Best film: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
Worst film: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
George Lazenby will live on in infamy as the Australian-born car salesman-turned Bond actor that EON ditched after just one film. But what a film! While Lazenby acts about as emotional as a plank of wood throughout the majority of the film, he does have a few convincing scenes; Lois Maxwell manages to carry the Moneypenny scenes, selling a chemistry that just really isn’t there, and Lazenby even manages to deliver a tear-jerker, in a Bond film no less! However, Lazenby’s Bond is even less convincing as a secret agent than Sean Connery; he seems to be completely unqualified, without the size, strength, and charm of Connery, and not having any significant help from Q to balance out his lack of skills. He forgoes even the most basic emotion throughout the film, and it’s unbelievable how he manages to seduce so many women. He’s George Lazenby for goodness’ sake! He’s not even remotely charming! His Bond also suffers from poor suits, as the fashion in 1969 is just bizarre, with ugly frilly collars and other odd choices, leaving this as quite possibly the most dated Bond. Lazenby was not the right choice for the role, and even looks far too young for the part.
Any Regrets?: Yeah, he should never have been cast, or, at the very least, should’ve taken some acting lessons. Also, if Connery was going to be brought back immediately after, at least bring him in for a decent film.
Bond #3: Roger Moore
Best film: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Worst film: A View to a Kill (1983)
Ever the gentleman, Roger Moore’s Bond seemed like a rather amiable and kind man, the kind of guy who would be a loyal lifetime friend, yet somehow, he is the Bond who is most adept at martial arts thus far. Odd. Moore may at times be a quipping machine, but he has a more human side. He visits the grave of his dead wife, finally hunts down and destroys Blofeld, and gains emotional closure. He never seems to be particularly perturbed, which means, when he is, such as in the centrifuge thing in Moonraker, that he is legitimately in mortal peril. He also seems the most humble Bond, one who is willing to dress up in a gorilla suit and later, clown make-up to accomplish his mission. The first Bond to actually be English, Moore pulls off his role with aplomb, despite hanging on for too long.
Any Regrets?: Perhaps EON should’ve let him go one or two films earlier.
Bond #4: Timothy Dalton
Best film: Licence to Kill (1989)
Worst film: The Living Daylights (1987)
Cold and fiercely calculating, Dalton’s Bond is a deadly assassin who unfortunately was not popular enough to warrant any more films. A dangerous and quite frightening agent who was the first of the Bonds to really qualify as any level of threat. The most human Bond so far, Dalton legitimately cared for his friends, and lived in a world of consequences, a world where no one gets away scot-free, not Bond, not his friends, and if not his friends, then certainly not his enemies. Not sticking around long enough to acquire a bad film, or much of a following, Dalton is nonetheless great as Bond, and helped take the series in a new direction, as opposed to simply imitating Moore.
Any Regrets?: EON should’ve kept him on for longer. That’s it.
Bond #5: Pierce Brosnan
Best film: Goldeneye (1995)
Worst film: Die Another Day (2002)
As an Irishman, Brosnan was the second of the Bonds to not hail from Great Britain, but could usually hide his accent, until he just gave up. That’s actually a good analogy for the Brosnan films: they were quite good, until they just gave up, and they gave up after the first film. While the other elements of the franchise crumbled around him, including poor screenwriting, horrendous casting (*cough* Denise Richards *cough*), bad acting (*cough* see previous cough *cough*), and terrible direction, Brosnan managed to keep a consistent level of quality in his acting, though his Bond lacked any real depth after Goldeneye. As the films’ scripts became worse and worse, production refused to slow to allow the franchise to breathe, and it ultimately killed the franchise with the agony of Die Another Day, which, well, don’t even get me started on that. Luckily for us, Jason Bourne gave Bond a run for his money at the box office and gave the series the jolt it needed to get back on track.
Any Regrets?: Better screenwriting could’ve saved Brosnan from poor films; Die Another Day could’ve been more respectful to the franchise as a whole, and Brosnan deserved one more shot.
Bond #6: Daniel Craig
Best film: Casino Royale (2006)
Worst film: Quantum of Solace (2008)
Daniel Craig brings a blunt-instrument brutality previously unknown to Bond, a Jason Bourne-esque strike hard, strike fast, strike first strategy that gives him a more hardened and dangerous attitude. Nothing about Craig says “refined,” or even “suave,” yet he is Bond nonetheless, because he interprets of the character what no other actor has yet fully understood: the consequences of being the devil-may-care, thoughtless, callous, emotionless human being who trusts nobody, and therefore knows nobody, the way it tears Bond up inside, that he has no choice but to do this, because fighting for Queen and country is all that distracts him from the void left by his parents; that his bickering with M and his interactions with her in Skyfall are really about him coming to terms with the loss of his mother, and that Bond is human, but he is far from normal, far from psychologically healthy. Parts of Craig’s films feel like character studies, and these parts of Quantum of Solace are some of the few parts that work, including the excellent ending sold by a beautiful score and a wonderful performance by Craig. While Craig may have to duke it out with Moore and Dalton for the spot as my favorite Bond, he’s certainly the most vulnerable. After all, he did get whipped in the testes with a length of rope.
Any Regrets?: QoS could’ve been saved by a stronger script and better-filmed and edited action, though I blame no one for the script, it was rewritten by the director and Craig himself because of the writers’ strike.
So, there you have it. What’d you think? Am I wrong about something? Do you hate Dalton? If so, why? And who’s your favorite Bond? Leave your answers in the comments below, and I’ll see you next time. Peace!