Comparing The Various James Bonds

25 11 2012

To date, James Bond has been played (officially) by 6 different actors (Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig). Bond was also played unofficially by one active (David Niven) in a 1967 spoof called Casino Royale. Disregarding the ’67 spoof, the 6 Bonds all set different tones, and Moore’s Bond and how the character was presented changed as the years progressed. The only actor I didn’t like as Bond was George Lazenby. I liked Moore in his earlier Bond movies, but the series went from amusing to campy as it progressed.

My Favourite Bond Movies?

To date (I have yet to see Skyfall), my favourite Bond movies have been Dr. No, Goldfinger, The Man With the Golden Gun and pretty much every Bond movie since Timothy Dalton took the role in 1985. I would also give honourable mention to From Russia With Love, Live and Let Die and perhaps For Your Eyes Only. While Diamonds Are Forever has one of the best Bond opening songs (sung by the timeless and amazing Shirley Bassey), the movie itself was uneven, and it appeared that Sean Connery was determined that this would be his last Bond movie, despite being under contract to star in one more.

The “unofficial” Bond movie, Never Say Never Again, was okay, but not great. Like Roger Moore in the 1980’s EON productions, Sir Sean was getting on a bit to be a convincing action-adventure secret agent.

Tougher Bonds Are Better Bonds

For me, the “tough” Bonds are the better Bonds. I like the James Bond that is a hard drinking, chain smoking tough guy who will shoot a bad guy, rather just knock him out. The James Bond that makes the witty quip after taking out the main antagonist, but not to play it for a gag. Roger Moore’s Bond started out tougher (although some of the quips were a bit too comedic for my taste, and the slide whistle during the spiral car jump was just stupid). But the Roger Moore Bond stories started to go for gags and gimmicks, rather than plot and suspense. The one movie where they played down the gadgets and the sight gags (in For Your Eyes Only) veered from this, but returned to some degree in Octopussy. C’mon, Bond in a clown suit? Seriously?

Basically, from 1977 to 1985, Bond was more about gadgets and gags than real mysteries and adventure. Yes, we had the exotic locales, and the gorgeous Bond girls. But we also had too many sight gags and reaction shots meant more to ham it up than add real spice to the sauce. There was also the increased, and increasingly obvious, product placements. Probably the worst offender in this last category: Moonraker, with a painfully obvious billboard (in English, despite Brazil’s main language being Portuguese) in every shot of a chase up a hill. I didn’t mind the gadgets so much. That has always been a part of the Bond universe. But the gags were getting to be a bit much.

A Return To Toughness

When the reins to the character were turned over to Timothy Dalton, we got back to a tougher, grittier James Bond, who wasn’t afraid to use his gun or whatever else was available to get the job done. It was a James Bond who was willing to lie, cheat and steal with conviction and without remorse to accomplish his goals, and not have to revert to the “truth” as quickly as possible just to bed his latest conquest. Bond softened a little with Pierce Brosnan, but not much. Brosnan’s Bond reminds me of Bond in the first two Roger Moore Bond films (Live and Let Die and The Man With The Golden Gun), but with a tougher edge.

Daniel Craig is more of a Timothy Dalton Bond, albeit with a bit of the Sean Connery Bond’s sophistication. He’s tough most of the time, and brutal when he needs to be. The writers have given us a Bond with an attitude, who doesn’t give a crap if his martini is shaken or stirred. The stories are about the mystery, not about how fast Bond can get a girl into the sack.

With the exception of a casino being the main point of the plot in Casino Royale, starting in 1987, we also got to (thankfully) dispense with the rather dated “I have to meet someone at the casino for information” scene that was the staple of Bond movies, and heavily overused in the Roger Moore movies. Sure, in the 1960’s and early 1970’s, it spoke of sophistication. But starting in the late 1970’s, it just became cheesy and dated. The world no longer revolved around a jet-set crowd that hung around playing chemin de fer in tuxedos. The casino card game of choice, starting in the late ’70s, seemed to be blackjack and not baccarat. Fortunately, the writers of Casino Royal (2006) realized that poker was now the game of choice, and used Texas Hold ‘Em in place of Baccarat.

So Far, So Good

While I have yet to see Skyfall, I must say that, since Timothy Dalton, Bond has been refreshed for me and is a franchise I once again enjoy. That isn’t to say that I outright hated Bond movies from ’77 to ’83. But I find I don’t feel a desire to watch them as much as the older and new Bond movies around them. Let’s hope that the EON team keeps it up with this tougher James Bond.

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