Bond, James Bond

So my contribution to the TMS Vacation 2007 will be a series of posts about James Bond movies. To begin, I'm going to hit up the actors. I had the opportunity to write a paper about this as an undergrad (got an A), but I had to update it to include Daniel Craig and condense it a bit into a quick and dirty blog format. Without further ado, from worst to first, the James Bond actors:

6. Timothy Dalton 1987-1989
The Living Daylights, License to Kill

We find Timothy Dalton at the bottom of our Bond list, as was the case with many Bond lists before it. He wasn’t witty. He wasn’t tough. He wasn’t cool. In other words, he wasn’t anything James Bond is supposed to be. To be fair to him though, he really wasn’t given very good material to work with. The Living Daylights features a plot built around a cello player and a villain who likes toy planes, and if you take away the theme music, there’s really not much evidence License to Kill is a Bond movie at all. I won’t even get into the Wayne Newton cameo in it. Could he have done a better job in the role had he been given a decent script? We’ll never know.

5. Pierce Brosnan 1995-2002
GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough, Die Another Day

A lot of fans are big into Pierce Brosnan. I can’t say that I am. He was too much of a pretty-boy to really take on the persona of James Bond - not to mention that weird accent. I think many Bond fans were just grateful to have the series back after a six year lull following the Timothy Dalton era. As for his films, it’s a mixed bag. Tomorrow Never Dies is among the best in my opinion, with one of the original villains ever (basically Rupert Murdoch gone mad as portrayed by the guy from the Infiniti commercials) and while completely absurd in virtually every way, I enjoyed The World is Not Enough. Bonus points to the filmmakers there for having the balls to throw in the “Christmas” line at the end. On the flipside, GoldenEye was totally boring and the series absolutely bottomed out with Die Another Day. If the use of the satellite laser yet again wasn’t enough, there was Madonna fencing, an ice palace, an invisible car, and a North Korean guy who got plastic surgery to look like a white dude.

4. George Lazenby 1969
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Its hard to give a fair assessment of Lazenby since he only did one film. He was OK in the role. That one film he did however, is great. Since it was the one and only Lazenby film, and sandwiched in between two Connery films, it often gets lost in the shuffle. If any of you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend having a go at it. Its probably best remembered for the fact that Bond marries in it, but it really brings a complete package to the table. Plot, stunts, wit, Bond-girls, villain - its all here. I’ll just close by pointing out George Lazenby’s decision to leave the series was not one of the better career moves of all time…

3. Sean Connery 1962-1967, 1971
Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, Diamonds are Forever

I can already read the hate mail… I like Sean Connery, and feel he did a good job in the role, but I must point out being the first doesn’t necessarily make you the best. He deserves a great deal of credit for bringing the role to the big screen, and getting the most successful franchise in movie history rolling. I have only two issues with Connery: First, as the films evolved from the relatively simple plots of Dr. No and To Russia With Love into the more fanciful style of Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice, he really didn’t “go with the flow” as the kids say. The films changed, but he didn’t. Secondly, he agreed to star in the horrendous remake of Thunderball, Never Say Never Again. I just can't forgive this. This was not an official Bond film which is why it didn’t make his list above. Connery’s best film as Bond is Diamonds are Forever. Bond in Las Vegas & a character clearly modeled after the insane Howard Hughes? You can’t go wrong. Its also the only time the villain Blofeld has hair. By the way, Roald Dahl wrote the screenplay for You Only Live Twice? Who knew.

2. Daniel Craig 2006-????
Casino Royale

After the debacle that was Die Another Day, I wasn’t sure if the series could recover. Thanks to Craig’s superb portrayal of Bond and the excellent idea of restarting the series with a “Bond begins” story, its back and as good as ever. Its gritty, funny, and above all absolutely riveting. Craig strikes precisely the right chord as James Bond after he receives his famed double-o status. Casino Royale was intentionally stripped down, so we’ll have to see if Craig can adapt if they decide to go big again. I believe he can.

1. Roger Moore 1973-1985
Live and Let Die, The Man With the Golden Gun, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, A View to a Kill

To put it simply, Roger Moore “got it”. While I love it and it has provided me with endless enjoyment over the years, the role of James Bond is completely ridiculous. A super spy, whom everyone knows, goes around the world seducing women, and foiling plots like Hugo Drax’ attempt to destroy all life on earth except for the pristine specimens he took into space on his Moonraker space shuttle. OK OK, so Moonraker is a little more over the top than most but you get my point. Moore understood the character better than any one else who has taken on the role. His best film, and my favorite of the series, is Live and Let Die. Voodoo, drugs, James Bond walking around Harlem, and Jane Seymour when she was still hot keep this one great from beginning to end. Also well worth another viewing if you haven’t seen it in a while is A View to a Kill. Moore is starting to show his age here (he was nearly 60 at the time), but it still features some of the best action sequences in the Bond series with a fight on top of the Golden Gate Bridge and a chase on the Eiffel Tower. It also has Christopher Walken as a genetically engineered East German computer baron who wants to destroy Silicon Valley. Classic.

Coming soon: Bond themes and Bond girls...

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