This review is part of Project Bond, wherein over the course of 2014 we watch all of the James Bond movies in production order.
What, you thought that with us having watched all 23 movies there would be no more posts?! HA!
Alex: I love lists. They amuse me greatly. So I thought I would make some lists of things from the Bond movies. I also love tables…
Best Bonds: it has to be done. How do we rank the Bonds, best to worst?
|Dalton||Connery (too many fond childhood memories I think)|
Alex: Connery? Really? You let the nostalgia blind you. Also how can you put Moore above Lazenby? Hooooooow?!?
James: Lazenby is ok, but while Moore is cheesy as a body of work the combination of films is still more impressive than the bumbling efforts of Lazenby for one films as ‘Hilly’. Neither of them are great, even Brosnan wasn’t as good as my faded memory. The strength of Dalton was a surprise for me.
Best Bond girls: choose whatever metric you like, but pick the top six (because there are six Bonds)…
|Vesper Lynd (Casino Royale)||Vesper Lynd (Casino Royale)|
|Wai Lin (Tomorrow Never Dies)||Honey Ryder (Dr No)|
|Pam Bouvier (Licensed to Kill)||Dr Goodhead (Moonraker)|
|Triple X (The Spy who Loved Me)||Wai Lin (Tomorrow Never Dies)|
|Tracy di Vicenzo (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service)||Kara (The Living Daylights)|
|Camille (Quantum of Solace)||Camille (Quantum of Solace)|
James: What about Dr Christmas Jones (The World is not Enough)? Quality Acting… or Bibi (For Your Eyes Only). Notes: Vesper is clearly the strongest character across all the films, Honey Ryder iconic, Goodhead just appeals to me, geek girl. Wai Lin kicks arse, Kara is the best of the innocent but involved girls and Camille is great, but not top 5.
Alex: I cannot believe you went there with Dr Jones. Seriously. I love that Pam Bouvier takes the lead in kissing Bond, and that she takes no crap from him. Tracy was always going to be a favourite of mine because Diana Rigg… and also she’s quite plucky. The other one that nearly made my top 6 is Melina, from For Your Eyes Only, and yes I agree that Dr Goodhead is indeed awesome. The ‘innocent’ girls have never worked for me – it’s too much like Bond is taking advantage of them. Which he does.
Best theme songs: let’s go with six again.
Alex: with the caveat that on a different day I might pick quite different songs… well, maybe three would be the same, but they too might be different on different days…
|From Russia with Love||A View to a Kill|
|Live and Let Die||From Russia with Love|
|Quantum of Solace||Quantum of Solace|
Alex: I am astonished that we have so many in common!
Best Bond villain:
|Blofeld (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service)|
|Scaramanga (The Man with the Golden Gun… does he really count as a villain?)|
|Alec Trevalyan (Golden Eye)|
|Kananga and Sanchez (Live and Let Die/ Licence to Kill)|
|Elliot Carver (Tomorrow Never Dies)|
James: I’m struggling to get excited about the baddie list, there are a few I don’t mind, Carver, Trevalyan and Blofeld. Scaramanga is a fun character, but he’s not a villain like the others. Largo? Number 1? I do like the SPECTRE films, but maybe that’s just because they remind me of Inspector Gadget somehow? Oh I like Dr No also. But the best? I just dunno.
Alex: this is my problem too! I think we (society) have this vague idea of Bond dealing with nemesis after nemesis, but the reality is that very few of them actually come close to being as good as Bond. I think the other thing that we sometimes forget is that Bond is an employee: with very few exceptions (Scaramanga, Silva) the villains are not after Bond as Bond. They are interested in either World Destruction/Domination, or Making A Great Deal of Money – and Bond keeps getting in the way of that.
I was also going to suggest we talk about Best Henchmen too, but since the winner is clearly Jaws by an enormous margin there’s just no point in even discussing it. (OK, Dario – played by Benicio del Toro – comes a close second for sheer insanity.) And as for Bond henchmen, Leiter (especially Jeffrey Wright) and Quarrel, for me, are the best.
Alex: I think one of the most interesting things about looking at the entire oeuvre of Bond films is the different (British?) preoccupations they each reveal – what disasters are most relevant at this time? Are we more worried about a country or a person? The flip in GoldenEye to being more worried about intangibles – information – than about physical death and destruction is a really significant one that you maybe don’t get without considering the whole suite.
James: I was struck by the preoccupation with space lasers… Always space lasers. I was also surprised by how little time Bond actually spends in casinos and ordering Martinis shaken not stirred; somehow that and the gadgets is my strong memory from childhood.
Alex: it’s completely the stereotype of Bond, which means I think that those childhood memories get reinforced by cultural/societal ‘memories’. I really liked that the writers for Craig in particular played with those expectations a bit; in fact it happened a few times, that Bond got all meta on itself. I approve of this.
Alex: it has certainly been an … interesting… experience. I have to admit that actually, I am disappointed by the franchise overall. Perhaps that’s too strong, perhaps that’s not fair; until you hit about Dalton you actually can’t judge the films by modern standards – well you can but, well, you just get disappointed. Having said that though there are lots of films made post-1990 that I don’t think meet what I consider even mediocre modern standards, so maybe my standards are too high? So be it.
My main problem has been the level of cheese. I pass over the sexism – in the early Bonds that’s part and parcel of the era, in the later Bonds it’s slowly improving, and in all of them it’s not like they’re out to challenge Hollywood which we all know isn’t great on the Women Existing As Characters front. And while there are problematic racial aspects I feel that Bond is less problematic in that regard – over the 23 films – than might be expected (not great, but not entirely cringeworthy). No, it’s the number of times that the story isn’t taken seriously, that silly glib lines are used to no effect – this is what I did not really expect to see as a feature, despite having seen a few Moores before this year. It really doesn’t work for me. And it’s also (to hark back to the previous discussion) not something that features in the cultural memory of Bond, so I was quite unprepared for it.
Will I watch some of these again? Absolutely. I can see myself rewatching the Daltons, possibly the early Brosnans, and the first and third Craigs. Maybe one or two of the Connerys? When enough time has passed? If the Moores all develop unexpected scratches, though, I will not lose any sleep.
James: Perhaps in future Bond should consider not pointing out to his arch enemy that he knows, that they know, that he knows. I’d re-watch Dr No, From Russia with Love, perhaps the Daltons, Golden Eye and Tomorrow Never Dies plus the Daniel Craigs. Only Casino Royal and Skyfall could even be considered great films and even then none of them are desert island material.
Bond, James Bond… now for a Martini or three.