Two indispensable guides I’ve written to help your inner Bond – or villain – out with your everyday perilous choices.
Villain? Handy Guide to Henchmanery
IF YOU’RE starved for Halloween ideas or perhaps looking for a career change, here’s a handy flowchart to find out which Bond henchman you are. The world-wide henchman recruitment agency is always looking for fresh blood, particularly from those with special talents.
IF YOU’VE decided to shun the time sheets and freelancer lifestyle, perhaps for the employ of a county’s civil service, you may find yourself in situation where you have to topple a crazed supervillain. Just in case, I helped Q prepare this handy guide.
The fifth Storified set of ‘Tweet notes’ for each film in a complete (canon) Twitter #Bondathon leading up to the release of Skyfall and the franchise’s 50th anniversary. Typos as guaranteed as terrible one-liners.
FEW ACTORS HAVE HOVERED AROUND THE BOND ROLE WHILE SO NEARLY MISSING OUT. But the fall of Bond movie profits and the inevitable legal issues that the early 1990s brought actually did Pierce Brosnan a favour. After contractual obligations forced him out of the running in 1987, he was able to make a superb entrance in 1995 and with that history it’s no surprise that when he put on the tux, it fitted like a glove. His Bond was the best of everything. Ruthless but professional, a dead-shot and a wit. Oddly, his hit the psychopathic brink more than any other while still delivering more one-liners than Roger Moore.
It’s rather a shame that Craig’s era looks likely to obliterate Brosnan’s. True it’s dated quite considerably, but its main problem was one that had blighted the franchise before. Roger’s Moore’s debut was a cool and confident one which, while it dated quickly, set a new direction for the series. While Brosnan didn’t fall into the same trap of a lame second film, it only took him three films for the bar to rise beyond ridiculous. The World is not Enough is a fairly preposterous epic, caught up with the Mi6 family that the Brosnan era honed, wonderfully filmed though it is. Even there, the Scottish segments bring the Casino Royale spoof to mind. However, it was Die Another Day that administered a death blow that seemed to catch everyone by surprise. It’s pure science-fiction involving DNA manipulation and invisible cars. Even in the heightened reality Brosnan era, it just ‘looked’ like sci-fi.
It really was a crushing disappointment, not least because it came with all the bluster of the 40th anniversary. And as for the Technicolor CGI surfing… Well…
But perhaps this rapid shark jumping was unavoidable. The franchise always had to cater for and respond to changes in the real world as well as the cinematic one. And here, while cinema success was never in doubt, the reality posed a real problem. The Brosnan films had to cope with the arrival of mobile phones and the internet, killer blows to any a spy franchise that couldn’t ignore them. Hoisted on its own techni-petard, a return to Fleming was the only sensible option – they even toyed with setting it in the 1960s – and Brosnan was never given the chance to redeem it. After Die Another Day, actually Brosnan aided his exit by constantly pushing for a Casino Royale adaptation directed by Tarantino. That sounded good and, well, he was half right…
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
The World is not Enough (1999)
Die Another Day (2002)
The fourth Storified set of ‘Tweet notes’ for each film in a complete (canon) Twitter #Bondathon leading up to the release of Skyfall and the franchise’s 50th anniversary. Typos as guaranteed as a cigarette in Q Branch.
WHAT A SCARY GUY THIS BOND IS. Even the way he says the word ‘that’ in his first tip of a hat to a one-liner… This guys is hard as nails, physically nasty, bloody quick with a gun and full of ruthless ideas. Do not mess, generally. Do not mess. Or he’ll actually steal your cigarettes.
Dalton is probably still edging it as the closest screen representation of Fleming’s Bond. Unlike Moore, he relished the nastiness of the character but was also able to effortlessly switch to romance mode. There are significant benefits to having a brilliant actor on board but more important perhaps was the physicality. Almost every stunt scene has Dalton acting the fall guy, a considerable leap forward from Sir Rog. He’s also more sweary and takes a beating – to a staggering level in Licence to Kill.
In other scenes, Dalton’s all round chemistry is brilliant – it’s just a bit of a shame that his Bond girls were all round a little tenuous. This Bond is clearly an established spy; one who’s bloody good at his job and respected for it. Unfortunately we never see him in naval uniform although he’s called Commander more than any other iteration in Licence to Kill. His knowledge of global politics is significant and his loyalty to his peers palpable – often resulting in revenge of some sort. That said, this Bond has a cordial relationship with Russians when necessary, a strong relationship with Q there is even a welcome return to a fatherly/one-upmanship relationship with M.
Off screen, The Living Daylights was evidently a shot in the arm for all involved. It has a sense of spectacle, cinematography and fine plotting that had been missing fro the series for some time. As film-making, it’s by far John Glen’s finest directorial effort. As the Cold War melted, it had the nouse to dip back into espionage as almost a last hurrah. It brought back Fleming’s world of SMERSH, a concept that even the 60s had barely touched on, instead veering towards the Volcano bases of SPECTRE. It really isn’t an understatement to say that The Living Daylights is not only the best Bond film of the 80s, but probably the strongest Bond since the 60s.
The reach for authenticity in the Dalton era has been skewed by Craig’s current reign. Licence to Kill, for all its reputation, actually features a higher number of one-liners than The Living Daylights, but is popularly regarded as Bond getting too serious. Aside from the hiatus that followed, the real problem seemed to be the merging of Bond’s greatest defence mechanism (exploitation) with a quest for realism. It surfaced as excess. While it’s a knee-jerk response to cinema trends (80s American action films) was the same as Live and Let Die or Moonraker responding to popular, contemporary genres, Licence to Kill carries it through every part of the film. Villain, plot, score, location, script – all of it shouted 1980s action film. Bond the Brit could feel particularly out of place there, but Dalton’s solidly angry performance carries it off. the problem was that the 80s actioner was already past its best in 1989.
The two years between Dalton the films saw the sharpest shift in cinema since 1977, and this time Bond came off worse. There were hints in 1987, but while the superb The Living Daylights beat off Lethal Weapon and Die Hard convincingly, Licence to Kill was rather crushed by their respective sequels as well as the Connery starring Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and especially Batman. It wasn’t a sea change at the box office, more obliteration. While Batman featured an older fictional character than Bond, it signalled a new kind of blockbuster mentality that persists today.
Arriving alongside this was a new introspection. By the late 1980s, the critical reaction to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service had completed its 180 flip and duly provides a strong backbone to Dalton’s final performance and the plot’s storyline of revenge – if only it had been You Only Live Twice. In that respect, not only was the loss of Dalton a shame, but also the hiatus that ground this momentum to a halt.
The second wayward son of the franchise, Dalton gets a rather unfair wrap in general, even two Bond’s later. On many levels he’s at the head of the pack if not leading, but he’s undone by the fact that his tenure lasted only two films. Perhaps his greatest function was to act as a perfect 80s segue between the financially successful Moore and Brosnan eras. Think Licence to Kill is misguided? Perhaps. But its shadow certainly hangs over the Craig era: from the license revocation scene in Quantum of Solace through to the spy’s back-story and even the gun optical palm reader in Skyfall…
Dalton really was the difficult middle child of the franchise, but like the short-lived Lazenby before him, that legacy is larger than the screen-time suggests.
The Living Daylights (1987)
Licence to Kill (1989)
The third Storified set of ‘Tweet notes’ for each film in a complete (canon) Twitter #Bondathon leading up to the release of Skyfall and the franchise’s 50th anniversary. Typos as guaranteed as raised eyebrows.
LIVE AND LET DIE IS PROBABLY THE MOST SUCCESSFUL REBOOT THE BOND FRANCHISE WILL EVER SEE, leading to an uninterrupted doubling of the series in the hands of a man who could – but never really does – sleep walk the part.
A year older than Connery when he took over the role, Roger Moore’s age does become a factor, with stuntmen taking on the mantle of Bond for what looks like half of 1985’s A View to a Kill. Moore is often used as a weapon in Connery’s defence. But while his Bond was more vulnerable he was also more smug – a nice shift from superman arrogance of Connery but with no greater level of one liners nor simply a retread of Simon Templar or Lord Brett Sinclair. While Moore looks very uncomfortable with Fleming ruthlessness or brutality, he is far less of a clown than his reputation suggests.
Unfortunately, it was the serious reboot of For Your Eyes Only, after the excess of Moonraker (a mirror of the producer’s response to Connery’s You Only live Twice), which came across as bland rather than dark. However, this also a result and heralding of a shift in production team. It would take director John Glen four films and a recast Bond to make a classic entry after his 1981 debut. Still, there is a lot to enjoy in the slump of latter Moore: films that actually benefit from viewing in order unlike Connery’s. A View to a Kill is in particular a rather subtle reboot of the franchise after Octopussy’s greatest hits failure. So much so, it’s intriguing to imagine it as Dalton’s first film.
The Moore era really suffers the best and worst of everything Bond, but in the absence of SPECTRE it was the changing state of cinema that proved to be his greatest foe. Bond was seven films old when Jaws (of the Shark kind) came out and Moore steered the spy through Star Wars and Indiana Jones, although the effect of both those franchises is evident in Moonraker and Octopussy – rather odd for a franchise which was still guaranteed a yearly top five box-office: Bond was no longer leading the pack, but struggling to stay relevant.
It’s a mercy that Moore’s tenure ran out in the same year as Back to the Future – but still, maintaining the franchise through those turbulent times was probably a more difficult trick than beating off Bourne and Powers has been in recent years. Crucially Moonraker was the film where film profits changed dramatically as budgets soared against returns. It’s no accident that Bond suddenly became more aware of its history. Moore’s Bond is a seasoned veteran from, Bond’s reputation is preceding him wherever he goes – rather strange for a secret agent. In the whole chronology, it still feels like we’re watching Bond’s latter years, far after Craig, Lazenby, Brosnan, Dalton or even Connery. He certainly had some scores to settle before his dotage. For all the pointed fingers, Moore really is acting at the start of For Your Eyes Only, finally carrying out Lazenby’s decade long revenge. One that Connery had earlier ignored…
Live and Let Die (1973)
the Man with the Golden Gun (1975)
The Spy who Loved Me (1977)
For Your Eyes Only (1981)
A View to a Kill (1985)