Because I believe in setting a bad example for my kids, I always have some sort of television show or movie on in the background while I mark exams. In theory it provides a mild distraction, but in reality it’s just that it’s usually more interesting than actually marking exams.
(Note: this does not prevent me from telling the girls to turn off the television when they study. Yes, I am THAT kind of dad.)
For last term’s marking season, as it was rather stretched out, I decided to watch all the James Bond films (Eon Productions only) starting with Doctor No and ending with Spectre.
It was an interesting trip.
First, I should acknowledge “My” Bond. Everyone has a Bond who is “their” bond. He’s the first Bond they remember seeing and everyone else is “Who the HELL is that?” when you see reruns or the next Bond is announced. (There is a similar phenomenon with Doctor Who: there is Tom Baker, David Tennant, and “Who the HELL is that?”.) In my case “My” Bond is Roger Moore and that effects the way I view all the other Bonds.
I also find with Bond movies it’s necessary to rephrase a line from My Favorite Year: “With Bond, you forgive a lot, you know?”
The Sean Connery movies started out strong then got crappy as he became more detached from the part and less and less cool. George Lazenby’s movie was excellent but it’s probably best he only did one.
Roger Moore’s movies start out average then get better and, with a couple exceptions, are less campy than I remembered. Moonraker was better than I remembered, although I’ll never forgive them for ruining Jaws: “His name’s Jaws, he kills people; unless he sees impressive cleavage and then he’s just a horny, heterosexual male incapable of maintaining focus on the task at hand.”
In other words, they turned Jaws into James Bond.
Timothy Dalton’s movies are also better than I remembered, although I always remember liking him in the part. Pierce Brosnan’s movies are much more campy–and him a lot more lifeless–than I remembered (and I’ll never forgive the switch to BMW). Daniel Craig is awesome, but only has 2.5 good movies. (Skyfall was good but its plot relied on the London train system running precisely on time which is the most unbelievable thing done in any of the movies; even less believable than Sean Connery passing as Japanese in You Only Live Twice.)
I also came away having a hard time picking a favorite, although if you stick a golden gun to my head I’ll have to say Goldfinger, which may be the quintessential Bond as it’s full of gadgets, funny lines, a henchman with a killer hat, the Aston Martin DB5, and Honor Blackman. After that is On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, The Spy Who Loved Me, and Casino Royale (the Daniel Craig version). I also have a soft spot for For Your Eyes Only, which has one of my favorite movie car moments.
The worst movies are You Only Live Twice, A View to a Kill, Quantam of Solace, which also wins the award for worst title (yes, it even beats out grab her by the Octopussy. Um, too soon?), Tomorrow Never Dies, and The Man With the Golden Gun, which even Saruman couldn’t save.
It’s harder to rank the Bond Girls, although I tend to favor the ones who show some sort of capability or competence. Honor Blackman is a favorite despite having the worst character name (Pussy Galore); Barbara Bach as Anya Amasova aka Agent Triple X in The Spy Who Loved Me; Michelle Yeoh as the best part of Tomorrow Never Dies; Lois Chiles as Holly Goodhead (yeah, well, okay) in Moonraker; Carole Bouquet in For Your Eyes Only; Sophie Marceau, who serves as both Bond Girl and villain in The World is Not Enough (which may be my favorite Brosnan Bond film); and Eva Green as Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale.
Grace Jones was a good villain, but was mostly wasted in A View to a Kill.
I also kind of like Mie Hama as Kissy Suzuki in You Only Live Twice as she’s one of the first Bond Girls to remind Bond that “this is business” and that business comes before “honeymoon”. (Other than that, she was mostly useless in the movie except as a bikini model who looks beautiful in the sunset.)
I also have to give credit to Dame Judi Dench for playing two different versions of M. The M in the Brosnan movies is different in many ways than the M in the Daniel Craig movies.
(The treatment of women in the movies is another post entirely, but as historical moments it is interesting to see how the treatment changes over the years. With Bond, you forgive a lot, you know?)
The stunts also change a lot from the days when they actually dropped stunt men down cliffs in For Your Eyes Only to crappy CGI surfing in later movies.
One does tire of gun battles on ski slopes. However, that seems to be as much a right of passage as boat chases and saying the line “Bond. James Bond.” The ski slope battles, though, are more interesting than the endless underwater battles in Thunderball and For Your Eyes Only. (During the former, I spent part of the time looking up what type of knife the divers were using just to have something interesting to do. Yes, I was still, technically, supposed to be marking exams.)
The first obvious product placement is Nick Nack (Hervé Villechaize ) taking a bottle of Tabasco sauce to Scaramanga on a silver platter in The Man With the Golden Gun.
As for the future, I’ll be interested to see where they take the movies once Daniel Craig leaves. I like his anti-hero portrayal of 007, and the realistic style of his movies and think he will be hard to follow. As much as I’d like to see Idris Elba in the part, he may be approaching his expiration date (I feel his pain). Tom Hiddleston would also be good, but there’s that Marvel Extended Universe thing to contend with. Tom Hardy would also be an interesting choice as he keeps the Daniel Craig physicality.
I just hope they don’t do another reboot. I’d happily adopt the “James Bond is a codename, not a person” theory so long as they make new movies and not just remake old ones.
That said, even if they do another reboot, I’ll still watch the next Bond movie. With Bond, you forgive a lot. You know?