I once went into a bar and asked for a Vodka Martini. All I got was a blank look. I’ve never bothered to try and buy another one, even though the situation I found myself in was most probably a rare one. Almost everybody has heard of James Bond (Notable exception: that barmaid) and almost everyone has an opinion, even if that opinion is downright hatred. I wouldn’t call myself a fan as such… But Bond does seem to flit in and out of my life every few years or so, usually whenever I feel a hankering for some good old fashioned escapism. I’ve read all of the books but up until recently I’d only seen a small selection of the films.
What follows are my own thoughts on each of the films. I’m not going to rank the best or anything like that, I’m just going to say what I thought about each one. Ok? Good.
I found this first film to be alright. It’s not spectacular but it’s not dull either. It certainly gets the series off to a good start. Connery is certainly a good choice for Bond. He’s supposed to be a rough, tough brute of a man, a hard-nosed killing machine, albeit one with expensive tastes. Connery is all of those things. You wouldn’t pick a fight with him if you get my drift. As for the titular Dr No, he sets the standard incredibly high for every villain to come. He’s sinister, evil and a little bit malevolent… And he has claws! He also has that fundamental aspect of an evil genius- The secret lair with lots of nameless henchmen. No evil villain should be without one. And Honey Ryder? She only appears in the last half an hour or so but she still leaves a very good impression and, like the villain of the piece, sets the standard quite high for those who come after her. Alas, they removed the best part of the book in favour of going nuclear. I did prefer the idea of the bird-poo mine and a whole heap of the stuff being dumped on Dr No’s head, But I guess the producers didn’t. (I also found out that the Honey RIDER of the book (yeah… They changed the spelling as well!) is actually the Grandmother of Anthony Horrowitz’s Alex Rider… Which makes Stormbreaker a James Bond Spin Off… 😮 )
From Russia with Love
Everything that was right with Dr No is taken to a higher level here, and more. Rosa Klebb and Red Grant are the perfect villains and Tatyana is stunningly perfect. With some nifty restructuring the film comes off as being far superior to the book, although again the producers have left the best bits out. Every part of this film, from the opening hedge maze scene to the final duel in Venice, is done brilliantly and just sticks in the mind. It has one of the best themes and a suspected cameo by Ian Fleming. (He’s standing by some train tracks in a white jumper during one scene.) It can be a bit slow at times but that’s not really a problem as the film just oozes awesomeness and style at every turn. Certainly one of the best beyond any reasonable doubt.
‘Do you expect me to talk?’ ‘NO MR BOND I EXPECT YOU TO DIE!’ As with the previous film, this is undeniably one of the best. Indeed, it is considered as the best by many. Not for me though. Whilst it has everything you could want, fine acting, one of the best villains and Bond girls, Oddjob, the whole laser scene and a DB5… For me it just seems to lack something. Perhaps it’s the source material (After all, the book itself is far from being Fleming’s best.) It’s all a little thin. It doesn’t have the magic touch to make it truly brilliant, though it’s certainly still one of the better films in the series.
Definitely, for me, one of the weaker films. It’s more than a bit dull. Again, I think the source material is largely to blame as it is definitely the weakest book in the series. It took me at least two goes to get through it. Largo is a boring villain, nothing more than Blofeld’s stooge really. Domino is kind of so-so and it moves at such a slow and predictable pace that it makes itself more boring than it is. The only memorable bit of the entire film, the jetpack scene, felt a bit silly and forced. The only really good thing I can say about this one is that it has a nice theme tune.
You Only Live Twice
After the dismal Thunderball we’re back on top form with this one. It’s incredebly mad and over the top and that’s why I like it. That and it’s packed full of NINJAS. There’s nothing much, really, to dislike about it. Donald Pleasence is the best of the Blofelds and his mad-cap scheme is a joy to behold. The girls are lovely (Aki and THAT WOMAN WHO HAS NO NAME!!!!) and the locations are stunning. As with From Russia With Love and how they used Istanbul to full effect, Japan is all over this film like a rash and it works well. Plus, the script was written by Roald Dahl and thus is suitably spectacular and at the same time brilliant. Alas, it just doesn’t have enough style to punch it to the place of being the best of the best I’m afraid. Let’s just not mention the politically incorrect elephant in the room.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
With Connery now gone it’s up to George Lazenby to take up the Bond reins. He’s not exactly a disaster but he’s no Sean Connery. He somehow lacks both the sophistication and brutishness to make the character seem real and convincing. Unlike Connery I reckon that Lazenby would easily lose any fight thrown his way. But meanwhile the film itself is not entirely too bad. In fact it’s quite good. The plot works well (apart from that bit where Blofeld doesn’t know who Bond is… But see Diamond are Forever for a possible explanation.) The other bit I don’t like is the ‘other fellow’ line which is very weird, especially if we’re supposed to accept that this is the same character as Connery. Also, the film is a little slow to start but once it gets going it starts to heat up and very slowly it morphs into a fabulous spectacle of ski chases, snow and subterfuge. And the ending has to be the best of any Bond film. And the theme song… Well, it’s just beautiful.
Diamonds are Forever
Considering the way the previous film ended this is a let down of the highest quality. No mention is made of Tracy whatsoever and there’s no indication that the previous film happened at all… Like it was some sort of prolonged dream sequence. (You know… That’s not a bad theory…) But anyway, this isn’t the worst Bond film in the world. Then again it’s quite far from being the best either. It seems to have all the style of a Pink Panther film. There’s a near hapless Connery (he looks like he could now be taken in a fight and every time he gets into one he almost loses.) There are a pair of useless tossers hanging around who add nothing to the plot and kill a few people, Blofeld has a few doubles for a reason I can’t quite understand and there’s a random, annoying woman who gets thrown in a swimming pool after a few minutes on-screen. Tiffany Case was nothing to write home about and the plot, or so I found, seemed a bit tacked and cobbled together overall. The plot felt rushed and the ending makes for a very poor send off for both Connery and Blofeld. Despite this, it’s not as bad or as silly as some of the later Moore films, even though it’s getting there. And the theme music? It’s reasonable, considering Shirley Bassey was actually singing about a penis (You’ll never listen to it in the same way again now. 😉 )
Live and Let Die
Right from the off this film gets off to a brilliant start. The body absorbing coffin is genius and from there on in the film just never lets up in terms of it’s total coolness. Not only do you have a brilliant villain in Kananga/Mr Big but you’ve also got Solitare, definitely one of the hottest Bond Girls. Plus there are a lot of sinister undertones to it… Baron Samedi, for instance, is delightfully chilling and he adds an extra air of mystery to the film. And on top of this you have one of the best theme tunes. Some people find all of this cheesy and ridiculous but I don’t because the film is well made. Then again… It does have its faults, Most notably in the rather irritating Sheriff J.W Pepper who should really have been killed off before the script was even written. Then you have Roger Moore himself. Sure, he’s got sophistication and this is one of his better films, but he looks like he couldn’t fight his way out of a paper bag. People tend to complain about this film for it’s blaxploitation vibe… But I think that it kind of works and makes the film stand out, even if it is a bit cringeworthy today. Also, we get the first of many Roger Moore boat chases.
The Man With The Golden Gun
This seems to rank quite low on a lot of people’s lists of Bond films. I can see their reasons why. But for me it just isn’t that bad. The only parts I don’t really like about it are the stupid slide whistle (honestly? WHY IS IT THERE?), Sheriff J.W Pepper (Who thought it was a good idea to bring him back?) and the really bad theme music (seriously… Those are some baaaad lyrics.) Other than that, this isn’t exactly brilliant but it’s entertaining enough. Christopher Lee makes for the perfect villain and Nick Nack, although a little politically incorrect, is a nice enough addition. You can’t help but feel sorry for him at the end. His master’s dead and that bastard Roger Moore has shoved him in a cage. I often wonder what happened to poor Nick Nack as he’s never heard from again after this film. Probably ended up in prison I shouldn’t wonder. Roger Moore does ok as Bond in this one but he still isn’t as brutish as he should be. And of course, there’s another boat chase.
The Spy Who Loved Me
I didn’t really find this one to be anything special to be quite honest. It wasn’t bad… But it was all just a bit bland. I know it has Jaws and the submarine car in it (and another boat!) But nothing really jumps out. Stromberg isn’t a particularly interesting villain and Barbara Bach just doesn’t leave the right impression as a Bond Girl. There is nothing especially bad about this film but there’s nothing that makes it really stand out either.
This film would be passable as decent if the second half had continued in the same vein as the first. Yeah… It’s never going to be the best. It’s got ‘dull’ Drax as the villain and a few silly bits… AND TWO BOAT CHASES. (OK, One’s a Gondala but it still counts.) It’s all fine… Right up untill the moment that Jaws falls in love. JAWS FALLS IN LOVE. WHAT WERE THEY THINKING OF? After that it just descends into a chaos of laser beams, space stations and all out shark jumping. This is were Roger Moore looses all credibility as Bond in all aspects. Even the theme is bad…
For Your Eyes Only
I didn’t expect much from this one but I was pleasantly surprised and found it to be one of Moore’s best. It doesn’t live up to the awesomeness of Live and Let Die but it certainly comes close. It has a strong sense of style, a witty and involving plot (which, to their credit, they mostly took from the short stories). The villain, Kristatos is delightfully sinister and it’s a good thing that he isn’t revealed until towards the end of the film. Melina Havelock is one of the best Bond Girls, on a parr with Tatyana and Solitaire. There are many good things about it and again, it’s one of the best. And that ending scene with Thatcher and the Parrot… Genius! (Technically it also means that Thatcher becomes the best Bond Villain by virtue of being the only one who is real!) The only thing that stops it from being a truly brilliant film is the opening scene. And why on earth does the bald man with the white cat in the wheelchair (Let’s call him Brofeld as he isn’t named for legal reasons?) offer Bond a delicatessen in stainless steel? My other problems with this are that the rock climbing scene is dull and the ice skater is pointless and annoying. Oh yeah… There’s another boat as well.
Octupussy is on screen for about ten minutes and then she does nothing. NOTHING. She would have made for a brilliant main villain but instead we get the poncey Kamal Khan who minces around for most of the film. Then there’s the really bad racial stereotyping and the fact that it seems to be a two hour montage solely intended to make Roger Moore look stupid. Firstly there’s the bad general’s costume, then the whole jungle scene complete with Tarzan cry and shameful tiger… Then the gorilla costume and finally a clown outfit. Seriously… A clown outfit! If they wanted to make this film any worse all they had to do was have Jaws and his girlfriend prance on screen holding hands for about five seconds. And there’s another bit that bothers me. There’s a scene where Bond needs to use a phone booth but some woman gets in the way… And Bond lets her??? THIS IS JAMES BOND… Just imagine Connery or Craig or Dalton or Lazenby or Brosnan in that scene… Would they let the woman get in the way. No they wouldn’t. They’d pull her out of the way because THAT’S WHAT JAMES BOND WOULD DO! It kind of proves that by this point Roger Moore wasn’t even playing Bond… He was playing some sort of Pseudo-Bond.
A View to A Kill
This film has to have what must be the greatest of all the Bond themes. Duran Duran do a spectacular job and the music is simply just loveable. Conversely, this film has to be the biggest pile of horse manure I’ve ever seen. Previously, in Octopussy, it was clear the producers were trying to make Roger Moore look as stupid as was humanly possible in a two hour limit. Now they no longer have to as Moore does that just by being on screen. He looks so old he practically needs a walking stick and as for the plausibility that Grace Jones would actually sleep with him… It’s ludicrous. Why would Grace Jones sleep with Roger Moore? SHE JUST WOULDN’T. And WHY IS HE WALKING AROUND IN THAT LEATHER JACKET???? He doesn’t look sophisticated any more… He just looks like a confused pensioner who’s stumbled onto the set in a leather jacket. And as for that Bond Girl… I wanted Bond to just shrug his shoulders and let her DIE!!!! That’s how annoying she was. And as for the villain? He’s so weak they have to show him machine gunning a load of people just to get the point across that he’s the villain. The plot is also dire. In short… This film is awful. (And yes… We’re treated to one final scene of Roger Moore on a boat!)
The Living Daylights
After the omnishambles of A View to A Kill we’re back to the hard stuff with Timothy Dalton. Whereas Moore looked as though he could be beaten by a child, Dalton is a man you don’t want to mess with. He’s cold and ruthless and I kind of like that. He’s certainly a step up from Moore who for me never really fitted the part all too well. The film meanwhile is superbly good, using the plot of the short story to launch into a superb man-hunt across eastern Europe and Asia. We’re so used to seeing far flung hot and tropical climates (or Snow capped peaks) in a Bond film that it’s kind of nice to see the drizzle drenched streets of Vienna and the cold hard realism of the eastern bloc. The Afghanistan setting towards the latter part of the film is nice too, although it’s awfully similar to some of the settings of other Bond films (The Spy Who Loved Me, mostly…) for my tastes. The film doesn’t go too far out in terms of silliness either. Ok… So there’s a rogue cello case but that seems to fit in well, for some reason. What I actually liked about this film was its frequent nods to the actual books, something which we haven’t seen a lot of since Lazenby. For instance, the words ‘Smiert Spionum’ crop up a lot (SMERSH were the bad guys in the early Bond books, if you aren’t aware.) There’s also Dalton’s portrayal which is eerily close to the Bond of the books as well, the closest yet seen. However, some of the actual plot is a bit ropey and the actual ending seems to be rather rushed and confusing and I had to scratch my head a little to work out what was going on. Overall though, I did like this film.
Licence to Kill
It seems to me that this film gets a bad rep. Some say it’s over violent, others that it’s not a real James Bond film or they find reasons to complain… I’ve seen a few people complain about a man called Wayne Newton. I don’t even know who Wayne Newton is! Mainly though, I think people complain because it isn’t your everyday Bond film. It doesn’t hack things up with endless gadgets or over the top goofery like many of the Moore films and Dalton once again proves to be the true heir to the James Bond of the books. He really shows here why you almost certainly wouldn’t pick a fight with him. He’s a rough, tough, killing machine who think’s that he’s sophisticated. This is one brutal but spectacular film with a plot, as with Living Daylights, lifted from the books themselves. This time it’s more explicit mixing elements from Live and Let Die, The Man with the Golden Gun and The Hildebrand Rarity. Those who say this isn’t a real Bond film are sadly mistaken. Granted, it’s not the James Bond of the films here- It’s the James Bond of the books who it just so happens is a very different kettle of fish to the man of the films. So to say it isn’t actually a Bond film is something of a misnomer. It is a Bond film. It’s just not your average Bond film.
There were times when this film scared me. Leiter being eaten by a shark has to rank as one of the most grizzly moments in any Bond film and the resulting scene where Bond discovers what has happened is heartbreaking. The end chase scene is brilliant and the final showdown featuring a battered, broken and beaten Bond is stunning.
The film does have a few issues though. It looks a bit cheap and it doesn’t have any style to it but then again it was the late eighties so you have to allow some room for a lack of style. I thought the laser-x ray camera thing was a bit jarring and there was a brief point towards the end were the film lagged a little… But after watching this one it’s quickly risen to become one of my favourites. It’s not the best, but I think it deserves far more praise than it currently gets.
The twist on the now familiar Bond villain formula is done with aplomb. Sean Bean is superb as 006 and it’s nice to see Bond facing off against a former friend rather than just any old megalomania. It gives this film a much more personal feel and makes it radically different to anything that has come before. And it really needs it. This film has some good points and some good set pieces. The opening scene and the tank scene being particularly memorable. And Brosnan does a good job as Bond, at least better than Roger Moore, although once more he doesn’t get the brutishness right. I could definitely take him in a fight. (Hmmm… Looking at things it seems to alternate between brute/non brute… Next Bond could be in the Brosnan/Moore/Lazenby mould…) The only problem is that this film just lacks something to make it really brilliant. There is something missing that prevents it from being one of the best. Also… Look out for the first part of ‘Pierce Brosnan on Ice’ the nineties answer to Roger Moore on a Boat.
Tomorrow Never Dies
If there’s one thing i noticed about this film is that how surprisingly relevant it is, even fifteen years later. Elliot Carver is a media mogul with enormous amounts of power, politicians in his pocket, manipulating the news to sell papers and in control of half the planet. (Sound familiar?) It wouldn’t have surprised me if someone had just casually dropped in a line about phone hacking. And another thing… Carver looks eerily like the former Chancellor of the exchequer…
As it happens, Carver makes a very good villain. He’s realistic and not over the top, and the manner of his death is suitably grizzly. In fact, his persona and attitude reminds me a little of Bill Gates (See: ‘It’s filled with bugs so they’ll be updating for years.’) He’s not the best villain but he’s certainly a lot better than some of the ones we’ve had previously (I’m thinking mainly of the likes of Zorin, Drax, Largo and Stromberg.) The plot is nice and zippy and once more Brosnan is on top form (though I still reckon I could take him in a fight!) Wai Lin is by far the best and most memorable of the nineties Bond girls but Terri Hatcher is kind of rubbish, though again far from being the worst. I don’t really have many problems with this film apart from the fact that the theme is a bit mediocre and there are a few silly bits. Overall, like Goldeneye, it just lacks the gravitas to make it a truly brilliant film. There’s also the second part of Pierce Brosnan on Ice.
The World Is Not Enough
Is this really that bad? Nah. It’s a bit of escapist fun and it’s a little silly in places but that’s what makes it good. It has some pretty nice action sequences such as the opening boat chase and the massive saw chopper pier chase thing. Robert Carlyle is a good villain as well and to a lesser extent so is that woman who plays Elektra King. I very much liked the plot as well. The issue I have is that the execution is sometimes sloppy and Christmas Jones is a waste of space. I hope whoever thought up/cast her got the sack…
Die Another Day
Pierce Brosnan’s answer to Moonraker. It starts of really well, has an exceptionally bad theme tune and then quickly descends into a slew of invisible cars, laser beams and Halle Berry. It’s not as bad as some films but it’s a pain in the buttocks and very over the top. The less said about it the better… Although it takes ‘Pierce Brosnan on Ice’ to extreme levels.
In contrast, This is fantastic. In fact it’s awesome. The first Bond film since Lazenby to follow the plot of a book. And it works incredibly well, largely because the source material is Bond at his best. Craig gets off to a flying start as Bond, managing to look like a brute trying to be sophisticated. The film meanwhile is stylish and well scripted with beautiful women and a great plot. The poker scene must rank as one of the most gripping in movie history. This one is virtually faultless. I’m struggling to think of any faults as it happens…
Quantum of Solace
Hmmm… On the one hand it isn’t all that bad. It’s got some nice touches and the theme music could be worse (Thinking of Madonna… Jesus Christ…) Theres no going into space or stupid ice palaces or general stupidity… But it’s still kind of rubbish. Sure… There’s action and a decent enough Bond girl and it makes for a decent enough follow up to the previous film… But it’s just rubbish. It’s not A View to a Kill rubbish but it’s still rubbish.
Adele’s theme song is catchy. Let’s start with that shall we. It’s one of the best themes IMHO. Now… The film itself… There are some good touches in there. The switcheroo to the younger Q/older Bond works brilliantly and it’s nice to see the traditional Bond elements creeping in there (like Moneypenny for instance.) The characterisation is great, especially the relationship between Bond and M. In terms of character this film hits the nail on the head. The plot lets it down though, it’s a kind of nothing, unmemorable plot. Javier Bardem too, though good, doesn’t stand out as a villain. A decent stab, worth watching but nowhere near as good as people claimed when it first came out.
The opening in Mexico City is fantastic and gripping. I loved Madeline Swan as the Bond girl and thought that she was just the right foil for Craig’s Bond. The film as a whole is pacy, interesting and exciting. There are some gorgeous set pieces and chases, like the one through Rome, ending with Craig ejecting himself from the car and suavely landing in the street. Blofeld is back too, though the origin story they’ve set up does cause a continuity snarl with the earlier films. I also love Ralph Fiennes as M and can’t help but feel that he’d have made a fantastic Bond back in the nineties. I also like how grounded and familiar the final fight sequence is. It isn’t some exotic locale, it’s ordinary, everyday London. This film, on the whole, would make a perfect ending, not just to Craig’s Bond but to the Bond franchise, period.
But it is far from perfect. Sam Smith’s Bond theme sounds like someone torturing a pig. The cards used to identify places are unnecessary and hokey. And Bond really does come across as a destructive idiot in this one. Wherever he goes there is carnage, exploding buildings and a trail of flames in his wake. He can’t seem to walk out of a room without breaking at least something. It is enjoyable though.
If you liked this why don’t you check out some of my other stuff? How about this piece I wrote about Graham Greene for instance?