“Bond. James Bond.”
Over forty years after making his big screen debut on movie screens, Ian Fleming’s James Bond became an iconic character who epitomized style, class and toughness. Along with these traits he was issued a license to kill from her Majesty’s secret service.
Since Dr. No in 1962 the film series has become one of the most popular and successful in film history. With its unique blend of violence, sex, action and witty humor, each Bond film would become a worldwide event upon its release. Agent 007 would face off against sinister villain’s, bed beautiful women travel to the most exotic locations and have the coolest toys and shiniest cars at his fingertips, all the while never getting a wrinkle in his elegant suit.
Producers Albert ‘Cubby Broccoli’ and Harry Saltzman brought together a team of artists to help create one of the most endurable film series in cinema history. The Bond films would follow a basic structure that would reliably provide fans exactly what they wanted. ‘The Bond Blueprint’ would be imitated countless times by Bond wannabes and knockoffs during the ’60’s Spy Craze’ that 007 would give birth to.
After getting a gritty and more realistic start in his films with Dr. No and From Russia With Love, 1964’s Goldfinger would be the turning point in the series and establish James Bond’s world as one that was truly larger than life. Budgets went up, even more movie tickets were sold (along with profits in cross merchandising) and audiences would anxiously await for the next Bond film. In the meantime, little boys and men would sneak to the mirror and say those immortal words: “Bond….James Bond”.
James Bond was a phenomenon. However, he had already appeared in a television adaptation of Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale in 1954. Barry Nelson played Jimmy Bond in an episode of CBS’ Climax. It was quickly forgotten. The character also reappeared outside the official series, this time in the 1967 spoof film Casino Royale, with Peter Sellers, David Niven, Ursula Andress and Orson Welles.
By the time 1967’s You Only Live Twice wrapped, Sean Connery stepped down from his role as Bond. This would be the start of an ever lengthening chain of actors who would step into the role. Each actor would leave their own unique mark on their portrayal of the character. With differing balances of humor, seriousness, sophistication and lethalness it would open the never-ending debate as to who is the best Bond.
In 1969, a former Austrailian model with little acting experience was cast as 007 in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The massive scope of the film included all the Bond earmarks (but no earlobes) that fans had come to expect – a powerful villain, extravagant locations, huge set pieces, beautiful women and plenty of action. The film would also present Bond’s most personal journey as he falls in love and gets married.
Despite being one of the highest grossing films that year, Majesty’s has mainly become a trivia question to general movie audiences as George Lazenby’s one-shot at portraying 007 before Connery was coerced into returning for one more film – Diamonds Are Forever.
With Connery out for good producers cast Roger Moore, an already established star, as Bond in 1973’s Live and Let Die. This time out filmmakers tried to distance Moore’s Bond from Connery’s (whereas Lazenby had broken the fourth wall in the opening minutes of the film to acknowledge he was the new guy). The film departs from the standard opening of Bond arriving at M’s office for his assignment. This time M knock’s on Bond’s door.
With The Spy Who Loved Me Broccoli (who now was sole producer) gave Moore a huge canvas to play his Bond on. No longer feeling hindered by Connery’s peformance,
Moore’s portrayal became more light hearted and humorous. Situations were more fantastical. Moore was surrounded by outrageous villians, fighting cartoonish henchmen and showcasing even more over-the-top gadgets.
And audiences loved it.
By the time Moonraker premiered in 1979 (the notorious ‘James Bond in Space film). Moore had endeared himself to audiences and would play 007 for a total of seven films. In 1983 the world would see the release of a competing Bond film that heralded the return of Sean Connery. It would mark The Battle of the Bonds. Despite a twelve-year hiatus from the role and Never Say Never Again being a success, Moore’s film Octopussy would come out on top.
By 1985 Moore had had enough. He announced his retirement from the role at age 58. He would be the oldest actor to have portrayed Bond in A View To A Kill. Filmmakers would select a new Bond and try to take the series back to its roots. An attempt would be made to get the character back to the tough spy Ian Fleming had created. Losing the jokes and the absurd nature of Moore’s films, Timothy Dalton would take the character back to basics in stories with more intrigue and drama than the whimsy the series had shown in the past twelve years.
Dalton was true to his word. The Living Daylights would be an interpretation true to Fleming’s original character. Changes were made within the format of the film however. With the increasing attitude of casual sex being irresponsible, Bond was given one leading lady to make time with. A disclaimer of the dangers of cigarette smoking was added to the credits. The film would be a critical success and gross more than Moore’s last two Bond outings.
However, after the disappoinment of 1989’s License to Kill and a six year gap between films, Dalton would not return.
In 1995 Goldeneye would mark the debut of Pierce Brosnan in the role. After having made a success in television with his whimsical Bond- type of character of Remington Steele, he seemed destined to play the part and was awaited to take up the mantle by fans.
Rubbing off the grim aura Dalton had given the character, Brosnan went back to the template of suave, dangerous with dashes of humor.
With concerns over whether the character was still relevant in a post Cold War-era, after GoldenEye outgrossed Dalton’s previous films and was a clear success, it seemed Bond was still as in demand as ever by audiences.
His modernized Bond would be the first interpretation of the character that many younger film-goers would see on the big-screen and Brosnan would guide the character through the 90’s and into the 21st century with three more films.
In 2004 the torch would be passed again, this time to actor Daniel Craig. Concerns over his casting immediately made headlines. Fans questioned whether the selection of him was the right one. He didn’t seem like the Bond-type. Plus, he was blonde!
All the skepticism was put to rest when Casino Royale premiered.
After having been filmed as an all-star parody in 1967, the Bond filmmakers finally got the rights to it and were now able to tell the story of Bond’s first double-O adventure. Craig would give an extremely physical and ruthless performance and the film would receive raves from critics and audiences.
Quantum of Solace would follow. For the first time a Bond film would be an actual sequel to the previous film and not simply as a stand-alone story. After a four-year wait Craig returned as Bond in 2012’s Skyfall, which became one of the biggest hits in the series history.
With Spectre it featured the return of the criminal organization Bond had to contend with in his early films and Fleming novels. Along with 007’s most famous adversary that hadn’t been seen in decades.
Since then fans have been in a wait to find out when the next Bond film will arrive and if Craig will return to the role or if we’ll get a new 007.
Bond has seen adventures all over the world and there are no signs of him slowing up. Audiences are still lining up to see his films and each subsequent release of the latest one is met with worldwide coverage and anticipation. He has become one of most iconic heroes in film and literature. He has been passed down from one generation to the next. For the last fifty years it has become a rite of passage for movie-goers to venture out to the cinema and marvel at the world of James Bond.
THE JAMES BOND REVIEW SERIES
Originally, this review series I began quite some time ago started as a goof. Just for the novelty of it and to try something different I thought I would try my hand at putting together a simple one-minute review of each film leading up to the release of Quantum of Solace. I really missed that deadline. As time passed this series has evolved into something much more comprehensive and involved than I initially planned. I wish I had planned this whole thing out better, (I still plan on going back and spending more time on the earlier films – they got shortchanged) but I really didn’t think these would get as much attention as they have or that I would still be working on them.
As this review series have progressed they’ve gotten much more involved. One of the things I’ve tried to do is improve my editing and writing work on each new entry. Trying new things and presenting them in more entertaining fashion than how they humbly began.
So, I have to thank all you Bond Fans that have been following these, sharing your own opinions on the films and being curious as to what is coming up next. You’ve become a real motivation to continue this series.