Home Arts & Ent. 007: A Retrospective

007: A Retrospective

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We open on a shot of a fortified compound at night.  Armed KGB agents patrol the grounds, keeping a sharp lookout for any activity. A silhouette of a man is seen flitting through the grounds. We hear the sound of a choking man, and then a thud as he hits the ground. Agents rush towards him, wondering what happened. Then, a sniper spots the shadowy figure silently moving away. The sniper tracks the target through his scope, and just as he’s about to pull the trigger, the man turns.  It’s James Bond!  Cue the theme music.

Such has been the beginning of countless films in this long-running series. The James Bond movies are ingrained in the popular consciousness, and with good reason. James Bond is the pinnacle of ‘cool.’  He’s suave and accomplishes missions that would break a normal man.  He does all of this while spouting slick one-liners, using insanely cool gadgets that would make Tony Stark envious, and keeping his cufflinks impeccably well-oriented. James Bond is the reason millions of kids want to be a secret agent when they grow up, as opposed to say, an accountant.  Judging by the $12 billion total box office sales for the series (adjusted for inflation), most kids have all seen at least one James Bond film, and if they haven’t, Skyfall, the latest Bond film, is now opened in theaters nationwide this weekend.

One of the things that makes the James Bond series great is how long its been running. Skyfall is going to be the 23rd film in the series (one should also consider the unofficial 24th Bond film, Never Say Never Again, which was released in 1983 by a production studio other than EON Films, which produced the other 23 films).  And one of the things that has come with the series’ length has been James Bond being played by multiple actors.  In most film series, there’s one actor who is synonymous with the role. Mark Hamill is the only Luke Skywalker, Johnny Depp is the only Captain Jack Sparrow, Harrison Ford is the only Indiana Jones, and Bruce Willis is the only John McClane.  James Bond has been played by six different actors: Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig, the current Bond. Each of these actors brought a unique version of James Bond to the theaters, and the series can be defined in eras based around each of the actors. So, let’s look back at what each of these actors brought to Bond before Skyfall comes out.

Sean Connery: He is the definitive James Bond. The suavity, the smooth talking, the cunning, and everything else we think of when we hear James Bond can be traced back to Sean Connery.  The the best way to describe his portrayal of Bond is ‘cool.’ Sure, his Bond does all of the usual secret agent stuff (killing bad guys, etc.), but what separates him from the other Bonds is the way he turned coolness into an art form. There was a certain flawlessness and believability to his performances; it really felt like he was James Bond. No Bond delivered a line better than he did, none had as great of a presence or legacy as he did, none were as smooth as he was, and because of this, Sean Connery’s portrayal is synonymous with James Bond.  Connery starred in Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, Diamonds are Forever, and Never Say Never Again.  Clips of Connery as Bond can be seen at the following link: Greatest Quotes.

George Lazenby: Lazenby was in one Bond movie, On Her Majesties Secret Service.  As a result, he’s very often forgotten. In general, the opinion on this Bond seems to be that he was nothing special. He did not leave a mark on the series like the other Bonds did.

Roger Moore: The star of the most James Bond films out of all of the actors, also starred in some of the silliest films. Chief amongst these is Moonraker, in which James Bond goes into space. It’s not that these were bad films; they just had some out-of-place moments that didn’t feel particularly Bond-like. In addition, Roger Moore was a bit too clean-cut for Bond. He seemed to be more like a high-class British Gentleman than a smooth secret agent. By no means a bad Bond, Roger Moore is memorable, good at delivering lines, and still pretty cool, even if he doesn’t approach Connery levels.  However, his movies weren’t very memorable. Moore starred in Live and Let Die, The Man with The Golden Gun, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, and  A View to A Kill.  Clips of Moore as Bond can be seen at the following link: Greatest Quotes.

Timothy Dalton: Probably the most controversial Bond, Dalton brought something new to the series: brutality. Timothy Dalton’s Bond was still suave, but he had a darker edge. This is the Bond who locked a man in a depressurization chamber, causing his head to explode. There hasn’t been anything quite like that since. Because of his ruthlessness, Dalton’s Bond alienated a lot of people. It was a fresh, if not a little too dark, take on the character, which made him more memorable than some other Bonds.  Dalton starred in The Living Daylights and  License to Kill.  Clips of Dalton as Bond can be seen at the following link: Greatest Quotes.

Pierce Brosnan: The last James Bond before what was essentially a reboot of the series, Pierce Brosnan occupies the spot of worst James Bond, for this author. It’s not that he does some great disservice to the role; after all, he’s not a bad actor and he doesn’t insult the Bond name.  But Pierce Brosnan is too smooth and suave. He probably comes closest to the Connery depiction of Bond, but that’s not a good thing in this case. Whereas Connery had a certain amount of grit to him, Brosnan is a flawlessly cool guy. It almost feels too perfect. He’s really good at delivering a smooth one-liner, but he’s also really forgettable. Pierce Brosnan is almost robotic in his depiction of Bond. He comes across like an actor playing James Bond, rather than the real thing. The movies he was in were also unmemorable, except for one. Die Another Day was the most memorable of the Brosnan Bond films, but not for good reasons. It’s memorable because it is awful. It’s cheesy, dull, and it features an invisible car. WHAT? Bottom line: he just didn’t bring much to the role.  Brosnan starred in Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough, and Die Another Day.  Clips of Brosnan as Bond can be seen at the following link: Greatest Quotes.

Daniel Craig: For this author, Craig is the best Bond since Connery, hands down. He has a lot of Connery’s coolness, but he has grit, unlike Pierce Brosnan, and he even has a little bit of Dalton’s ruthlessness.  Casino Royal, his first film, was a masterpiece, and is probably one of the greatest Bond films. Craig is very memorable as Bond. He’s smooth, tough, and cunning. He’s the complete package. However, in Quantum of Solace, the movie relied way too much on action. All of the Bond movies have action, but this one went overboard. Even in that most un-Bond of Bond movies, Craig shined through as a fantastic James Bond.  Skyfall will inevitably contain a great Craig performance in it. Clips of Craig as Bond can be seen at the following link: Greatest Quotes.