You know his name. You got his number. Since 1962, James Bond has been the spy whose reputation precedes him: As international man of mystery, as guru of gadgets and espionage thrills, and as the agent who never encountered a boundary – country, or personal space – he couldn’t sneak across.
The Ian Fleming adaptations started with a bang: Dr. No remains among the best-reviewed of 007’s movies, bringing forth that first legendary era of Sean Connery suited up as the debonair rogue that women crave and men aspire to be in vain. Case in point: 1967’s Casino Royale had no less than six James Bonds within its spooferifous walls, none holding a candle to the Con’. The non-comic caper is the worst-reviewed James Bond movie, and was produced outside of franchise gatekeepers Eon.
As celebrated was Connery’s reign was – the late actor’s films occupy three of the top five slots on this list – the sun sets on every empire, and thus was ushered in the age of the Lazenby. A mild administration for George, yes, with only 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service released, though Certified Fresh.
Then it became time to move over for Roger Moore, who offered a lightly winking and intelligent Bond for those burned-out ’70s times. Three of his movies are Rotten, three are Fresh, and one is Certified Fresh. Not bad, and he even traveled into space.
In 1981, Connery came back for non-Eon Bond Never Say Never Again, just as HQ was hiring Timothy Dalton for the job. Dalton’s Bond: Cool and menacing, and his films The Living Daylights and License to Kill are praised by modern fans for their dark, grittier take on the spy game. It’s something Daniel Craig would pick up on in the future, but with a bigger budget and fewer a-ha theme songs.
Pierce Brosnan brought back the sophisticated sex appeal, as the best Bond in the not-so-greatest movies. GoldenEye was intoxicating Certified Fresh fun, while the three that followed are all Rotten.
After Austin Powers took the piss out of the franchise for a decade, Eon turned to resurrecting James Bond as the brooding, brutish hulk we have today. Casino Royale was a return to form, Daniel Craig’s sneer and occasional smile calibrated to the modern cynical viewer. Skyfall was likewise Certified Fresh, but there was not so much critical love for in-betweener Quantum of Solace and the most-recent Spectre of 2015.
Six years passed until No Time To Die, the longest wait between Bond movies. At 15 years, Craig holds the record for longest uninterrupted on-screen ownership of Bond, but Connery spread his appearances as Bond across 21 years. Now, we’re reaching into the classified files for every James Bond movie ever ranked by Tomatometer!
As we all settle in to stay at home and socially distance ourselves, the planet has been given a unique resource not often afforded in the modern world: time. With no place to go, what shall we do with this new abundance of free hours? Time to finish that book you have had on your bedside table? Maybe take an online French class or learn to play an instrument? Time to binge every series that ever was? Or perhaps, like us, you’re thinking of all the films you wished you’d seen but never had the time to before.
Maybe one of those epic movie franchises that seemed too daunting to jump into late in the game – don’t ever admit you’ve never seen an MCU movie, ever – or a series of which you’ve caught a few entries but want to fill in the gaps. Fear not – we have you covered with our Epic Franchise Movie Binge Guide. Read below as we break down some of the most beloved long-running movie franchises – like The Lord of the Rings, Mission Impossible, or the granddaddy of them all, the Marvel Cinematic Universe – and tell you the best way to approach watching them, how long the binge will take, and which titles you can skip. Because hey, even all the time in the world may not be enough time to make you sit through A Good Day to Die Hard.
Disagree with our picks or have a suggestion for a franchise movie binge? Let us know in the comments.
What is it: The film adaptations of the fantasy novels by J.R.R. Tolkien, set in ”Middle-earth,” the fictitious medieval land where elves, men, dwarves, wizards, and hobbits co-exist, often not so peacefully. Over the course of several films, we follow hobbit Bilbo Baggins and later his young heir Frodo Baggins as they go on adventures and battle against the forces of evil.
How many hours: Extended editions: 20 hours 30 minutes; Theatrical cuts: 17 hours and 12 minutes.
Starts with: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
Ends with: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
Best way to watch: Some would argue the second trilogy – though the first by story chronology – from Peter Jackson was an unnecessary and bloated cash grab that should be avoided at all costs, but we have a better suggestion. We suggest you begin with the LOTR animated film from 1978, which will give you all the events of the films in a quicker and to-the-point format. Then, if you are compelled to see the best of The Hobbit live-action series, we would say check out the standard edition of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, which is the best of the three. We would also suggest you try to watch the extended editions of the original live-action LOTR series – they are more than worth it for the extra content. This recommendation would make for a shorter, 16-hour watch, which could be broken up easily over two days.
What is it: The 23-film saga that chronicles the epic adventures of various superheroes, based on the comics first distributed by Marvel and its subsidiaries.
How many hours: 50 hours and 3 minutes.
Starts with: Iron Man (2008)
Ends with: Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
Best way to watch: Not surprising for a franchise that grossed over $22 billion at the global box office, but Marvel Studios’ 23-film, decade-long opus is quite watchable as is. Some folks would have argued in 2010 that Avengers: The Age of Ultron is a skippable mess, but as we detail here, it is essential viewing to truly appreciate the first four phases of the saga that culminated with Avengers: Endgame. Sorry for those looking for a shortcut, but watching it all is worth it. Viewing all 23 movies straight through, without breaks, however, is not the way to do it.
Instead, we suggest you go in release order and complete each day as follows: day one after Avengers; day two after Ant-man; day three after Black Panther; and finish on day four with Spider-Man: Far From Home. If you’ve previously watched the MCU and are looking to watch it in a new way, use our guide here to watch in chronological order based on the events of each film. If the thought of 50 hours of superheroes is still too intimidating for you, but you want to understand enough to get by, watch these character introduction films (Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy) and these team-up films (Civil War, Winter Soldier, Avengers, Ultron, Infinity War, Endgame). Once you have finished that, check out our Oral Histories of the MCU, in which the directors, producer, and casting director who worked on the epic franchise break down all the behind-the-scene secrets.
Where to watch: FandangoNOW, Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, GooglePlay. All of the films save The Incredible Hulk and the Spider-Man films are streaming on Disney+. The Avengers: Infinity War and The Avengers: Endgame are streaming on Netflix; and Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, and Thor are streaming on Amazon Prime.
What is it: Follow John McClane, a police detective who seems to be a magnet for maniacal criminals no matter which city/structure he is in, and proves to be a tough man to kill.
How many hours: 10 hours and 14 minutes.
Starts with: Die Hard (1988)
Ends with: A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)
Best way to watch: The original Die Hard is so beloved that many argue it’s the greatest action film ever made – or maybe the greatest Christmas movie, but that is a debate for another day. The film and its follow-ups have a loyal fanbase, and though the second and third entries pale in comparison to the first, we still say they’re worth a watch. The fourth film, Live Free or Die Hard, is a true return to form and, frankly, it’s where you should stop unless you are a true completist. The series’ most recent film, A Good Day to Die Hard, is the only PG-13 entry on the list, and without McClane’s iconic “Yippee-ki-yay, motherf–ker,” there’s really no point pushing play.
Where to watch: FandangoNOW (Discounted Bundle), Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, GooglePlay. Die Hard and Die Hard with a Vengeance are streaming now on CinemaxGo; Live Free or Die Hard is streaming on the Starz app.
What is it: Follow Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew, which he calls his family, as they shift from illegal street-racing criminals to heist experts and then finally emerge as a new crime-fighting unit that tackles the world of espionage.
How many hours: 15 hours and 57 mins.
Starts with: The Fast and the Furious (2001)
Ends with: Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019)
Best way to watch: As Dom and everyone in the Fast franchise says – quite often – this is about family. So, if you’re looking for something to skip, it’s hard to imagine who you’d want to kick out one of the family – though, let’s be honest, 2 Fast 2 Furious is definitely not Dad’s favorite. Without Vin Diesel, that entry can barely call itself a Fast and Furious movie, and the 2009 series soft reboot, Fast & Furious, is not much better and an easy call to skip, as well. We would caution against skipping third entry Toyko Drift; its charms are significantly more than its 37% Tomatometer score would suggest (something we wax about in our book Rotten Movies We Love). Not to spoil anything, but when we finally get Fast 9 in 2021, you’ll need to have seen Tokyo Drift to understand everything fully – check out #JusticeForHan after you finish the series, and you will understand.
What is it: Follow Philly underdog boxer-turned-champion, Rocky Balboa, as he battles various fighters in the ring, as well as his own issues outside of it, and later trains the next generation of champions.
How many hours: 14 hours and 55 minutes.
Starts with: Rocky (1976)
Ends with: Creed II (2018)
Best way to watch: This one’s real simple: trust us and skip Rocky V. Just pretend it didn’t happen; we’re pretty sure Sylvester Stallone did.
What is it: The franchise based on JK Rowling’s phenomenally successful novels follows the adventures of Harry Potter, an orphan-turned-famed wizard, the evil He Who Must Not Be Named, and the Wizarding World they inhabit.
How many hours: 24 hours and 6 minutes.
Starts with: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)
Ends with: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)
Best way to watch: As this is a British series, allow us to put this as politely as possible: Fantastic Beasts is simply not quite on form. The first entry is saved by Eddie Redmayne and mesmerizing magical effects; the second entry is the first and only Rotten flick from the Wizarding World and very skippable at this stage. The original seven films are near perfect, but if you wanted to pass over The Chamber of Secrets you wouldn’t miss much – you won’t be too confused later in the series. (Though if watching as a family, this is one the kids tend to like.) If you follow that suggestion, you can finish the entire series in one day.
Starts with: X-Men: First Class (2011)
Ends with: Logan (2017)
How to watch: The critics will tell you that both X-Men: The Last Stand (the third of the original films) and X-Men: Apocalypse (the third of the rebooted, second-gen films) are shells of their brilliant predecessors. And with the last X-Men film to enter theaters, Dark Phoenix, disappointing on the Tomatometer and at the box office, you should essentially skip any film that has anything to do with Jean Gray’s Dark Phoenix. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is admittedly a hard watch to suffer through, but you kinda have to just to appreciate the brilliance of Deadpool and its sequel, if only for what they did differently with the character. Every film that character is in after Origins highlights why Ryan Reynolds was born to play the “Merc with a Mouth.”
Watching in the order of events is the best way to approach things if you don’t want to be confused by the time travel that happens later in the series. That order is: First Class, Days of Future Past, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men Apocalypse, Dark Phoenix, X-Men, X2, X-Men: The Last Stand, The Wolverine, Deadpool, Deadpool 2, Logan. If you leave off the aforementioned weakest entries (The Last Stand, Apocalypse, Dark Phoenix) you can complete the entire series in one day.
Where to watch: FandangoNOW (Discount Bundle), Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, GooglePlay. X-Men: Days of Future Past and Deadpool are streaming on FXNow; X-Men Origins: Wolverine is available to stream on the Starz app.
What is it: In these films, we welcome you to Jurassic Park, a theme park – and eventually various associated islands, mansions, West Coast cities – where dinosaurs have been genetically recreated to walk the Earth alongside humans. Over the course of series we watch as that combination invariably doesn’t work out well for the humans.
How many hours: 10 hours and 1 minute.
Starts with: Jurassic Park (1993)
Ends with: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)
Best way to watch: This was a subject of contentious debate among the RT staff: some thought the Jurassic World part of the franchise is unwatchable, while others had strong takes on Jurassic Park 3 and The Lost World. As this is only a five-film series so far, we compromised: Watch them all and make your own determinations. Either way, we all agreed that the original Jurassic Park is a bona fide classic, and if you haven’t seen it, please remedy this injustice as soon as possible. It only takes a day to watch them all.
What is it: Watch secret agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his crew of talented spies as they battle the world’s most dangerous criminals along with the bureaucracy of his own organization, the IMF. The films are based on the 1960s television show.
How many hours: 13 hours and 3 minutes.
Starts with: Mission: Impossible (1996)
Ends with: Mission: Impossible -- Fallout (2018)
Best way to watch: It’s apparent after six films (with a seventh on the way): Tom Cruise really likes playing Ethan Hunt. And with every film, Cruise looks to top the jaw-dropping stunts from the last. Still, there is a stark contrast between the first three films and the rest, in regards to quality and scope. Many will tell you the second film, directed by John Woo, and the third, directed by J.J. Abrams, are the weakest of the set, but they’re still thoroughly enjoyable and feature some truly astonishing stunts – so we suggest you watch them all. And thankfully this is not – yes, we’re gonna say it – impossible to do in one or two days.
Where to watch: FandangoNOW (Discount Bundle), Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, GooglePlay. Mission Impossible: Fallout is streaming on Amazon Prime and Hulu; Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation are streaming on FXNow.
What is it: James Bond, MI6 intelligence officer and international playboy, charms women, thwarts terrorist plots, and sips a shaken martini in well-tailored suits. Based on Ian Fleming’s iconic novels.
How many hours: 55 hours and 11 minutes.
Starts with: Dr. No (1962)
Ends with: Spectre (2015)
Best way to watch: For completists, we recommend you start with the Connery films on day one, then do a day of Timothy Dalton, David Niven (the satire Casino Royale from 1967), and George Lazenby’s films, adding one or two of Roger Moore’s. Finish with Moore on day three, then do a full day of Pierce Brosnan for day four, and end the series on day five with Daniel Craig. If that’s a bit too daunting, you can break up the films we suggested for one day across two days instead. If you’re looking for a few to skip, we’d suggest A View to Kill and Octopussy. We’d also suggest you skip Never Say Never Again, as it is a shadow of Connery’s older work; Moonraker is only enjoyable for how laughable it is; and there’s not enough vodka on earth to make The World is Not Enough a good time. Quantum of Solace is another one you can miss, but at least watch the opening scene – it’s fantastic.
Where to watch: FandangoNOW (Discount Bundle), Amazon, Itunes, Vudu, GooglePlay. Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough, and Die Another Day are streaming on Netflix; Quantum of Solace and Casino Royale (1967) are streaming on HBONow.
What is it: These are the stories of the USS Enterprise, crafted for the silver screen. Watch Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and later Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) as they lead their crews to the furthest reaches of the universe on a peacekeeping mission to discover new worlds. The films are based on the Star Trek television series and its subsequent spin-offs.
How many hours: 25 hours and 17 minutes.
Starts with: Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
Ends with: Star Trek Beyond (2016)
Best way to watch: At the risk of angering the original series Trekkies, the first film – Star Trek: The Motion Picture – is simply not very good (it’s 42% on the Tomatometer). The same can be said of The Final Frontier. When we shift into The Next Generation part of the franchise, the series starts off strong but fizzles with Star Trek: Nemesis. We suggest you should skip those four. When you start the reboot franchise, some would advise you to skip Star Trek: Into Darkness, which was much maligned by the fandom but which we say is worth seeing for Benedict Cumberbatch, if nothing else. As far as ordering your binge, watching the series as the films were released is the way to go. Begin with the first set of films featuring the original series characters, followed by the films centering on the cast of The Next Generation, and finish with the reboot films that started in 2009. If you are skipping films following our advice, the new order is original series (The Wrath of Khan, Search for Spock, The Voyage Home, Undiscovered Country), followed by the Next Generation films (Generations, First Contact, Insurrection), and finishing with the 2009 reboot films (Star Trek, Into Darkness, Beyond).
Where to watch: FandangoNOW (Discount Bundle), Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, GooglePlay. Star Treks 1-6, First Contact, Insurrection, and Generations are streaming Amazon; Star Trek: Into Darkness is streaming on FXnow; and Star Trek Nemesis, First Contact, Generations are streaming on Crackle.
Thumbnail image: yParamount, Paramount, courtesy of the Everett Collection
Bond, James Bond is back. His 26 movies over 53 years have created a long legacy of international espionage, daring escapes, stellar gadgets, and, yes, beautiful women. Celebrate the release of Spectre with our 50 favorite Bond girls throughout history.
I end my epic journey today with a writeup of Quantum of Solace, the follow-up to 2006’s Casino Royale that continues the story of a heartbroken Bond out for revenge.
Well, here we are. After 24 whirlwind days in the world of James Bond, I’ve come to the final movie thus far in the franchise, Quantum of Solace. It’s been a remarkable experience, and I’m actually kind of sad it’s over, but all good things must come to an end. Brace yourselves, and be warned that while I’ve kept this writeup spoiler-free, you may still want to refrain from reading it until after you’ve seen Quantum of Solace.
I’ve mentioned here and there over the course of this series that watching all of these Bond films has helped me to understand the film universe of 007 on a much deeper level. There are things that I’ve come to expect from a James Bond movie, regardless of who the actor was and during what era the movie was produced. These things are the tried and true elements of the Bond persona, and while one may argue this persona has strayed heavily from its source material, one cannot deny that the silver screen Bond has established a sort of mythology all his own. I think some of you can see where I’m going with this.
Casino Royale effectively upended this mythology and sought to establish a new identity for 007. Not only was he rewritten to be darker and more ruthless, but the transformation was made complete by the controversial casting of a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Daniel Craig, arguably less dashing than his predecessors but with a rugged face more suited for the brutal killer Bond would become. At the same time, Casino Royale retained a bit of charm, a pinch of humor, and enough of the familiar conventions that I had come to know and love as distinctly “James Bond.”
With all of this in mind, I also had certain expectations when I finally took my seat to watch Quantum of Solace, but again, my expectations were thoroughly challenged. I don’t want to get into specific details, because I’m not a film critic, and I don’t want to ruin anything for anyone who has yet to see the film. But while I generally liked the movie, I enjoyed it for very different reasons than Casino Royale, and truthfully speaking, I was left with somewhat of a bittersweet aftertaste.
First of all, QoS is action packed. And I mean wall-to-wall, relentless, grimy, cathartic action. The very beginning of the movie plunges the audience into a high octane car chase, the pre-credit spectacle, and the remainder pauses only briefly to expand the plot. It wasn’t always easy to tell what was going on, what with the jittery camera work, but every knuckle to the jaw resounded with a visceral crunch, every gunshot popped with fury, and every fall to the ground vibrated through my back. Bond is just as ferocious, thrusting his body into countless perilous situations and emerging victoriously with an intense glare on his face and a smattering of dirt caked onto his clothes.
However, aside from a couple of allusions to the Bond franchise (including an obvious homage to Goldfinger), the movie suffers from a lack of signature Bond elements. Though the gadgets, one-liners, massive lairs, Q, and Moneypenny were also absent in Casino Royale, that film still felt like a Bond film because of the nature of its characters and the structure of the story. Quantum of Solace, on the other hand, sports a relatively straightforward script and, despite the promise of a continuing revenge plot, one gets the sense its plot points exist solely to provide context for the explosive action sequences. Bond is also more stoic than ever, with precious few lines of dialogue and little development of his character beyond “I’m pissed off, and someone’s gonna pay!” Whether or not it’s more faithful to Ian Fleming’s novels is moot; because the 007 of the silver screen had been established for forty years, I think it’s somewhat understandable for some fans to be distraught over this.
But this is the double-edged sword. I gained a greater appreciation for Casino Royale after having watched all of its predecessors; this is not necessary to enjoy Quantum of Solace. It’s a hard-hitting action movie that doesn’t require one to be a die-hard Bond fan to indulge in its visceral thrills, so I think fans of action flicks in general will be able to appreciate it on some level, despite it having a thinner plot and no deep connection to the previous installments. This is pure adrenaline, and if that’s all you’re after, it may suffice. If you want more than that, you’ll probably be disappointed, and those simply looking forward to James Bond wreaking havoc will have a better time.
I’ve enjoyed being able to experience all these films with you all, and I never expected to engage you as much as I did in discussing these films. From Dr. No to Quantum of Solace, a whole new universe was opened up to me, and I now have an affection for these films I never would have had before. Thanks for following along with me these past few weeks, and for those of you who have asked if we’ll do this again: yes, based on all of your support for this series, we are currently discussing doing another one, though nothing is finalized.
On a final note, also due to comments many of you have made, here are a few favorites (ane one least favorite) of mine:
Daniel Craig is the new 007, and he is one determined agent. He’s grimy and dark, but stylish and sensitive. And he’s really good at killing people.
I am going to be honest here: the first and only time I saw Casino Royale two years ago, I was underwhelmed by it. Yes, I had certain ideas in mind about what Bond was like, and when Daniel Craig was chosen as the new 007, even I balked and thought, “I can’t see how he fits into my perception of James Bond.” When my friends all returned from a viewing, however, and told me how much they loved the movie, and how incredible Craig was, I decided I would give it a chance. At the time, I was disappointed, and I don’t honestly recall why. I also retained very little from that movie, which is a testament to how little I cared for it. So, when I re-viewed it last night, I was blown away by how wrong I was.
Initially, I completely forgot that Casino Royale was meant to be a reboot of the franchise, so when the opening scene makes mention of Bond just recently being granted “double-0” status, it immediately jogged my memory. Similar revelations would occur later in the film when Bond “acquires” his classic Aston Martin DB5, and when he meets Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) for the first time — since I finally had some context, I reacted to this meeting with a giddy, “Ohhh, that’s Felix Leiter!” This was a giddiness I didn’t experience the first go-round, and it would characterize several moments throughout the film for me.
There were some things I noticed in Casino Royale that recalled elements from the series as a whole, and these were again things I didn’t pick up on without the full context. First of all, while the early parkour chase scene was incredibly shot and choreographed, it demonstrated a continuance of Bond’s habit of recklessness, as he not only destroys an entire construction site in Madagascar, but also storms into the grounds of an embassy and shoots an unarmed man on camera. Next, there’s also the disposable mistress-of-a-bad guy who he beds for information and who ultimately gets iced. Then, there’s the sophisticated nemesis who’s not only asthmatic but also sports a freaky eye that “weeps blood.” I don’t point these out as flaws; on the contrary, they are dutiful homages to the franchise that reassure us we are indeed seeing James Bond, however different in tone he might be, and I was able to appreciate them in a way I couldn’t when I first saw this movie. When Bond puts on a tux for the first time, for example, and his theme music rises in the background, I cracked a warm smile.
Then there’s the Bond girl, Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd, who plays a crucial role in the film and provides the kind of sexual tension only a few other Bond girls have been able to manage. Her conversations with Bond were some of the most fun dialogue in the movie, and her role was written convincingly enough that when Bond eventually falls for her, I bought it wholesale. The twist at the end adds an even deeper level to her character, making her one of the best Bond girls, period, if not the best.
I also enjoyed M’s role in Casino Royale. Every time I thought to myself, “Gee, that was careless of him,” or “There goes Bond’s libido again,” M pretty much echoed my thoughts and spat them directly at Bond herself. She plays the voice of reason in the movie, and she let me know that the writers were aware of many of the things I’d seen in the previous Bond movies and that this new Bond was bucking the system anyway. This only further reinforced the idea that Bond does not live in an alternate universe of loose logic and no consequences; he simply doesn’t care, and he’s going to do whatever he damn well pleases anyway. In other words, Bond is a badass.
Daniel Craig makes an intimidating 007, but he is not without humor, and Casino Royale isn’t all blood and brooding. The action sequences are all pretty impressive, though some are better than others, and they are spaced out nicely by important plot elements that are engaging to watch in their own right. However, I thought Le Chiffre was a so-so villain, and I can understand some of the criticisms I’ve heard about this movie taking inspiration from the Bourne series. But I don’t fault the makers of Casino Royale for wanting to take Bond in a new direction, because it feels more in line with what modern moviegoers are looking for in an action film. Audiences are smarter and more discerning now than ever, so it makes sense to reboot the franchise with material that hits harder. With all of this in mind, be sure to come back tomorrow for my thoughts on Quantum of Solace.
Favorite line: “Now the world’s gonna know you died scratching my balls!”
Favorite moment: I loved the parkour chase. I thought it was breathtaking even the first time I saw it, and rewatching it last night was no different.
We come to the end of the Pierce Brosnan era, and he exits the Bond universe in a flurry of silliness.
When I went to the video store to pick up my last two rentals in this series, the guy ringing me up said, “How are you gonna rent Die Another Day and Casino Royale at the same time? Casino Royale was off the hook, but Die Another Day has an invisible car!” With that over-the-counter assessment in mind, I set off to embark on the wild ride that is Die Another Day, the final Pierce Brosnan installment and one that would yield more scribbles in my notebook than any other thus far.
The opening action sequence is the first one in a while that failed to impress me. There are hovercrafts and exploding diamonds, and it was novel (if not ridiculous) to see Bond surfing his way onto a North Korean beach, but it wasn’t very exciting. It’s also the first time we don’t see Bond escape at the end of the preliminary scenes, and as the opening credits roll by to an awful Madonna song, we see glimpses of Bond’s life in captivity, slowly transforming into Robinson Crusoe. When the song dies down and a scraggly Bond is trotted out before a North Korean general, you almost expect him to be carrying a volleyball with a face painted on it.
Usually, I can forgive lapses in logic if the execution of the story is strong enough to merit it, but this was not often the case in Die Another Day. Take, for example, the first encounter that Bond has with the central villain, Gustav Graves (played by Toby Stephens). Graves is practicing a bit of fencing in what appears to be a fancy private studio when Bond comes strolling in — we’re not even clear how either of them got here, as the last scene has Graves on his way to meet the Queen, with Bond standing in the audience as Graves drives away. Bond sidles up to the fencing instructor, played by Madonna, and after a mere exchange of names, she offers to introduce him to Graves. Why? Who knows?
Then, after the ensuing introduction, Graves and Bond engage in a friendly fencing match — okay, fine. But after Bond ups the ante with a controversial diamond from Graves’s company, Graves insists they raise the stakes, fence with real swords, and choose a winner based on who draws blood first. They do so, and everyone simply watches for about 5 minutes before Graves’s assistant steps in and stops the fight. This makes absolutely no sense. If I walked into a private gun range where Bill Gates was engaged in target practice, then challenged him to a duel at twenty paces with live ammunition, and nobody did anything to stop us, that MIGHT come close to what took place in the aforementioned scene.
If you can, with good conscience, chalk these up to subtle, innocent oversights, then consider what else Die Another Day offers. There’s the poorly constructed set pieces that look like they were built by high school drama teams in their garages; there’s Q branch’s incredible leaps in technology, like a seamless virtual reality battle simulator and the infamous invisible car; there’s Bond surfing on a tidal wave caused by a collapsing glacier; there’s Graves’s ice palace and electrified Nintendo Power Glove. I’m sorry, but when did they bring Joel Schumacher in to direct a Bond movie?
And what about the acting? Well, in all honesty, it wasn’t that bad, but there also isn’t a whole lot of opportunity for actors to emote in any of these Bond films. The “acting” here mostly consists of thinly veiled (emphasis on “thinly”) double entendres, lots of scowling, some screaming, and a few lines of expository dialogue. What’s sad is that, even with such a simple script, there is still room to screw it up, which Halle Berry (as Jinx) does on numerous occasions. Now, this might be personal bias, but I wouldn’t place Berry much higher than Denise Richards, and I never have, Oscar win notwithstanding. I have never thought she was a great actress, and she did nothing to convince me otherwise in this movie, so it was pretty much par for the course.
Overall, I thought this was an absolutely ludicrous and unnecessary addition to the Bond series. It felt like they hired the writers of the James Bond Jr. cartoon series to pen the script for Die Another Day because everyone else was too busy working on movies that actually required some logic. However — and this is a big “however” — if you’re able to turn your brain off completely, or if you’re the type of attention-deficit viewer this movie was obviously aimed at (and which I can be from time to time), it will certainly keep you occupied for a couple of hours. It’s silly, it’s inane, it’s excessive, and sometimes it’s even downright stupid, but when you break it down, it pretty much follows the same formula shared by many of the Bond films, so if you rent it, you know what you’re getting into anyway.
Favorite line: Zao: “Who sent you?” Jinx: “Yo momma.” This, ladies and gentlemen, is quality dialogue.
Favorite moment: There’s a touching scene at the end when Graves reveals his true identity to his father, the aforementioned North Korean general. The audience already knows this, and as the general enters the room, Graves is standing with his back turned to him. He turns to face his father, but all suspense is ruined when we see he’s wearing a ridiculous pair of goggles to match his Power Gloves. I actually laughed out loud.
The World Is Not Enough continues Bond’s signature antics with nothing particularly new to offer. I didn’t think it was as bad as some have said, but it probably wouldn’t make it into my top 10 either.
Twenty films in, and my affection for James Bond only grows. The first thing I want to say before I begin is that I absolutely love the James Bond theme music. As the gun barrel spiral zeroes in on Bond in the intro before The World Is Not Enough, we hear a slightly updated version of the music, and not only is it an iconic tune, but it’s just great music, period. It’s a testament to John Barry’s talent that the same music could be used for every Bond movie, with few changes, and still sound great; it never gets old. I can’t say the same for some of the theme songs that have accompanied a few of the films, but while I’m not a Sheryl Crow fan, I thought her song for Tomorow Never Dies actually wasn’t too bad, and Garbage’s song for The World Is Not Enough was even better.
It seems they’ve finally settled Brosnan comfortably into the role of 007, as evidenced by the first handful of scenes. The pre-credits opening again sets the standard impressively high for action throughout the movie, with its improbable boat chase and freefall from a hot air balloon. Once placed in physical therapy for his injuries, Bond also recalls his skeevier days by sleeping with his doctor in exchange for a clean bill of health, allowing him to return to active duty. Then we have the obligatory Q Branch scene, albeit a sad one, as Desmond Llewelyn seems to be bidding us farewell as Q. I really loved his character, but I understand his need to pass the torch, as he was starting to resemble a muppet. I’m happy with the choice of John Cleese as his successor, though his introduction signals the beginning of a goofier Q than we’ve come to know, and I’ll definitely miss Llewelyn.
I was pleased with the idea that Sophie Marceau’s character, Elektra King, was one of the two central villains. This is, more or less, what I was referring to a few movies ago when I speculated how neat it would be to incorporate a female nemesis. I suspected early on that she was playing Bond for a fool, but there was enough intrigue in the plot to make me question my decision once or twice. Her counterpart, Renard (played by Robert Carlyle, who I like) was sufficiently menacing, but I thought he was somewhat underused. Unfortunately, while Marceau and Renard are both great actors, in my opinion, to have both of them share bad-guy duties ensured that neither of them really shone as the true villain.
The action, as I’ve mentioned, was very good yet again, though I’m noticing a few things. First of all, there are key elements that a Bond movie must have to be a Bond movie. At first I identified these elements simply as motorized chases, but I’ve come to expand on that. The chase must be either in a car or in a boat, and in the rare case will incorporate a chopper. Secondly, there is the option of having a winter sports chase, typically on skis, that results in at least one enemy falling to his or her death (on a side note, all rich people are expert extreme-skiers). Lastly, the final battle must always be so long that it becomes laborious and unexciting, which was the case for me in TWINE.
I am enjoying watching the relationship between Bond and the new M develop. Judi Dench’s M is a very different M than that of Bernard Lee. While Lee was constantly shaking his finger at Bond and treating him in much the same way that Q did, like a father giving his son a noogie, Dench plays the role with a much more serious tone. In addition, I believe TWINE is the first Bond film to involve M in the plot significantly, and I think this helps to elevate her character beyond a simple paper pusher sending Bond out on all these crazy missions.
Having said all of this, there is nothing particularly notable about The World Is Not Enough. It’s fairly typical, as far as Bond films are concerned, and nothing new or particularly earth shattering is introduced. And, of course, it had its faults; there’s Bond throwing out puns and one-liners like there’s no tomorrow, and there’s the casting of Denise Richards – I didn’t have a problem with her claiming to be a nuclear scientist, but I did have a problem with her atrocious acting, and even this isn’t something I haven’t seen before. To be honest, I took very few notes while watching this movie, because there wasn’t a whole lot to remark on. Overall, I was underwhelmed, and while the production quality of the Bond films has increased dramatically over the years, I feel that they’ve lost something in the way of charm, and with only two more films to watch, I find myself more drawn to the earlier installments.
Favorite line: “He’s no atomic scientist.” — Denise Richards as Dr. Christmas Jones (what is this, a blaxploitation film?) when Bond is discovered impersonating a scientist. Oh the irony…
Favorite moment: It’s a sentimental one. I almost choked up when Bond turned to Q and said, “You’re not retiring any time soon… are you?” and Q descended out of view, saying, “Always have an escape plan.” You’re my boy, Q!
Brosnan returns as 007 in Tomorrow Never Dies and blows up a lot of stuff. At least, that’s what I remember the most.
I found Pierce Brosnan enjoyable as James Bond, and thought GoldenEye was pretty good. I made a comment yesterday about how I noticed every first film from each of the actors to portray 007 has been of a higher caliber, and it makes sense. If you’re going to introduce a new actor, you want to present him in as palatable a way as possible, with a tighter script, exciting stunts, impressive set pieces, and pretty women. I felt that Tomorrow Never Dies was a decent follow-up to GoldenEye, and I came to another realization of mine about the Bond films as a whole.
Specifically, I realized that what prevented me from enjoying some of the older Bond films — and what simultaneously entertained me — was the fact that the production quality of those films was a bit dated. If you’re going to make a grand spy thriller with larger-than-life scenarios and characters, you need to have the budget and the technology to make it look real. While I’m sure the special effects were convincing for audiences at the time, as someone who’s watching them now for the first time, I found that they were just passable, if not hilariously obvious. Now that the Bond films have entered the 1990s and beyond, I’m starting to see a more impressive quality in them, and it’s helping me to forgive some of the other faults.
The biggest bone I had to pick with Tomorrow Never Dies was the sinister premise at the heart of the story. A media mogul (Jonathan Pryce as Elliot Carver) is willing to risk nuclear war between two world superpowers, just so that he can obtain “exclusive broadcasting rights in China for the next 100 years?” Come on, now. That’s absurd, even by Bond standards. Sure, one could argue that this simply proves how insane Carver is, but that would be kind of a copout. I think it’s more accurate to say that after 18 movies based on the same formula, the idea people were just running out of ideas.
Having said that, I thought the action scenes were well done, even thrilling at some points, and I think that’s very important for any movie that thrives on its action. Bond is as destructive as ever, and the police never seem to be around when baddies are committing such atrocities as flying a helicopter, blades angled to the ground, through a crowded pedestrian thoroughfare. Similarly, when Bond essentially breaks into Carver’s headquarters and starts blasting away at the employees there, we conveniently forget that he’s the one trespassing, and every time a scientist or paper pusher hits the floor, we cheer. But to his credit, Bond really kicks some tail, and that’s really all we want to see anyway.
Refreshingly, the women are again more than mere eye candy or reasons for Bond to flex his romantic muscle (no pun intended). I suppose that’s arguable when it comes to Teri Hatcher’s Paris Carver, but her relationship with Bond is convincing enough for me. The more impressive one is Michelle Yeoh who, like Anya Amasova in The Spy Who Loved Me, holds her own just as well as Bond does. She’s got her own gadgets, her own hi-tech hideout, her own arsenal, and her own set of combat moves to rival him. She makes a nice partner for Bond, and it would be neat to see her as a recurring collaborator for him, much like Felix Leiter. I’m fairly certain that doesn’t happen, but I think it would have worked.
As for the villain, I like Jonathan Pryce but I didn’t like him in this role. It’s difficult for me to see him as a villain in the first place, but I think he suffered even more from the ridiculous premise. It’s hard for me to take him seriously when he’s menacingly wringing his hands about tricking England and China into destroying each other so he can… get ratings. His henchman, Stamper, is a beast, like a genetically manufactured superman. But he doesn’t do much aside from the ordinary henchman duties, so he’s not particularly fun to watch.
Overall, I thought Tomorrow Never Dies was okay. The best thing about the movie was its action sequences, which were all very spectacular and well constructed. The acting was by-the-books, as were the story and the villains, so there weren’t any surprises, bad or good. Brosnan is definitely less cheeky than Roger Moore, but he retains some of the charm of Connery, and just a smidge of Dalton’s ruthlessness. Back when this came out, I probably would have gotten excited about it, enjoyed it in the theater, and promptly forgotten about it soon after.
Favorite line: “Pump her for information.” — M says this to Bond about Paris Carver. Nuff said.
Favorite moment: Michelle Yeoh is captured by Stamper and brought before Carver. When she attempts to strike out at him, Carver does his best kung fu impersonation, which goes on for a couple seconds too long, and then spits out, “How pathetic.” Yes, indeed, how pathetic.
After two gritty films with Timothy Dalton as 007, Pierce Brosnan resurrects the series from a 6-year sleep with 1995’s GoldenEye. I liked the film, and I felt it was tightly produced. Read on for more.
The opening of GoldenEye sets a rather thrilling tone for the rest of the movie, and it continues the trend of incorporating mind-boggling stunts at the outset of each Bond film. The leap off the edge of the dam is exhilarating, and Bond’s subsequent break-in to the weapons facility is convincingly executed. Now that we’re officially in the mid-90s, the production quality is top notch and, unlike many of the previous entries, holds up relatively well compared to the action we see today.
Pierce Brosnan exudes the same kind of charisma that Roger Moore did, except that Brosnan is a little smoother and a little less stiff. All traces of the Dalton Bond seem to have disappeared here, and the first quarter of GoldenEye definitely felt like a return to the old Bond formulas. In fact, in the traditional chase scene wherein Bond meets Famke Janssen’s Xenia Onatopp, we see him driving his classic Aston Martin DB5. And with Onatopp, we also have a return to the suggestive female names.
Later on, we’re introduced to the new M, played by Judi Dench. Allusions to her “predecessor” are made in passing, and the villain, Janus (Sean Bean), a former MI6 agent himself, mentions the fact that the “new M” is a woman. I think this was an effective transition from one M to another, and since Judi Dench is so good in the role, it didn’t bother me at all.
In fact, the acting all around is pretty solid in GoldenEye. Onatopp is a little excessive at times, and Alan Cumming is surprisingly unconvincing as a super hacker (you’d think he’d fit perfectly in a role like that), but I really felt everyone else delivered. Even Izabella Scorupco, who plays Natalya Simonova, eventually proves herself, after the first half of the movie had me thinking she’d be another one of those disposable Bond girls we hardly remember. There’s also another new Moneypenny, and while she’s fine in her 5 minutes on screen, the attempts to recreate the sexual tension that existed between Lois Maxwell and Sean Connery or Roger Moore fell far short. They weren’t clever or witty so much as cold and even a little acerbic.
The sinister plot at the heart of the story is somewhat unimportant, but Sean Bean and Famke Janssen make a mean pair. Onatopp’s rather unique “skill” is… interesting, if a bit silly; I pictured her threatening to squeeze the life out of Professor X and screaming, “Call me… the Thighmaster!” And Sean Bean, well, he’s yet another one of those actors who just looks like a bad guy; I think it’s his beady, scheming eyes. He’s quickly offed (par for the course, really) in the first few minutes of the movie, but his name shows up second in the opening credits, so it’s clear he’ll come back into play at some point. And when he does — as the film’s central villain — he’s convincing enough to make his ridiculous motives sound genuine, unlike, say, Drax, who just looked like he spent a lot of time reading Marie Claire and snacking on popcorn chicken.
In general, the action was put together very well, I thought. There were moments of utter chaos that harkened back to the recklessness of Roger Moore’s Bond, particularly during the tank chase (side note: if you’ve ever wondered if you can drift in a tank, the answer is yes), but for some reason, I reveled in the mass destruction. The set pieces were impressive, and the fistfights were choreographed well, especially compared to the early 007 films. I think these were elements that really blossomed with the Dalton films, but here it’s quite apparent that a lot more money was spent on hardware (tanks, choppers, etc.) and special effects.
Overall, I thought GoldenEye was a tightly crafted Bond movie. I’ve obviously learned by now to suspend my disbelief to enjoy these, so I had few qualms with continuity or logic here. The story, while not the most creative, moved along at a pretty even pace, which kept me engaged for the most part. And seeing Brosnan operate as Bond really shed light on precisely how grim Dalton was in the role, which is not to say that was a bad thing at all. I think it’s fascinating to see what each actor brings to 007, and I look forward to what else Brosnan can offer.
Favorite line: “No, you’re supposed to die for me.” — Perhaps Janus had some encounters with Goldfinger during his MI6 days.
Favorite moment: Bond and Simonova are trapped inside a stolen chopper as missiles are about to destroy them. In a desperate effort to escape, Bond starts swinging his head furiously, attempting to press buttons with his forehead. Eventually he finds the Eject button, but the imagery was hilarious.
In his second and final Bond film, Timothy Dalton continues to portray a serious Bond. Find out whether or not I would miss him.
While there are some nutty elements in the opening scenes of Licence to Kill, it’s immediately clear that this would be a darker film. Timothy Dalton returns for his second and final turn as James Bond, surveying every situation through cold, narrow eyes, and the central villain, Franz Sanchez (played by Robert Davi, aka the guy who also tried to kill the Goonies) makes a menacing debut, executing his girlfriend’s lover-on-the-side and brutally whipping her for her transgression. So when the scene ends with Bond and Leiter parachuting down to Leiter’s wedding ceremony, the shift in tone threw me off.
But once that’s over and Maurice Binder’s trademark opening credits roll through, we dive right into the story, and more violence ensues. Temporarily captured for drug trafficking, Sanchez manages to escape by paying off a DEA agent and subsequently raids Leiter’s home, murders his wife, and feeds Leiter to sharks. When the latter took place, I found myself visibly disturbed, not because the scene was particularly gory, but because I was shocked at the possibility of Leiter being killed. He survives, luckily (and yes, unrealistically), and when Bond is denied the opportunity to go after Sanchez, he storms off to embark on what amounts to a revenge story.
This is a striking departure from the plots of previous Bond films, which mainly focused on sinister masterminds with ambitious plans for world domination. Licence to Kill, despite the international intrigue it eventually develops, is pretty much about Bond on a rampage to fulfill a personal vendetta — more evidence of the pure justice that Dalton’s Bond seems to embody. And to be honest, I thought that was kind of cool.
Also, I liked the idea of Bond presenting himself as an ally to Sanchez in order to get closer to him; I thought that this storyline played out realistically. When I wondered what would happen when Bond and Dario (a very young Benicio Del Toro), one of Sanchez’s henchmen, later ran into each other again, the results were also realistic. In fact, this movie had me in its clutches for most of its duration because I felt that the smattering of classic Bond camp was, for once, welcome relief from the gritty plot.
Robert Davi was excellent as Sanchez, I thought. He’s one of those actors who seems to play villains with a certain relish, like he enjoys being sadistic and manipulative. Though he doesn’t have a particularly imposing physical presence, he makes you believe he’s capable of evil things. He might not punch you if you insult him to his face, but he’ll smile and wait two weeks until you’re attending your daughter’s college graduation and send three thugs to gun down your entire extended family while you’re celebrating. Unfortunately, I didn’t think much of Talisa Soto as Sanchez’s woman, Lupe; Carey Lowell — while only slightly more convincing as an actress — at least made the bravado of Pam Bouvier fun to watch alongside Bond. And it’s nice to see Q, lovable old fart that he is, scuttling around and taking more of an active part in the story.
The story lost steam when Wayne Newton appeared as a cult leader, complete with a pyramid HQ set piece. In a film that seemed relatively grounded in reality and violence, the final scenes felt very out of place to me, and what could have been a great movie ended up being just good. After an hour and a half of plotting, double-crossing, and manipulation, the last thing I wanted to see was an 18-wheeler doing a wheelie and Wayne Newton fleeing from an exploding pyramid with a bag of money in his arms. It’s not that I don’t think Bond should be campy; I just don’t think it worked so well here.
Favorite line: “Looks like he came to a dead end.” — Bond says this about a double-crossing DEA agent who’s been skewered by a forklift.
Favorite moment: Late in the movie, Lupe bursts into the hotel room where Q and Pam are preparing to leave the Bahamas, and when she confesses to Pam that Bond spent the night with her, Q rolls his eyes and breaks up the inevitable catfight. I just like that Q is sort of a (grand)father figure to Bond. I can picture him feeding pigeons and giving butterscotch candies to little kids.
Today we come to the fourth actor to play 007, Timothy Dalton. I found his portrayal to be very different from those of his predecessors, and I liked him in the role.
With the Roger Moore era now at a close, I was eager to see what Timothy Dalton would do with 007. I believe my childhood perception of James Bond’s image came from Dalton’s portrayal of Bond, even though I never watched either of his films; The Living Daylights is the first Bond movie I personally recall opening in theaters, and his look was immediately recognizable to me. Plus, after Moore’s elderly antics in A View to a Kill, I was ready for a fresh face.
I knew, of course, that Dalton was the next Bond, so his first appearance on screen wasn’t the big dramatic reveal it could have been. What did surprise me was that, despite my expectations, the opening scenes of The Living Daylights were pretty standard fare. Another impressive skydiving sequence begins the festivities, and then it jumps right into the action. After the mysterious killer Bond is pursuing drives an exploding jeep off a ramp and into the ocean, we find Bond climbing aboard a yacht, where a scantily clad woman on a cell phone is telling someone how she wishes for a “real man.”
But as the movie went on, I began to see the stark difference between Dalton and Moore. In fact Dalton was very different from Connery, too. Moore was obviously a more jolly Bond, if smug, dropping one liners left and right and prancing about more so than strutting; Connery was a smooth-talker, arrogant and commanding, but honestly kind of a jerk. Dalton, however, is stoic, with an ideal face for scowling, and he seems less flippant, less coy. With Dalton’s Bond, what you see is what you get, and I liked that. Whatever it may imply about my own personality, I felt that, of all the Bonds so far, Dalton is the one I’d probably get along with the best. Because, you know, I regularly pal around with British spies.
With the end of the Moore Era also came the end of Lois Maxwell as Ms. Moneypenny, so I want to say something about her. I really liked her as Moneypenny. Throughout the series, I believed that her interactions with 007, as brief and sporadic as they were, reflected a unique chemistry that was seldom found in the Bond girls he went to bed with. In fact, very early on I determined that Moneypenny would have made the perfect wife for Bond, if he ever settled down. Of course, Tracy Di Vicenzo changed all that, and I actually sympathized with the melancholy Moneypenny at their wedding. But Lois Maxwell has been replaced by Caroline Bliss, and she doesn’t quite achieve the same rapport with Bond. I shall reserve final judgment on her until I see more of her.
While Dalton himself was a more serious, heart-on-his-sleeve 007, The Living Daylights wasn’t without its measure of camp. The chase sequence in his new Aston Martin (the most beautiful Bond car since his DB5, in my opinion) includes an enemy car getting sliced in half by a laser, as well as Bond dragging a cabin across a frozen lake before gunning it and bursting through its doors. The end of that scene, to top it off, has Bond and his female companion, Maryam D’Abo’s Kara Milovy, escaping down a snowy slope on a cello case. But there are only a few such scenes, and Dalton never winks at the audience, so to speak, like Moore did; his demeanor seems to say, “I know this looks ridiculous, but I have a mission to complete!”
Overall, I really enjoyed The Living Daylights. Perhaps some of you were right in guessing that after 7 Moore films, I’d find Dalton to be refreshingly somber. But aside from his personality, I also felt that Dalton’s Bond acted more like a spy here, squeezing information out of Kara Milovy and utilizing misdirection as effectively as his exploding key fob. You could also sense palpable frustration and anger at times, which made Bond a bit less godlike and helped ground the film. Overall, I would say I’d rank this in the upper tier of Bond films so far, and I’m looking forward to Licence to Kill.
Favorite Line: “Stuff my orders!… Tell M what you want. If he fires me, I’ll thank him for it.” — Bond says this to his partner when he’s questioned about deliberately missing a sniper shot at Kara Milovy. This happens near the beginning of the movie, and it was the first indication to me that Dalton would be a different kind of Bond.
Favorite scene: Towards the end, as Bond is attempting to steer a rogue plane down a runway, Kara comes running up from behind and hugs him, grasping his head and muffling his face. Bond is visibly annoyed and you can hear him say “Kara!” in a tone that implies “Get the hell off of me! Can’t you see I’m trying to fly a plane here?”
After showing signs of aging in previous films, Roger Moore finally takes his last turn at playing Bond. Read on to see how much it affected my viewing.
I don’t know if Roger Moore knew this was going to be his last Bond film or not, but it doesn’t seem as if he cared, because there’s nothing particularly outstanding or notable about A View to a Kill. At the same time, strangely enough, I actually didn’t think this installment was quite as unwatchable as I was made to believe. Maybe my judgment was clouded by just a little bit of wine from an election night get-together, or maybe my expectations were so low that I could only be pleasantly surprised. Yes, this movie was laughably bad, but for some reason, I really didn’t mind. Go figure.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Roger Moore is officially eligible for the senior discount at Denny’s. You can see the loose skin dangling from his neck like a Christmas turkey, and when a stunt double isn’t doing the dirty work for him, he looks a little… tired. Even his libido seems to be on the downswing; he flirts with girls, sure, but we no longer see him forcibly storming his way into their pants. And let’s face it, at his age, that would just be creepy.
Another sour point I’ll mention is the choice of women in the film. Stacey Sutton (played by Tanya Roberts), who does have the most incredible eyes, is absolutely horrendous, on par with Rosie Carver in Live and Let Die. May Day (Grace Jones) is fine as a henchwoman of few words, blessed with superhuman strength — I’m willing to accept that. But she flips a sudden 180 very late in the movie (arguably warranted), and don’t even get me started on the love scenes. When central villain Max Zorin (Christopher Walken) has May Day pinned to the floor in a sparring match and cranes his neck in for a sloppy kiss, it’s like watching Ellen DeGeneres make out with Wesley Snipes.
I did like Walken as Zorin, though, and I’m not just saying that because it’s hip to like Walken. His idiosyncrasies make for perfect villain material, and when Bond calls him psychotic, you almost believe it more, specifically because it’s Christopher Walken — of course he’s crazy. As a matter of fact, if someone told me that he was the product of genetic experimentation gone wrong, like Zorin, the world might actually make more sense. He doesn’t quite play up to his potential, but he was believable, I thought.
As for the campy elements, there were plenty of over-the-top scenes. There’s 007 snowboarding down a mountain to the soundtrack of “California Girls;” driving literally half a car down a motorway during a chase; engaging in a video game-style horse race, complete with moving obstacles and roughhousing opponents at his side. And what in the name of all that is holy was the fire truck scene all about? That was downright absurd, from start to finish.
Now, after all this, you’d expect me to say that I hated this movie, right? Well, I can’t justify it — I can’t even really explain it — but at the end of the day, I was actually sort of entertained. Stupidity abounds in A View to a Kill, subplots disappear without a trace, logic and physics are tested to the extreme, performances are dubious, and there’s little action to get excited about. I can’t even say that these loony elements are what endeared the film to me, because that wouldn’t be entirely true. For whatever reason, however, the two hours just flew by for me. Next comes a new Bond, which is exciting, so it’s with a rather numb heart that I bid farewell to the Roger Moore era.
Favorite line: This is Zorin finishing a line spoken by May Day — “What a view…” “…to a kill!” I still don’t know what that means, but bonus points for using the film’s title in the dialogue.
Favorite moment: It probably has to be the make out scene between Christopher Walken and Grace Jones, because I couldn’t help wondering what their spawn would be like… Quite possibly the greatest world leader history has known. Either that, or the most eccentric UFC champion ever. Hell, maybe both.
Never Say Never Again is the second and last “unofficial” Bond film I’ll be watching, and I’m rather thankful for that. It was everything I expected it to be, and less.
After 13 films establishing distinct characters, it was immediately off-putting to me to see different actors portray M, Q, and even Ms. Moneypenny in Never Say Never Again. It was odd enough to see Blofeld portrayed by three different actors in three consecutive “official” Bond films, so you can imagine how I felt when essentially everyone was replaced by unfamiliar faces. I couldn’t help but look upon the establishing scenes of the movie with a little bit of disdain, and my initial thoughts were that it felt like a pretender to the franchise, which, of course, it basically is. On top of all this, my opinion of the movie was not helped by the fact that I found myself constantly comparing it to Thunderball.
Next, while I had been warned about Connery showing his age here, I wasn’t expecting the movie to address this issue head-on, alluding to Bond having recently spent more time “teaching, not doing” and sending him off to a wellness clinic. But while he certainly looks much older, he still looked fitter than Roger Moore has appeared, and he handled his action scenes pretty effectively. So that wasn’t as much of an issue as I expected it to be.
I also really enjoyed the performance of Klaus Maria Brandauer as Largo. His quirky mannerisms, his sporadic pauses in speech, the tangible sourness lurking beneath his charm and sophisticated accent… I bought it, and I thought he was actually one of the better Bond villains, one that had a little more charisma and personality than, say, Drax, Stromberg, or even the original Largo. Largo’s hench(wo)man, however, I didn’t really like. Barbara Carrera eats up her role as Fatima Bush, but I didn’t find her threatening, and I felt the effort to portray her as a steamy, psychotic vixen was overwrought. I mean, her undoing came as a direct result of her need to be acknowledged by 007 as the greatest lover he ever had, and that’s just asinine. Interestingly enough, I found out later that she received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance, so that just goes to show what I know, right?
This brings me to my bottom line: there were actually some enjoyable elements in Never Say Never Again, but there were far more things I took issue with than not. Kim Basinger, 1980s sexpot that she was, is completely forgettable as Bond girl Domino. The video game showdown, while it may have been novel at the time, looks silly now. Several points were either glossed over or left unexplained, like the shark-magnet device (how did that work, exactly?) and the speedy discovery and disarming of the warhead “under” Washington D.C. (and how’d he get it “under” there in the first place?).
All things considered, I’ll take Thunderball over this any day. I am going to go ahead and say that this was the “Bond film” I enjoyed the least so far, and I’m glad it’s not officially included as part of the franchise. However, I’m also willing to concede that my opinion of it might have been different if it was the first Bond film I ever saw, or if I hadn’t seen Thunderball first. It simply didn’t feel like a Bond film without the standard intro, without the iconic theme music, without the regular cast, and that inevitably caused me to dismiss it early on.
Favorite line: “I hope we’re gonna have some gratuitous sex and violence.” — Q to Bond when Bond is reinstated for duty.
Favorite moment: Bond poses as a masseur at a spa and basically fondles Domino all over as he probes her (no pun intended) for information. When the real masseuse appears and Domino figures out that the old man sliding his hands all over her backside was a fraud, she simply smiles and shrugs it off.