Continuing from where I left off last time, I have since watched all the Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig films in the James Bond series. Dalton is generally reviled, Brosnan is considered to be average, and Daniel Craig is loved almost as much as Connery. Dalton wasn’t the worst Bond ever, that distinction belongs to George Lazenby. However, Dalton just didn’t have the right amount of charisma to play the famous British spy. Bond is supposed to have fun at what he does, and Dalton just sort of played it like a regular action hero. Brosnan, I think, is an excellent Bond. Unfortunately, his tenure was plagued by some of the worst scripts and supporting cast in Bond movie history. Given the right material, though, he really excelled. Craig, the current Bond, is quite good, albeit sort of rough around the edges. He is playing Bond before he became the suave super spy of Connery and Moore’s days. So, with a little luck, Craig will slowly adopt those features as he progresses from film to film.
Ranking the remaining films in order from best to worst, would go something like this:
- Casino Royale
- Tomorrow Never Dies
- Quantum of Solace
- The Living Daylights
- Die Another Day
- Licence to Kill
- The World is Not Enough
If you’re interested in why I ordered them the way I did (and how could you not be?), read on.
Casino Royale – After years of middling and shitty Bond movies, it was finally time to have another awesome one. Adapting Ian Fleming’s first novel provided a nice way to examine the origins of the character. Unfortunately, there are no more Fleming novels left to adapt, because I seriously wonder how good the series can be without them. Screenwriters, left to their own devices, seem to have no idea how to write a good and original Bond adventure these days. Anyway, this movie rocks. Daniel Craig is incredible as Bond in his first outing as a double-o agent. He brings all the right amount of charm, physicality, vulnerability, and emotion to the role. From the beginning, this movie is everything you want in a Bond film. It has beautiful women, fun action sequences, a cool villain, and moves at a good pace. I really have no complaints about it whatsoever. It really stands as a prime example of what it takes to make a good Bond movie. We don’t need over the top stuff like what happened at the end of Die Another Day. Keeping Bond a little more grounded in reality makes this film series work well. This is one you should definitely add to your film library, Bond aficionado or not.
Goldeneye – This is without a doubt Brosnan’s best film as Bond. It is the first to take place after the end of the Cold War, and they really used this theme in the plot. You get a sense of how the world reacted to the end of the great conflict, including the reorganization of Russia’s military, and the growth of the criminal world. The tone of the film is cold, and palpable in almost every scene of the movie. After Dalton’s ho-hum take on the role, Brosnan infused new life into it. He has enough humor and sophistication to make a nice transition from Roger Moore. To be honest, this is almost a flawless Bond film until the end. It has exciting action sequences, including the incredible tank chase, good acting, a memorable villains, an interesting plot, and is all around a lot of fun. There are really only three things I didn’t like about this film. First, the soundtrack is awful. It is by far the worst soundtrack in any Bond film. It hardly sounds like Bond music, but worse than that it would be bad in any movie. Second, things really fall apart when Bond arrives in Cuba near the end. The pitch-perfect hardened, cold tone is replaced by campy, zany, over-the-top ridiculousness. Now, the campy stuff doesn’t bother me if the movie is campy throughout (e.g. Moonraker), but the campiness here ruined the great atmosphere previously set up. Third, Bond doesn’t use the car for anything other than a quick drive. It is the most blatent piece of advertising in Bond film history. Despite these shortcomings, Goldeneye is an excellent entry into the Bond canon.
Tomorrow Never Dies – Brosnan’s second outing as Bond doesn’t quite live up to the previous movie, but is still solidly entertaining. Cold War themes are left behind, and the tried-and-true megalonmaniac vs. Bond plot is used again. More so than the last film, plot is traded away in favor of action sequences. Fortunately, the scenes are varied, and don’t overstay their welcome. This also contains what is definitely my favorite car chase in all of the Bond films. There’s just something about using a remote-controlled BMW with rocket launchers that I find to be particularly awesome. The pre-titles sequence was also quite good, and one of my favorites. Despite these things, there isn’t anything really unique in this movie to set it apart from the others. I think that is why it is good, but not great. Everything just seems sort of generic, and been-there, done-that. However, it still has a lot of merits, and is worth checking out.
Quantum of Solace – Craig’s second turn as Bond was sort of let down from the previous height of Casino Royale. Of course, everyone expected it to not live up to the greatness of the prior film, but it still had some level of quality to live up to. And it sort of does, and sort of doesn’t. The biggest problem with this movie is the directing. The opening car chase is so poorly filmed it almost gave me a seizure. The quick-cut action editing (which I fucking hate) that became popularized with the Jason Bourne films is done to the extreme here. So much so, that it is impossible to know what is going on half the time. The next problem is that there are too many action scenes. This movie has the most action of any Bond movie, with a sequence every 10 minutes or so. There isn’t any time to advance the plot or characters, because the characters run from one fight to another. The movie could have been greatly improved by the omission of the gun battle from the opera house scene, and the excision of the idiotic airplane chase. The writers/director should have known better. The final problem with this movie is that it just doesn’t feel like a Bond movie. It is a great action movie, but it isn’t a great Bond movie. It just seems sort of generic; the main character could have been anyone. One thing I did like a lot was at the end Bond learns a bit of restraint. This leads me to believe that over the course of the next few films, Craig will transform Bond into the super-cool/sauve secret agent we fell in love with. While I think this movie may actually be better than Tomorrow Never Dies, it isn’t a better Bond movie.
The Living Daylights – This is the first of Timothy Dalton’s two Bond movies. Originally, this was intended to star Pierce Brosnan, but he couldn’t star in it due to contractual obligations from his TV show Remington Steele. Watching it, though, you can tell it should have been a Brosnan movie. It has Bond being sophisticated, using humor, and contains the usual amount of violence. Dalton does an all right job as Bond. He isn’t my favorite, but at least he is better than George Lazenby. He is definitely rougher around the edges, and not believable in the scenes where he acts suave, but after a while he convinced me he was decent as Agent 007. This features more Cold War tensions, and follows Bond to an eventual alliance with Afghani freedom fighters taking on the Soviets. It’s a little weird watching Bond help out the group that would eventually become our enemies today, so it’s kind of hard to root for them. The other problem is that this part of the movie goes on for way too long, and led me to become quite bored. Unfortunately, I don’t have much else to say about this film. There are some good moments, but overall it is unmemorable. Not bad, but not good. Definitely skippable.
Die Another Day – Brosnan’s final outing as Bond is certainly his most frustrating. Unlike the horrible The World is Not Enough, this one started out with a lot of potential, but just squandered it. In fact, this Bond movie is notable because it starts out with a lot of promise, but falls far and hard. Other Bond movies have done that, but not to the degree this one did. Bond goes rogue, and it is really refreshing to see him operating alone, not under the cover of MI6. Unfortunately, the writers didn’t have the balls or imagination to see this through to the end. Bond eventually gets reinstated and then the remainder of the film is business as usual. While it starts out good, through attrition, those positive features are slowly wittled away until nothing but shit remains. Here are some examples: the ridiculous sword fight, Madonna’s acting, Halle Berry’s acting, the idiotic and pointless virtual reality scenes, the hilariously bad electricity attack, the invisible car, and the complete inability of the director/writers/producers/actors to realize that some things are a bad idea. So what’s good about this movie? Well, the car chase was entertaining, and things were entertaining until the sword fight scene, which is when things started dropping off. Mostly, I was pissed off about how bad Halle Berry’s character was, how stupid her one-liners were, and how she is such a terrible actress in this movie. Argh! Skip this one, and just stick with Brosnan’s first two movies.
Licence to Kill – This was the second of Dalton’s two Bond movies, and it is an obvious attempt to cash in on the recent success of Miami Vice. Bond takes on a drug cartel, trying to get revenge after they maimed his friend Felix Leiter. There were a few positives about this movie, for example, Q had an expanded role, and the tanker chase at the end was good. Unfortunately, there were way more negatives. Dalton just isn’t that entertaining to watch, the script is boring, and — I don’t know, it just sucks. I can’t really put a finger on why this movie is bad, it just is. There is something intangibly awful about it. It should definitely be skipped by everyone but the most hardcore Bond fans.
The World is Not Enough – Ugh. This is without a doubt the worst Bond film of all time. It is doubtful that they could intentionally make one worse. There is so much wrong with this huge piece of shit, I don’t even know where to begin. First, they ripped off the plot from Goldfinger, but replaced gold with oil. Second, they had the best idea for a Bond villain ever (he feels no pain whatsoever), and totally fucking wasted it by making him a big sensitive pussy with feelings. Nobody wants a sensitive villain in any movie let alone a James Bond one. We want a guy who would blow up the planet without a second thought, not someone thoughtful and introspective. Jesus fucking Christ, what were they thinking?! Third, Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist… right. She actually beats out Halle Berry for the worst acting of any Bond girl ever. Fourth, there isn’t much action, and the film is actually quite boring. Fifth, the writing is so fucking hackneyed it’s ridiculous. Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, the geniuses behind this film as well as Die Another Day, are the reason why this movie is a huge piece of shit. They clearly do not understand what a James Bond movie should be like. They think you need to have a bunch of hokey shit, and a general sense of awfulness. They mock the James Bond series by having it become a parody of itself. They have something amazing and unbelievable happen, there’s a reference to an older Bond film, and suddenly they’re winking at the audience, trying to convince them that this is good. But it’s not good, it’s awful. For future Bond films they need to take the character seriously, and not just throw in a bunch of over the top shit, and hope it works. And I don’t care that they helped write Casino Royale, I’m sure all the good stuff came from Ian Fleming’s source material, and the other screenwriter Paul Haggis. Those guys are too inept to write anything original that is good. Fuck them.
- Casino Royale – awesome
- Goldeneye – awesome
- Tomorrow Never Dies – good
- Quantum of Solace – average
- The Living Daylights – average
- Die Another Day – shitty
- Licence to Kill – shitty
- The World is Not Enough – shitty