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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

James Bond: Series Thoughts Leading Up To Skyfall




Being that it is the 50th anniversary and having revisited the Bond franchise in the past month, in anticipation for the latest James Bond film, Skyfall, I decided to put together a post that recaps my thoughts about what the series has had to offer.  I have listed my favorite films, my least favorites, as well as a series of other odds and end about the franchise as a whole.  It is basically a best of reel that is tailored to my own personal opinions regarding the franchise, so take that as you will.  Everyone of course has their own thoughts on which Bond is best and which is the best film, but this is where I stand.  As a side note, to really learn about Bond films, check out the series of retrospective essays written by Brandon Peters over at Mendelson’s Memos HERE.  Also, if you have some time, check out the series of commentaries that I put out on Out Now with Aaron and Abe for From Russia with Love, Moonraker, GoldenEye, and Quantum of Solace, which feature Scott Mendelson, Brandon Peters and myself, which are great fun for Bond and film fans to enjoy.  Now, onto Bond, James Bond.


Best

1. Goldfinger – I watched this Bond film again and again and I never tire of it.  It just remains a fun watch, with all sorts of classic elements to make it shine.


2. The Spy Who Loved Me – This is the Bond film that has everything that creates a perfect template for what a Bond film should be.  Add to that the fact that it is a lot of fun and that makes The Spy Who Loved Me a complete success and a favorite.


3. From Russia With Love – Another clear Bond classic and not brought up enough as one of the best first sequels of all time.  This is just a great espionage thriller, with Connery doing great, as he deals with the threat of SPECTRE and Red Grant coming after him, while on his mission.


4. GoldenEye – An incredibly fun Bond film that finds Pierce Brosnan in the role of Bond and doing his best to make it work.  The story is grounded in a plausible enough level of reality and the film does a great job of establishing its villains and female characters, while also having fantastic action throughout.


5. Casino Royale – Martin Campbell came back to the Bond franchise to reboot the series (which he had arguably already done with Goldeneye) and the world was better for it.  Casino Royale has amazing action, an involving story, and an assortment of other great elements to make it a fantastic action film with developed characters to make it resonate even more.


Honorable Mention goes to Dr. No, as it is the film that started it all and contains Sean Connery’s best performance as James Bond.

Worst:


Octopussy – It’s not just the tile that’s bad, no, in this one, Bond disguises himself as a clown.

A View to a Kill – Roger Moore was simply too old at this point.

Diamonds Are Forever – This film was just too silly for everyone involved, including Connery.

Die Another Day – The first half is quite good, the second half nose dives.

Quantum of Solace – If I didn’t have to watch any of these Bond films again, I would not feel bad about it, Quantum just made me upset as it was a big disappointment after Casino Royale.

Underrated:


Moonraker – I continue to think that people who rank Moonraker as one of the worst Bond films have either not seen it or have not seen the ones I have listed as the worst.  Maybe not the greatest entry, but it is a fun Bond adventure that is actually much darker than people may assume, before it has a final twenty minutes that take place in space.

The World is Not Enough – If people want to focus on Denise Richards as Dr. Christmas Jones, that’s all well and good, but the fact is – she’s not really in this movie that much.  What is in this movie is a solid Bond story (which has many of the same plot beats as The Dark Knight Rises), some great action, and plenty of Bond-style fun.  Plus, M gets a good amount to do as well.


We Don’t Speak of:


Never Say Never Again – except when asked to watch this movie.

Best Bond:
 
Sean Connery – He is the man that brought James Bond to life and that will never change.  Though I'm into what Roger Moore brought in his best films and instantly see him as ‘Bond’ and not Roger Moore, as opposed to Connery, who I just see as ‘Sean Connery’. I am holding off Daniel Craig until I see how Skyfall shows him as Bond and not the guy who became Bond. 

Worst Bond:


Hey George Lazenby, how are you doing?  I would happy to praise On Her Majesty's Secret Service more if I didn't find Lazenby to be such a poor choice as Bond in what could have been one of the best James Bond films ever.

Best Bond Girls:

Eva Green as Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale and Diana Rigg as Tracy di Vicenzo from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service are both quite good, creating fully realized characters in their respective pictures.  I also really enjoy Barbara Bach as Anya Amasova in The Spy who Loved Me, as well as  Famke Jansen and Izabella Scorupco as Xenia Onatopp and Natalya Siminova from GoldenEye, who work for me quite well too.



Worst Bond Girls:


Gloria Henrdy as Rosie Carver in Live and Let Die

Britt Ekland as Holy Goodnight in The Man with the Golden Gun

and of course the incomparable Halle Berry as Jinx in Die Another Day.

Best Bond Villain:


Ernest Blofeld is a classic villain and of course the inspiration for Dr. Evil, but Gert Frobe as Auric Goldfinger from Goldfinger is a great presence and has a better laser beam. Mads Mikkelsen as La Chiffre in Casino Royale works quite well too, as he has a great amount of added conflict to his character, making him an interesting foe. Just props go to Robert Davi as Franz Sanchez in License to Kill as well, because he was pretty bad ass and a brutal villain.

Worst Bond Villains:

The forgettable ones.  At least I know who Gustav Graves is, the middle of the road Bond films like For Your Eyes Only or The Living Daylights do not give me much to care about on the side of the antagonist.  Also Diamonds Are Forever's version of Blofeld is terrible.

Best Henchmen:
 



Richard Kiel as Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker is awesome and scarier than people think. Robert Shaw’s work as Red Grant in From Russia With Love also presents one of the best conflicts that Bond has ever had to face.

Worst Henchmen:


“I Am Mr. Kil” – Mr. Kil from Die Another Day, played by David Decio.

Knick Knack from The Man with the Golden Gun, played by Hervé Villechaize.

Best Bond Car:


C’mon, Goldfinger of course.  Bond’s tricked-out Aston Martin DB5 is classic.

Best Gadget:


Bond had a jetpack in Thunderball.  That’s all that needs to be said about that.

Best Bond Song:

 
I love the standards:

“Nobody Does It Better” performed by Carly Simon in The Spy Who Loved Me

“Live and Let Die” performed by Paul McCartney in Live and Let Die

“Goldfinger” performed by Shirley Bassey in Goldfinger

AND – “Tomorrow Never Dies” performed by Sheryl Crow in Tomorrow Never Dies


Forbidden Fruit:


Ms. Moneypenny


Unsung Hero of the Franchise:


Desmond Llewellyn, particularly his scenes with Pierce Brosnan.




Aaron is a writer/reviewer for WhySoBlu.com.  Follow him on Twitter @AaronsPS3.
He also co-hosts a podcast,
Out Now with Aaron and Abe, available via iTunes or at HHWLOD.com.

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