Skyfall

James Bond in Skyfall

Eon Productions

With 2006’s Casino Royale, the Bond continuity rebooted. We met a young Bond who had never killed before getting his “00” status. In Quantum of Solace, Bond has to learn how to become cool and dispassionate about his work, with Judi Dench’s M telling him to figure it out or leave.

And now we have Skyfall. And we have James Bond becoming the James Bond we know from five previous actors (six if you count David Niven. Most people don’t.) The film opens with Bond and an agent named Eve (whom we learn later is a character we haven’t seen in a while) in Turkey trying to get back hard drive with a list of NATO agents. Bond is shot in the melee and disappears.

While Bond is off recovering with the help of booze and pills – You didn’t think Craig’s Bond was invincible, did you? – M comes under fire from Parliament, getting called on the carpet by Gareth Mallory (Ralph Feines). Then she comes under fire literally by terrorists, who attack MI6 headquarters. It’s when M is against the ropes that Bond returns. He clearly sees that M, not MI6, is the target. Bond is off to China where the trail leads to an abandoned city and a former MI6 agent named Silva. Silva has mommy issues, and by mommy, he means M. After a brief struggle, Bond apprehends Silva, but Silva escapes, having anticipated Q branch’s methods of cracking his computer systems. When Silva penetrates the House of Commons, Bond, along with Mallory, Eve, and Bill Tanner (M’s chief of staff), whisk M out. Bond goes underground, taking M to his family’s estate in Scotland for a final showdown. Q and Tanner lay a trail of breadcrumbs for Silva to find. The final showdown occurs on the Scottish moors, but in the end M is finished. The movie ends with with a sequence we are used to seeing at the beginning of the older Bond films. It turns out Eve’s last name is Moneypenny, and Mallory, the new M? His office looks very, very familiar, as in Bernard Lee’s office in Dr. No.

Craig’s Bond is a bit different in Skyfall. He’s gone from cocky and arrogant in Casino Royale to angry and vengeful in Quantum of Solace. In the beginning, we see flashes of Sean Connery’s smooth Bond. In one scene, he swings onto a moving train, flailing for dear life, then straightening his lapels and casually strolling down the aisle as soon as he has his footing. The quips aren’t nearly as cutesy as some of the more self-indulgent Bond moments in the past (I’m looking at you, Roger Moore!), but they’re there. When Silva sneers that Q branch doesn’t do gadgets anymore, Bond says, when a half dozen British Army helicopters suddenly appear, “Latest thing from Q branch. It’s called ‘radio.'”

Speaking of Silva, he’s probably one of the best Bond villains in years. Silva has a spiritual ancestor in Sean Bean’s Alec Trevelyan, a bitter ex-MI6 agent with a grudge. But whereas Trevelyan was basically James Bond going off the rails, Javier Bardem (Anton Chigur from No Country for Old Men) plays a man with sympathy for Bond, explaining that Bond is really just one betrayal away from becoming just like Silva. After all, Silva was M’s favorite. Bardem plays Silva as a sort of Perez Hilton with a homicidal streak. He is single-minded in his quest to kill M.

Bond and Eve have a playful, flirtatious relationship. In the field, she holds her own with Bond, at one point saving his fat from the fryer (and a Komodo dragon.) Naomie Harris is perfect in her performance as Bond’s MI6 foil, and it adds a new dimension to the character of Moneypenny that we’ll see going forward. The other returning character is Q. Instead of a middle-aged-to-elderly man in previous incarnations, Ben Wishaw portrays a Q who looks like he graduated with Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy (oddly appropriate, since Voldemorte is M’s boss, and later, the new M.) The change is appropriate, though, as Q needs to be a hacker, more at home at Google than at the IBM of old. Bond is aghast that “you still have spots!”

Casino Royale took Bond into unfamiliar territory. By the end of Skyfall, all the elements from the original continuity are in place: the hard-bitten veteran as M, Q improvising technology on the fly, Moneypenny flirtatiously keeping Bond in check. With Skyfall, a trilogy is complete. James Bond has returned.

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James Bond Returns

Daniel Craig as James Bond

Source: Eon Productions

It’s been too long since Quantum of Solace, the follow up to the James Bond reboot Casino Royale. The last time the series took this much time off, Timothy Dalton waited as long as he could before quitting the series, handing off to Pierce Brosnan.

Fortunately, Daniel Craig returns as the dark, dangerous Bond created in the 2006 restart of the series. In both Casino and Quantum, we see the beginning of Bond, a man who has never killed before, but gets disturbingly good at it. Judi Dench’s M serves an entirely different purpose from the M portrayed by her (and Robert Brown and Bernard Lee as that M’s predecessors) in the original continuity. This M is a maternal force, shaping Bond into the blunt instrument Britain needs in this strange new century. This M is a Cold War veteran who misses the certainty of not only knowing her adversaries but even respecting them. Bond is almost unstable in these first two movies, played to cold perfection by Craig. This new Bond is rebellious, headstrong, and much more prone to mistakes. He is not the coolly suave Bond of Sean Connery and George Lazenby, the droll, unflappable Bond of Roger Moore, or the world-weary, stressed-out killer of Dalton and Brosnan.

This is Bond before Doctor No, debuted fifty years ago this week. As details of and trailers for Skyfall come to light, it’s clear the new movie is where Sean Connery’s Bond finally became the man sent to Jamaica to find out who killed Strangways. MI6 is under attack. Instead of M fretting Bond might do something stupid like start a nuclear war between Britain and Canada, M is under attack from a former MI6 spy. This time, Bond is cool instead of arrogant. His partner in crime is a small, lithe field agent who can hold her own with Bond named Eve Moneypenny. That’s right. Moneypenny is back. So is Q, but instead of the man who was old since Doctor No premiered in 1962, this Q, who seems to be based on Jeffrey Deaver’s Q from Carte Blanche, looks more like he graduated Hogwarz with Harry and Draco (and was probably smarter than both of them put together.) Ralph Fiennes plays a senior intelligence official, who, if the plotline I’ve read is correct, suggests that Bond will now have a new M to deal with, one more in line with Bernard Lee’s original character.

I can’t wait to see it. I have Saturday off from school this week. I’m treating myself. No homework. No day job work. Just Bond. James Bond.

Thursday Book Reviews – 10/4/11: Carte Blanche, Pistol Poets, The Path to Self Publishing Success

CARTE BLANCHE

By Jeffrey Deaver

Following EON Productions’ reboot of James Bond with Casino Royale, Ian Fleming’s estate does the same in print with Carte Blanche, the first original Bond novel since Sebastian Faulks Devil May Care. To succeed Faulks and longtime series author Raymond Benson, they recruited Jeffrey Deaver, no slouch as a thriller writer, to reimagine Bond as a present day agent. The Bentley Continental is still present, as is the curmudgeonly M (Admiral Miles Messervy of the original novels and movies, not the Judi Dench-based character, though she certainly would fit in here), Moneypenny, the CIA’s Felix Leiter, and Q. Only his name is not Q. He is an Indian technical wiz named Sanu Hirani.

That’s not the only change. MI6 is not front and center. Bond works for a super-secret, questionably authorized organization with the bland name Overseas Development Group. Why? Well, you can’t be a secret agent in MI6 these days. Hell, the headquarters showed up in the last four James Bond movies.

In a nutshell, our new Bond, mid-30’s and a veteran of Afghanistan, is assigned by M to find out what garbage mogul Severn Hydt is up to. Hydt is one of the strangest Bond villains ever, a man with long fingernails and an unhealthy, almost sexual obsession with death and decay. It’s this fetish that throws Bond and Felix Leiter (pre-shark bite, we assume) onto the wrong trail while trying to stop what’s been labeled “Incident 20.”

The women in Carte Blanche are certainly worthy of a Fleming novel, from Ophelia “Philly” Maidenstone, Bond’s analyst coworker in the ODG, to tough-as-nails South African cop Bheka Jordan to the clearly Flemingesque Felicity Willing. But the regular characters seem almost cursory. M has one or two good scenes. Moneypenny is talked about more than portrayed, and Mary Goodnight is so generic I wondered why Deaver included her.

It’s a fun novel about a guy named James Bond, and it’s clearly better than anything John Gardner foisted upon us in the 1980’s, but it lacks some of the edge that the Fleming Bonds and even Faulks’ retro effort had. But since Deaver isn’t trying to force-fit Daniel Craig into a storyline that originally predated Sean Connery, it wouldn’t hurt to see what he does next. Read this more for Deaver than for Bond.

PISTOL POETS

By Victor Gischler

Full disclosure: I never took up golf as a favor to Vic so he would never lose a golf game to me. (Actually, the few times I’d played, he would have nothing to worry about.)

This is Gischler’s second novel and one from his Plots With Guns days. Visiting professor Jay Morgan starts his day off badly. His latest one-night stand has OD’d in his bed. Meanwhile, St. Louis drug lieutenant Harold Jenks assumes the identity of a grad student after a mugging goes bad. What do these two things have to do with each other? Well, Jenks and Morgan run afoul – separately – of the college’s cross-dressing dean, Fumbee, OK’s local drug dealer, and a private detective who is as depraved as he is inept. On the upside, an aspiring novelist thinks sleeping with Morgan is the perfect way to start her career. Make sense?

Of course not! It’s a Gischler novel. Chaos reigns, and you spend about 340 pages trying to figure out which character is the punchline to this joke. (Spoiler alert: All of them.) A worthy successor to Gun Monkeys.

THE PATH TO SELF PUBLISHING SUCCESS

Michael R. Hicks

In this modern era of ebooks and independent writers, you won’t be able to swing a dead cat without hitting someone who wants to sell you a book on how to sell a gazillion copies. I’ve read two in recent weeks, one of which had lots of exclamation points!!!!

Michael Hicks, a science fiction writer going to the indie route, did not abuse the exclamation points. And before I spent an admittedly small amount, I actually checked his Amazon rank for his In Her Name series. After all, how many books on getting published, selling a gazillion books, and writing that bestseller have we seen over the years by writers who never wrote a bestseller (and worse, dispensed their advice via PublishAmerica or iUniverse)?

Hicks’ advice is similar to that of ebook bestseller John Locke’s, but Hicks is more specific, doesn’t beat around the bush, and isn’t dogmatic about how to go about one’s business. One of Hicks’ principles is self-improvement. You need to work on the author before you work on the story, and you need to have a story before you can even worry about marketing. He also warns against being obnoxious in self-promotion, essential for the independent ebook author.

I took the risk on his book because it was cheap, and Hicks has sold a few books. But I downloaded a couple of his novels because his marketing book had something I’ve seen too many supposed writing guides lack: Hicks can write.

Bond Flicks

I’ve finally seen all the Bond flicks again this year. On the old blog, I ranked the Bonds in anticipation of Casino Royale‘s reboot of the franchise. Seeing them all again this year made me rethink that old list. So here now is another obnoxious list that makes great Internet filler: Ranking the Bonds from worst to first. Excluded will be 1967’s Casino Royale, a parody, and 1979’s Never Say Never Again, an unofficial Bond film.

22. – A View to a Kill – A Bond too far. Roger Moore is too old in this movie, and after making noise a few years earlier that he wanted to leave the franchise. But A View to a Kill‘s biggest weakness should have been its greatest strength: Christopher Walken. Or rather his character. Walken himself does a good job with what little he has to work with, but his Zorin is the single most pointless Bond villain ever. Badly written and executed, this one probably could have used Timothy Dalton nagging producers to make it a grittier Bond. I also can’t stand Robert Brown as M. He’s not M. He’s a dull British civil servant, the kind the Dursleys in Harry Potter might look up to.

21. – You Only Live Twice – Yes, Sean Connery managed to make a stinker of a Bond flick. Producers somehow managed to parody Austin Powers 30 years before Mike Meyers thought it up. I used to rank this one higher, but most of the premise just reeks. Thunderball had a similarly over-the-top premise, only using Ian Fleming’s plot and having collaborator Kevin McClory on board (He co-wrote the abandoned screenplay upon which the novel was based in 1958) sold us on the supervillain holding the world hostage. So instead of Thunderball, Part 2, we get Get Smart, and not the Steve Carrell version, either.

20. – Moonraker – You could really switch this one and YOLT without too much trouble. Substitute Hugo Drax for Blofeld, and you have a rehash of the standard Bond fare. Actually, Moonraker is better executed than YOLT until they go into space. Then it really gets stupid, and not even the presence of Jaws, probably the best Bond henchman ever, can save the movie at that point.

19. – Octopussy – Probably could have been an excellent farewell for Roger Moore or even a terrific debut for Timothy Dalton or Pierce Brosnan, but the movie is just lame. Bond and another 00 are both seen in clown gear running from killers in East Berlin. Bond is even in clown makeup when he stops an atomic bomb from exploding, setting off World War III if he fails. But what really sucks all the life out of this film is Louis Jourdan’s Kamal Khan. Instead of being gleefully menacing like Blofeld, Goldfinger, or Karl Stromberg, in every sitting, Khan leaves me wondering why Bond didn’t just put a bullet through the sonofabitch’s forehead. What should have been a serviceable Cold War thriller along the lines of The Fourth Protocol (starring future Bond Pierce Brosnan) is instead of a shadow of For Your Eyes Only.

18. – The Man With the Golden Gun – I used to think this was the worst of the Bonds, but age and a few more viewings have mellowed my attitude. The scenes with M are wooden at best, and Mary Goodnight is probably the most boring Bond girl ever. What saves this movie from the bottom of the heap is Scaramanga. Christopher Lee, in what has to be a joke based on his Dracula fame, spends a considerable amount of time in the sun in this one. Lee happily chews scenery, and his interplay with Roger Moore’s Bond is some of the best in the series. So it has its moments. It also has Herve Villechaiz as Nick Nack, the most murderous midget in film since The Wild Wild West‘s Dr. Loveless.

17. – Die Another Day – Really the mutant offspring of the novels Moonraker and Kingsley Amis’s only Bond novel, Colonel Sun, Die Another Day is alternately brilliant and stupid. Bond is captured and tortured by the North Koreans, then abandoned by MI6. He then goes it alone to take on Richard Branson clone Gustav Graves to find out what’s really going on in North Korea with the help of Halle Berry. That all works nicely. What screws up this movie? The invisible car. I was buying the film until John Cleese’s Q demonstrates an invisible car. That and another damned satellite of doom. That only worked in Goldeneye.

16. – Diamonds Are Forever – It has a strong beginning, with Connery as Bond bullying his way across the globe demanding to know “Where’s Blofeld?” I would have liked to see what an angry (and hopefully newly more experienced) George Lazenby would have done with this one. It also has my favorite Blofeld, Charles Gray. But this movie is little more than a parody of the series. While it’s great to see Connery back, it’s clear the producers have no idea how to keep their franchise going. And they introduce my least favorite Bond cliche: The satellite of doom, which will only work once during Pierce Brosnan’s time as Bond.

15. – Tomorrow Never Dies – This film should have been one of the best of the Bonds. It had the most believable supervillain, media mogul Elliot Carver, and a premise that actually wears better today than it did in the 1990’s: Spark World War III to boost ratings. It happened once before. The Spanish-American War was a purely media-driven war that made celebrities of Teddy Roosevelt and his rival, William Jennings Bryan. Bond girl Michelle Yeoh is definitely one of the better Bond girls, smart, tough, and Bond’s equal. But like Die Another Day, it rides roughshod over its own plot. Unlike Die Another Day, it doesn’t have an invisible car.

14. – Live and Let Die– I used to rank this in my top five, but the blaxploitation angle sort of makes me cringe these days. Too bad, because it was time for Bond to take on a real-world villain, and Yaphet Kotto’s Mr. Big fits the bill. I also find Sheriff JW Pepper extremely annoying. Still, it’s a strong start for Roger Moore, playing a mellower, more unflappable Bond. David Hedison is great as Bond’s American cohort, Felix Leiter. But the ending always bothered me, with Yaphet Kotto exploding after Bond shoves a compressed air cartridge into his mouth.

13. – The World Is Not Enough  – I like this one more than most people. I think it was an excellent story with a terrific performance by Robbie Coltrane (aka Hagrid of Harry Potter fame). But never, to this date, have I ever been able to buy Denise Richards as a nuclear weapons expert when she clearly was hired to be seen slowly stripping out of that radiation suit. I often said this one would be better as a novel than as a movie, though I’ve yet to read the Raymond Benson adaptation.

12. –The Living Daylights – Dalton’s debut as Bond is good, though I thought Maryam D’Abo was kind of flat as a Bond girl. TLD does something that hasn’t been done since For Your Eyes Only, which is to take its source material, the short story of the same title, and expand it into a solid thriller.  And Dalton marks a return to playing Bond as Fleming imagined him. This would have been the perfect film to reboot the franchise, but as it stands, Dalton was an excellent choice to show James Bond starting to wear out from all the years of killing and risking his neck for king and country.  And the eggs laid in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service start to hatch. Bond is asked about his marriage. Bond doesn’t want to talk about it.

11. – Doctor No – The first. Not the best. The best was waiting in the wings. But the first. And a fantastic debut. Connery invents Bond for the big screen. Joseph Wiseman establishes the pattern for the unctuous antagonist. And how can you not love Ursula Andress emerging from the sea like a bikini-clad Aphrodite? As a capper, Jack Lord is super cool as the first ever Felix Leiter.

10. The Spy Who Loved Me – The supervillain done right for once. Karl Stromberg was supposed to be the return of Blofeld, which would have been fun to see Roger Moore’s Bond battle, especially if Charles Gray or Donald Pleasance returned. But it’s a Cold War fantasy thriller that still somehow manages to keep its feet in the real world. So different from the source novel, only the title and Jaws survive from Fleming’s work.

9. Thunderball – SPECTRE emerges as the primary villain in this Cold War thriller involving stolen nuclear weapons. The prize? $100 million in diamonds demanded by the still-unseen Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Bond bounces around the Caribbean taking on Emilio Largo, the millionaire behind the plot to hold the world hostage with two nuclear bombs.

8. Goldeneye – Brosnan’s debut as James Bond, almost a reboot of the series with Judi Dench as an M for the 1990’s (and definitely not the same M she plays in the new continuity.) Bond chases down a more believable satellite of doom in two orbiting units capable of frying every electronic device they target. Bond has to find his way in a post-Cold War world while tangling with a crazed Russian hacker, allying with a beautiful satellite technician, and hunting his former best friend, the former 006.

7. License to Kill – Dalton’s best and a good candidate for a remake with Daniel Craig. Felix Leiter’s fate in the novel Live and Let Die comes to the big screen here. And Bond is out for revenge. Robert Davi is just pure evil as the Latin American drug lord Sanchez. Until the Daniel Craig era, this is the most real-world Bond of the series, and the darkest. The only sour notes are Carolyn Bliss’s wooden Moneypenny and Robert Brown, who was a horrible choice to replace the late Bernard Lee as M. (I’d have preferred Charles Gray or John Cleese or even an early debut for Judi Dench.) David Hedison returns as the doomed Felix Leiter for the character’s final bow in the original continuity. Carrie Lowell is tough and intense as Bond’s foil and love interest. And the movie gets extra points for digging all the way back to OHMSS for giving Bond depth.

6. Quantum of Solace – Craig does it again, picking up moments after the end of Casino Royale with a car chase. Craig’s Bond is seething with anger. He makes Dalton’s Bond look slightly annoyed. The plot of this one gets murky, but that’s because it’s incredibly complex for a Bond movie. Quantum, which replaces SPECTRE as the criminal organization menacing the world, is revealed to be even more insidious and evil than expected. Judi Dench is terrific as a frustrated M trying to walk a tightrope between trusting Bond and keeping him reined in. Dominic Greene is the sleaziest Bond villain ever, with the creepy Elvis as his henchman. And while Olga Kuylenko plays a tough Bond girl equal to Bond in skill and blood lust, it’s Gemma Atherton as “just Fields” who steals the movie. Note to the Broccoli family: Seriously consider Atherton for Moneypenny. She has the right mix of flirtation and sassiness to be an office foil to James Bond.

5. For Your Eyes Only – A pure Cold War thriller cobbled together from the short story collection it draws its name from.  This is the best of the Moore Bonds and one of the best of the series. Topol stops fiddling on the roof long enough to lead Bond to a fellow smuggler who’s selling out the British to the Soviets. The ending is terrific with Bond destroying the MacGuffin, a device that controls British submarine-based nuclear missiles. Cornered by General Gogol (the latest in Walter Gotell’s wonderful appearances as M’s counterpart), Bond simply tosses it over a cliff and says, “Detente, General. I don’t have it. You don’t have it.” Gogol loves Bond’s solution, laughs, and leaves, summing up the feelings of the pawns in the Cold War.

4. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – Bond actually looks like Bond in this one. And the movie very nearly parallels the novel scene for scene. George Lazenby really should have fired his agent for telling him to walk away from the series. This story foreshadows the Dalton and Craig movies in its character development and its nuance. The good guys are gangsters. The bad guys are holed up in a remote lodge in the Swiss Alps. And for the first time, Bond gets frustrated with MI6 and tells them to go to Hell.  Twice.  Lazenby is impressive for having never acted before. Lacking Connery’s swagger and confidence, he still holds his own as James Bond and probably would have done well in the more comedic movies that followed.

3. Goldfinger – The dawn of the true supervillain. Goldfinger is a terrifically demented millionaire obsessed with gold. Connery is hitting his groove, and those famous Bond gadgets appear. You can’t miss with a Bond girl named Pussy Galore (or with Connery purring “Pussy” every time she walks onto screen.) Odd Job is a terrific henchman, and the Kentucky setting is a welcome change from the Balkans and the Caribbean.

2. Casino Royale – Dark! Dark! Dark! Fleming’s Bond was a cold, efficient killer, and Daniel Craig’s reboot of the character shows that. But it also hearkens back to OHMSS with Bond letting his guard down only to have his heart shattered by tragedy. Craig plays a modern Bond, a blunt instrument to be wielded against terrorists.  Plus, this is Bond at the beginning. He’s never killed, but he’s a bit too good at it for his own good or M’s liking. He’s more cocky than confident and often too stubborn for his own good. He tastes blood for the first time in this movie, and time, wounds, and experience have yet to check his growing arrogance. Jeffrey Wright is excellent as Felix Leiter, who is now a cynical soldier in America’s War on Terror.

1. From Russia With Love – Fleming’s favorite novel. Connery’s favorite Bond film. In fact, all the Bond actors have praised this one, particularly Craig and Dalton, who seem to have taken their cues from this one. EON swaps SPECTRE for Russia’s Smersh, though Smersh is still the nominal bad guy in this one. Connery falls into a groove here, but the cliches are still new and untried – Flirting with Moneypenny, Q’s briefing, Bernard Lee’s curmudgeonly M. Before the Bond formula was cemented by Goldfinger, this movie just told a slightly altered version of Fleming’s cloak-and-dagger Cold War tale. And the Orient Express gives the movie an almost Hitchcockian flavor. Rumor has it the Master himself was invited to direct. Now how about that for what’s already the greatest Bond flick ever?

And what of the two non-EON Bond films, Casino Royale (1967) and Never Say Never Again? The former was an extremely disjointed parody done purely for gags, though David Niven as a chaste, almost priestly James Bond saddened by the sex fiends running around doing his old job is pretty funny. As for Connery’s brief return in Never Say Never Again, they already made Thunderball once with Connery. With Klaus Maria Brandaur’s rather sympathetic Largo, Connery chaffing at being put out to pasture, and Edward Fox’s foppish imbecile M succeeding (but somehow not quite replacing) Bernard Lee’s character, this movie could have topped most of the official Bonds, including most of the Connery movies. Instead, we get Sean Connery in a vehicle better suited for Roger Moore and a pre-Blackadder Rowan Atkinson as Nigel Small-Fawcett, a joke that Monty Python probably discarded and producer Kevin McClory must have found in the dumpster. Like the 1967 parody, doesn’t really count and merely a curiosity.

Also, has anyone noticed that only two Englishmen have played Bond – Moore and Craig? Connery is Scottish, Lazenby Australian, Dalton Welsh, and Brosnan Irish. And for Diamonds Are Forever and A View to a Kill, Americans Adam West and James Brolin were considered. West didn’t think an American could pull it off, and really, you would need someone who is good at accents and can play James Bond to do it. I can think of quite a few American actors who can playing convincing Englishmen. I can name quite a few who would make a great James Bond. (Not Tom Cruise. I would have to stalk the Broccoli family for that.) I can’t name a single one who can do an English accent and play James Bond.

So, assuming Craig does four or five, should Danial Radcliffe start warming up in the bullpen? Put the boy wizard behind him as he closes in on 30 and keep Britain safe for democracy in whatever brave new world we’re heading into? Take your time and stick around a while, Mr. Craig. You’re doing just fine.

Bond. James Bond.

During my state-funded enforced vacation earlier this year, I started watching James Bond movies. The BBC ran all the Connery movies at the beginning of the year, except You Only Live Twice.  TBS had a run on the Brosnan Bonds. USA is running all the Moores and Daltons with the exception of Live and Let Die. So where’s Daniel Craig in all this? I got Quantum of Solace from the library along with my DVD of Casino Royale and tested out AJ’s new big screen TV while he was at school. Casino Royale on 42 inches rocks!

During all of this, I also watched the questionable Connery effort Never Say Never Again and the rarely screened parody Casino Royale, the original with David Niven, not the Daniel Craig franchise reboot. So, having seen all the Bonds but On Her Majesty’s Secret Service‘s George Lazenby in action, how do they rank?

Here now is one of those obnoxious lists everyone thinks makes great Internet content.

Number 6: Roger Moore

Roger Moore

Eon Productions

Don’t get me wrong. I like some of the Moore movies. For Your Eyes Only and The Spy Who Loved Me are some of the best Bonds ever. And Moore was smart to play Bond more low-key and comedic than Sean Connery. But six actors have played James Bond, seven if you count Niven. Just as somebody has to be first in a list like this, someone has to go last. Roger Moore was funny and charming as James Bond, but he most certainly wasn’t playing a spy created by Ian Fleming named James Bond. He behaved more like The Saint or Beau Maverick.

A little trivia: It’s well known that Moore was considered for the original Bond movie, Doctor No. What’s not well known was that Maverick producers wanted to cast an Englishman as a new Maverick, cousin Beau. Moore took the job, but another British actor turned down the role. His name was Sean Connery.

Number 5: George Lazenby

George Lazenby

Eon Productions

Of all the Bonds, former skier George Lazenby looks the most like Bond (An argument could also be made for Timothy Dalton). His movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, was the closest to its source, almost a scene-for-scene shoot of the novel (one of Fleming’s best efforts). Had Lazenby had a competent agent, he would have had Moore’s run as James Bond. Alas, while Lazenby manages to play James Bond, he’s not quite the actor of his other five counterparts and maybe hamstrings his rank on this list by turning down a multi-film deal. Certainly, he’s a more logical successor to Connery than Roger Moore, which puts him ahead of Moore on the list, but he’s not the same caliber of actor. Too bad. Lazenby’s best moment, his grieving over Tracy Bond’s murder, might have provided an excellent lead-in to Bond’s almost murderous rampage at the beginning of Diamonds Are Forever. I totally would have bought the man who wept over his dead wife trotting the globe in a rage growling “Where’s Blofeld!”

Number 4: Pierce Brosnan

Pierce Brosnan

Eon Productions

Now here’s an actor who should have been Bond a lot sooner. Producers discovered him during the filming of For Your Eyes Only, around the time Moore started talking about leaving the franchise. When Kevin McLory made his ill-advised Never Say Never Again with Connery, producers panicked, whipped up Octopussy, and brought back Moore to compete. After Moore retired, they approached Brosnan again for The Living Daylights, but NBC screwed Brosnan over, making him do one more season of Remington Steele. Too bad, because Brosnan’s personality would have provided some continuity from Moore’s tenure while getting Bond back to his intense Connery days. Brosnan himself was the perfect Bond, cool under fire, delivering those trademark quips perfectly, yet showing more emotion than previous Bonds. Still, after the strong start that was Goldeneye, the Brosnan Bond movies started to fall in quality. Tomorrow Never Dies rode roughshod over its own plot. The World Is Not Enough was better suited for a novel than a movie. And Die Another Day, the end of the original Bond storyline, went a little too over the top. Still, it would be better to watch it with Brosnan than a lot of other actors.

Number 3: Timothy Dalton

Timothy Dalton

Eon Productions

At last, a Bond who looks and acts like the James Bond Ian Fleming wrote about. Dalton is one intense actor, and his Bond might crack wise, but you can tell he’s covering up the stress he’s under. Dalton was approached after Connery originally quit, but Dalton considered himself too young. Again, he was approached around the time of For Your Eyes Only, but like Brosnan, was discounted for Octopussy when producers freaked over Sean Connery’s return in a rival Bond film. Dalton’s Bond is intense, yet can turn on the charm at the drop of a hat. Dalton’s performance was so intense that he stayed in character for promotions, chain smoking cigarettes and moving about parties like a tightly coiled spring.  This was the blunt instrument M called upon to save Britain.

Number 2: Daniel Craig

Daniel Craig

Eon Productions

 

In order to reboot the Bond storyline, you need an actor who can be the Bond that Ian Fleming wrote about. Craig is intense, arrogant, and cold compared to the other Bonds. Never mind that he’s a blond while his predecessors were all dark-haired (even Niven, who’s not on this list.) Daniel Craig’s Bond is cocky and a loose cannon, a younger Bond than we knew over the years between Doctor No and Die Another Day.  M doesn’t trust him, and there’s no Moneypenny or Q to back him up behind the scenes. This is Bond before he becomes Bond, and you could make an argument that he’s even better than Sean Connery. You could, but I wouldn’t advise it.

Number 1: Sean Connery

Sean Connery

Eon Productions

Are you even surprised? The man invented the movie incarnation of Bond, and it is Connery to whom all Bonds are compared. While Moore tried to be different from Connery, the other actors had to incorporate Connery’s persona into their Bond to make it work. Connery invented the way Bond quips, the cool under pressure, the suave moves and ways with the ladies. A number of other actors were considered for Doctor No, and had any of them been cast, James Bond as we know him would not exist. Connery is so ingrained in the Bond legend that producers paid him huge sums to return for Diamonds Are Forever, and Kevin McLory cast him in his Thunderball remake, Never Say Never Again.