31 December 2012 5279 Views

A Neophyte’s Retrospective of The James Bond Film Series

by Dan Koelsch

casino-royale

Dan’s Top 10 Favorite James Bond Films

 

1. Casino Royale (2006)

As I said, I prefer modern filmmaking, so this reboot of the franchise was right up my alley. It’s not the “classic” Bond that I usually prefer, considering the exclusion of Q (and thus gadgets), Moneypenny, and a strong villain, but I really liked the modernization of the character. The film shows Bond before he’s “Bond”. He could still be the womanizing, smug, gentleman, spy eventually, but now we are seeing what it will take to get him there. Craig was a great choice for this version of the character. There were some similarities to him losing his only love both to betrayal and death and Tracy Bond’s death in OHMSS. I find breaking down the man is more interesting than just letting him float above it all. Also, we finally get to see Bond drink the Vesper Martini he invented in the novels.

2. Skyfall (2012)

I promise that these aren’t all recent movies. Skyfall harkens back to the golden age of Bond. We finally get to see all the big things Casino Royale was missing, Q (though no gadgets), Moneypenny, and a great villain played by Javier Bardem. We also finally get a little background on Bond, once again breaking down the character to be more realistic. The storytelling is even a bit better than Casino Royale, but I just can’t make myself put it above it on my list.

3. From Russia With Love (1963)

If you want classic Bond, look no further than the second film in the series. Here we are introduced to SPECTRE and Blofeld, and we get our first gadget, a briefcase rigged with tear gas and other weapons. While some of the Bond plots can get rather grandiose, this movie keeps it simple by having Bond look for a cryptographic device. Connery is now comfortable in his title role, but it’s still fresh enough that he seems to enjoy it.

4. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

This is the third Moore film, and the first I really liked. It took me a while to get used to Moore deliberately trying to be different from Connery (for instance, Moore never orders a Vodka Martini), but this film sold me on him. I love the dynamic between Bond and KGB Agent Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach), who have to work together to find a stolen submarine tracking system.

5. Licence to Kill (1989)

In Dalton’s second turn as Bond, there’s finally a reason for him to be angry. His best friend Felix Leiter, former CIA Agent turned DEA Agent, is getting married in Miami, but of course Leiter’s arch nemesis and drug lord Franz Sanchez has to get in the way. After Sanchez’s crew kills Leiter’s bride on their wedding day, which mirrors almost exactly what happened to Bond in OHMSS. This puts Bond over the edge, but since MI6 has no jurisdiction, he has to go rogue in order to catch Sanchez and get justice for Leiter. Throughout the series, Bond’s dead wife Tracy has come up in small doses to help prove there is a continuity, but this time it plays a major role in establishing Bond’s rage. The movie is also impressive for its clever plot, and I loved Wayne Newton’s hilarious cameo.

6. GoldenEye (1995)

The Cold War was the golden age of espionage, so Eon had to figure out a way to make Bond relevant in 90s. GoldenEye, directed by Casino Royale’s Martin Campbell was just he answer. We’ve seen a few Bond films deal with the idea of Bond and/or espionage in general being outdated (Never Say Never Again, Skyfall), but each time Bond proves the critics wrong. This was the highest budget Bond film at its time, and it shows with great production value. The series rarely showed other 00 Agents, and when it did, they usually died right away. So, it was interesting see another 00 Agent be Bond’s main antagonist. The two were like opposite sides of the same coin.

7. You Only Live Twice (1967)

My only other Connery movie on the list gets a big boost by the great score and title song. While Blofeld’s plan is hard to justify as logical, the film once again was very classic Bond. They showed off Japan well, and the action directing really went up a notch. The climax in Blofeld’s Volcano base was the first big action scene of the series, with dozens of stuntmen as ninjas coming down from the roof.

8. For Your Eyes Only (1981)

After the silliness that was Moonraker, I was just relieved to see Bond in a normal spy situation again. There’s a really nice plot twist midway through, and Chaim Topol as smuggler Milos Columbo stole the show.

9. A View To A Kill (1985)

This the entry that I know will get me some flack. Many Bond lists will put this film near the end, and I can understand why. It’s one of the over-the-top films, and it’s very 80s. For some reason, none of that bothered me. I enjoyed this more than fan favorites Octopussy and Thunderball, and I think the negative opinions make me like it more.

10. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

The film itself is nothing amazing, but as I told you many times earlier, the love story is what makes this one special for me. Lazenby plays a solid, if maybe too playful, Bond, and despite some continuity errors, the film had good action. Telly Savalas is one the better Blofelds (there have been six overall), and plot was a bit far-fetched, but perfect for Bond.


Well, those are most of my thoughts on the James Bond film series. I could go on for pages, but I tried to restrain myself. If you want to talk more about Bond, leave a comment below with your thoughts and favorite movies in the series. You can always reach me on Twitter, and I follow the James Bond /r/ on Reddit.



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