Of James and Bondage

By Johnny ApocalypseJanuary 1st, 2006

James Bond the Sixth

The infamous British secret agent James Bond, hero to many, sexist pig to some, has been given his sixth incarnation in the form of Daniel Craig.  The biggest news going along with Craig's placement in the role is that he will be the first blonde James Bond.  No one says whether it's a great choice or a terrible one, no self-acclaimed critics are clamoring over how sexy or un-sexy he is, and no one is starting riots because we haven't elected a minority to play 007 yet.  Craig is blonde, and yet he's going to be James Bond.  Holy shit.

But as with each actor to have taken the role, it seems certain that Craig will customize the part as he sees fit.  Maybe a blonde James Bond will be darker and closer to the "dark side" of MI-6.  Maybe he will be more of a womanizer then the previous five put together.  Perhaps a blonde Bond is such a recipe for success that Craig will be the best thing since sliced bread and Sean Connery.

But an analysis of each Bond is required to see what new form of character Daniel Craig could possibly take.  Unless he chooses to be a carbon copy of one of the first five actors, which I doubt, what grounds are left for the newbie to break?  Will he be what Ian Fleming always hoped and prayed for, or can we best hope for a minor Bond with only a film or two to his name?

The "Great" Bonds

Sean Connery was the first, and to many the best, to take the role of Bond under his wing and help nurture the movies into the avalanche of film history they have become.  He gave 007 a rugged sexiness that no one else has been able to come close to.  While the earliest of Bond films have become dated and seem silly today, Connery was the pace setter, the man that all men had to live up to in order to earn their own license to kill.  He also happens to be my personal favorite.

007 has always had a comic wit to him, but Sean Connery wasn't known for being the class cut-up.  As a result, his jokes are usually short, snappy double-entendres depending largely on his expressions.  But Connery could kick ass with the best of them, wasn't afraid to use his Walther PPK (something of a wimpy gun, truth be told) and he always scored with the ladies.  He was something of a bastard in many ways, as well.  In one classic scene of Thunderball, after recently having slept with the evil-doers' woman, Connery says "You don't think I enjoyed that, did you?  That was purely for queen and country".  Say that to your girlfriend after a roll in the hay sometime and see how long it takes you work your testicles out of your hips after she gives you a solid shot in the peppers.

Connery had a good many solid Bond films under his belt.  My favorite 007 movie is Goldfinger, where Sean has to stop a madman from nuking the gold supply of Fort Knox.  Other solid entries in the Connery era were Dr. No, Thunderball, and From Russia with Love.  But if you haven't seen all the Bond movies yet, you would do good to skip You Only Live Twice and Diamonds are Forever.  Not so good.

Did the Connery era have drawbacks?  Sure did.  As previously mentioned, a good many of the stories have becomes dated and will seem pretty damn silly nowadays.  In Dr. No, no one seems troubled by the long-term effects of radiation exposure.  You know, little things like cancer and three-limbed children.  They just clean 007 up and assume he won't come down with lymphoma.  While this was the era when Fleming's novels were actually made into movies, even in the books some of the ideas seemed cheesy and hokey.  When Austin Powers said "Who throws a shoe?  Really?", he could have said "Who throws a hat?" In Goldfinger, the "weapon" came straight from the books.

Other excellent questions that can be raised from the Connery days include "Isn't he worried about STD's?", "Who ever heard of a Bond that didn't shave?" and "Did Roald Dahl actually write the screenplay for You Only Live Twice?  Does it have Oompa-Loompas?"

Next, we come to Roger Moore.  Two words can sum up the Roger Moore era pretty quick.  Can't fight.  This James Bond couldn't hold his own against a five-year old armed with Legos.  Sure, he would always win the fight in the end, but he would spend the first ten minutes of that fight getting pummeled and thrown into walls.  And since Moore was arguably the best-looking Bond, he would always come out of the scuffle without a scratch.  At least Connery would show the wear-and-tear of his latest adventure.  Moore's Bond was a bit much of a pretty-boy for my tastes.  Moore was also heavily gadget-dependant, and without Q he would have been bumped off pretty quick.

The one thing Roger really had going for him was being able to tell a joke.  This Bond had perfect comic timing and made extra money on the stand-up circuit with the likes of Colin Quinn and John Saleeby.  No doubt about it, Moore can tell a joke better then Connery.  Too bad every joke gets his ass kicked.

Of course, Moore had some damn good Bond movies to his name as well.  For Your Eyes Only is probably his best, but Live and Let Die is a solid movie too, although many Bond fans don't care for that one since it dives into the voodoo and magic worlds.  Octopussy is equal to Connery's Thunderball, and is the only movie where Moore can fight worth a damn.  In fact, he doesn't take a single punch if I remember correctly.  Movies to skip in the Roger realm include The Man with the Golden Gun, Moonraker and View to a Kill.

Moore's era also saw the introduction of popular musicians playing the title songs, including Sheena Easton (who has now disappeared off the face of the planet) and Duran Duran.  But they really should have had Huey Lewis and the News do a Bond song just to round things out.

Moore took the role of Bond after several years of playing Simon Templar, A.K.A. The Saint.  For those who don't know, Templar was a gentleman thief, always running into trouble and saving the day while trying to steal stuff.  After having seen pretty much every episode of The Saint, I was always waiting for this Bond to start stealing stuff.  I think a kleptomaniac Bond would be fantastic.  "I'm going to kick your ass, Blofeld!  Right after I pilfer this ashtray."

If you liked the questions to be raised over the Connery era, good news!  I have some you can ask your friends about the Moore movies.  "If Moore came after Connery, why did Bond forget his fighting skills?", "Is a cigar really just a cigar?" and "why hasn't this guy contracted gonorrhea yet?"

And finally, we come to the last "great" Bond, Pierce Brosnan.  This 007 had the fighting skills of Connery and the sense of humor of Moore.  A great go-between for the fans of the first two leaders in the role, Brosnan was close enough to "pretty-boy" status but could also go the rugged route when called for.  Of course, before being Bond, Brosnan played a con-man in Remington Steele, so I was always expecting this Bond to be embezzling pens and gadgets from MI-6.

Sadly, Brosnan's Bond films are the most heavily debated by the fans of the series.  While it's commonly agreed upon that Goldeneye is excellent, after that the opinions vary a bit.  Some people love the other three, some people hate them.  For my money, I say stick with Goldeneye and The World is not Enough, watch Tomorrow Never Dies if you want to be a 007 aficionado, but skip Die Another Die at all costs.

I could easily write a fifty page essay discussing why Die Another Day is just fucking awful, and some day I might just do that, but for now a paragraph will do.  First, we'll get the good parts out of the way.  Awesome car chase.  Now onto the bad.  This entry in the series came out of the 40th anniversary of Bond films, and was the twentieth in the series.  As a result, the producers were too concerned with making the biggest and best Bond ever and not just another steady entry in the series.  In-joke references to the first nineteen movies abound, there's a cameo by Madonna (who can't act for shit), and the script just wasn't that good.  But what else could I expect when Lee Tamahori directed this trash?  Whenever you're going to watch a movie, remember this simple formula and your soul will be saved: Lee Tamahori plus a video camera equals the greatest disaster since the Titanic.  After I saw this crap I would have been happy if they had laid the whole Bond franchise to rest, but I'd be even happier if this shit was never made.  I would listen to that "MacArthur Park" song for twenty-four hours straight before watching this again.  Invisible car my ass!

So, now that Die Another Day has been properly trashed, what other drawbacks do Brosnan's 007 movies have?  After Goldeneye, the movies start to resemble comic books.  They aren't terribly serious, the antagonists don't have convincing motives, and invisible car my ass.  And if Bond is your personal hero and role-model, you may think it's a drawback when M calls Jimbo a "sexist, misogynist dinosaur", but I think it adds a dash of realism and modern thinking to the movie.  Plus, Brosnan is a bit more of a Hollywood Bond then an Ian Fleming Bond.

The Lesser-Known Bonds

Between Connery and Connery (yes, that's right), there was George Lazenby, star of one and one only 007 movie, On Her Majesty's Secret Service.  A great many people think Lazenby was a terrible James Bond, but they have been mislead.  Lazenby could crack a decent joke, could rumble pretty well and got The Avengers' Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) into the sack.  Miss Rigg has my vote for the best looking Bond lady ever.

A lot of people thought Lazenby was too sympathetic in the role, and felt that Bond would never get married, therefore ruining that entry in the series.  Well guess what, Skeezix, this is the closest adaption of an Ian Fleming novel to date.  Bond does get married!  And if you don't like the way Fleming played the character, he created Jimbo Bond and can do damn well what he pleases.  Lazenby was a good Bond, and should have done a few more films just to show that he could fill the shoes just as well as anyone.

Lastly, after Moore and before Brosnan there was Timothy Dalton.  While most of the fans didn't like his James Bond, the truth is that he played the part the way Fleming wrote it.  This is Bond right out of the books, ladies and gentlemen.  Hardboiled, dark and ready to kick ass whenever he saw fit.  There have been those who say that Dalton was the Charles Bronson of James Bond, and I say "Read the books.  Dalton is Bond the way it was written".  Now that's not saying Dalton's my favorite, but his two movies will always have a special place in my heart.

And of course, there are many out there who say the same thing my mom says about Dalton in the role: who would want an ugly James Bond?  Well, I don't think he's terribly ugly, but he's no Roger Moore.  The next complaint I hear most often: Dalton's Bond never cracked a joke.  There are two reasons for this.  First, Tim isn't very good in comedic scenes, and second, James Bond didn't crack jokes in the Fleming books.  I think he cracked a total of two jokes in somewhere around eleven books.  So Bond doesn't really have a sense of humor, but Ian Fleming does.  And I know Fleming has a sense of humor, because I think it's funny as hell that he named a female character "Pussy Galore".

Dalton starred in The Living Daylights and License to Kill.  The first of the two was written with the belief that Roger Moore would be coming back again, and is therefore full of jokes.  The comedic scenes are lacking, but the action is well done and we see Dalton's Bond starting to emerge.  Tim's 007 came to full realization in License to Kill, on a manhunt for the drug dealing scum that nearly killed an old friend.  We see Dalton kicking ass left and right, crack a minimum of jokes and just being cool.  Charles Bronson-ish he may be, but this Bond didn't take shit from anyone.

The Men who Could have Been Bond

Before Daniel Craig won the coveted role, a lot of names were being thrown around.  No one could agree on who should or should not be Bond, so I'm just going to analyze the most commonly mentioned candidates, including some possibilities throughout the history of Bond, and toss in my two cents.

Clive Owen- This was my number one choice to take over the role.  Owen would probably play the role close to Dalton's, hardboiled and no nonsense.  But he has the looks, he has the ability for the action scenes and would have been pretty cool.

Ewan McGregor- Honestly, I just don't see it.  He's a good actor, I like his work, but I don't think he would fit the part.  Obi-Wan he may be, but 007 he's not.  Pierce Brosnan thought he was the best choice to take over for him, though.

Hugh Jackman- Not my top choice, but I could really see him pulling it off.  He cleans up pretty well (Kate and Leopold), can do the action and has fair to solid joke-telling abilities.  If Clive said "no" to Bond, I would have taken the contract to Jackman.

Colin Ferrell- This was Sean Connery's choice for the new Bond, and I'd just toss a coin as for my decision.  Heads equals good 007, tails equals bad.  It would simply matter more on how he would play the role, not how he looked.  I can't make an honest judgment from the movies I've seen him in.

Sam McNiell- I bet you didn't know that Dr. Grant from Jurassic Park was once considered for the role, did you?  That's right, he was, and if I remember correctly it was after Roger Moore had left and before Timothy Dalton was chosen.  And I think McNiell would have been a fucking great James Bond!

Hugh Grant- Yep, Hugh was once considered to play Bond as well, I believe between Dalton and Brosnan.  I think he has the looks and I can see him saying the lines, but I just can't see Mr. Grant doing the action scenes.  He seems more set for comedy roles, and some drama roles as well, but no action.

Various American Actors- Over the years, some producers have wanted an American to play James Bond to bring in a bigger check from the U.S.  That would probably bring the cash flow from England down a bit, but it was an idea floating around for a bit.  I can't remember all the names on the list, but Paul Newman, Burt Reynolds and Mel Gibson were all possibilities throughout the years.  (While Gibson is considered an Aussie, he was born in New York, so he goes in the American actor list.) If I had to pick one of those three, I would put some money on Gibson.  He's a good looking guy, can probably whip up a British accent and is no doubt good in action films.  Of course, I would hate to see Bond impersonating the Three Stooges.

Cary Grant- Before Connery was ever chosen, Cary Grant was a possibility too.  Like Hugh Grant (no relationship, as near as I can tell), he has the looks and could do the lines, but I don't see him doing the action scenes right.  In North by Northwest all he really did was run away from stuff, and Bond doesn't run away.  At least, not too often.  But had he been chosen, we may have seen Alfred Hitchcock direct a Bond movie, and I like that idea.

Outside the Standards: Men I Would Like to see as 007

Well, we've covered the five existing Bonds, gone over some of the other choices throughout history, but I'd like to add some people who I think would kick ass as James Bond.  The problem with this list: these aren't typical actors you would associate with playing a white British secret agent.  But thinking outside the box can bring great possibilities.

Samuel L. Jackson- Now, I'm probably biased on this since I think Samuel L. should be in everything.  Absolutely everything.  Mostly, I'd just like to see a bad-ass play 007.  He would kick everyone's ass without thinking twice, stand up for racial inequalities and be the most foul-mouthed James Bond ever.  "Goldfinger, you motherfucker!"  Who wouldn't want Sam Jackson in the role?  And for that matter, Samuel L. Jackson should play Doctor Who as well.

In other possibilities for a black James Bond, I select Morgan Freeman.  He is suave as hell, good looking and could probably kick some ass.  Plus, he has one of the greatest voices of all time.

Jackie Chan- While the goofiness and silly action scenes might ruin the franchise, I love Jackie Chan.  After Die Another Day they might as well give him the role so we could have a Bond flying off of walls and beating people up with ladders.

The Rock- Who wouldn't want to see 007 body slam someone?

Gillian Anderson- That's right, the redhead from The X-Files should play James Bond.  No real reasoning behind this besides the fact that I think she's the prettiest woman on the planet.

Chris Isaak- Come on.  He's a good looking guy, has great comic timing and he used to be a boxer so you know he can fight.  Plus, we can have a James Bond who takes a minute or two to sing every now and then.  How's that for innovative?  Hell, he could sing the title song for all of his Bond films (and I have heard he is one of the choices to sing the title from the next Bond movie, Casino Royale, but I have no confirmation of that).

Sean Connery- I don't care how old he may be getting, he's my favorite Bond and he should play the role again.  He could be an older 007 coming out of retirement to save the day again (kind of like in Never Say Never Again, but better).  Plus, if Connery plays the part when he's 90 or so, we can have James Bond chasing villains down in a wheelchair.  "Come back hyeah, Blofeld!"

Dakota Fanning- After the travesty that was Die Another Day, I say anything goes.  Give the role to a young lady, it can't be any worse.  And no, I will never, ever stop bitching about Die Another Day.  Invisible car my ass!

Now that we've thoroughly covered actors, I would like to mention that I think David Lynch should direct a Bond movie.  It may take some serious thinking on the viewer's behalf to understand what the hell really happened, but we'd have Laura Dern and Naomi Watts as Bond girls, Willem Dafoe as Bond and Kyle MacLachlan playing the bad guy.  It's just too cool of an idea to pass up.

Daniel Craig: Who Cares if he's Blonde?

Let's wrap up this discussion by covering Daniel Craig, the first blonde James Bond.  Who gives a fuck?  What I'm concerned about is that either his hair is really thin or he's starting to go bald.  You can't have a bald James Bond, people.  It's just not done.  007 could be a redhead for all I care, as long as he's not bald.

Now as for his acting ability.  To be honest, I haven't seen him in anything yet.  I've been meaning to watch Layer Cake, for which he was critically acclaimed as an actor.  I'll just assume that he's a good enough actor for now, and is a better choice then Hugh Grant.

He has the same ruggedness Sean Connery embodied (although not quite as good looking), looks like he could kick some ass and would probably be good in a darker, hard-ass Bond movie.  The first 007 movie he will be in is Casino Royale, the very first Ian Fleming Bond novel finally being made into a straight-laced movie.  You remember that bullshit Casino Royale with David Niven and Woody Allen?  That was supposed to be a James Bond movie, but they decided to make it a comedy.

The new movie will be directed by Martin Campbell, who directed the solid Goldeneye.  I'm taking that as a good sign, and hope Casino will be on par with Brosnan's first movie.  If the new film follows the book, I will say that it's fairly dark and may not appeal to all the fans.  But I think it will be a solid movie, providing that Blondie here is up to the challenge.

I would like to close with a word to the producers, should they ever stumble upon this meager dissection of their life's work.  Always try to make a solid entry in the series, but never challenge yourselves to make a bigger, better Bond movie then ever before.  Updating the film for modern times is a great way to go, but always stay true to the spirit of Fleming and what made this series what it has become today. And always remember the cardinal rule: Invisible car my ass.

 

 

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