007 - friday 2011-06-17 1753 last modified 2012-07-03 2200
Categories: Film
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Much like a recent, long-term foray into Shakespeare all at once, I just wrapped watching every James Bond movie from before Pierce Brosnan, whose tenure as Bond came after a long licensing-related hiatus, ending the drought with half a decade's worth of advancement into modern film making technique, or, specifically, action film making technique. I'd already seen all of Brosnan and Craig, leaving the preceding four actors' contributions almost entirely untouched until now.

I had seen fragments of You Only Live Twice (slow) and Moonraker (Roger Moore is really old). Without living through the 60's, I am utterly baffled that Dr. No managed to engender one sequel, much less twenty-two successors. The Bard is timeless despite his context. The Bond is firmly entrenched in his chronological context, a dinosaur becoming more like a fossil with each film. Dr. No has non-Asians playing Asian characters, easily spotted visual effects, poor dubbing, punches that don't land, and an utterly contrived plot. It would be repulsively amateur if made today. From Russia With Love is credited as the one that established the formula, which is entirely true. Almost without fail, especially under Roger Moore, all of the Bond movies are comprised of James getting a device to save the day from Q while pursuing some ludicrous villain to death and bedding some beauty of the month - tamely, with a kiss and a fall out of frame. Who wants to watch the same tired story over and over again, a predictable framework whose details barely matter? James Bond is never really hurt, his life never on the line, his lovers almost never more defined than a stick figure. Horses, helicopters, skiing, skydiving, and scuba show up uncomfortably often. How did the producers get away with a total absence of character development for almost half a century? Some help, if anyone can answer that question; the films do not speak for themselves.

Categorically, Roger Moore and Sean Connery are unwatchable. I am sure this is a mortal sin to true Bond fans; coming in from the cold in 2011, the Scotsmans pales when held to his successors. Moore's films border on slapstick, extrapolating from the worse aspects of Connery's, who peaked with Goldfinger - if you have to watch one, which will strike a strange note as it offhandedly exposes a now debunked belief at the time in "skin suffocation." Pierce Brosnan was my first, but he's more like Roger Moore than Timothy Dalton, his vastly superior predecessor. George Lazenby could have been great had he managed more than one, and Diana Rigg's Tessa Bond opposite him is by far the most memorable of Bond women. Daniel Craig is actually part of a longer form story and has a chance to give Bond a deserved place in film history, not just as a patina of respectability painted on hollow tin. One hopes his third is better than his second.

Next up, the sisters Brontë. Any ideas for what comes after?

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