Friday, February 6, 2015

James Bond Franchise Breakdown

It’s hard not to love the James Bond franchise. Running for more than 50 years, it remains the most iconic franchise in cinema history. It’s had its ups and downs, sure, but there’s a comfort in knowing no matter how bad a Bond film may be, he’ll always be back for more.

A few weeks ago, I decided to watch every Bond film in a row. I crushed them all out in 10 days, and I thought it be fun to share my thoughts on each film here. I hope you enjoy the post, and feel free to comment on which Bond films you love, hate, and love to hate. There’s never a bad time to talk Bond.

Dr. No (1962)
Bond: Sean Connery
The James Bond franchise kicks off with Bond being sent to Jamaica to investigate the sudden disappearance of a British Intelligence agent. Once there, Bond encounters players and entities featured throughout the duration of the franchise, including a helpful CIA contact named Felix Leiter, and a threatening terrorist group known as SPECTRE. The titular Dr. No represents SPECTRE in this film, and his plan is to alter a space launch with his radio beam. In addition, Dr. No is notable for its extended closing sequence in Dr. No’s lair, and the presence of Ursula Andress as premiere Bond Girl, Honey Rider.

Dr. No is a great slow-brew James Bond film. There aren’t many gadgets or tricks or quips; it’s a real movie about a sexy spy, as opposed to a send-up flick with caricatures. It’s funny, watching Dr. No, it’s almost as if the filmmakers didn’t quite know what the franchise was yet. The film is a fun ride; a worthy introduction of what’s to come. A-

Highlights: First James Bond Film; introduction of Bond, SPECTRE, and Felix Leiter; Ursula Andress and her white bikini

From Russia with Love (1963)
Bond: Sean Connery
From Russia with Love is my favorite James Bond film. Connery is much more relaxed here, having eased comfortably into the role. The gadgets are simple but fun, and the villains are intimidating and iconic.

SPECTRE, pissed at Bond for killing Dr. No last time, sends a few people to off 007. This includes a tiny and vicious operative named Rosa Klebb, and a blonde haired badass, Donald “Red” Grant (yep, that’s Robert Shaw, Quint from Jaws). The film is essentially a cat-and-mouse thriller, one that is taking serious cues from Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest. In fact, a sequence in which Bond dodges a low-flying helicopter remains one of the franchise’s best thrills. Simply put, there’s nothing I don’t love about From Russia with Love. A

Highlights: Robert Shaw = blonde Russian badass; introduction of Desmond Llewelyn as Q; introduction of Ernst Stavro Blofeld; dagger shoe

Goldfinger (1963)
Bond: Sean Connery
I like my Bond films one of two ways: as a genuinely good movie, or so absurd, it’s actually entertaining. Goldfinger, of course, belongs in the former category, as it is perhaps the most iconic James Bond film ever made. The golden and lifeless body of Jill Masterson, Pussy Galore, Oddjob, the botched gin game, the sneaky golf match, snipers and chases, and, of course, Auric Goldfinger and his wonderfully phallic laser.

Goldfinger was the first wildly successful Bond film (netting $125 million against a $3 million budget), and watching it today, it’s easy to see why its popularity has never diminished. After all, you can never have too much of a good thing. A

Highlights: Body painted gold; Oddjob; “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die”; pimped-out Aston Martin; Pussy Galore

Thunderball (1965)
Bond: Sean Connery
Thunderball marked a gradual shift to the more action-friendly Bond film. This is prevalent in the film’s cold open, in which Bond punches a helpless woman (who is actually a male SPECTRE agent), before fleeing on a jetpack strapped to his back.

After two atomic weapons are stolen by SPECTRE, the organization demands $100 million in diamonds, or else they will destroy a major city. Bond is tasked with finding the nukes, leading him to the famed Emilio Largo, better known as SPECTRE’s eye patch-wearing second in command, Number Two. In addition to its heightened action, Thunderball is notable for its increase in puns (“She needs to sit this one out, she’s just dead”),  awkward English dubbing, and a gorgeous Panavision aspect ratio, perfect for the film’s extended underwater battles. B+

Highlights: Underwater fights; jetpack; Panavision; return of SPECTRE

You Only Live Twice (1967)
Bond: Sean Connery
You Only Live Twice begins in space, with an amusingly phallic sequence of a small American aircraft being swallowed whole by a larger aircraft. The U.S. and Russia suspect each other for the attack, but the Brits think it’s Japan pulling the strings in an effort to pit America and Russia against each other.

After faking his own death to get prior bad guys off his back, Bond is sent to investigate Japan’s suspicious activity, where he soon learns that Blofeld (the guy with the white cat) is actually behind the whole ordeal. From there, Bond’s mission leads to an exciting helicopter duel, adventures around an extinct volcano, and most notably, Bond training to become a ninja (he even alters his figure to “become Japanese”). It’s definitely silly shit, but the climactic battle between Bond’s ninjas and Blofeld’s goons is a lot of fun. Plus, the set design of that empty volcano rocks. B

Highlights: Blofeld returns; volcanic underground lair; Bond becomes Japanese; bitchin’ helicopter battle

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
Bond: George Lazenby
This one never got the credit it deserved. Sean Connery checked out during You Only Live Twice, and when he said he wouldn’t return, the producers took a chance in casting unknown Aussie, George Lazenby, as Bond. The change didn’t sit well with audiences, which is a damn shame, as On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is one of the finest films in the 007 canon.

Lazenby seamlessly takes over the role (less brutish than Connery, not as cute as Roger Moore), while the editing and staging allows for one of the most controlled Bond pictures ever. Set mostly in the Swiss Alps (with Bond attempting to find Blofeld for a criminal under lord), the action scenes are consistently exhilarating. Extended ski chases (with one ski, no less), avalanches, bobsleds, bombs and guns and grenades – solid action, genuine emotion. The film also features Bond falling in love for one of the only times in his life, leading him all the way to the alter. Even up to its shocking and melancholic ending, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service maintains its maturity throughout, something that is sorely missing in subsequent films. A

Highlights: George Lazenby as Bond; Blofeld is back; Swiss Alps; skiing with one ski; Bond gets married!

Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Bond: Sean Connery
Connery is back as Bond (thanks to a then-record paycheck), looking a little older, moving a little slower, but still about his wits. The plot for Diamonds are Forever is hilariously over complicated, but basically Bond must keep a large amount of diamonds out of Blofeld’s hands, as the stones will help Blofeld create a giant laser that wreaks havoc on the world. Diamonds are Forever is an elaborate tale of hot potato – it’s all about who has the diamonds at any given time, not what is being done with the. The film is notable for an extended car chase in downtown Vegas, and for a fight with two badass babes named Bambi and Thumper. We’re definitely in silly Bond territory now, but I’ve always had fun with this entry. B-

Highlights: Connery is back; driving on two wheels; Bond in Vegas; (really lame) Moon buggy chase; Bambi and Thumber; Blofeld, again

Live and Let Die (1973)
Bond: Roger Moore
It’s Roger Moore’s first at bat as everyone’s favorite spy. This time, a ruthless gangster named Dr. Kananga plans to distribute two tons of heroin for free in the United States, thereby hooking thousands of people and becoming rich by exploiting their future addictions.

Much of the strength or failure of this film (and the subsequent six official Bond films) comes down to whether or not you like Roger Moore. Moore plays Bond as if he’s in on the joke. As if the actor, Roger Moore, is aware that the character, James Bond, is essentially a shtick. I’ll always be a Connery guy, but the mantle had to pass at some point, and I’m glad the producers didn’t try to mimic Connery’s performance by casting someone similar. But still, Live and Let Die has to get points for one of the best main villain kills in the history of the franchise. Blowing up like a balloon, soaring into the air, ka-POW. Awesome. C+

Highlights: Roger Moore as Bond; heroin; voodoo; tarot cards; New Orleans; best villain kill ever

The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
Bond: Roger Moore
It’s rather refreshing to see a 007 movie with a modest scope. The Man with the Golden Gun is about Bond trying to find a deadly assassin named Francesco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee, loving it) before the assassin finds him first. That’s it, really. No space or lasers. No sharks or gadgets. Okay, sure, something called a “Solex agitator” comes into play, but essentially, The Man with the Golden Gun is an exotic catch me if you can flick. And I dig it for that.

Problem is, the premise is too small, and the filmmakers don’t know what to do with it. This film is proof that, although we often love to hate how extreme some Bond films are, that can be what makes them fun. C-

Highlights: Christopher Lee; Nick Nack; the golden gun; the duel; Mary Goodnight

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Bond: Roger Moore
The Spy Who Loved Me is by far Moore’s best outing as Bond, and also the best Bond film featuring Moore (they aren’t always the same). The film begins with one of the franchise’s most iconic cold opens – a ski chase-turned free fall – that still wows to this day. The movie gets us back to big Bond plot territory by introducing a villain who wants to destroy the world and start his own civilization underwater. For dramatic weight, Bond’s partner/love interest is a KGB agent whose lover was actually killed by Bond.

But The Spy Who Loved Me is best known for introducting Jaws, the towering villain who remains one of Bond’s most memorable advisories. Fighting Jaws, Moore’s Bond seems genuinely scared and vulnerable. Bonus fun includes a car that turns into a submarine, and a thrilling helicopter chase. The Spy Who Loved Me is Bond done right. B

Highlights: Iconic cold open; Moore’s best Bond; Jaws; Atlantis; Egyptian setting; submarine car

Moonraker (1979)
Bond: Roger Moore
James Bond in space! The cold open is a perfect indication of where things are going. Bond and Jaws fight while skydiving. Bond escapes and Jaws breaks his parachute. Instead of falling to his death, Jaws spots a giant circus tent and stars air swimming so that he can land on the tent. Thrilling to laughably absurd, all in the span of a minute. Moonraker is one of the silliest Bond films, but if you know that going in, I suppose you can have fun with it.

The plot has Bond trying to stop hyperbolic super villain, Hugo Drax (Poppa from Munich!), from wiping out every human on Earth, thereby creating a master race based on genetically modified people. It’s so huge it’s downright dumb. But hey, Jaws gets to fall in love in this one, so I guess it isn’t all that bad. D+

Highlights: Bond in space!; Jaws falls in love!; laser fights; Hugo Drax aka space Hitler; Holly Goodhead

For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Bond: Roger Moore
It’s never a good sign when the cold open is the best scene in the film. And although this one is great – Blofeld remote controls a helicopter with Bond inside of it – For Your Eyes is as dull as James Bond films get.

After the stupidity of Moonraker, the producers tried to ground 007 with a more realistic plot. Problem is, there’s nothing particularly interesting about this movie. It goes on and on, never earning its 128 minute running time. The main plot is about Bond trying to recover a missile transmitter before the Russians do, but a far more interesting subplot of a Bond girl avenging the murder of her parents should have been explored more. Moore seems bored throughout, reminding us that, for better or worse, he was having a lot more fun in Moonraker. D+

Highlights: Boring Bond; hockey assassins; final official Blofeld appearance; gripping rock climbing sequence

Octopussy (1983)
Bond: Roger Moore
This is arguably the least memorable film in the entire James Bond franchise. It isn’t good, it isn’t so bad it’s good, it’s just plain stupid. Plot? Jewel smugglers try to start a nuclear war by, in part, detonating a nuke at a… circus. I have nothing more to add, except the insanely random collection of highlights below. Octopussy is 131 minutes long and shortly after beginning, you’ll just want it to be over. D

Highlights: Fabergé eggs; red spandex jump suits, jungle fights, the Tarzan scream, “That’s my octopussy”; gorilla costumes; Bond. As. A. Circus. Clown.

A View to a Kill (1985)
Bond: Roger Moore
Widely regarded as the worst Bond film of all time (most recently on the How Did This Get Made? podcast), A View to a Kill is, yes, the James Bond franchise at its most ridiculous, but that kind of deserves a bit of credit.

Make no mistake, this is a horrible film, but isn’t it an accomplishment to make the most absurd Bond film ever? How Did This Get Made? spent more than an hour trying to dissect the nonsensical plot of A View to a Kill, and I certainly can’t do any better. Something about a drugged horse racing scandal, and one of the horse’s owners, Max Zorin (Christopher Walken, in pure caricature mode), trying to destroy Silicon Valley so he can monopolize microchip technologies. This film is a disaster by its third minute – James Bond snowboarding to a bad cover of “California Girls” was never going to be a good idea. D-

Highlights: Christopher Walken (duh); Grace Jones (and her flattop); microchips; blimps; Eiffel Tower skydive; Golden Gate Bridge showdown; is Roger Moore like… ill?

The Living Daylights (1987)
Bond: Timothy Dalton
Timothy Dalton’s ice cold, humorless take on James Bond was bound to be polarizing, especially having followed Moore’s increasingly silly incarnation. I personally think Dalton was given too much flak for his Bond. Dalton is a drastic change, but certainly a welcome one. Ultimately, though, The Living Daylights fails him. Aside from its fantastic cold open – in which Bond and other 00 agents skydive onto the Rock of Gibraltar, before a car chase ensues – the story of Bond trying to protect a deflected KGB agent is just too tame. It’s also worth mentioning, with respect, that the plot involving Britain helping Afghanistan fight against the Russias really doesn’t stand up well today. D+

Highlights: Rad cold open; Timothy Dalton’s scowl; sexy snipers; the Ghetto Blaster; Afghans vs. Ruskies

Licence to Kill (1989)
Bond: Timothy Dalton
I love how dark Licence to Kill is. I love Dalton’s furious and enraged portrayal of Bond. And I absolutely love how simple the plot is. Licence to Kill is all about good old fashion revenge. After Bond’s longstanding confidant, Felix Leiter (and his new wife), are brutalized by drug lord Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi, the best), Bond makes it his personal mission to hunt Sanchez down. Bond’s boss, M, doesn’t agree with Bond’s tactics, so he strips 007 of his MI6 status, leaving our famed spy to go rouge.

Licence to Kill is the darkest Bond film yet. It features brutal murders, an implied rape, remorseless villains, and a bloodthirsty Bond we rarely get to see. Oh, and there’s a lot of cocaine. Like, a lot of cocaine. Licence to Kill is probably the Bond film I most disagree with the masses on. Today, it is remembered as a dark but deeply flawed inclusion to the franchise. Me? I love damn near everything about it. And although I really enjoy the subsequent Bond, I would have liked to see where Dalton took the character. B+

Highlights: Cocaine; leg-eating-sharks; baby-faced Benicio Del Toro; cocaine; mean Bond; huge role for Q (!); Wayne Newton; epic truck chase

GoldenEye (1995)
Bond: Pierce Brosnan
After enduring the biggest gap in the history of the franchise, 007 returned with one of the best films in the series. Like most people my age, GoldenEye was my real introduction to the world of James Bond. I had seen a handful of the other films prior to this one, but GoldenEye was the flick that made me a fan. It is also, without question, the Bond film I’ve seen the most, for the very simple reason that it still holds up today. Pierce Brosnan moves effortlessly into the role (a part that was supposed to be his in 1987, were it not for his Remington Steele contract), the plot is timely for the era (Britain vs. Russian post-Cold War), the stunts are spectacular, the humor is on point, and the cold open is fucking epic. Sean Bean proves to be a worthy advisory, helping James Bond announce, with vigor, that he is back, baby. A-

Highlights: Famke Janssen; Famke Janssen’s legs; “For England, James?”; Judi Dench as M; giant satellites; fatal sex scenes; tank chases; train explosions; chopper ejections

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
Bond: Pierce Brosnan
GoldenEye is a tough act to follow. It’s something we’ve seen a lot in this franchise: a great and redefining entry that is immediately followed by a subpar effort. That’s how I’ve always regarded Tomorrow Never Dies, but I was pleased to discover that upon revisiting it for this post, it held up rather well. Sure, the plot of a media mogul trying to start a war between China and the UK (just so he can boost his ratings) is a pretty lame one, and there have certainly been better villains and Bond girls, but ultimately, there are enough thrills in Tomorrow Never Dies to make it worthwhile. B-

Highlights: Cell phone that can remote control a car; ship-sinking drills; handcuffed motorcycle chase; Jonathan Pryce and his white hair; awkward Teri Hatcher

The World is Not Enough (1999)
Bond: Pierce Brosnan
It’s such a waste to watch Brosnan struggle through the foolish plot of The World is Not Enough, which has Bond trying to protect the daughter of an assassinated billionaire from a tech terrorist named Renard. The boat chase/hot air balloon cold open is pretty fun (and the longest in the franchise’s history), but things go south from there. In an attempt to capitalize on her “It Girl” status, Denise Richards was cast as the main Bond girl, which was a disastrous choice. Brosnan seems slightly bored (though not in his solid scenes with Dench), but the real problem here is Renard. Though he’s played by the excellent Robert Carlyle, the character is laughably hyperbolic. An anarchist with a bullet lodged in his head, thereby destroying his senses. “The bullet will kill him,” M says at one point, “But he’ll get stronger every day until he dies.” I mean really, what’s next? A villain who doesn’t sleep in an attempt to take over the world? D+

Highlights: Denise Richards’ line readings; garrote torture device; plutonium; pipelines; pools of caviar; reactors; the cane gun

Die Another Day (2002)
Bond: Pierce Brosnan
Laser fights, diamond faces, back flip dives, KITE. SURFING., lame costumes, bad CGI, invisible cars, the sun mirror laser weapon… thing, Michael Madsen hamming, Madonna “acting,” Halle Berry struggling, Pierce Brosnan checking out – it’s bad news all around. Brosnan himself has commented on how bad this movie is. As have the longtime producers, and plenty of other people involved. Die Another Die is absurd even for Bond standards. I’m hard pressed to think of a single redeeming quality. I suppose, if I’m reaching, some of the scenes before they get to Iceland aren’t so bad, but once they’re at that ice palace, holy shit, look out. D

Highlights: See the first sentence of my description.

Casino Royale (2006)
Bond: Daniel Craig
Everyone has an opinion about James Bond films, and many of those opinions were quite vicious following The World is Not Enough and Die Another Day. Instead of letting the negative feedback cripple them, producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli took them to heart. They listened, they delivered. But this delivery was met with its fair share of vitriol. Many Bond elitists were furious at the casting of the blonde haired, blue eyed Daniel Craig as 007. Wilson and Broccoli wisely stuck with their choice, adopting a “Yeah, just you wait and see,” attitude. We waited, and what we saw was one of the greatest Bond films ever made.

Casino Royale is stylish and sexy, dangerous and exciting. Craig absolutely kills it, delivering the best initial Bond performance ever, Eva Green oozes sexuality, Mads Mikkelsen perfectly inhabits the tough guy who’s actually scared shitless, and Jeffrey Wright is a delight as a smooth-talking Felix Leiter. The most entertaining James Bond film made yet. A

Highlights: Black and white cold open; Daniel Craig’s first tux shot; the Vesper cocktail; a chair with no bottom (fucking hell); the parkour chase; “Job’s done, the bitch is dead.”

Quantum of Solace (2008)
Bond: Daniel Craig
Quantum of Solace begins with a thrilling car chase scene set minutes after Casino Royale’s conclusion. Cars whiz down a small, twisty road, guns blaze, tempers flare – awesome, right? (But at just four minutes long, it’s one of the shortest cold opens of the franchise.) Problem is, once you’ve seen the whole film, it becomes clear that everyone involved hoped that this opening sequence would hold viewers’ attention for the film’s remaining 102 minutes. As I’ve said, I either like my James Bond films good or so bad they’re good. Dullness is unacceptable, and Quantum of Solace is the dullest Bond film ever made. I loathe this film, and have no earthly idea how it could be sandwiched between two of the franchise’s most successful efforts. We should all pretend Quantum of Solace never happened. F

Highlights: The cold open; Mathieu Amalric’s unintentionally hilarious screaming

Skyfall (2012)
Bond: Daniel Craig
Here we are again, bouncing back from a disaster with a truly great entry. Director Sam Mendes injected so much energy and panache into Skyfall; this flick is booming with class and thrills. Putting Bond back on a simple plot of get-him-before-he-gets-us was a wise move, because it allowed for character to shine. Although I prefer Casino Royale as a whole, Craig has never been better as Bond (nor has Dench as M). Javier Bardem is an exquisite villain, one of the franchise’s best ever. No gadgets, no tricks, no lame Bond girls or cheap puns – really, what Skyfall amounts to is standing your ground and protecting what’s yours by any means necessary. That’s the maxim the producers have followed from the beginning, and although it doesn’t always work out for them, Skyfall is proof that when a Bond film hits, boy, does it hit so good. A-

Highlights: “Well, first time for everything, yes?” “What makes you think this is my first time?”; Roger Deakins’ cinematography; Albert Finney kicking ass; Ralph Fiennes playing nice

Unofficial Entries
Many “James Bond” films have been made outside of the Eon Production label, here are my brief thoughts on two of the more famous ones.
Casino Royale (1967)
Bond: Several (it’s stupid)
This parody take on Bond is a nearly unfinishable misfire. It’s a five minute sketch that goes on for an additional 120. No amount of talent involved (including Peter Sellers, David Niven, Woody Allen and Orson Welles) could make this thing work. It’s like that movie Valentine’s Day meets Monty Python meets shit. I can think of no reason to recommend this movie, only to say that you’ve seen a James Bond film that really isn’t a James Bond film. D-

Highlights: Watching really good actors bomb through really bad material

Never Say Never Again (1983)
Bond: Sean Connery
The most infamous non-Eon Bond film is Never Say Never Again, a title inspired by Connery’s insistence that he would never again fill Bond’s shoes. The film feels off from the beginning. No shot of Bond shooting down the barrel directly at us, no cold open, no extended credit sequence. And while it’s great to see Connery again, dude is just too old to handle this. Plus, he’s obviously phoning it in for the paycheck.

Apparently a remake of Thunderball, Never Say Never Again brings back SPECTRE, Ernst Blofeld (Max von Sydow, in a near career low), missiles, nukes – the whole standard formula. There’s nothing to set this film apart, except Connery’s return and the fact that it isn’t part of the real franchise. Though few things top Sean Connery and Kim Basinger jumping off a building into the water while riding a horse. Backflip into the sea and everything. Jesus, what a disaster. D

Highlights: Connery is… back?

Further Reading
Everything or Nothing (2012)
Everything or Nothing is a fabulous documentary about the history of the James Bond franchise. It includes entertaining and informative interviews with every Bond (except Connery, naturally), producer Barbara Broccoli, and many Bond girls and villains. In Everything or Nothing, you’ll learn how Bond came to life via author Ian Fleming, and how 007 finally made it to the screen due to the efforts of Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. The most notable thing about the documentary, however, is that it doesn’t shy away from the controversy that has surrounded the franchise. Both on-screen disasters and behind the scenes feuds are detailed greatly. And seeing Pierce Brosnan laugh his way through describing Die Another Day is enough to make this documentary worth watching. B+

Ranking James Bond
23. Quantum of Solace (2008) F
22. A View to a Kill (1985) D-
21. Die Another Day (2002) D
20. Octopussy (1983) D
19. For Your Eyes Only (1981) D+
18. Moonraker (1979) D+
17. The Living Daylights (1987) D+
16. The World is Not Enough (1999) D+
15. The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) C-
14. Live and Let Die (1973) C+
13. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) B-
12. Diamonds Are Forever (1971) B-
11. You Only Live Twice (1967) B
10. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) B
9. Thunderball (1965) B+
8. Licence to Kill (1989) B+
7. Dr. No (1962) A-
6. Skyfall (2012) A-
5. Goldeneye (1995) A-
4. Goldfinger (1963) A
3. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) A
2. Casino Royale (2006) A
1. From Russia with Love (1963) A

50 comments:

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    1. Hmm, I've seen just Casino Royale but the whole film I laughed because how exiting could be a film about Poker.

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    2. Try Rounders next. Great poker flick.

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  2. Here's my list of all the Bond films (EON and non-EON). You and I pretty much are in agreement that From Russia with Love is the best of the Bond films. I'm really excited for SPECTRE. The cast alone is money.

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    1. Wow man, that's crazy how in sync we are. So happy to see you rank Licence to Kill so highly. I mean... coke and gas?! That flick rocks. I'm really excited for SPECTRE as well.

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  3. My favorite subject to talk about. There are a lot of things that I agree with you on here but I can't ever bring myself to Fail a Bond film, even one as dismal as Quantum. I also have a much higher opinion of the Roger Moore films than you do. In particular Octopussy which I find to be much more entertaining than you are willing to give it credit for. Moonraker is a disater area but it does have a Shirley Bassey vocal and 90% of a good pre-title sequence. Sean Connery is 007, everyone else is just playing the part. I ranked all the films by actor a couple of years ago in the lead up to Skyfall, I'm going to have to find some other things to write about this Fall. A very nice job, I enjoyed reading you views quite a bit.

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    1. I rewatched Quantum with the full hope of liking it more, but man, that one just doesn't work. The only Bond film I truly loathe. But oh well.

      I love talking about Bond as well, because everyone has different films that they love/hate and different Bonds that they prefer. No one is right and no one is wrong - just the world of Bond. Do you have a link to your rankings? I'd love to see them.

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    2. Here is a link to the last post in the series, the other links are at the bottom of the article. I hope you enjoy. If you have any ideas for some new threads of discussion, let me know.
      http://kirkhamclass.blogspot.com/2012/11/countdown-to-skyfall-50th-anniversary.html

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    3. Great stuff man, just made my way through your posts. There really is never a bad time to tackle Bond.

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  4. An F for QoS? I thought it was bad too, but man that's harsh. I grew up during the Roger Moore era and his status as Bond is diminishing as I get older. Brosnan was a perfect choice for the role. Too bad his last couple of 007 movies were so horrible. However, I think you should have made Halle Berry's emergence from the water in that orange bikini a highlight.

    Skyfall is my absolute number one Bond flick. It's such a magnificent deconstruction and self aware examination of the entire franchise that I love every second of it. This combined with CR make Craig my favorite Bond, also. He brings so much more humanity to the character than anyone else has. I could see this guy really existing while Connery's Bond is a super-macho ideal, what (some) men wish all men were like. That said, I haven't watched From Russia with Love in its entirety since I was a kid.

    Great post, Alex.

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    1. And trust me man, I wasn't trying to be harsh for the sake of being harsh. That's just honestly how I feel about that movie. It feels like sketches of multiple ideas. Rough drafts of thoughts. Yuck.

      I really love Skyfall as well, for the exact reason you mentioned. Upon rewatching it, it runs a tad too long for me, but I still adore it. From Russia with Love, man... so good. The best.

      Thanks for the comment, Dell!

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  5. Great breakdown of the Bond films. I binge watched all of them myself as well leading up to Skyfall when that one came out. I had only seen a few before that, but now i'm a total James Bond fan. I must say that one of my personal favorites has to be The Man with the Golden Gun though. It's very cheesy, but i love it. Goldeneye is also one of my favorites, but that is mostly because i remember playing the Nintendo 64 game non-stop when i was younger. The worst one in my opinion has to be Die Another Day though. That was the Batman and Robin of the Bond franchise. That is the first Bond movie i saw in theaters as well and i remember begging my dad to let us leave half way through it. I only finally watched the whole movie during my binge watch and it was painful. If i ever do another binge watch of all the Bond films, i will seriously consider just skipping that one.

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    1. Thanks man! Die Another Day is so bad, love the B&R comparison, so true. I really liked how tMwtGG started, but it didn't get to where it needed to go fast enough. For me, anyway. But it's always fun to watch Lee.

      And holy shit, the hours I clocked on that GoldenEye game. I haven't played video games since N64, so that game is literally my be all end all.

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  6. WOW, this was quite the undertaking. I am so underversed in this franchise. I have seen a handful, loved some and loathed others, but I'll eventually see them all. Great work here, as always!

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    1. Thanks buddy! Never a bad time to catch some Bond!

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  7. Excellent write up Alex, I'ma huge fan of the Bond movies. I've been reviewing them on my blog as of late, if you're interested.

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    1. Thanks man. Will check out your reviews soon.

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  8. Great write up! I haven't seen all of these but I agree Quantum is awful, that movie was not only boring but the editing was so bad in the chase scenes I had absolutely no idea what was going on. Goldeneye is one of my favorites too, brilliant film and Bean and Janssen were awesome villains

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    1. Thank you! And EXACTLY about Quantum. There is literally no reason for action editing to be that bad. Those scenes had no frame of reference, I never had any idea what was happening. That was actually the reason I couldn't get into that Fury movie either. Horrible staging.

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  9. "It’s hard not to love the James Bond franchise."

    I don't love the Bong franchise. In fact, I find it mostly tired. It just never did anything for me. Even looking at your list, there appear to be more bad Bond movies than good ones.

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    1. I said it's hard. Not impossible. But... thanks?

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  10. I'm glad you love OHMSS.

    GREAT
    From Russia With Love
    Goldfinger
    Skyfall
    On Her Majesty's Secret Service
    VERY GOOD
    Casino Royale
    You Only Live Twice
    GoldenEye
    GOOD
    Dr. No
    Thunderball
    The Spy Who Loved Me
    The Man With the Golden Gun
    Licence to Kill
    OK
    Diamonds Are Forever
    Live and Let Die
    For Your Eyes Only
    Tomorrow Never Dies
    BAD
    The Living Daylights
    Octopussy
    Moonraker
    The World Is Not Enough
    AWFUL
    A View to A Kill
    Never Say Never Again
    Quantum of Solace
    Die Another Day

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    1. I was so happy I decided to rewatch OHMSS. It's just a really good movie, you know? And a GREAT Bond film. Nice rankings, seems like we're pretty much in line here.

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  11. This is an awesome post! I'd been meaning to something similar, but I doubt it could live up to the depth of this one. All the films in 10 days is impressive! I agree with you (or at least close to your take) on most of these. I'm even higher than you on Licence to Kill and love that you're also so high on On Her Majesty's Secret Service. The ones that I like that you rate poorly are For Your Eyes Only and The Living Daylights. While neither is in the top tier, I'd rank both as solid spy thrillers and put each at the B level. The Living Daylights has some of the down-to-earth aspects that made its follow-up so strong. The plot and villains aren't the best, but I think the overall feeling is on the right track.

    Great work!

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    1. Thanks Dan! FYEO seems to be the one that people disagree with me on the most. Maybe I need to give it another go, but I could just not get into it. But still, I'm really glad you like the list, and thanks so much for tweeting about it!

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  12. I really have to finish watching all of these. I've only watched 10. Apparently my 14 year old brother has seen all which is still impossible for me to process and his favourite is From Russia With Love too. Mine is Skyfall of course.

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    1. Ha, well, I think I had seen all of them when I was 14 too. Or at least some of all of them. Bond films have that weird way of always appealing to men, no matter the age. 14, 30, or 57 - we always love Bond.

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  13. Epic post! This is amazing!

    Ha, I actually love The World is Not Enough and Quantum of Solace (however flawed), and I like The Living Daylights, Die Another Day and For Your Eyes Only.

    I really need to see Octopussy and Never Say Never Again, just to complete the franchise.

    At the moment, I'd rank the official films I've seen like this:

    1. Casino Royale
    2. Goldfinger
    3. Skyfall
    4. On Her Majesty's Secret Service
    5. The World is Not Enough
    6. From Russia with Love
    7. Dr. No
    8. Quantum of Solace
    9. The Living Daylights
    10. Live and Let Die
    11. Licence to Kill
    12. The Spy Who Loved Me
    13. Goldeneye
    14. Thunderball
    15. Tomorrow Never Dies
    16. Die Another Day
    17. For Your Eyes Only
    18. You Only Live Twice
    19. Diamonds Are Forever
    20. The Man with the Golden Gun
    21. A View to Kill
    22. Moonraker

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    1. Thanks dude! I'm surprised The World is Not Enough and Quantum get such high marks from you, but hey, it's hard to argue Bond! Octopussy is stupid fun, but definitely on par with Moonraker. Never Say Never Again is just bad.

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  14. Badass list man. I've never been much of a James Bond fan to be honest, but reading through this does make me want to go back and re-watch some of those older films (and Licence to Kill). You make them sound like a lot of fun, which is not what I got from the ones I saw growing up lol. Great read as always!

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    1. Thanks man! I do think you'd like On Her Majesty's Secret Service. It's a very smart film, and has a lot of interesting things to say visually. There's a great moment when Bond breaks into an office, and slowly draws back a knife to throw it. As he draws back, the camera pushes in on him. It's fucking awesome. A real cinema moment. My favorite shot from any Bond film.

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  15. Way too many things to comment on. Congrats on getting through all those films in that short an amount of time. There's also a Bond Girls Are Forever movie that goes through the various women to star alongside the Bond character.

    I agree with you that License to Kill is a damn good Bond film. Pretty much everything that was praised about Daniel Craig as Bond was first said about Dalton, except it was said as a criticism back then.

    Of the ones you hated I probably disagree with you the most on Moonraker. For me it falls into the so goofy it's good category. And it's got Jaws again - my favorite villain.

    Of the ones you loved I probably disagree with you the most on Casino Royale (the Craig version). I never got the love for this film. I felt Mikkelson was the most boring villain I've seen in any Bond film (and I've seen them all). You've got to have a great antagonist to bring out the best in Bond. And I wasn't thrilled with the "slug first, think later" Bond presented to us in this movie. Sure, parkour was trendy when the movie was made, but what makes Bond great is that he outhinks his opponents, not outslugs them or outparkours them. Yes, I understand this is a movie about Bond before he became Bond, but that's not what I want to see. I want to see Bond.

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    1. Hey Chip, thanks for this comment. I'll check out Bond Girls Are Forever, sounds really interesting.

      I think you make a very good argument concerning Casino Royale. Not exactly a Bond film for Bond purists. But I do love it. And I agree that Mikkelson is a weak villain, but that makes his eventual payoff that much better.

      So glad to find other Licence to Kill fans. I loved that one.

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  16. Good lord, man - great recap.

    I absolutely love Bond, but there's a ton of movies I haven't seen. In fact, I don't think I've actually seen a Connery Bond all the way through (despite the fact I have a framed Goldfinger poster in my house).

    I really don't mind Dalton, in fact, I think he's underrated. I couldn't agree more on License to Kill - I love that flick and would have enjoyed one more Dalton movie.

    However, Goldeneye will always be THE Bond movie for me and Brosnan is hard to beat as Bond (in that flick, anyway).

    Didn't that writer's strike have a lot to do with the subpar quality of QoS? I want to say I don't mind that film but, then again, I haven't watched it in forever.

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    1. Thanks man! From what I can gather, the affect of the strike on Solace was that they couldn't rewrite anything while they were shooting, which is very, very common on big budget movies. Basically, Paul Haggis finished the shooting script hours before the strike began, so they shot from that script alone. But still, a shooting script is a shooting script, and that script is complete dogshit. And just because you don't have an official WGA writer on set, you can still change things, you know? Also, the editing of that movie is horrendous, so there's a lot going on with that film. Ha.

      So happy you're a Dalton fan as well. I love Licence to Kill. And GoldenEye, forget about it. So good.

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  17. As a poker player, I have a love-relationship with the best known poker scene in Casino Royale. With the chip stacks of the players, the board texture and many other factors it is simply impossible, with players of that supposed quality, that the hand could have played out like it did. The flop was so draw heavy and wet the shortstacked players would have moved all in rather than each player checking the flop.

    Sorry....

    But, yeah. I love the bond Franchise, I feel Timothy Dalton performance is perhaps the closest to the novels, and License to Kill is the most underrated,

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    1. Ohhh I'd love to ask you this: as a poker player, which movies do get poker right? I have some friends who are serious poker players, and they bash every poker film ever made (especially Rounders, which I love).

      It's the same for me and boxing movies. I boxed for two years and very, very few movies get it right. Urks me so bad!

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  18. It is possible seeing Skyfall without seeing Quantum of Solace?

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    1. There is no reason to ever see Quantum of Solace.

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  19. This is a man-sized post, friend. Loved every second I spent reading through this. And I agree with you for the most part. There are quite a few I haven't seen, but I will eventually.

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    1. Thanks dude! So happy you enjoyed checking out the post!

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  20. I can't believe everybody hates Quantum of Solace that much. I don't remember it being THAT dull...

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  21. First of all: What an achievement! I love reading your blog and find that we do share a similar taste in films although, strangely enough, we seem to harshly differ when it comes to Quantum of Solace from the Bond Franchise.

    I just watched it for the third time since it came out back in 2008 in preparation for Spectre and I still can't believe you gave it an F. Especially in light of all the great "Top X Things I Love About Y (that no one talks about)" posts from you. There are several moments in QoS that would be worthy for a post like that in my opinion, which is probably because, to me, Quantum of Solace is something like a "Bond rage poem" (if that makes sense) that starts exactly where Casino Royale leaves off and there are many beautiful little things in it. Whether it's the completely unscored fight scene in the hotel room, Bond and Camille as a completely displaced picture walking through the desert in a "mirage shot" while in their fancy clothes, a simple line like "Thank you" at the end from the Canadian agent who was just saved on the verge of her life being about to unravel like Vesper's. Things like that.

    I would suggest you give QoS another go but from what I read above you already did that and nothing changed for you so I guess we simply had to differ at some point and that point is QoS.

    I mean, it's certainly not on par with either Casino Royale or Skyfall but in my book it's certainly not worse than Die Another Day either.

    All the best from Germany.

    P.S. I'm glad to read that you loved Victoria as much as I did. Definitely the best German film I've seen in quite a while apart from maybe Finsterworld.

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    1. Hey Ralf, thanks so much for the comment! Yeah man, best to agree that we differ on QoS. It's honestly the only Bond film I could never be forced to watch again. Just not for me. But I'm glad you were able to present your opinion of the film in a respectful and articulate way. Most people who disagree with opinions just say snarky shit, which is lame.

      SO glad you like Victoria as well. That one rooocked. And now I need to see Finsterworld.

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    2. You're welcome. I've been reading for a while now and just had to comment sometime. In the best (read: worst) of internet traditions that one time came when I had something "negative" to say. Funny how the need to disagree with someone can sometimes urge you to register somewhere or post something more than agreeing with someone can.

      As for Finsterworld: I can definitely recommend it and it feels weird saying it since every film is somehow a product of the country it was made in but Finsterworld feels like a very "German film" although the people involved stressed that it is not just meant to be a representation of Germany, which is why the location is simply "Finsterworld" and not an actual place somewhere.

      To come back to Bond for a second:
      Since you liked Skyfall as much as I did: A friend of mine told me that he didn't like the movie because of the updated version of Mission Impossible's NOC list and the way in which that particular aspect of the plot to him seemed to have been introduced early on but left hanging in limbo over the course of the film.

      I don't usually experience films primarily through that logic aspect and I'm definitely willing to let things slide under "narrative ellipsis" more than most people but I was just curious what you thought of the plot of Skyfall and the logic/illogicality involved. I was very generous in that regard and simply considered the list and how it was treated as the MacGuffin of the story to get Bond and M to Silva and vice versa. My friend, however, had never even heard the term MacGuffin before.

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    3. Well hey, although we disagreed on a film, what's important is that we were able to talk about our separate views in a constructive way. Many bloggers/commenters base their arguments on "No I'm right!" "No I'M right!" which is so reductive.

      In terms of logic, it seems very silly to me to pick apart a plot aspect of a film that is contained within a series in which the title character has stayed the same age for 52 years. It is completely illogical that James Bond would have stayed the same age since 1962, you know? These films aren't based in reality, they're pulp fiction made solely for entertainment value. Now, that doesn't mean all action films get a pass for faulty logic, but if the overall story of the film is worthy, then I can forgive logic. So, yeah, I definitely saw NOC list similarities in Skyfall, but so many major movies made today are regurgitations of films that came before (example: Southpaw is, essentially, Rocky III). So to fault one film for that, you have to fault all of them.

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    4. Completely agreed. Good point about the age of Bond throughout the series but I fear there's no convincing that friend of mine, but then again I don't need to. I certainly think it's a shame that he reduces Skyfall to that but to each his own.

      As for the NOC list: That one definitely wasn't left hanging under De Palma. I think the reason why my friend complained about this similar list in Skyfall is mainly that Silva makes it public and one agent is executed and THEN they never mention the list again. I, for one, simply picked it up as Silva's diabolical scheming to lure in M. That's the beautiful cruelty of it all, really. Those agents are expendable in terms of their life as well as in terms of their relevance to the plot. They are just a means to an end for Silva.

      Do let us know what you think about Spectre, by the way. I saw it on Sunday and I'm dying to hear your thoughts on that one.

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    5. Ohh I gotcha about the NOC list. I completely agree with you... it's a means to an end for Silva. It's all in an effort to get closer to M.

      I've been sooo busy recently, I haven't had time to see Spectre! But I will soon for sure.

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