007 License to Kill – Wrapping up Bond films

Hiya, Hello, Hola, and ‘alright. Avid readers of my blog (both of you) will have noticed that last night I reached the end of my 007 Bond series of reviews. I thought that now would be a good time to recap and note down some thoughts.

Top Films

Top of the pile came Casino Royale” (2006), Goldfinger” (1964), and “Goldeneye” (1995). They weren’t completely without problems as the later parts of this blog will discuss, but for me, these were the more enjoyable films in the series.

Casino Royale” (2006) felt more like what I felt a Bond film should be. Less gadget heavy and more just about espionage and trying to outwit the bad guys. Goldfinger” (1964) did well for me because it was fun, and it had a random bad guy – not the head of a secret organisation hell bent on destroying the world. It was also iconic with it’s imagery too – I’ll never forget the first time I saw what happened to Jill Masterson after she double crossed Auric Goldfinger. “Goldeneye” (1995) brought Bond back with a bang and reinvented him for a new era. Timothy Dalton did great in the films before this, but the Dalton films felt 80’s, Brosnan was a breath of fresh air and made it feel 90’s. It was also a nice twist using ‘one of their own’ Sean Bean as the bad guy. I’m probably also a little biased after spending many a night at university playing Goldeneye on the N64 games console.

Bottom films

Bottom of the pile was “Live and Let Die” (1973). It probably won’t come as a big surprise why as you read through this blog. For me, this film was too over the top, too out of place, too out of time. It was like an attempt to make a comic book film gone wrong. Out of all the Bond films that I’ve re-watched in 2020, this one is the one that caused me to cringe the most. It’s sexist, it’s racist, it’s imperialist, it’s a bit rapey too. I know that it was a product of it’s time, and a reaction to try and jump on the Blaxploitation band-wagon, but in this day and age, it felt bad watching this one. It’s not just now either, when I watched this as a child in the 80’s it felt that there was something wrong with it. It’s only as an adult I can see and understand more of what it is.

It is worth mentioning that I have included the unofficial Never Say Never Again (1983)” which will probably displease some hardcore fans, especially as I didn’t include the Barry Nelson or David Niven “Casino Royale” films (1954 & 1967). In my opinion it rated one place better than “Live and Let Die” (1973) but not as high up the ranking as “Thunderball” (1965) which it was based on/a direct rip-off of. I included it because I saw it before I watched “Thunderball” (1965) as a child in the 80’s, so to me at the time it was a Bond film, official or not. It didn’t come bottom of the pack because it was exciting and had lots of action in it. It’s also not that bad of a film in it’s own right if you had never seen “Thunderball” (1965). Got an issue with that? Tough! 😉

What surprised me/ Things to note

At the same time as re-watching all the James Bond films I decided to re-read the novels too, which I hadn’t read since childhood. I had completely forgotten how different the written stories are to the films, in some instances massively so. Take “Moonraker” (1979) for example; it does have Hugo Drax, it does deal with a rocket – but it takes place in England rather than hopping around the globe; it doesn’t have space flight at all; and the rocket in question is a defense system that Drax is giving to England to protect itself from global threats. It’s a world apart from Roger Moore travelling to space to fight Jaws and Drax. It’s more a product of the studio panicking and trying to replica the success of space based films like “Star Wars”.

Despite the change in times, and the different faces that Bond has had portraying him, it’s still very outdated in certain themes. It’s still sexist, even by the time Daniel Craig starred, women are still objects to titillate and tantalize, they are usually the weaker sex that need to be rescued and protected. It was Judi Dench’s portrayal of M that said he was a “sexist, misogynist dinosaur” and “a relic of the Cold War”, and rightly so. I’d suggest that just because we are faced with a misogynist character doesn’t necessarily mean the whole film and franchise is misogynistic, but it’s hard to look past certain things we are shown – even in the most recent of films (“Spectre” (2015) – he practically forces himself, uninvited, on Sévérine – Bérénice Marlohe in a shower?”). I’m not defending it by any stretch of the imagination, but I just have to remember that times have changes and a lot of the films are a product of their time. It would be great to have a film that doesn’t portray a “sexist, misogynist dinosaur”, but that’s the world that we live in and that attitude is still rife. Things are changing a little as time goes on, but the real issue is that World views are a little outdated and they need to change first for it to be represented better, not just in James Bond films, but in the majority of films which are pumped out Globally.

Bond films handling of racial, national, and ethical stereotype issues have got better over the years – but still are a long way off the mark. For me there was an all time low with racism in “Live and Let Die” (1973) (one of the main reasons why it scored do low with me), and who can forget how Bond was ‘yellow faced’ in “You only live twice” (1967). Even as far back as “Dr. No” (1962) white actors were playing none-white roles within the films – and that’s just in this franchise! Like the issue of sexism; racism is a World product and it’s mirrored in films and media of it’s day. I remember growing up and reading Disney comics or watching short cartoons with Donald Duck and Micky Mouse and seeing how race was handled and looking back it’s cringe worthy. Yes, even in something as harmless as Disney, racism is an issue (although they have tried hard to cover it up and sweep it under the carpet since about the year 2000). Bond films do have had an issue with race but they too are a product of their time, which were certainly amplifying the writing of Ian Fleming – which let’s not forget was a product of the 1940/50’s. While I could easy see somebody like Idris Elba starring as the super spy now, I don’t think that the 1960’s or 70’s World would have accepted it so freely. On the pages of Fleming’s book he had something to say about anybody who wasn’t British, let’s not forget for a moment that racism is exclusive to brown skin – Germans, Turks, Americans, Russians, Asians – everybody, black or white – if you wasn’t a British, middle to upper class person, there was a generally offensive description used. Potentially shifty people, or simple, criminals, peasant folk, pointed faced, greasy, backwards, or a whole manner of politically incorrect descriptors.

Thankfully things have been changing, slowly but there is some positive momentum. We had Grace Jones as Mayday, Halle Berry featured as Jinx Johnson, recently we had Jeffrey Wright stepping in as Felix Leiter, Naomi Harris became Moneypenny, and it looks like Lashana Lynch is playing agent 007 in the upcoming “Die Another Day” (2021?). I just hope that fans who grew up with a white male playing the starring role give the performance a chance before venting un-evolved views about the concept. These might only be small examples, but change starts with something small and then has the power to grow.

The sexism, the racism, the imperialism, they are all offshoots of the World we live in, offshoots of the outdated concept of the Empire that once conquered and shaped the World. Offshoots of an authors belief of where man stands in the world, and woman’s subservient position behind him. It’s an attitude that’s rooted in author Ian Fleming’s outright racist (not mention misogynistic and homophobic) point of view, but thankfully is changing.

There have been arguments revolving around Fleming and the films being symptomatic of the times – but for me this should just act as impetus to change the legacy around. Should I think these films and books should be banned or destroyed – no, it’s important to remember our past so we can shape our future. The World has to learn, and Bond, any writer that takes on the task of bringing him to life, the studio’s the put him on the big screen – everyone, we all have to learn and evolve. A life without Bond and all the issues that past incarnations have had would be like a museum without fossils.

Final Ranking

1007: Casino Royale (2006) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
007: Goldfinger (1964) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
007: Goldeneye (1995) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
2007: The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
007: Spectre (2015) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
007: Skyfall (2012) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
007: License to Kill (1989) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
007: A View to a Kill (1985) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
007: Dr. No (1962) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
007: The Living Daylights (1987) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
007: Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
007: The World is Not Enough (1999) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
007: From Russia with Love (1963) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
3007: Thunderball (1965) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
007: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
007: Quantum of Solace (2008) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
007: Moonraker (1979) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
4007: You only live twice (1967) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
007: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
007: Diamonds are Forever (1971) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
007: For Your Eyes Only (1981) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
007: Octopussy (1983) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
007: Die Another Day (2002) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
007 (Unofficial): Never Say Never Again (1983) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
5007: Live and Let Die (1973) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Bond Actor Ranking

At the very start of my run of Bond film reviews I asked the question, “who was your favorite James Bond?” I had 80+ replies to a poll on twitter and the results were as such:

1Daniel Craig
2Sean Connery
3Pierce Brosnan
4Roger Moore
5Timothy Dalton
6George Lazenby

Truth be told, I kind of expected the result to turn out like this because more of my readers have grown up with Daniel Craig as the current and most successful Bond. I can’t say I agree with the results personally, but it is what it is. I grew up in the 80’s, and it seems that when considering your favorite, it also depends on who was starring as the super spy when you grew up. In case anyone is interested, my personal opinion would have been: Connery, Brosnan, Dalton, Craig, Moore, & Lazenby.

Looking Ahead

The global pandemic brought on by the spread of Covid-19 put a spanner in the works of “Die Another Day” which should have been released in 2020 to coincide with my blog. Now it looks like we’ll have to wait till 2021. Already there has been controversy when it was announced that Lashana Lynch was playing agent 007. Some of the backlash came from gammon’s that hadn’t seen the trailer, or realised that Bond walked away from the service in “Spectre” (2015). Quite simply, if I quit my day job a replacement would be found, and I’d hope it was the best person for the job regardless of gender or skin colour. I welcome the change and am eager to see the film. Don’t forget, when Daniel Craig was announced, there was backlash about that too. There was a national campaign in the newspapers and online. People are hesitant to change, hopefully the studio aren’t and can see past any threat of reduced box office grossings.

It also looks like it will be Daniel Craig’s last turn as Bond. This will be sad because he has done well, but I can see that it is time for him to move on. The franchise has to evolve to remain successful. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. There were instances of older, more out-of-date Bond issues creeping into films. To me therefore, it is the right time for him to bow out and to be remembered as a good Bond.

What does the future hold? At least one film that we know about, and a change to lead roll. Front runners at the time of writing this are Tom Hardy, Idris Elba, Henry Cavill, Robert Pattinson, Paul Mescal, James Norton, Lashana Lynch, Michael B Jordan, Richard Madden, Tom Hiddleston, and Daniel Kaluuya. Fingers crossed the actor chosen drives the franchise into a new sunset!

Looking Back

On 31/10/2020 I got married. After the ceremony I read about the passing of Sir Sean Connery. Connery was the man that brought Bond to the mainstream. Barry Nelson and David Niven both had turns as unofficial versions of Bond in the early days, but it was Sean Connery that really captured audiences as the suave, no nonsense spy in Dr. No (1962)“. He had a fantastic career and appeared in lot of my favorite films, each time being unmistakably Scotish. It wouldn’t be right looking forward, without as well looking back at Sir Sean too. Rest in peace.

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