2022 sees the James Bond film series reach the big six zero years old. It all began back in 1962 with Dr. No. Yeah, yeah, before the backlash of ‘actually’… begins. I do know that Dr. No wasn’t the first Bond film. Yes, I do know that Casino Royale from 1954 with Barry Nelson as Bond was technically the first. However, I’m talking about the start of the officially recognised franchise, the one that became a worldwide phenomenon and catapulted the James Bond character into the stratosphere.
Anyway, there are actually several other movie milestones within the Bond franchise that are worth looking at too and that’s exactly what this article is all about. Starting with that first official James Bond film from 1962, I’m going to do a quick celebratory look at all the Bond films reaching a worthy milestone in 2022.
Released in 1962, making this inaugural film in the long-running, sixty years old franchise. The film didn’t just launch the James Bond movie franchise, it also turned its star, Sean Connery, into a film legend. Connery had a few small roles earlier in his career but becoming James Bond would be a career-defining role. It was also a role that Sean Connery ended up detesting.
Seeing Bond sent to Jamaica when an MI6 agent is murdered. The investigation leads Bond to discover the titular Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman ) and his nefarious plan involving a shuttle launch and a radio beam weapon… whatever that is. While this is the first ‘proper’ James Bond film, the novel it is based on was the sixth. Interestingly, the film makes several references to past and future Bond adventures. So this first appearance of Bond on film was treated as the character as already existing.
The intro to Dr. No set the standard that would be followed for six decades. The famed gunbarrel shot (though Bond was not played by Sean Connery but stuntman, Bob Simmons) the iconic Bond theme, the flashy and stylised graphics-heavy title sequence. It all began right here, though there was no dedicated James Bond song that became tradition after this film. Instead, what you do get is the Bond theme that mixes into a very Jamaican rendition of the Three Blind Mice nursery rhyme.
I’ve never really been a fan of this one, to be honest. I just found it all a bit ‘dull’ for a film that was billed as being such a huge action-adventure picture. Of course, you do have to give it credit for creating such a massive and much-loved franchise. Apparently, Bond creator, Ian Fleming, said of the film after seeing it that it was:
“Dreadful. Simply dreadful.”
I don’t think I’d go that far but Dr. No is hardly one of Bond’s best. The franchise had just begun and in fact, it wasn’t even thought of as becoming a franchise at the time. Even the production studio didn’t have a lot of faith in the film. When released, reviews were very mixed with film critics really not enjoying the film for the most part. Still, it was the general public that paid for cinema tickets that made it popular and once the studio saw the money that Dr. No was bringing in, a sequel was quickly greenlit. The beginning of Bond and a sixty-year franchise was born.
You Only Live Twice
This one came out in 1967 and is fifty-five years old this year. Now in 2022, this film is becoming infamous for the whole Japanese disguise thing where Sean Connery is ‘magically’ transformed into someone of a different race. The snowflakes of today like to find offence in things decades out of date. Still, I thought transitioning into something you are not was quite a popular thing these days…
Anyway, this flick has Bond sent to Japan to investigate the disappearance of American and Soviet spacecraft, which each nation blaming the other. You Only Live Twice is the first Bond film to show Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Donald Pleasence ) proper. He had been in previous films, but never seen or only partially seen. The screenplay for the film was also written by the awesome Roald Dahl. This was also the first Bond film to really have very little to do with the novel of the same name. Dhal threw out most of the novel’s plot, only keeping a few smaller references, and instead wrote an all-new story.
At the time, this was reported as being Connery’s last time playing James Bond. It was too… for one film. Conery was enticed back Diamonds Are Forever in 1971 and the non-canonical Never Say Never Again in 1983. Just a little tit-bit for you. Do you know the last time Sean Connery officially played James Bond? It was for the From Russia with Love video game from 2005. Connery not only lent his likeness to the game but he also recorded all new dialogue as James Bond.
I actually really like this Bond outing. It may not be ‘politically correct’ these days and it’s a shame that it has been getting a lot of bad press due to the whole Japanese disguise thing. The film is much more than one outdated gadget from over half a century ago. Connery was well into the role by now and I may even go so far as to say that this was his best performance as James Bond.
The Spy Who Loved Me
1977 was the year that this Bond film hit the big screen, making it forty-five years old. By now, Sean Connery was gone and Roger Moore had stepped into the famous tuxedo. This was Moore’s third outing as James Bond. The Spy Who Loved Me was the tenth book by Ian Fleming and was also the tenth film in the franchise.
Bond has to team up with KGB agent, Major Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach), to learn of the disappearance of a British and a Soviet ballistic-missile submarine. The duo learn that the subs have been stolen by Karl Stromberg (Curt Jürgens) and he plans on creating a new civilisation under the sea called Atlantis… cos it’s a James Bond film. This is the first film where Bond gets to cross paths with fan-favourite villain, Jaws (Richard Kiel).
To be honest, I’ve never been much of a fan of Roger Moore’s take on James Bond. It was a bit on the silly side and came across as more of a parody of the character. But that is not to say that Moore’s tenure as Bond and that era of films were bad, they are kind of iconic and enjoyable in their own way. While my favourite Moore/Bond film is Live and Let Die, there’s a lot to like here with The Spy Who Loved Me. The memorable opening with the ski-chase/skydive/Union Flag parachute. ‘Wet Nellie’, that’s the awesome Lotus Esprit S1 that turns into a submarine. The Nobody Does It Better song, the first of the Bond songs that’s doesn’t share its title with the film (though Dr. No didn’t have a dedicated song). I have always felt that this film was to Roger Moore what Goldfinger was to Sean Connery.
The Living Daylights
Thirty-five is how old this one is, being released in 1987. We are now onto our fourth official James Bond with Timothy Dalton now playing the part. I have to say this right here, Timothy Dalton was the best James Bond ever. He played the part much more closely as to how Ian Fleming wrote him, he actually looked like Fleming described him too.
For this adventure, Bond is assigned to help General Georgi Koskov (Jeroen Krabbé), a KGB agent, defect. Whilst on the mission, Bond crosses paths with Kara Milovy (Maryam d’Abo), Koskov’s girlfriend who is actually trying to kill Koskov. James Bond soon learns that the whole Georgi Koskov wanting to defect was a ruse for something far more sinister.
The Living Daylights was not just a film with the best James Bond, it also brought back the iconic Aston Martin. Not seen in a Bond film since 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, as Lotus became the Bond car manufacturer of the Roger Moore years. Aston Martin’s V8 Volante was the car here and there’s just something about James Bond and Aston Martin that works.
Both of Timothy Dalton’s outings as Bond (this and Licence to Kill) have always been vastly overlooked, I feel. It really is a shame that Dalton didn’t have the chance to come back for more. Long story short and there were behind the scenes legal issues with the James Bond rights. It took several years to sort out and by then, Timothy Dalton was perhaps a bit too old and the producers wanted a new James Bond. A third film was written for Dalton and it was set to be released in 1991. I actually have a separate article looking at that film coming up later. Anyway, after the legal issues were resolved, a new actor stepped into the role, speaking of which…
Tomorrow Never Dies
Released in 1997 and now a ripe twenty-five years old. The eighteenth James Bond film and the second to star Pierce Brosnan after GoldenEye. For me, Pierce Brosnan always felt like the Roger Moore of the nineties. Perhaps not quite as parody-like but certainly a James Bond that was a tad less serious than the predecessor.
This time around, Bond teams up with Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh), a Chinese agent. The two investigate the media mogul Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce) who, as it turns out, is hellbent on starting World War III via the use of his media empire… and some stolen missiles, of course. This was the first Bond film after the death of the franchise’s legendary producer, Albert R. Broccoli.
This really is not one of the best Bond outings, yet it has one of the best Bond girls with Michelle Yeoh. She’s awesome in this and I always wanted to see a Wai Lin spin-off film. She was going to return for 2002’s Die Another Day to help Bond when he was in Hong Kong. But the idea was scrapped and the character was replaced with Mr Chang (Ho Yi) instead. And on the subject of that film…
Die Another Day
Originally released for the fortieth anniversary of the James Bond franchise in 2001, now twenty years old itself. Die Another Day was specially written to pay respects to the franchise turning forty and was the last outing for Pierce Brosnan as James Bond.
After over a year of imprisonment in North Korea Bond’s freedom is exchanged for Zao (Rick Yune), the right hand-man of Korean dictator Colonel Moon (Will Yun Lee) … who Bond kind of accidentally killed. MI6 believe that Bond has been broken by the Koreans and leaked information. After escaping MI6, James Bond ends up in Cuba and meets NSA agent Giacinta ‘Jinx’ Johnson (Halle Berry). The two learn of a mysterious British businessman called Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens) and soon discover his naughty plan.
This was one of the few James Bond films I got to see at the cinema when I was a young twenty-something. Man, I was excited and I came out of the film one happy Bond fan. This film is packed with nods and references to all of the previous Bond films in the franchise. Lines of dialogue, background details, gadgets and more. Die Another Day is a feast for the eyes of a Bond fan.
I then re-watched the film a few months later on DVD… and it was utter pants. I think there’s something about watching a film at the cinema that gives the viewer a false sense of ‘wow, this is awesome’. This is not true of all films of course, but some. There’s just something about seeing a film with a crowd of people on a huge screen and an ear-bleeding sound system that can camouflage how good (or bad) a film really is.
Yes, taking in all the references was bliss for a Bond fan. But the story and characters of this film really are dull and I just didn’t notice how dull when in the cinema because I was too busy being a Bond fan and soaking up the references. I don’t outright hate this film, ‘hate’ is a very strong word and I very rarely use it. But Die Another Day is certainly a disappointment for what was supposed to be a big celebration… and it has Madonna in it too.
The youngest film celebrating a milestone this year. Released in 2012, Skyfall is ten-years-old. This was our latest Bond, Daniel Craig’s third outing as James Bond. And if you are any good at maths, Skyfall was released on the fiftieth anniversary of the James Bond franchise. It has that awful theme song from Adele but don’t let that put you off Skyfall is great.
Here, James Bond has retired after accidentally being shot and presumed dead. When MI6’s headquarters are blown up, Bond comes out of retirement and offers to help. Back in service and sent to Shanghai, Bond learns of a man called Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem). Silva is an ex-MI6 agent who now has a penchant for cyberterrorism and he was the man behind the attack on MI6’s HQ. Silva is captured and brought back to England… which was actually part of his grand plan.
Skyfall is great, not my favourite Daniel Craig outing, that has to go to Casino Royale. But this film is awesome. There’s just something raw about it that makes it stand out. A very different Bond film but still familiar at the same time. I really do like Craig as Bond too. He’s very much like Timothy Dalton in how he is much more no-nonsense and far less jokey. Javier Bardem is a great villain, perhaps the best of the Daniel Craig era of films.
Well, this is it, my look back on sixty years of James Bond and at films that are sharing a milestone within those six decades. I’ll have a few more James Bond articles through the year to continue my James Bond at sixty celebrations.
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