Monday, June 6, 2011

Bond, James Bond

Can you really be a nerd about something as awesome as James Bond? If Brian Posehn and his heavy metal nerd life have shown us anything, it's that it is possible to take almost anything to nerdy excess. So yeah, I'm going to write about James Bond.

My wife had never really seen any Bond movies other than a couple Pierce Brosnan's and a Daniel Craig, so I felt it my duty to pick the best film from each Bond and let her get a taste for the world of James Bond flavors. I forget what my Connery choice was, but I remember that I wish I had picked Diamonds are Forever because it features the two creepiest gay guys in the world, one of whom has a skullet. Anyway, we watched On Her Majesty's Secret Service (George Lazenby is underrated as Bond. He's a lot better than you remember. Also, he plays opposite the Telly Savalas Blofeld, which is my favorite incarnation of Blofeld) and that got me thinking about how I would rank the actors who have played James Bond from best to worst. I would rank them thus:

1. Sean Connery There simply is no other choice for the best Bond. He did it first and he did it best. He was devilishly handsome in his Bond days, and he had a cocky swagger that some of the other Bonds couldn't quite pull off. So much of Bond's character is now derived from the way that Connery played it. You just can't pick anyone other than Connery here. It's that simple. Oh, and he's the easiest Bond to see getting ladies the way Bond has a knack of doing. Connery is a billion years old now and has still managed to be old man handsome. He does better in his old age than any of the rest of us do in our prime. He's Bond. End of story.

2. Roger Moore With your second pick, it might be a good idea to go with the man who played Bond longer than anyone else (7 Bond films to Connery's 6). Roger Moore is by far the most gritty looking Bond. If not for the accent I could easily see him in a gunslinging western. His looks do make it a little harder to like him as Bond because it's harder to imagine the ladies fawning over him like they did for Connery. Looks aside, he provides some of the better action sequences as Bond. These were the days when EON was still trying to be cutting edge in special effects and stunts. At least that's how it was during the early Moore films. They did start to fall off a little when the 80s hit. Overall the Moore films compare most favorably with Connery's, which is really saying something.

3. Daniel Craig Not everyone is going to agree with this choice, but I stand by it. Daniel Craig is a great Bond. He is quite handsome without being man pretty (yeah, we'll cover that with one of our other Bonds), and he benefits from the franchise resetting the clock like the Batman franchise did. Also, there are just things about Daniel Craig that I like. He seems almost completely humorless, which isn't a bad quality in a Bond. He has the chops to spend one minute throwing a guy down a flight of stairs and the next dressed to the nines in a tux (an essential element of the Bond character). I have really enjoyed both of his movies so far, and I can't wait for the next one. What more do you want?

4. George Lazenby I did mention that he is underrated as Bond, but with only one Bond film in his career, what do you expect? I find it interesting that a friend of Lazenby's talked him out of signing a long-term deal to play Bond. The friend felt the franchise was flatlining and soon to be dead. I think Lazenby would have done quite well in any of the Roger Moore films, but we'll never really know. He's the most overwhelmingly British Bond. He does seem a bit stiff and understated at times, which has to deduct a few points. He did, however, get to do a few interesting things in his one shot at Bond. OHMSS is the only Bond film I know where Bond gets married. Also it's the only Bond film I can think of where most of the chases take place on skis rather than in a car (Bond's car doesn't really feature in OHMSS). He also played opposite Telly Savalas, who is my favorite Blofeld. It seemed like Savalas played Blofeld with an almost compassionate side which actually makes him seem more evil in the end. Anyway, I can't rank Lazenby any higher because he only made one film, but I do often wonder what might have been with him.

5. Timothy Dalton Perhaps more a victim of circumstance than any of the other Bonds. When you look back at the older Bond films, especially Connery's, there seems to be a concerted effort to make Bond timeless. Sean Connery didn't really dress like a man of the 60's. He dressed like a timeless character, which is one of the reasons his films stand the test of time. In the 80's Bond seemed to really get with the times, which makes him seem a lot more dated now. It's not just the fashion, it's the way the films are put together. The opening credits tell the tale as much as anything. Early bond films featured music by John Barry and vocals from greats such as Shirley Bassey who sang in a jazzy and timeless way. The Living Daylights features a-ha (a band I love, by the way) in a not-so-great collaboration with Barry that sounds more dated each time I hear it. Jazz is timeless, 80s pop is not. Anyway, Dalton was a fine enough Bond. He actually looks like a more manly Pierce Brosnan. I like him as an actor but I don't enjoy his films as much because they seem stuck in the 80s (I loved the 80s, but Bond is not meant to be stuck in any decade. At least that's my opinion). Like I said, victim of circumstance.

6. Pierce Brosnan I personally know a few people who would give me an earful for putting Brosnan on the bottom, which is why I haven't told those people where to find this blog. Pierce Brosnan is what we call, "man pretty." Seriously, he's so good looking it distracts from the fact that he really didn't play Bond that well. In Brosnan's final effort he allowed Bond to be outshone by Halle Berry, which is unforgivable. Sure, he gave us Goldeneye which was a great Bond film and a better video game but I felt Goldeneye carried Brosnan rather than the other way 'round. Pick any of the other Bonds above and they would make any of Brosnan's Bond films better. Understand this: I don't hate Pierce Brosnan (though his performance in Mama Mia doesn't help his case much). I really enjoyed the Brosnan Bond films because that's the point at which I jumped on the franchise. Choosing a least favorite Bond is like choosing a least favorite breath of air (mine was that one I took near the slaughterhouse. Tasted like pork rinds and dead dreams). All Bonds and all Bond movies have their merits. I wouldn't own all 22 of them if they didn't (or if I wasn't a crazy completist). It's just that Brosnan goes on the bottom of this totem pole. He just does.

Anyway, that's how I rank all the James Bonds and I stand by it. Feel free to make a case for anything other than Daniel Craig possibly eclipsing Roger Moore provided his next film is good and I will ignore it.

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