Sunday, March 3, 2013

Fifty Years of Bond: Who's the Best?

When Dr. No hit the silver screen in 1962, how many people expected the Bond Franchise to still be in operation 50 years later? The revenue numbers are staggering. Opening weekend for Skyfall, the 2012 send-up featuring Daniel Craig in the title roll, produced $88 million dollar in revenue. Overall, more than six billion dollars have been generated by the 24 films, an average of more than a quarter billion apiece.*

This weekend I finally got around to seeing Skyfall, and in anticipation of the event I watched Dr. No so that I could compare Sean Connery and Daniel Craig head-to-head. I also watched a portion of Die Another Day, starring Pierce Brosnan, even though Connery seems to be the measure by which all other Bonds (Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, etc.) are measured.

Dr. No does an admirable job of setting up the Bond equation. A British agent with a license to kill gets sent to an exotic location, in this case Jamaica, to resolve a situation with global ramifications. There is an evil mastermind whose minions he must overcome and ultimately the evil one himself, and a beautiful woman with a sexy name whom he tangles with.

The primary feature of the Bond enterprise has always been the suave, sophisticated Bond himself. He's smooth, both with women and with them bad guys. Whoever the actor may be, this quality has to be present in spades.

So what was it that created so much buzz when Daniel Craig became Bond in Casino Royale? Immediately everyone was saying, "The best Bond since Sean Connery." Many people were gushing, "The best Bond ever."

To be honest, the latter was my impression after Casino Royale, but I'm having a change of heart.

No question Daniel Craig burst on the scene with a thrill-ride opening that took one's breath away. No question that heart-stopper is one of the top chase scenes in Hollywood history. I doubt anyone was prepared for where that one was headed as it unfolded.

What Royale did for Daniel Craig was establish his legitimacy as heir to the role. There's a reason he caught our attention and admiration: Craig was both suave and physical. Moore, Dalton and Brosnan were certainly polished, dashing and all that, but Craig brought something to the Bond character that had perhaps been missing since Connery set the table.

There is something else Connery brought to the game that is missing in Craig, especially here in Skyfall. No question he has a license to kill, that his soul is stained from this occupation requiring it. I just don't know that the original Bond of Ian Fleming's imagination would be this dark. Connery had a sense of humor and an endless cache of witty lines, and when he was on the screen he had no competition. Craig has to compete with an enormous Hollywood budget determined to bury Bond in over-the-top special effects. 

Daniel Craig is a darker bond. But then, maybe that's the age we live in.

Who was your favorite Bond?

*Details from


My Inner Chick said...

Danial Craig is my favorite & beautifully Bondish.

Yep, I'd pretty much say he has it all!

Ed Newman said...

Actually, Daniel Craig is the best Bond, but I would like him to smile once in a while.... though after everything he goes through in that film, I can understand why he would not be making many wisecracks.

Javier Bardem was certainly one of the best villains in a Bond film.

Ed Newman said...

OK, I just finished Skyfall for a second time... It's a great Bond film. There are some problems at the end, but it's well crafted, and has a super-great opening chase scene again like Casino Royale. And I somehow missed the detail of why Bond took M to his childhood home. I thought it was for safety when in point of fact it was for a showdown. No question Daniel Craig is my favorite, and he does show a little warmth here, in a Bond sort of way.