Saturday, November 10, 2012

Shaken. Not Stirred. -- Part 5 -- The Man Himself

"The name is Bond. James Bond."
Everyone has a greatly differing opinion on this one. Honestly, I really don't have a best and worst, because I greatly respect each man's performance in it. Yes, some are better than others, but for the most part, it speaks to the movie more than the actors a lot of the time. But for better or worse, there are just actors who brought more to the part than others. 
Will the real James Bond please ready their gun? Oh, damn it. Now come on, guys.

The 3 Best Bonds...
Sean Connery, Daniel Craig, and Timothy Dalton
CONNERY will always be Bond for almost everyone. Even people who are introduced first to a different-era Bond will come around to loving the Connery performance, the ideal mix of rough-and-tumble gruffness, smooth charm and charisma, and the right light touch humor.
Weakest Performance: Diamonds Are Forever. Coming back, he phoned it in, and it paled to his previous five films as Bond.
Best Performance: I'm a huge fan of Thunderball as a whole. But I also think Goldfinger is his iconic performance for audiences and fans. He was so immediately strong, but Goldfinger was where he first hit his stride, though Thunderball was where the franchise really caught up with Connery's Bond.

CRAIG, though initially met with much hesitation, did not have much to live up to, if I'm being honest. Brosnan's ability in the role had slipped considerably by the end of his run, and I was looking forward to a fresh take on Bond. A grittier and rougher Bond, doing away with much of the humor and levity (save for some very well-timed moments) Craig is easily the most believable as a secret agent with a license to kill.
Weakest Performance: Casino Royale. Craig is mostly stoic through the performance, rather than any sort of nuance.
Best Performance: Skyfall, no doubt. While his Quantum of Solace Bond is more fully realized, the movie is severely underwritten, and Skyfall fits the universe better. Craig is bent on revenge, driven, and fighting for relevance. He is haunted and fierce.

DALTON was inconsistent, but he was attempting to bring a more hard edge to Bond after suffering from the kiddie final days with Moore at the helm. A lot of people find little redeeming about Dalton's performance in his two-Bond run, but I find some genuinely wonderful moments in his movies, like refusing to kill Kara in Living Daylights or his promise to Felix in License to Kill. I think the world just wasn't ready for an edgier Bond, and it wouldn't be until Craig they'd find out what they missed out on. Dalton for me though, is wonderful, but I do see where his performance edges towards irritated rather than dangerous.
Weakest Performance: The Living Daylights is just eh. Also, the ski sequence in the Cello case is pure ridiculousness. Again, he's mostly annoyed throughout the movie, rather than dark and brooding.
Best Performance: License to Kill, the original revenge plot, is fantastic, though at times pretty needlessly violent. However, it's the better realization of Dalton's abilities and potential as a brooding, disturbed Bond.

...And the 3 Worst
Pierce Brosnan, George Lazenby, Roger Moore
BROSNAN is my Bond and for many years, far and away my favorite. He surpassed Connery for me, simply because he was my first experience with Bond and everyone remembers their first. However, the plots and characters slowly became more and more outlandish over the years and Brosnan made no attempt to deepen his characterization, and it became obvious to me at least that he simply had no more tricks up his sleeve in terms of performing Bond.
Weakest Performance: Die Another Day, where he loses much ground to Halle Barry as his opposite, but really that's pretty indicative of his subsequent performances following his...
Best Performance: GoldenEye. It had been such a hiatus from the Dalton-era, and the end of the Cold War brought into question if Bond could stay relevant without a sure enemy in Russia. The KGB had been an ever-present problem in prior Bond films. Also, was there anyone who could save the Bond franchise after the waning Moore years and Dalton's mishandling? Brosnan proved in one movie that he was more than worthy. Brosnan was cool, calm, funny, and believable. I blame the subsequent movies more for drowning out Bond but partly Brosnan too, for allowing himself to be overshadowed.

LAZENBY had some difficult shoes to fill. He came after one of Connery's solid performances, also he was the second guy. It's like whatever villain had to follow Heath Ledger's Joker in Dark Knight. He would be inevitably compared, and he would inevitably fail. Taken on its own though, the film is not a strong showing for Bond, rather uncharacteristic, and should not have been handled by someone fresh to the role. Lazenby ultimately too, added nothing to the role.
Weakest/Best Performance: On Her Majesty's Secret Service features some great moments by Lazenby but also some of the weakest. Like I said though, in the end, Lazenby's biggest crime was adding nothing to the role. Unlike...

MOORE, whom I credit with almost singlehandedly bringing Bond to an end. The movies became much more reflective of the time they were being shown in (Live and Let Die was a blaxploitation, Golden Gun was a kung-fu movie, Moonraker took advantage of Star Wars) and lost Bond in the way. Unlike Brosnan who let it happen, Moore became more foppish and foolish as he smirked and pranced through each successive Bond film (the most of any Bond actor to date). As he became garishly more cartoonish and less believable as Bond, the series slipped into more and more meandering plots, and some good moments were lost along the way. Christopher Walken and Christopher Lee were villains during this time! Squandered on a wholly unbelievable Bond.
Weakest Performance: Where do I start? If I had to pick one, A View to a Kill. I can't believe for a moment he overpowers Mayday or outsmarts Walken's Zorin. But Octopussy is easily his most inconsistent performance.
Best Performance: I have a soft spot for The Man With the Golden Gun. But the best one is For Your Eyes Only. It's just too bad it was too late to restore Moore's credibility in the role.