Sunday, November 11, 2012

Shaken. Not Stirred. -- Part 6 -- The Films

Bond On Film
It's a really visceral call when trying to name the best of the franchise as well as the worst. There's characterization to think about, plot believability (not necessarily plausibility...most of them would be awful at that if it was a criterion), all the Bond elements (gadgets, girls, villains) and how they're handled, and then of course Bond himself. At the end of the day, is it an entertaining movie? Here are the 4 Worst and the 5 Best.

The 4 Worst Bond Films...
4.) Live and Let Die 
Gadget-heavy, meandering plot, boring Bond girl (sorry, Jane Seymour), and a new Roger Moore playing it safe, plus some awkward moments like the New Orleans funeral procession or the voodoo festival (plus the train at the end! What the hell?) make for an inconsistent, and pretty bland first adventure for the Moore-Bond.

3.) Die Another Day
Product placement abounds, self-congratulation abounds (it was the 20th film, after all), and Halle Barry owns all the screentime. Halfway through I forgot Brosnan was Bond and that it was a Bond film. When the car turned invisible, I almost left.

2.) Moonraker
A shoe-horned plot with a boring villain, horrible special effects, and flimsy writing keep Moonraker from taking off with anyone. 

1.) The World is Not Enough
Again, the villain is petty and the stakes are pretty low for this Bond outing. Between Marceau's unbelievable villain and Richards' unbelievable physicist, plus Brosnan completely lost to the background, I find this to be the worst moment in Bond movies.

...And the 5 Best
5.) From Russia With Love
Very often ranked higher than even Dr. No, From Russia with Love is a big foundational step, introducing us to the persistent Blofeld, as well as the unforgettable Rosa Klebb. Connery does a damn fine Bond, and the action sequences (the iconic helicopter fight) are wonderful.

4.) Skyfall
Again, there's little complaint I find with the movie, though the third act could have been condensed slightly, but Bond films are famous for their drawn out plots. Anyway, the villain is outstanding, as well as Judi Dench's performance of M, where she truly gets to remind us what an amazing actress she is. Craig's Bond is fantastic as well, and drives the movie throughout. The supporting cast of Rory Kinnear, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Albert Finney, and Naomie Harris are also a fine ensemble and add weight and relevance to the these roles. See it.

3.) Goldfinger
Some point to Goldfinger as the definitive Bond template. The villain is entertainingly maniacal ("No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!") and who could forget the iconic image of Shirley Eaton, playing Jill Masterson, encased in gold? Oddjob keeps me from ranking the film higher, but Honor Blackman's Pussy Galore keeps me from ranking it lower. All-in-all, a strong step forward for the Bond franchise, one where Connery is a strong Bond, and the movie's elements serve the plot well.

2.) Thunderball
One of my favorite Bond films, with a great spy plot, plus Connery's Bond only got better. Domino is a great Bond girl, and we also get to see Felix Leiter, played by Rik Van Nutter, one of my more favorite actors in the role (besides David Hedison, most notably in License to Kill). I also love Largo as a villain.

1.) GoldenEye
Again, there's not enough I can say about this movie. Years later, it's still a great Bond film, and a wonderfully acted film by any standard. Brosnan, Bean, Dench, Llewelyn, Jenssen, Scorupco, even Robbie Coltrane as Zukovsky, and the wonderful Alan Cumming as Boris, all add considerably to a great movie with a solid plot, some great action sequences, and a wholly satisfying Bond adventure.

In the end, what do you say about James Bond? Ever the quirky mix of adventure, humor, and glamor, the ride may not always make sense or may even be annoyingly inconsistent for whatever reason, but there's little doubt in my mind that there's a little something in the franchise for any movie fan.