Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Bond Project: The End?

The Bond Project Wrap-Up

by Jay Maronde

                Well Dearest readers, as we’ve come to the end of a very long road, I would personally like to offer my extreme thanks to the entire Broccoli Family and the EON productions team, and also to the original spymaster himself Ian Fleming, for without this cadre of genii  none of this could have ever been possible. I, however, would most of all like to thank my fantastic editor Mr. Jack Knorps because again without his tremendous encouragement and editing none of this could also be possible.  Now having considered all this, my tremendous, gracious, and wonderfully understanding editor Mr. Knorps has asked me to write this wrap up. To wit: how could I refuse such a wonderfully respectful request from such a dear friend?
              Now, I initially thought that this wrap up would be much easier as we had earlier discussed a formal interview sort of context. During the course of our interviews it quickly became apparent that the big question most of all would be a ranking, a full and complete ranking of all the films. This is extremely difficult for me, like asking a parent to choose their favorite out of 23 children, and then rank the rest, so there was simply no way I could complete this task just off the top of my head. I assured my dear editor that I would sleep on this scenario and do my best to rank them. 

              I also want to note that my initial idea for this article was more of a “best of” type compilation, so please continue to read even after you reach the final end of the ranking because I think some of my favorite gems may come later on, but without further ado…

                If you read my reviews it was probably most apparent that this was my favorite. Director Marc Forster set out with a very specific goal of making a tight, hard-hitting action film that was “like a bullet.” Forster’s vision for this shorter, hard-hitting Bond is perfect for what is the only direct sequel in the entire franchise. Further, his allusions to other great films (including the demise of the lovely Strawberry Fields) comprise some of the finest filmmaking  in the entire Canon. (Less charitable review here)

#2  Skyfall
                Bond 23, the movie whose formerly impending release inspired this entire series of reviews, was more than worth the wait. The actors are fabulous. Dench and Bardem are the biggest snubs of this season’s awards shows' nominations. If the film were only slightly shorter I would have probably made it #1--it's really a personal preference (and a strong one) that I feel all films should be short so as to force the director to really tell his story concisely. But Skyfall is nonetheless amazing, I saw it in the theaters numerous times, and I will probably wait in line to purchase the Blu-Ray on release day. It was the first Bond to be filmed in large format, and if you still have the chance I would highly suggest viewing it in IMAX as it’s totally worth the extra cost. Bond simply cannot ever be big enough, and Skyfall Is a huge film that such an epic Canon deserves. (Slightly less charitable review here)

                I know, I know, I know, “How could I put all three Daniel Craig Bonds right at the top of the list?” No, I'm not just obsessed with the newest things.  Daniel Craig’s portrayal of Bond is beyond reproach! He is fantastic, and in this film during a discussion with M, Bond asks, “So you want me to be half monk, half hitman?” For me this statement is at the crux of why Daniel Craig is so fantastic in this role: he’s so fucking cold I want to offer him a cup of tea.  Like geez--warm up a just little bit!  He's so cold and so perfect that it makes you ask yourself: what you would be like if you killed people every day for your job?  I feel like Craig asks himself this question every morning before filming Bond. This film could have easily been number one on the list except for the fact that if you are to watch it without watching Quantum immediately afterwards you are left feeling almost a little empty inside.  (Equally charitable review here)

                The man with the Midas touch! This could easily be Sean Connery’s finest Bond.  It’s the first time we see the DB5.  It has Oddjob and Pussy Galore. It has Jill Masterson covered in gold in a scene which was so iconic that it’s been referenced by other films in the series. The Shirley Bassey theme is delightful and unforgettable, and I think what really makes me choose this of all the Connery Bonds is that he seems so comfortable in the role, he’s smacking asses and really playing the role as a classic cad, in way that all other Bond’s up till Daniel Craig have tried to emulate.

                Classic early Bond. Watching this film you can easily realize why the franchise has become so successful. Connery is young and lithe, and the scenery and sets are fantastical in a way that the franchise is still seeking to emulate.

                The Tom Jones epic theme song is outstanding--it's honestly the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of this movie--but a close second is that this is the only Bond film ever to be completely remade. The remake, NeverSay Never Again, could be the worst thing ever to happen to the James Bond franchise and if I were forced to include that tripe in my evaluation it would easily be the very last film on this list, as the essentially-bribed-Sean Connery was sooooo old in the remake that the Health Clinic should have been a convalescent's home*. The original film was very good though, and for the time the special effects were beyond reproach: the underwater sequences are still a blueprint for those making underwater films.

#7 Dr No
                The original Bond. Sean Connery & Ursula Andress. Nuff said.

                This could be the most under-appreciated Bond, and as such I wanted to rank it highly. The movie suffers from one glaring flaw: it was the very end of the Roger Moore era, and Moore is beyond geriatric.  Not even all the best plastic surgeons in the world could make him look any younger. That being said, Christopher Walken not only is fantastic but completely redeems all of the film's other flaws.  He’s so perfect, and he's so evil in a way that only Walken could be. Further, the sets and locations are remarkable and very memorable.

#9  Moonraker
                Again, I hate to rank the Roger Moore Films so highly, but the fact that the producers brought Jaws back, coupled with the outstanding scenery, sets and plot (Bond & Jaws save the world while in outerspace) really does it for me. Also many many people I know always say Moonraker is their favorite, as it in some ways is one of the more "approachable" Bonds.

                The sets, scenery, and characters are exquisite. Plenty O’Toole is a super classic Bond girl name. The reason I put it here is Connery was a little bit past his prime and the “camp” value is a little too high for me.

                I like Connery, I really do, But the only notable parts of this film are Ken Adam’s ridiculously amazing volcano set, and Bond’s Adventures one the mini chopper “Little Nellie.” The Volcano makes up for a lot though, and without a doubt a critical entry in the Canon.

                Telly Savalas is downright fantastic and easily the best of the Blofelds. Everyone hates George Lazenby, but I personally think he's great as Bond: his athleticism, youth, and enthusiasm shine through.  The problematic and singular reason why this very important film ranks so low on my list is Diana Rigg’s distaste for Lazenby.  It is so palpable throughout the whole film that it's almost like someone wrote “I was promised Sean Connery” across her face.

                Pierce Brosnan’s first entry into the World of Bond was a fantastic restart for the series. He was my initial Bond, and GoldenEye was the first Bond I ever saw. The women of the film are utterly perfect in their roles, the plot was ahead of its time as Republican presidential candidates were still discussing EMP’s during this past election cycle. And while I don’t necessarily like Bond in a BMW, the use of the Z3 is still considered the world’s most successful cross promotion ever.

                Blaxploitation Bond!  Everyone loves Jane Seymour but me; I just don’t feel as though she's dynamic enough to be a Bond Girl. However, as much as I hate Moore I feel this movie is critically important to history as it’s a very British take on the entire Blaxploitation genre and provides an important historical perspective from an outside viewpoint.

                I really liked this movie, and if Brosnan been able to take the role, it would have been much higher on this list. Again, Moore’s aged-ness is completely distracting. Q has an amazing role, and the India scenes are wonderful. And let’s be honest, Bond diffuses a nuclear bomb in the middle of a circus while wearing a clown suit.

                I like this film, I even like Timmy Dalton (a great deal actually).  I like the plot, I like the girl (she always brings back very strong feelings of the epic Daniela Bianchi in From Russia with Love), but unfortunately, the villains are like some sort of bad joke, and not even all the great “sledding in a Stradivarius Cello case” scenes can make up for villains that can barely even make you laugh.

                I feel like the initial Jaws film should have been a little higher on this list, but I completely loathe the plot and the Bond girl. Roger Moore is hard pressed to get any love from me.

                I wish I could rank this movie higher on the list as Carey Lowell is easily one of my favorite actresses ever, and the opening scene where Bond sky-hooks Sanchez’s plane is epic to the point that Christopher Nolan borrowed it for his new Batman trilogy. Benicio Del Toro alone makes the film worth watching, but the concept of having Bond quit, (almost exclusively so Bond can pursue a villain the British would have no jurisdiction over) is too contrived for me.

                I really like this film also. I really wish I could put it higher on this list. Brosnan makes it look way too easy, Denise Richards (while a gorgeous Bond girl) is a horrible actress, and a villain who is not dead even with a bullet in his brain, but is a complete sucker for love,  is just too much for me to swallow.
                AKA BUY ANOTHER DAY. Everyone hates the Vanish, but I think for Bond to have an invisible car is cool. My problems are essentially that we have already seen the space laser plot, that there is too much early CG looking very bad, and the rampant cross promotion really detracts from the film. I’m also told the Korean being spoken is atrocious.

                I  hated this movie. I Loathe Roger Moore. I don’t think that this film makes much sense at all.
                You Only Live Twice part 2.
                I hated this film. A lot. I really, really, really, hate the way Roger Moore beats up women to increase his macho factor in this movie.  The only redemption is HervĂ© Villechaize.
*I have idea what Mr. Maronde is getting at by this statement but I felt the need to include it.  -JK

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