007 DAYS OF JAMES BOND: From Worst to First (Part 2)

Photo: United Artists

Photo: United Artists

Chris Luckett

As a seven-part feature, I’ll be counting down the final week to Skyfall’s release in North American theatres on Nov. 9 with seven James Bond-related articles. Day 6: From Worst to First (Part 2).

For a film series to have been around for five decades and 22 (soon, 23) movies, they have to be doing something right. Despite there being a few missteps over the nearly two dozen Bond pictures, the average movie is quite good. Continuing the countdown from the worst Bond movie to the best, it’s easy to ignore the middle-ranked films. They aren’t as laughably bad as some of the worst and aren’t as classic as some of the best, but the middle-ground Bond movies are still usually better than most action movies. To wit…

(Fair warning: major spoilers ahead)


14. THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS (1987)

Bond: Timothy Dalton
Villains: Gen. Georgi Koskov (Jeroen Krabbe) & Brad Whitaker (Joe Don Baker)
Maniacal Plot: An American and a Soviet general plan to use swindled arms funds to corner the opium market.
Verdict: The insertion of Timothy Dalton into 007’s tux provided a change of pace from Roger Moore, who had finished his run of playing the secret agent after a robust seven film streak. Dalton’s interpretation of the role was criticized during his tenure as humourless and unemotional, but history has shown it to be ahead of its time in its similarity to Daniel Craig’s performance. Sadly, the lack of humour and fun wouldn’t be as large an issue if the movie was interesting. The overly complicated plot, where almost every character isn’t what they seem and the twists are abundant but not particularly noteworthy, and the bland performances – especially that of Maryan d’Abo, the female lead, who is constantly flip-flopping her allegiance – ultimately keep the movie from being enjoyable, despite some notable stunts.
Rating: 3.5 stars / 5


13. OCTOPUSSY (1983)

Bond: Roger Moore
Villain: Gen. Orlov (Steven Berkoff)
Maniacal Plot: Orlov plans to set off a nuclear bomb at a U.S. Air Force base in West Germany and make it look like an accident, thus leading to European nuclear disarmament and leaving the continent defenceless against a Soviet attack.
Verdict: While history has deemed Octopussy to be one of the more forgettable 007 films, it features some truly impressive action sequences and a more involving plot than it gets credit for. After the horrible Moonraker and the slightly less bad For Your Eyes OnlyOctopussy was a return to form for Roger Moore’s Bond. The weakest attributes of the film are the unimpressive characters (although Steven Berkoff does know how to chew the scenery just right). The concept of a Bond film dealing with Fabergé eggs and a circus seems incongruous in theory, but Octopussy is one of the more entertaining Bond films of the ‘80s.
Rating: 4 stars / 5


12. THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1974)

Bond: Roger Moore
Villain: Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee)
Maniacal Plot: Scaramanga plans to create a devastatingly powerful solar laser and sell it to the highest bidder.
Verdict: After Roger Moore’s inauspicious debut in Live and Let DieThe Man with the Golden Gun proved the series wasn’t abandoning the over-the-top theatrics and fun of the Sean Connery era. Christopher Lee is wonderful as the skilled marksman who spends his spare time duelling and killing the world’s best hitmen using his trademark golden gun. With memorable locations, an excellent theme song by Lulu, and Moore starting to feeling at home in the role, The Man with the Golden Gun is an underrated film that set the stage for the masterpiece to follow, The Spy who Loved Me.
Rating: 4 stars / 5


11. DIE ANOTHER DAY (2002)

Bond: Pierce Brosnan
Villain: Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens)
Maniacal Plot: Graves plans to use an orbital mirror satellite to create a solar laser capable of clearing the demilitarised zone between North Korea and South Korea, allowing for invasion of the South by the North.
Verdict: The whipping boy of the Bond series is a much better movie than people remember it being. Admittedly, it relied way too much on CGI, resulting in the oft-derided “invisible” car and a sequence where a computer-animated Bond kitesurfs over tidal waves. Still, the sets are impressive (especially Graves’ ice palace, which rivals You Only Live Twice’s hollowed-out volcano and The Spy Who Loved Me’s underwater Atlantis), the action sequences are exciting, and Halle Berry and Rosamund Pike both give performances that rank near the top of the series for female roles. In his fourth and final outing as Bond, Brosnan fit into the role as comfortably as Moore or Connery ever did, delivering double entendres with droll aplomb one moment and duelling in one of the most gripping and intense swordfights of modern cinema the next.
Rating: 4 stars / 5


10. YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967)

Bond: Sean Connery
Villain: Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Donald Pleasance)
Maniacal Plot: Blofeld plans to start World War III by abducting both American and Soviets spacecraft and pitting the two countries against each other.
Verdict: One of the quintessential Connery 007 films and the first to be truly epic in scale, You Only Live Twice is an enjoyable ride with a spectacular climax. After four movies in which Blofeld is never truly shown, he is finally revealed, in all his scarred, Nehru-wearing glory. Everything about the movie was so memorable, it’s possibly lead to more parodies than any other Bond film – from SPECTRE’s base inside a hollowed-out volcano to the memorable appearance of Blofeld (which inspired characters as varied as Dr. Claw from Inspector Gadget and the Austin Powers series’ Dr. Evil). An unfortunate section of the film involving making Bond “look again” is quite racist and offensive by today’s standards, but the movie itself still stands as one of the pinnacles of the Connery era and the moment the series realized the gargantuan size of the sandbox it could play in.
Rating: 4 stars / 5


9. A VIEW TO A KILL (1985)

Bond: Roger Moore
Villain: Max Zorin (Christopher Walken)
Maniacal Plot: Zorin plans to destroy Silicon Valley to corner the world market on microchips.
Verdict: Christopher Walken is one of the best actors for A) chewing the scenery and B) seeming creepy and sinister. He seems born to play a Bond villain and, indeed, he’s absolutely perfect in the role. Roger Moore was beginning to seem too old for the part in the prior Octopussy, but he regained some of his youthful vitality for his swan song as 007. Cursed with an irritating and annoying Bond girl in Tanya Roberts but blessed with the greatest henchwoman of the series, A View to a Kill flounders in a few places but ends up being one of the best of the Moore era.
Rating: 4 stars / 5


8. TOMORROW NEVER DIES (1997)

Bond: Pierce Brosnan
Villain: Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce)
Maniacal Plot: Carver, a cutting-edge media mogul, plots to start a war between the U.K. and China, to profit from the ratings of exclusive broadcast rights.
Verdict: The most underrated Bond movie of the last twenty years, Tomorrow Never Dies is an intense thrill ride with some of the most ambitious action sequences of the four Brosnan movies. Pryce is deliciously slimy as the maniacal would-be war profiteer Carver. Michelle Yeoh provided the first Born girl who was 007’s equal – and treated as such, compared to the light and bemused way Bond movies looked upon female agents in the early movies of the series. Too much product placement and a weak opening song keep the movie from true greatness, but Tomorrow Never Dies is still one of the best action-driven Bond movies.
Rating: 4.5 stars / 5


“007 DAYS OF JAMES BOND” WILL RETURN
IN
FROM WORST TO FIRST: PART 3

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