10 November 2012

Ranking 007

My first encounter with James Bond was as a young teenager, when my uncle gave me Dr. No as a gift. Since then I have seen all the James Bond movies, many of them multiple times. The release of Skyfall this week marks the 50th anniversary of the James Bond franchise. You can be sure that as soon as I get the opportunity, I’ll be in the theater watching it. In the meantime, I’m going to reflect on the men who have portrayed James Bond (not counting the 1967 Casino Royale), and rank them from best to worst.

#1 Sean Connery
Sean Connery was the first, and still the best, James Bond. He was a tough fighter, a smooth talker, and a ladies man. He also remained calm and collected in the worst of circumstances. You can actually picture him being a spy, and being fairly good at it. Connery is still the Bond all new Bonds are held up to for comparison, and originated almost all of the cool characteristics that we recognize as uniquely Bond.

#2 Timothy Dalton
Most people would think I’m crazy for putting Timothy Dalton at number two on the list. The two movies he made were not terribly successful and are not remembered fondly. Bear with me here. Dalton came in as Bond after Roger Moore's seemingly interminable run as the character. He brought back a danger and masculinity to the role of Bond that had been missing for years. Audiences who were used to the silly Roger Moore interpretation were surprised by the brutality of Dalton’s Bond. However, Dalton holds the distinction as the only actor to portray Bond who was formerly a fan of the books. As such, he often had copies of the books on set and argued with the director in order to get his portrayal of Bond to be as faithful to Ian Fleming’s original vision as possible.

#3 Daniel Craig
I’ll admit; I was one of the skeptics. When the pictures of Daniel Craig hit the internet for Casino Royale, I determined not to like him. He didn’t physically resemble Bond, and he looked too much like a thug. Then I saw the movie and was completely blown away. Daniel Craig is not only the toughest on screen Bond, but also the most vulnerable, the most human. The fact that Casino Royale was one of the more faithful book-to-movie adaptations in the Bond canon didn’t hurt either. Craig slipped into the character comfortably and made it his own, easily earning spot 3 in the rankings.

#4 George Lazenby
Like Dalton, Lazenby is another underdog. Due to the ridiculous advice from his agent that he only do one Bond film for fear of being typecast, Lazenby is not remembered by many people. However, for his one run, he was excellent. He was working in the shadow of Sean Connery, so he had some big shoes to fill. However, he gave us a Bond very much like Ian Fleming’s character. Lazenby’s film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, is more faithful to its book counterpart than any other Bond film. As such, the movie ended on a very dark note and with James Bond in tears. For those who haven’t seen it, I won’t give anything away, but I will say that this movie gave a good deal of insight into Bond’s psyche. There’s no way that some of the other Bonds on this list could have pulled it off, and the movie makers didn’t attempt a downer ending again until Daniel Craig came along. Even then, Casino Royale has an obligatory scene of awesomeness at the end, to make sure that James Bond comes out on top.

#5 Pierce Brosnan
What can I say about Pierce Brosnan? He was the best of Bonds; he was the worst of Bonds. He was the Bond that was around when I was in high school, so I have many really good memories of his films. Rewatching his films now, though, the nostalgia wears a bit thin. When he was good, he was very good. He could portray a tough Bond, fully up to the task of saving the world from insane terrorists. He could portray a sensitive Bond, reflecting on the shallowness of his existence. Unfortunately, he could also portray a silly Bond, with some of the dorkiest one-liners in the whole series, and some of the most improbably over-the-top innuendo. Perhaps I should blame the screenwriters for this and not Brosnan, but there you have it. His movies are what they are.

#6 Roger Moore
No. No. No. No. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO
Who in the world ever thought that Roger Moore was a good Bond? Every negative stereotype anyone has about Bond movies (the silliness, the campiness) comes directly from the Roger Moore era. The thing that baffles me even more is that I consistently see people on the internet reminiscing on Moore as their favorite Bond. I can only assume that these people grew up in the Roger Moore era, and are thus overcome by nostalgia. Moore’s portrayal of Bond feels like an SNL spoof of the Connery Bond.

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