Saturday, 30 January 2016
GoldenEye (4½ Stars)
"GoldenEye" -- I absolutely hate words with a capital letter in the middle -- is the 17th James Bond film. It was the first to star Pierce Brosnan as James Bond. It was also the first James Bond film that I saw in the cinema. As I remember, I arranged to see it with a friend who never turned up, so I went to see it by myself. It was in a German cinema, and as is usual in Germany it was dubbed into German, but I enjoyed it greatly. Of course, it wasn't the first Bond film I'd seen. I already knew most of the previous films from seeing them on television.
Pierce Brosnan was the last of the classic Bonds before the film series was rebooted with Daniel Craig. He was the fourth after Sean Connery, Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton. Before anyone corrects me and says he was the fifth, I don't count George Lazenby because he was a Sean Connery clone. He was a new, inexperienced actor in his first ever film, and his method of playing the character was to imitate Sean Connery as closely as he could. Apart from that, he never had any dedication to the role, unlike all the other actors. He was offered a seven-film contract, but he insisted from the beginning that he would only make one film. What a fool he was! How could a young actor, only 29, at the beginning of his career, have turned down a recurring role that would have made him a millionaire and one of the world's best known actors? The highlight of his subsequent career was that he starred in seven Emmanuelle films with Sylvia Kristel.
"GoldenEye" was the second time a new direction was taken with the films. The first 14 films formed a unit, with hardly any break between Sean Connery and Roger Moore. Timothy Dalton's takeover as Bond heralded a new style, a grittier, less humorous Bond. I regret that Timothy Dalton didn't stay longer. If he'd had a chance to grow into the role he could have become the greatest Bond. Nevertheless, Pierce Brosnan was a capable replacement. This was another new beginning after the Cold War. New days had arrived. The new head of MI6 was a woman, and she told Bond to his face, "You're a sexist, misogynistic dinosaur". Pierce Bond was the Bond who had to prove that he was still relevant in the modern world, a theme that's frequently repeated in conversation in "GoldenEye".
I have to ask though: was the end of the Cold War really a factor for James Bond? The real world British secret service spent years spying on Russia and the East Block countries, but that isn't what Bond dealt with, at least not in most of his films. Bond had to deal with megalomaniac villains like Ernst Blofeld or Francisco Scaramanga who stood above East-West politics and threatened both sides. In that respect I disagree with the new M (Judi Dench) that James Bond had become a dinosaur. The rest of her criticism is valid.
One subject that James Bond fans like to argue about for hours on end is "Who's the best Bond?" Opinions vary widely on the subject, but the majority seem to say that Sean Connery was the best, Roger Moore was the worst, and the rest are in the middle. I'm surprised that so few fans respect Roger Moore. He was a magnificent actor. I think the problem is that he was so unlike Sean Connery, in his looks and mannerisms. He brought his own ideas into the character, unlike George Lazenby. What many people don't know is that Sean Connery was the second choice for the character. He was only given the role after Patrick McGoohan had turned it down. There's more of a similarity between Patrick McGoohan and Roger Moore, so I believe that if McGoohan had been the first Bond Moore would have been accepted as his replacement.
So who do I, Mike Hood aka Dansator, think the best Bond was? It's impossible for me to give a one word answer. On acting ability alone I'd rate Timothy Dalton highest, but I'd still put Sean Connery first. As the first Bond he made the role. Everyone who follows is judged by Sean Connery's high standards. Roger Moore did an excellent job following him, but he was let down by lesser quality scripts that were too over-the-top, the peak being "Moonraker". Then there's Pierce Brosnan. Somehow he captures the essence of Sean Connery's Bond without being a mere clone, so I have to put him in second place. After that comes Timothy Dalton, then Roger Moore, followed by George Lazenby and Daniel Craig. Yes, I put Daniel Craig at the bottom of the list, even though it's not customary to talk bad of the current Bond. Let's wait and see how critics review Craig's career when the next actor takes over. I don't think his tenure as Bond will be judged so favourably in hindsight. We'll see.
There's something about the James Bond films that disturbs serious film critics, but the fans love it. As my readers already know, I don't consider myself to be a serious film critic, so I'll take the side of the fans. The James Bond films all follow a strict formula, with only slight variations from film to film. There's a pre-title action sequence. After the title sequence James Bond returns to MI6, where he's given a new mission from M, who frequently criticises Bond for creating too much havoc in his previous mission. Then he receives new equipment from Q, who criticises Bond for losing equipment on his previous missions. Then he flirts with Miss Moneypenny, who criticises Bond for standing her up on previous dates.
Then comes the mission itself, which somehow involves the legendary Bond Girls. There are always at least two Bond Girls: one is on Bond's side as an ally and companion, one is on the side of the villain. Sometimes there is a third girl on Bond's side who gets killed early in the film, adding a revenge element. Somewhere during the mission there's a car chase (ever since the Roger Moore films). The mission ends with a large explosion, destroying not only the villain but also his secret lair.
I usually prefer the bad Bond Girl to the good Bond Girl. Bad girls are so much more interesting. The good girls fall helplessly into Bond's arms after offering only token resistance. The bad girls run around killing people, also attempting to kill Bond, and look sexy while they do it. An example is GoldenEye's Famke Janssen, shown above, who plays the assassin Xenia Onatopp. The film shows her having an orgasm whenever she kills someone. Cute. She's one of the new wave of bad Bond Girls. In the older films the bad girl eventually succumbs to Bond's charms.