James Bond and All the Things

I’m an unabashed James Bond fan.

It goes beyond the longevity of the series–60 years as of this writing. Growing up, I read the original Ian Fleming novels handed down to me from my father, and eventually entered 007’s cinematic world. Since 1962’s Doctor No, James Bond has reflected culture, society and geopolitics in a way that no other franchise has managed; it is a document of history across six seminal decades. The fashions, musical styles, technology, vehicles, stunts, zeitgeists, and threats ranging from Cold War Soviets to Rupert Murdoch-style media giants to bomb-wielding terrorists have crafted a Document of the Species that has few rivals outside of Herodotus. The Bond franchise acts as a mirror to so much of who we were, what we believed, what we feared, and what we hoped.

Perhaps it owes to 2022 being such a nightmare year–my girlfriend’s near-death in a car accident, her slow and painful recovery, and a double-punch of cancer hitting my family. I’ve been in survival-and-support mode for most of the year. With some downtime at last, I decided to rewatch every Bond film in order, one a day. I’m perfectly aware of the psychological impetus for this: pure, desperate escapism, and that alone is justification enough for the soul. Yet this month-long marathon reminded me how Bond embodies much more than that.

I should state that this post will be filled with spoilers.

And now… I’ve stated it.

Classic Beginnings

After a few false starts (including the unforgivable sin of creating an American “Jimmy Bond” for an abortive TV spot) the cinematic Bond series was born with the pitch-perfect casting of Sean Connery. A star-making performance through and through, exuding charisma and cool.

Connery’s run went long-in-the-tooth (it was painfully clear that he was phoning it in by the end), yet there’s no detracting from his stellar run in those early films. He’s the classic Bond, and deserving of the superlative.

Doctor No (1962) – A lean and mean spy thriller instantly establishing the franchise as a stylish genre all its own. Sean Connery’s career-making turn as James Bond cannot be overstated: he portrays the suave British agent as an efficient (often ruthless) character. Our introduction to him is the portrait of civilized elegance, wearing a tuxedo and calmly smoking a cigarette in an opulent casino. A few scenes later, we witness him calmly shooting a man to death after uttering one of the most memorable lines in the series: “That’s a Smith & Wesson. And you’ve had your six.”

Of note: There’s no theme song here, a rarity for the series. Yet the introduction of the classic Bond theme is compensation enough.

Bond scar: Doctor No lost his hands, which undoubtedly influenced the pseudo-Doctor No film Enter the Dragon eleven years later, where Bruce Lee’s nemesis can swap out a false fist for Freddy Kruger-like razor blades.

All Henchmen Dress the Same: Doctor No’s goons wear the same tope-hued uniforms.

From Russia with Love (1963) – A worthy follow-up and direct continuation from the previous film, introducing us to the criminal fraternity SPECTRE. We meet Q Branch for the first time, and it’s interesting how modest the gadgets are at this point: a briefcase with a few hidden extras, and a bug detector. Sylvia Trench from the prior film returns briefly, and it would be a very long time indeed before we see a Bond girl lasting beyond a single film again. Robert Shaw is a reasonably menacing villain, though I always found SPECTRE’s master plan to be rather convoluted, even by villain standards.

Of note: The tropes that Austin Powers would later avail itself of begin here. The franchise’s weird fetish for fighting on trains also sees its genesis with this film.

Goldfinger (1964) – One of the brightest stars in the 007 universe, and an iconic film on its own merits. Guy Hamilton takes over directorial duties and dials everything to eleven. The pre-title sequence is the first high-action opening for the series, beginning at a breathless pace and setting the standard for generations of action films (True Lies baldly rips off this intro). Goldfinger has it all: an unforgettable musical score, extensive gadgets, and terrific performances from Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore and Gert Frobe as the titular baddie. The “gold woman” scene is still shocking to behold. Oddjob is an ominous henchman.

Of note: Shirley Bassey begins her unmatched three-peat as Bondian singer of choice. We see the enduring conflict of personalities between Q and 007 begin.

Bond scar: Oddjob has no tongue.

Thunderball (1965) – “I think he got the point.” The series continues its unbroken string of hits with what many consider to be its best film yet. This one covers land, sea and air, starting with a rocket-pack escape and proceeding to exciting undersea battles (I always liked the cutaways to the marine animals, as if they’re stunned by the human drama unfolding around them.) The film is not without its flaws: Rik Van Nutter as Felix Lighter is astonishingly terrible, delivering lines so woodenly that it borders on distraction. Yet the stunning Luciana Paluzzi (as the femme fatale) is so deliriously seductive that it more than atones for this oversight.

Bond scar: Largo wears an eyepatch.

All Henchmen Dress the Same: The goons wear matching black jumpsuits.

You Only Live Twice (1967) – This is an odd duck in the franchise. In the opening moments, Bond “dies” and is then “reborn” under a new identity in Japan. It does contain one of my favorite moments of dialogue that exemplify Connery’s approach to the character: when a villain says, “I’ve got you now,” Connery replies, “Well, enjoy yourself”. We also see the sociopathic side of his character, when the death of Aki (played by the delightful Akiko Wakabayashi) prompts a reaction from Bond that’s cold even by his standards. SPECTRE’s volcanic lair is the wellspring for “evil lairs” used by everyone from Doctor Evil to Syndrome in The Incredibles. Donald Pleasance is a sinister and surreal entity, managing to seem less a human being than some glassy-eyed alien who is failing at playing one.

Bond scar: No longer just a voice, we finally meet SPECTRE’s numero uno Blofeld, and the trademark scar running down his face.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) – “This never happened to the other fellow”. Connery is replaced by George Lazenby, who had the unenviable task of filling his shoes. For all the criticism he received at the time, Lazenby is simply marvelous in the role. He’s a decidedly more human Bond, showing vulnerability and weakness, and brings a kinetic energy to his fight scenes that gives the impression that he can truly kick someone’s ass. Much of the action scenes play out as a sort of “James Bond at the Winter Olympics.” I particularly like how we see the way Moneypenny (played by the inimical Lois Maxwell) keeps things running efficiently behind the scenes. George Lazenby has stated in interviews that he wishes he’d played 007 one more time, and I have to agree. He’s the sporty Bond, and it’s tantalizing to ponder how the series might have evolved with him continuing in the role.

Of note: This film has an Avenger in it (the British TV show, not the MCU): Diana Rigg. She’s a complex and nuanced Bond girl, with her own story percolating to its own beat. Additionally, we see Bond changing identities again, and much more believably than in You Only Live Twice. The movie’s final scene is shocking and heartbreaking, and it would be more than forty years before we see Bond display such emotions again… and under similarly heartbreaking circumstances. Also, Bond’s relentless fetish for skiing begins here, and it’s unquestionably the best outing.

Diamonds are Forever (1971) – We arrive at a low point in the series. After Lazenby’s single term as 007, Connery was brought back… but this isn’t the film he deserved, and clearly not the one he wanted. One of the problems is the choice of setting. Bond films are known for their sumptuous locales, but here we land in Vegas, and sorry, but it’s a tacky, hollow substitute. The action scenes can be summarized as “Everyone other than James Bond is a terrible driver.” The assassins are silly (though I think they inspired Neil Gaiman’s villainous duo in Neverwhere) and even Blofeld has gotten tedious. One of the few bright points is that Jill St. John (playing Tiffany Case) injects real charisma into the proceedings. Otherwise, there’s little to recommend this film other than Bassey’s scandalous theme song.

Bond scar: Blofield is back, and so is his scar.


There’s Moore to Come

Roger Moore was the Bond I grew up with, and he still holds the record for most Bond films (at seven). He’s always had a special place in my heart because of this, but man… this was a weird time for the franchise.

For some reason that defies rational explanation, the Bond series jumped the shark (and a few alligators) as it pushed through the 1970s. It devolves into cornball comedy. From slide-whistles to steel-fanged henchman to what can only be described as a parody of Star Wars, it goes to truly strange places. Unsurprisingly, Moore is known as the comic Bond, but it isn’t entirely his fault: clearly, the showrunners were hell-bent on buffoonery.

On the other hand, there are a few good films to be found here, and there’s something to be said for how the series experimented with new ideas and styles. On a personal note, it has my first two film crushes.

Live and Let Die (1973) – I’ll be upfront about this: I simply adore this movie. Our introduction to Bond sees him at home (until now, I wasn’t sure he even had a permanent  address), and from there we go to Harlem and the Caribbean. Technically speaking, this isn’t the first entry of the 1970s, but it certainly feels like it. It’s a full-blooded blaxploitation film: pimps and pimpmobiles, Harlem ghettos, voodoo parlors, and jazz funerals. We meet our first African-American Bond villain (Kananga, played by the spectacular Yaphet Koto) and I adore how memorable all his henchmen are: Whisper, Tee-Hee (“funny how the least little thing amuses him”), and the borderline-supernatural Baron Samedi. We also have Rosie as the first African-American Bond girl.

Of note: For all the nice things I’ve said, the film is nearly ruined by what has to be the most obnoxious character ever to appear on film: Sheriff J.W. Pepper. We also have our second fight on a train.

Bond scar: Tee-Hee has a metal claw for a hand.

All Henchmen Dress the Same: Red shirts and blue jeans are the fashion.

The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) – The ever-sinister Christopher Lee dominates the proceedings here. He’s not only the titular villain, but a kind of shadowy doppelganger of Bond himself; the characters mirror each other in fascinating ways. Both are efficient killers, refined, gentlemanly, and infamous. Simply put, Lee’s Scaramanga is Bond’s equal (far more than Red Grant ever was) and asks us to ponder what the difference between them truly is. The story presents an interesting plot that keeps you guessing, and there’s some inspired sets: the secret MI6 base aboard the sunken ship is a mind-bending jaunt. There are some exciting fights, a cool boat chase… and then Sheriff J.W. Pepper shows up again, goddammit, and we end with a staggeringly stupid fight between Bond and Nick Nack.

Of note: It’s amusing to hear M declare that coal and oil will “soon be depleted”. Britt Eklund is the world’s most hapless secret agent, but I fell hopelessly in love with her anyway.

Bond scar: None, but Scaramanga has a third nipple, which we won’t see in cinema again until Total Recall.

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) – This is my favorite of the Moore films, and Barbara Bach is my favorite Bond girl: beautiful, efficient, and a match for 007. It’s got so much going for it: a memorable pre-title sequence, adventures in Egypt, and a slam-bam undersea sequence with the fate of the world at stake. The film suffers because of the Jaws character, who at once is the most iconic Bond villain and the most ridiculous. Let’s ignore the fact that a seven-foot-tall assassin with gleaming metal teeth doesn’t exactly melt into a crowd. The problem is that he’s so astoundingly bad at being an assassin. He’s clumsy and ineffective, a far cry from Oddjob. His preferred method of assassination is to publicly bite people’s necks like a vampire (which would leave him a blood-drenched mess in the real world). Watch the fight at the van for a good example of how terrible an operative he is: instead of killing his targets, he wastes time tearing their vehicle to pieces with his hands.

Of note: The major baddie here is Stromberg, who represents a new type of villain. He’s not interested in extortion (as SPECTRE is) or enriching himself (as Goldfinger is). Instead, he craves the extinction of civilization. We also get another fight on a train (the third in the series so far), and Jaws kills a shark (get it?) We have the series’ second ski-fight.

Bond scar: Jaws has metal teeth.

Moonraker (1979) – *sigh* Let me begin with the good things.

The opening parachute stunt is remarkable, and would inspire a similar moment in Point Break a decade later. The theme song (Shirley Bassey’s final outing) is dreamy. The locations–which include Venice and Rio–are lovely.

The rest of this movie is trash and tripe. Jaws is back as the world’s most inept killer, and this time he’s played for Wile E. Coyote laughs (even switching loyalties because he falls in love). We have monks firing lasers. Space marines. An out-of-place kendo fight. A useless knife-thrower-in-a-coffin bit. Even the plan of the main baddie (Drax) is similar to Stromberg’s, except for swapping out the sea for space. While Diamonds are Forever was bad, this film is execrable.

Of note: The movie is peppered with sci-fi references, including the five-note tune from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Bond scar: Jaws returns with his metal teeth.

All Henchmen Dress the Same: Today’s colors are yellow.

For Your Eyes Only (1981) – This was the first Bond film I ever saw, and it’s one of Moore’s finest outings. The film feels like a deliberate correction to the cartoonish idiocy of Moonraker. We open with a welcome adieu to Blofeld. We visit an enchanting undersea temple, watch a submersible duel (which likely inspired a similar moment in The Abyss) and experience a genuinely tense rock-climbing scene. We also see a very young Charles Dance, who plays a Red-Grant-type villain as the henchman Kriegler. And we meet the most efficient Bond girl since Barbara Bach: Carole Bouquet spends half the movie killing bad guys with a crossbow as she embarks on a quest for vengeance.

Of note: Our third ski-fight occurs.

Octopussy (1983) – Bond enters the 1980s (yes, I know For Your Eyes Only was technically the ’80s, but it reeked of the ’70s). This was the first Bond movie I saw in the theater and it’s basically a guilty pleasure. Louis Jourdan is wonderfully slimy as Kamal Khan, and Gobinda is the most effective henchman since Oddjob (there’s even a homage to his predecessor as he crushes a pair of dice in the way Oddjob pulverized a golf ball.) Steven Berkoff as General Orlov is so wildly over-the-top that I still think of him when imagining what Vladimir Putin’s cabinet meetings are like.

Of note: This is the first Bond film set in India, and it makes the most of the location. Maud Adams becomes the first actress to play two different Bond girls, and her octopus cult is a sort of anti-SPECTRE, focusing on legitimate business opportunities over extortion and murder. We also see Q taking part in the field! And we have our fourth train fight: this time actually on a train.

A View to a Kill (1985) – Moore’s final turn as 007 is a mediocre one at best. We open with more goddam skiing (seriously, what gives?) which turns into snowboarding accompanied by a Beach Boys soundbite. We get one of the most unique villainous pairings I’ve ever seen: Grace Jones (who kills someone with metal butterflies) and a blonde Christopher Walken being as Christopher Walken as possible. Appropriate for the ’80s, computer chips and Silicon Valley are key to the story, and there’s also cyborg horses and genetic enhancement. The final battle is like something out of a Doc Savage novel: a fight aboard a zeppelin by the Golden Gate Bridge.

Of note: Patrick McNee becomes the second Avenger to appear in the series (after Diana Rigg). As mentioned, there’s a ski-fight (#4).


The Name’s Dalton

I’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who considers Roger Moore their favorite Bond, and I think the subsequent casting of Timothy Dalton was a correction to Moore’s lighter turn. Dalton brings a brooding, lethal edge. He’s the cold Bond. That’s okay: the literary Bond is  as cold and ruthless as it gets.

Dalton’s regime is a peculiar one. He only did two films, which puts him in the Lazenby ballpark. And like Lazenby, one of those films is so different from the usual formula that it tanked any hope of future installments with this actor.

“The Living Daylights”– This is one of my favorites. It reenergizes the franchise, tackling the 1980s phase of the Cold War: we’ve got the Berlin Wall, defection, Iran-Contra-style profiteering, Mujahadeen in Afghanistan, and a synth-pop theme song that could exist in no other decade in history. I always appreciated the scale of this film, from its varied locations to rogue’s gallery of villains. The incomparable John Rhys Davies is an especially commanding presence. Add in an excellent car chase on icy roads (and lake), and an absolutely breathtaking airplane stunt that still amazes today, and this movie is a winner.

Of note: I’m not sure there’s a better metaphor for the 1980s than the henchman Necros strangling people with his Walkman. Actor Joe Don Baker appears as a villain, though would return in a few years as an entirely different character. And we get our fifth ski-fight, though this one has the virtue of occurring on a cello.

License to Kill (1989) – “Effective immediately, your license to kill is revoked.” This is a divisive entry in the filmography, and I can see why. In many ways, it doesn’t feel like a Bond film, but something nearer to a hard-bitten revenge flick. On the one hand, it has the courage to vary the formula, and it’s interesting to see Bond on a vendetta ride. Robert Davi is always a convincing villain, Benicio del Torro is a skin-crawling presence, and Carey Lowell is the most capable ass-kicking Bond girl since Bach and Bouquet. On the other hand, the film is shockingly brutal, gory and dark. Audiences and critics felt the same. It also drips with ’80s tropes: cocaine, sleazy preachers, and international weapon sales.

Of note: Q gets to be a field agent again! We get ninjas-in-unexpected-places again. There’s even another death-by-inflation (which we haven’t seen since Kananga turned into a living balloon). And Felix Leiter is mutilated (though he would be healed by a new actor 20 years later).


Piercing the Nineties

With the fall of the Soviet Union, there was ample debate over whether Bond was even  relevant anymore. The Cold War was over. Russia was out of the picture. The Berlin Wall was down, and the Soviet Union had collapsed like a black hole. What purpose did 007 serve anymore? Who would be his foes? In many ways, the question resonated with post-colonial Britain and classic West-vs-East geopolitics, which fortunately would never be important again. #sarcasm.

In this confusing era, squinting through the dust and ash of NATO’s victory, the series was given new life with the casting of Pierce Brosnan.

Brosnan is my favorite James Bond. Go ahead, fight me. He brings a perfect synthesis of charisma and cold-bloodedness, while injecting it with his own suave sensibilities. Dalton was closer to the literary inspiration, but Brosnan makes the role his own, and I think it’s fitting, considering that he was supposed to be Moore’s successor, but couldn’t get out of his Remington Steele contract at the time.)

Goldeneye (1995) – Brosnan’s first entry is not only his best, but is easily one of the best movies in the series. We open with a jaw-dropping bungee stunt. We stride through the ashes of a fallen Soviet empire and discover there are plenty of stories left to tell. Judi Dench appears as the new M, and she owns the role from the first nanosecond. We get our first 00 villain: Sean Bean as Alec Trevelyan, and although he’s the best match for 007 since Scaramanga, it’s Famke Jansen who steals the show as the outstandingly over-the-top Xenia Onatopp. High-octane action, memorable characters, and a plausible threat proved Bond was as viable as ever (yes, I said “plausible”, as EMPs are the threat of the future).

Of note: Joe Don Baker returns to the series, not as a baddie this time, but as CIA agent Jack Wade. And while there isn’t technically a fight on a train, Bond derails a train and then executes a major baddie on it, before escaping as it self-destructs behind him… so I’m counting this as Train Fight #5.

Bond scar: Trevelyan channels Batman’s Two-Face, echoed by his Janus moniker.

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) – Big Media as a villain, imagine that. Brosnan’s second outing is an electrically charged action film, and perhaps his most complex take on the character: his grief over Paris Carver’s death is matched by the icy vengeance he takes on her executioner. Jonathan Pryce is a Rupert-Murdoch-style villain who wants to start a war for ratings, and he gleefully chews the scenery in a way I haven’t seen from him since Something Wicked This Way Comes. The Bond car takes center stage with a terrific remote-driving sequence, but the real star of this picture is Michelle Yeoh. As Agent Wai Lin, she more than holds her own, and gets her own action scene that is joy incarnate. I would have happily watched a spin-off about her character. She’s marvelous.

The World is Not Enough (1999) – It’s vogue to hate on this one, but I find it largely undeserving of the dismissals. The pre-title scene is exciting enough, and while the story is mostly forgettable (along with the gadgets) it’s an entertaining ride. Denise Richards is technically playing a nuclear physicist but is clearly auditioning for Lara Croft. Sophie Marceau is the very first (and thus far only) female Bond villain. Desmond Llewelyn makes his final appearance as Q, and the film’s touching dedication still chokes me up.

Of note: Bond is skiing again (this is the sixth time for those keeping count). This is also the first of two instances in which a villain has it out for M.

Bond scar: Victor “Renard” Zokas (played by Robert Carlyle) has a scar, caused by a bullet that’s still lodged in his skull.

Die Another Day (2002) – And here we come to it: the worst film in Bond history. There are simply no words for how terrible this movie is. We’ve got gene therapy, invisible cars, virtual reality, space lasers, and power-gloves. None of these items are deal-breakers in themselves; the real crime is how bad the proceedings are. With the exception of one very cool fencing match, Die Another Day is a tedious slog. By the time a CGI Brosnan is windsurfing down a disintegrating glacier to escape a heat-ray, I was so checked out that I didn’t care if the villain started World War III or not.

Of note: Die Another Day came out on the 40th anniversary of the series, and it tries cramming references to every Bond film into its running time. It does have the distinction of being the only film where Bond is held captive and tortured for an extended period of time (more than a year).

Bond scar: Tang Ling-Zao’s face is scarred and streaked by diamonds, which he somehow never bothers having removed, despite looking like he could pluck them out with a tweezer himself.


Gritty Rebirth

There’s been a fan theory for years that “James Bond” is a codename, and the various actors represent different people taking up that mantle. Up until now, the theory was interesting but blatantly false, as the preceding films made it clear that we’d been watching the same character all the way through (shapeshifting faces and immortality notwithstanding).

That changed–sort of–with the Daniel Craig years. Here, we’re specifically shown an origin story for the new Bond. Thing is, it’s also clear that “James Bond” is actually his name, when we see eventually see the grave of his parents… and there are other inconsistencies to come.

Craig brings a point-blank brutality to the role. Whereas Lazenby seemed like he could kick your ass, Craig portrays a lethal customer who could kill without blinking. He’s simply excellent, and I would begrudge no one who considers him the best.

The Craig films also tie into each other in a way not seen since the first two films of the series, and they take it much, much further; they’re essentially one continuous epic.

Casino Royale (2006) – Not just a great Bond film, but a great film. The classy black-and-white intro presents a backstory to the iconic gun barrel opening. Craig’s 007 is a force of nature, smashing through windows and walls like a blue-eyed Terminator. Mads Mikkelsen is the sinister Le Chiffre. Felix Leiter is back, now played by Jeffrey Wright and whose inclusion makes us wonder if “Felix Leiter” is also a codename, or if we’re actually rebooting the entire series, a question that is sort-of-but-not-really answered when we get to Spectre.

Of note: Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd becomes the most significant lady in Bond’s life since Diana Rigg; indeed, the situation turns out the same way. Also, there’s a train, but astoundingly no fight actually occurs on it, just some spirited verbal sparring between 007 and Vesper. This is one of the only films where we have no Q.

Bond scar: Le Chiffre has a scar and a pale “vulture’s eye” right out of Edgar Allan Poe.

Quantum of Solace (2008) – There was a mercifully brief period of human history when some directors thought it would be edgy to shake the camera around as if caught in an earthquake. Quantum of Solace’s opening moments suffer from this fad, and though it passes, the film commits other sins that make it one of the worst. We get a movie that’s trying to ape Jason Bourne, and it fails even at that. It boils away nearly every defining characteristic of the franchise–the memorable action, the gadgets, the underlying optimism–and ends up as bleak, bland, and forgettable.

Of note: The death of Agent Fields is a deliberate homage to Goldfinger, with her body covered in oil in the way that Jill Masterson was painted gold.

Bond scar: Olga Kurlyenko’s Camille Montes has burn scars from an especially slimy villain.

Skyfall (2012) – The darkest film in the Bond universe, inhabited by the creepiest villain we’ve yet seen. Director Sam Mendes seems determined to course-correct from the previous film’s blunders, and gives us a dazzling range of locales, some good action, and a frankly stunning opening credits sequence playing to Adele’s glorious vocals. The standout here is Javier Bardem, who has made a career out of playing terrifying villains and outdoes himself. Like Bean’s Trevelyan from Goldeneye, he’s a former 00 out for revenge, but that’s where the comparisons end. Having said all that, the film has its flaws. Why Moneypenny (played by the wonderful Naomie Harris) didn’t simply tell Bond to duck before she takes her fateful shot is never aptly explained, and is made more obvious when Bond later proves that he heard everything people were saying through his earpiece. Similarly, it’s a stretch to have Bond hiding out from MI6, wasting the days doing shots with scorpions, and I never found his explanation convincing. I’m also not a fan of the Bond-is-past-his-prime theme; this is only Craig’s third outing, and two films ago he was just promoted to 00 status… so why leapfrog to the end of his career? He’s barely had time to be Bond.

Of note: The opening credits call back to Live and Let Die (as does Bond stepping on a Komodo dragon instead of an alligator). The themes of death and resurrection remind us of You Only Live Twice. We get our first new Q, and new Moneypenny, since Die Another Day. We also get our sixth Train Fight; as with Octopussy, it’s literally on a train.

Bond scar: Dear God, yes. Silva has a horrifying disfigurement which he hides with a dental prosthesis.

Spectre (2015) – A solid Bond film that’s been criminally undervalued. With Mendes returning as director, we’re treated to a breathtaking intro that tricks us into thinking it was done with one shot (we can see Mendes practicing for 1917). As with Skyfall, we’re exploring themes of death again. There’s some delightful chemistry with Moneypenny and Q, a serviceable car chase, and an implacable henchman played by Dave Bautista. We also get the most complex and layered Bond girl ever: Madeleine Swann (played by Lea Seydoux).

The only flaw is the unnecessary reboot of Blofeld. Christoph Waltz could have easily played a unique character, who is resurrecting the Spectre enterprise from the ashes of the Cold War (and preserving continuity from the 1960s). Instead, this film makes it clear that we’re rebooting the entire series, and that’s just an unforced error.

Of note: We get our seventh fight on a train, and for what it’s worth, it’s the best one yet.

All Henchmen Dress the Same: We’re back to black.

Bond scar: We get one in the final stretch, as born-again-Blofeld gets an explosive lesson in how time flies.

No Time to Die (2021) – After a superb and dynamic pre-title sequence, Billie Eilish delivers us a pitch-perfect Bond song, and we’re off and running. This is Daniel Craig’s final turn as the British superspy, and it does a serviceable job giving us one last hurrah. Seydoux returns as Madeleine Swann, cementing her position as the most complex Bond girl; in many ways, No Time to Die is her story as much as Bond’s. There’s a decent nightclub battle. An exciting scene in a forest. We get two 00 agents storming a villainous lair. All in all, it’s fine…

…until the final minutes.

There are simply things you don’t do in this franchise. Killing James Bond is atop that list, and it’s completely unnecessary. For this reason, No Time to Die exists in an alternate universe for me.

Bond scar: This film is Scar City. We’ve got a henchman with a prosthetic eye. We’ve got Blofeld’s face. And we’ve got Rami Malek with a cruel disfigurement caused by exposure to poison while he was a child.

All Henchmen Dress the Same: Today’s fashions are camouflage and red biohazard suits.


So there we have it. Brian Trent’s analysis of the 007 universe (or multiverse, if you like), and as for the question of whether “James Bond Will Return”…

…of course he will. The only question is this: given Hollywood’s current zeitgeist of hiring writers who are openly scornful of the IPs they’ve been assigned (I’m looking at you J.J. Abrams, TV’s The Witcher, and others in this hollow cabal), should it?

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