Best of James Bond: 022-015
Now, pay attention double-0 readers. With anticipation for Skyfall, the twenty-third Bond film, building ever-increasing momentum thanks to the release of the first full trailer yesterday, we at The Yorker decided it was high time that we ranked the first twenty-two from worst to best. As somebody who has spent their summer so far re-watching said twenty-two films, I was handed the mission, and here is my first report…
022. Moonraker (1979)
AKA Bond in Space!
Moonraker is as abysmal a Bond film as you could ever hope to find. After an entertaining, but routine, first half, the film loses any credibility it once had as we head into space for a laser-gun battle. Yes, that’s right, a battle with LASER-GUNS. Shocking. Positively shocking.
021. Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
AKA The one where Sean came back and we’d rather he’d stayed away
After The Golden Age of Bond that was the 1960s, the series hit a bum note with this, the seventh entry in the series (which is a shame considering that number…). Connery returned, having aged ten years in the four since You Only Live Twice, and looked about as interested as the viewers watching. The plot is limp, the Las Vegas setting lacking, and, rather than the dramatic finales we’re used to, it fizzles out on an oil rig. Thankfully, the film doesn’t last forever.
020. Quantum of Solace (2008)
AKA The one where we all wished we’d stayed at home and watched Casino Royale again
Despite the impossibly high benchmark set by Casino Royale, I don’t think any of us really suspected they’d mess it up this bad. QOS not only has a baffling title, it also has a baffling plot, told in a baffling way, with the action sequences being shot so bafflingly fast that you can’t see what’s happening. The only thing good about it is that it’s really quite short.
019. Octopussy (1983)
AKA The one where Bond goes to India and makes a joke about curry
Octopussy is a tired film. Everything about the formula that once zinged so well just feels lifeless, with the humour stretched to breaking point as former tennis champ Vijay Armritraj defeats villains with a tennis bat, while the watching crowd go ‘oooh’ in sympathy. And just when you think it couldn’t stoop any lower, Bond does a Tarzan swing complete with sound effects, and then diffuses a bomb dressed as a clown. Definitely not an all-time high.
018. Licence to Kill (1989)
AKA The one where it all gets a bit too serious
After the success of The Living Daylights’ more serious approach, Timothy Dalton’s second Bond film thankfully avoids the campness of Roger Moore’s days. However, in doing so, it takes it too far in the other direction. So while it’s a complex, believable film, it just isn’t Bondian enough thanks to its very Americanised style, a tendency to overdo the violence, and an almost humourless script (excepting Q’s explosive alarm clock line: “guaranteed never to wake up anyone who uses it”). It’s just a shame that this would also be Dalton’s last turn as Bond, as he brings a real emotional depth in those rare moments when he’s allowed to do anything other than look grumpy.
017. GoldenEye (1995)
AKA The film that inspired the game
Coming six years after the previous film, Licence to Kill, audiences were desperate for more Bond, and this is the only explanation I can find for why GoldenEye is so overrated. Yes, it’s a solid film, but it’s not a great one; throughout, there’s the sense that everything and everyone involved is being restrained, the producers so afraid of messing it up (had it flopped, the series would not have recovered). So while Pierce Brosnan is instantly excellent, and the pitfalls of the 1980s are avoided, it’s held back from being as truly spectacular and creative as it’s perceived to be.
016. The World Is Not Enough (1999)
AKA The one with Denise Richards as a pouting, hot-pants-wearing nuclear scientist
Excepting Ms Richards, TWINE is a good watch that passes two hours nicely. There’s just nothing that really stands out about it, except perhaps the bit when Sophie Marceau takes off her earlobe. And although Pierce Brosnan continues to embody the role, it’s just not enough.
015. For Your Eyes Only (1981)
AKA Bond’s Mid-Life Crisis.
After the dross that was Moonraker, it was decided that change was needed, and so came FYEO, a harder edged thriller, with less gadgets (Bond having to rely more on his, um, wits), and a finale that goes for tension over spectacle. It sounds like the perfect Bond film. Only it isn’t, and that’s because it’s all a bit uneven in tone. While clearly aiming for seriousness, certain aspects undermine it: the infatuated ice-skating teenager for a love interest; the fact that the plot is considerably furthered by what a parrot overheard; and, of course, Roger Moore himself. He just doesn’t look comfortable, and he’s also starting to show his age. Saying that, he does well climbing that cliff-face at the end. What do you mean ‘stunt double’?
Come back next week as we continue the mission to find the greatest Bond film. In the meantime, why not watch the new Skyfall trailer again: