Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Great (film) Debates vol. 16

Bond. . . James Bond. There have been many James Bonds, but some would say there was only ever one. But we don't accept half answers here, so tell us:

Rank the James Bond actors from best to worst.

Panelist: ScottDS

Connery, Brosnan, Craig, Moore, Dalton, Lazenby. I want to be clear that I like them all. Connery is the man - no doubt about that. My first theatrical Bond experience was GoldenEye in 1995 when I was 12 so I guess it’s only natural that I would rank Brosnan higher than other people might. In my opinion, his problem was that each film got worse and worse - I still think GoldenEye is his best but I admit nostalgia might be playing a part here. I enjoy the hell out of Craig (who cares if he’s blonde?!) but he’s batting .500 right now. I like Moore but The Man with the Golden Gun is my least favorite Bond film and I think he stayed on for one film too many. The one actor whose Bond films I enjoy in toto (probably because he only did two) is Dalton. Yes, I like Licence to Kill even though it’s more Joel Silver than James Bond. For a first-time actor, Lazenby wasn’t too bad. Unfortunately, he didn’t want to do any more Bond films so we’ll never know how good he could’ve been.

Panelist: Tennessee Jed

Connery, Nivan, Dalton, Craig, Lazenby, Brosnan, Moore.

Panelist: T-Rav

1. Sean Connery -- because he’s Sean Connery.
2. Daniel Craig -- No, really. I know some people were mad because he was the first blue-eyed Bond or something, but I thought he pulled it off well.
3. Pierce Brosnan -- Didn’t care for him that much, but he was effective.
4. Roger Moore -- because I could never take him seriously as Bond.

I don’t know about the other two guys who took the role (Timothy Dalton and someone), but they only had it for like one movie so I can’t imagine they were good.

Panelist: AndrewPrice

Connery comes first, hands down. He had it all. He was suave, handsome, charming and yet brutal. Surprisingly, my second choice is Craig. Craig has shown a real ability to shift between charming and brutal and projects an "I don't care what anyone thinks, I will get the job done my way" attitude which really fits Bond perfectly. I have to admit, I've even come around on his second film on re-watching. Then we hit a cliff. Brosnan was handsome and suave, but never tough enough. Lazenby was plastic, but was saved by his excellent Bond-Girl Diana Rigg. Then comes Roger Moore. He's the first Bond I saw and I thought he was great... but over time, he's come to seem prissy, snippy, uncomfortable and more suited to comic relief than the lead. Why is he wearing old-lady glasses? Finally, we come to angry, classless Timmy Dalton. His scripts were garbage. I honestly have a hard time seeing them as Bond films.

Who's your favorite?


T-Rav said...

Hey, we all had (sort of) similar answers! Clearly our responses certify Connery for all time as the greatest of the Bond actors.

I'm going to be on the road today so while I have time to respond, I'll say that, like Andrew, I thought Craig has been a much better Bond than some people give him credit for. "Casino Royale" would probably be in my top five list for the series, though I haven't yet seen "Quantum of Solace." As for Brosnan, eh. His films held my attention, and I can't say they were bad, but they certainly didn't blow me away either.

Tennessee Jed said...

what's probably at play here, at least subtly, is whether one can rank the actor's portrayal of an iconic hero without considering how they feel about the films. I think I actually so Dr. No before devouring the entire Bond chronicles in book form. So Connery, visually, is Bond to me. Interestingly, Fleming always claimed Bond was Hogie Carmichael although I bet secretly he looked just like Ian Fleming to the author.

Like Rav, I have grand girls visiting this weekend for the next couple of days so I'll have to post as time permits.

Anonymous said...

I, on the other hand, have nothing to do today. :-)

I like Craig but, as I implied in my answer, I was a little disappointed in Quantum of Solace though I should probably give it another look one day. On the other hand, the circumstances in which I saw Casino Royale (which I enjoyed a lot) were rather unique. I was temping at MGM in Los Angeles and they were hosting an employee screening of the film at the theater across the street. They needed three nerds to watch the movie to make sure it was properly projected... so my two co-workers in Records/Special Projects and I had an entire theater to ourselves and we got to see the movie before anyone else in the company!

Man, I miss that job.

With Brosnan, I admit it's nostalgia. This was 1995 - Bond had been off the radar for years so the fact that there was a new Bond film was cause for celebration and my 12-year old self got swept up in it. I had always been aware of the character and the movies but this was my first time seeing one in its entirety.

Tennessee Jed said...

It also strikes me, as I think about it, that in their own way, each actor has come in to "revive" the franchise, and in a way, each has done so. Lazenby, who had a small role in the film Gettysburg, actually did a fine job in an impossible situation (e.g. replace the departed Connery.) Moore had a very nice debonair quality about him, but was my least favorite.

The thing was Moore is I could never see him as having the streak of cruelty and toughness required of Bond. That actually was the same problem with Brosnan. Plenty suave, just not tough enough. And, I think Brosnan benefitted from better technology and films than Moore. Moore had to do "Bond in space" and all that parody crap with "Jaws." From Russia with Love and the Daniel Craig version of Casino Royale were true spy stories

Unknown said...

Connery is Bond, at least as far as film goes. I liked Moore, but maybe because his jokey handling of the character seemed right for the times. Lazenby did a very good job, but the script and the production values killed his chance for future Bonds. Dalton and Brosnan just seemed too "delicate" to be Bond, even if Fleming may have originally thought of Bond that way in his books. Niven was hilarious in the original Casino Royale even if it was a complete mish-mosh. He might have carried off future Bonds if it weren't for his advancing age. As for Craig, I think he has done a good job, but I find it hard to take seriously an 007 who by his own admission is afraid of guns. The closest actor to Bond/Connery's persona in contention when the series was revived (between Dalton and Brosnan) was Adrian Paul (TV's Highlander), but I heard stories that he was extremely difficult to deal with and got nixed before he could even audition.

Floyd R. Turbo said...

I always thought Adrian Paul would've been a good Bond... if he could transition to the big screen... how'd being a jerk pay off for your Adrian?

Connery is the best Bond of course, but Lazenby's movie On Her Majesty's Secret Service is the best Bond movie... everything about it is different. Active villain, first boffo chase scene, Bond girl with depth (a Bond woman really), emotional depth, and even the Barry score is different.

Connery, Craig, Lazenby, Moore, Brosnan, Dalton (though I like them all too)

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I think certifying Connery was the easy part. It's the rest where it gets harder and it was interesting to me how everyone chose slightly different orders.

I actually wanted to hate Casino Royale because Craig just didn't look like Bond should look, but he won me over really quickly. I thought he was great. I didn't like the "falling in love" crap, which was completely against his character, but the rest of the movie was just great.

Solace originally struck me as a horrid, pointless film. But it's grown on me by just focusing on Bond an ignoring all other aspects of the plot.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I'm honestly not sure what's going on here. For a long time I thought that people would choose "the bond they grew up with." But that doesn't seem to be the case as everyone gravitated toward Connery.

I think Connery just had the best scripts, the most class, the best villains, and the coolest time period -- there was no worries about trying to make Bond more "modern."

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, When I first saw Solace, I hated it. It's pointless, its villain is generic garbage, its big "twist" is stupid, and the whole thing just feels like a 5 minute scene stretched into a whole film. But the more I've seen it, the more I've come to like it. But to like it, I find that I can't think of it like a traditional Bond, I have to think of it as "character development Bond." Then it works.

I originally wanted to hate Casino Royale for a lot of reasons, but it won me over quickly -- with two exceptions. First, the whole "he falls in love" thing is 100% against his character and hurts the film. Secondly, I felt the way they filmed the first chase scene was a waste. They had great scenery on the crane and tremendous stunts and the director did it all in close ups? Stupid.

On Brosnan, I wanted to like Brosnan. I was a big fan of Remington Steele and I thought he was the perfect Bond. But his scripts were weak. They tried to give him angst and the villains made little sense. In fact, I was thrilled to see Jonathan Pryce (one of my favorite actors) and then found out he was a newspaper guy who somehow thought he could do something by starting a war between Britain and China... huh? First, that's not realistic because Britain can't fight China. Secondly, he'll make more money with celebrity news. And the money he spent to cause this vastly outweighs what he would have made. Blech. And the North Korea thing was a joke. An invisible car? WTF?

DUQ said...

Connery -- there is no other! :D

DUQ said...

I guess I should say, "Connery, accept no substitutes!"

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I agree about Moore. Initially, I thought he was fine. But then the more I watched him, the more I thought this man would never throw a punch. And when he killed people, he seemed kind of pissy about it -- compare to Connery/Craig who do it without emotion.

I also got the sense Moore's Bond didn't like women. Yes, he sleeps with the requisite Bond girl, but he never seemed to enjoy it and he was more often than not acting like he was uncomfortable around women. By the time of For Your Eyes Only he even seemed like a bumbling father when he dealt with the girl in that one. That's not Bond. The one exception was Live and Let Die where I thought he really did Bond the way it should be done. But toward the end of his run in particular, he simply wasn't anything like James Bond anymore.

I think Brosnan could have been a nearly perfect Bond except they bogged him down with all kinds of emotional baggage. I blame the filmmakers for that one.

I agree about Lasenby and I've often wondered how he would have done with a couple more films? I think he was a little too stiff, but he had a lot of potential. But how in the world do you follow Connery?

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, I'd read that too somewhere, that they were talking to Adrian Paul but they dropped the idea because he was too hard to deal with.

On Moore, I didn't mind the more jokey Bond at first, but as the series progressed it almost because slapstick. There are moments (like the camera double takes in several films or drunks on beaches looking at bottles) that belonged in sitcoms, not Bond films.

I honestly don't know what they were thinking with Dalton. He didn't have much class. They tried to strip him of everything that made Bond Bond and they turned him into a DEA/ATF agent. Hmm.

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, I thought Diana Rigg was awesome. She was tough, deep, sexy, and incredibly interesting. She is easily my favorite Bond girl.

I think Paul would have been good, but again, I think it comes down to the scripts. I thought Pierce was a great choice, but his films were too weak. If they'd put Paul in those films, it probably would have been the same thing. On the other hand, if they'd put him in the Craig films, he probably would have been great -- though I really like Craig a lot at this point.

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, We don't accept half answers! LOL!

Ed said...

Good question! Like everyone else, I choose Connery. My second favorite is actually Brosnan. I thought he had the right amount of class. I think he would have done really well in Connery's films.

In terms of a new Bond, I like Craig, but I thought Clive Owen would have been better.

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, I know they considered Owen, but he strikes me as too gruff -- without the class. That's one thing I've really come to like about Craig, he can be classy and charming, but always has a psychopathic menace to him. I think Owen is too earnest.

ScyFyterry said...

Connery is the best, the rest aren't even close. Connery, Moore, Craig, Brosnan, Lazenby, Dalton.

AndrewPrice said...

ScyFyTerry, That seems to be the consensus about Connery.

Anonymous said...

Andrew -

Re: Tomorrow Never Dies, I remember liking it a lot, especially the car chase in which Bond operated the vehicle via cell phone, but I watched the film again on DVD a few years ago and I didn't like it as much. (Don't get me wrong, it's still an entertaining two hours.)

I like Jonathan Pryce a lot but he was a little too "mustache-twirling" for my taste. I get what they were trying to do - I wonder if the corrupt media angle would play better today - but it comes across as "Bond lite" at times.

But the film does a few things well: Q, the teaser, the songs (Sheryl Crow does the opening song which replaced a different song by k.d. lang which plays at the end), and the motorcycle chase. This was also the first Bond film scored by David Arnold who has scored them all since.

Outlaw13 said...

I agree with Floyd on the pecking order:

Connery, Craig, Lazenby, Moore, Brosnan, Dalton

Although Moore may actually rank lower depending on which film we are talking about. I love "Live and Let Die" but from "Moonraker" on...yuck.

Dalton: Do. Not. Like.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, The motorcycle chase was well done, but the rest just didn't work for me.

In terms of the villain, I don't think he would be any better received today because he was just so poorly written. He's one of those characters with unbelievable nearly-omniscient powers, but no idea what to really do with them.

This is one of the classic believability problems -- he's a guy whose motives make no sense because he already has more money than he can use and this is a real Rube Goldberg way of getting more money.

AndrewPrice said...

Outlaw, I agree that Moore depends on which film. Some of his films really just stank and others were quite good.

It's kind of rare for anyone to say they liked Dalton a lot. I barely even think of him as Bond.

tryanmax said...

While Connery is my favorite Bond, bearing just the right combination of charm, wit, and toughness, my second favorite is T-Dal. (Though, by rights, I should probably be in the Brosnan camp with Scott, seeing as I was only 9 when License to Kill came out.)

For me, it's because you can tell he really loved the role. To wit, unlike Moore, who said he never cared for Flemming's work, Dalton was known to continuously reference the source material on set. But beyond the trivia, I think Dalton's portrayal of Bond the second most convincing.

Plus, I think License to Kill was a turn for the gritty. It's my opinion that the Moore films were getting a bit mellow. Dalton may have only done a couple films, but he breathed life back into the franchise at a time when it needed it.

tryanmax said...

Ha! I totally missed your last comment, Andrew. I just jumped in and wrote my thought down. Funny!

T-Rav said...

In the "better late than never" department...

The love story that was the last segment of "Casino Royale" was a little maudlin, I agree. But I didn't mind it too much, because this was very much an origins story for Bond. It's not hard to see how he could grow into the kind of person he is within the context of that storyline.

Agree on Clive Owen. I like him, but he's more of a mercenary than he is a suave spy.

Incidentally, something that's always irritated me about the films is how they often recycle plot elements. Specifically, it seems like every third movie you have some psycho with a death ray in space. "Diamonds Are Forever," "GoldenEye," "Die Another Day," and probably a half-dozen more I don't remember. Mix it up, people!

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Everyone is entitled to their own opinions! LOL! :)

I absolutely agree about the Moore films. I think Moore never embraced the role as it was and he tried to make it into something very different. As a result, his character became comedic and weak, at least by the end. Dalton injected more youth back into the role, but his problem was this was the era of small thinking for Bond. So they gave him a sensible car, cut down on the number of Bond girls, and made the villains much more small time -- gun runners and drug dealers. These aren't villains Connery would even have bothered with.

I really welcomed the change to Brosnan because they wanted to make the character larger again with him. Unfortunately, they just never managed to get the hang of getting worthwhile villains.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Their level of creativity is surprisingly low for such a high dollar project.

In fact, the film that really brought that home to me was True Lies. As I watched that, realized that would have made a great Bond movie, and it was better than anything I'd seen in Bond since probably For Your Eyes Only or even Spy Who Loved Me. But instead of True Lies we were getting the same old story line -- stolen military hardware used for extortion, wanting to start a superpower war, laser beams to blow things up.

I give Casino Royal tremendous credit for taking a guy who is nothing more than a banker and making him into a really cool villain.

The love story bothered me because it goes against his character. We're told throughout the movie (repeatedly in fact) that Bond is totally sociopathic and doesn't care about anyone. We see this too as he ruins lives and gets people killed without a single second thought. But then suddenly, he falls so deeply in love with a woman who is cold and hard to like, and who he never really spends much time with, that he's willing to give up the job that seems to be his life's goal? It just doesn't work for me.

I would lop off the last few minutes of the film where she gets killed and replace it with the bad guy just escaping.

tryanmax said...

I guess I took the question as being about Bond portrayals rather than Bond films. I agree that the austerity of the Dalton films is a general disappointment. In an overall sense, it is difficult for a character portrayal to overcome that. But if you just look at the Bonds themselves, I see Dalton as the only one besides Connery to have that glint in his eye. (Some see it in Brosnan where I only see cheese.)

The other difficulty is that he only has two movies to judge by. That's a handicap since most people will rank him lower on the basis on not really feeling like they "knew" that Bond. Lazenby gets similar marks to Dalton.

I have noticed, however, that there is sort of a hipster draw towards T-Dal, so I feel it imperative to note that I was into T-Dal's Bond before it was cool.

tryanmax said...

For some reason, I feel now compelled to talk up Michael Caine's Harry Palmer as sort of an anti-Bond. And yet, not a complete anti-Bond because he has some of that same "glint" that Connery has.

AndrewPrice said...

You were into T-Dal before it was cool! LOL!

In terms of having "the glint," I still go with Connery first and Craig second. They are the only two I think who have both the suaveness and the brutality mixed with an indifference to the brutality that I think the character needs.

After that it gets tricky. I agree that Dalton is more easily a killer than the rest, but personally I think he lacks the calm/suaveness needed for the job. I think Brosnan has the suaveness in spades, BUT I don't believe he can kill anyone. Early Roger Moore had the potential to have both, but late Roger Moore really had neither. Lazenby had class, but lacked seriousness and was too stiff. So for me, it would be hard to choose between them if I was remaking Dr. No.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I actually haven't seen those.

Retro Hound said...

Connery, Dalton (yes his scripts were lousy, but I thought he had the charm and he looked like he beat you up unlike some of the others), Craig, Brosnon, Moore. Haven't seen Lazenby yet and I don't count Niven. Couldn't make it through 30 minutes of his try.

Retro Hound said...

Ok now I've read the comments.

AndrewPrice! You don't think Dalton has suaveness? Are you nuts? The BBC uses him for that all the time!

tryanmax said...

I realize I haven’t put out my full list. So here it is:

1. Connery – need I say why?
2. Dalton – whom I’ve addressed.
3. Craig – a very good but not quite total package.
4. Early Moore – for the same reasons others have mentioned.
5. Brosnan – he just seems so cheesy to me, moreso than any other.
6. Late Moore – also for the same reasons others have mentioned.

I can’t fairly rate Lazenby because I’ve never seen On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

AndrewPrice said...

RetroHound, I have a hard time separating Dalton from his scripts. They really sucked the suave out of him and just made him gritty and upset.

I do enjoy Dalton the actor by the way, especially as Prince Baron in Flash Gordon and many of the later things I've seen him in.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I think it's interesting that (1) everyone agrees Connery is the man, and (2) beyond that, everyone has very different views of the Bonds. It's fascinating because it tells us there is a "right" choice, and but it makes it really hard to explain how to figure out who is right if we can't even agree why the rest were wrong. Interesting!

Kenn Christenson said...

Never really got that much into the whole "Bond" thing. Did like "For Your Eyes Only." Thought it had some very imaginative (and humorous) action scenes - and it had Topol - as the is he/isn't he the real bad guy.

Yeah Moore was getting a little long in the tooth - but the story seemed very cohesive and moved along at a swift pace, for the time.

Didn't hurt - having all those cool chase scenes with spike-tired motorcycles in the snow - being raised in that type of climate, most of my life. (No - no spike-tired motorcycles where I lived, sorry to say.)

AndrewPrice said...

Kenn, Topol was great. He would have made a great villain as well.

I liked those bikes a lot in the film, but I have to wonder if they would actually work in the real world. So long as you were on deep snow, they would probably work, but the moment you came near solid ground, I would bet the spikes would shatter and tear the tires apart. Still, it was one of those neat Bond-moments where they found something that seems like it should work.

tryanmax said...

Andrew, I've been pondering your conundrum:
it makes it really hard to explain how to figure out who is right if we can't even agree why the rest were wrong.

It seems to me that everyone agrees that Bond should possess a certain set of qualities in certain proportions and that Connery best displays them all. The other Bonds, however, do not posses all the same qualities in the same amounts and the disagreement becomes about which qualities are essential, which are diminishable, and which are expendable.

In that light, it is quite easy to explain why Connery is the right Bond--he's the total package. No single trait makes him Bond, it is the sum total. But start taking pieces away and there is plenty of room to argue which must stay and which can go while leaving Bond recognizable.

While I'm at it, something needs to be acknowledged about Connery the actor in relation to the Bond role. The role is so iconic, and he played it so well, he could have easily been trapped in it, but he wasn't. That says something about what it takes to portray the perfect Bond.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I agree on both points. The fact Connery didn't end up typecast by the role is really impressive, especially when you consider that Roger Moore did, even though he had a longer career before playing the role and he wasn't even the first or best Bond. If anybody should have been typecast, it should have been Connery.

On finding the perfect Bond, I think you're right. I used to think at one point it was just nostalgia -- that people just got used to having it one way and couldn't accept a "new guy." But Craig really has proven that wrong. I think it's exactly what you say with Connery really having the perfect package and the rest failing by missing parts of that package.

Kit said...

Sean Connery is the best.
No debate.

Piece Brosnan was the Bond I grew up with, however.
And Daniel Craig ain;t bad.

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