The argument over who is the best James Bond has carried on for many years (and will for many more to come). To me, though, the answer is in the title above: “Nobody Does It Better.” Sung by Carly Simon for the excellent The Spy Who Loved Me in 1977, in my opinion, it says it all. There are so many things that influence someone’s belief that one actor is a better Bond than another. How do we categorize what is best? Closest to Fleming’s vision? That would be Connery, surely. Is this because the novels were fresh and couldn’t be polluted by special effects and explosions like the later movies? The film’s merits would be gained purely by the acting, writing and directing qualities of those involved.
George Lazenby’s 007 was unique in that he only lasted one movie. Despite having a terrible opening which included a car’s tires “screeching” on a sandy beach and Lazenby grinning at the camera saying “This never happened to the other fella!”, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is many a fans’ favorite. It most certainly has one of the best of the Bond themes. Who knows what would have happened had Lazenby’s Bond carried out another couple of missions?
As time moved on and blockbuster movies needed to be effects heavy, Roger Moore’s suave and smooth Bond stepped so successfully into the breach. Undoubtedly, Moore was a superb actor, but his Bond was not that different from his Simon Templar in The Saint. Moore’s era was when the gadget-driven, bigger set and bigger budget Bond came to the forefront. No longer was the gritty, raw, Connery-like Bond required. Instead, a more fashionable figure was needed, one whose movies would have the public awaiting to see what gadget would be his newest outing. A magnetic watch? A submersible car perhaps?
The more times I watch Timothy Dalton’s expeditions as Bond, the more I see how hard The Living Daylights and Licence To Kill were to produce. Moore was gone and Dalton reverted back towards Fleming’s Bond which Connery had developed for the big screen. Indeed, Dalton could have been Bond when Moore took over, but he felt he was too young to handle the Walther. Financial problems saw the film franchise stall and after a time, Dalton said enough was enough.
Pierce Brosnan would have been 007 before Dalton, had he been able to execute a Bond-like escape from his contract tying him to Remington Steele. As it was, he did become Bond in Goldeneye and seemed to form an amalgamation of Connery and Dalton’s toughness and Moore’s sophistication. Along with increased special effects, I felt he did fairly well with his perception of Bond. In a similar vein to Dalton’s end, monetary issues with film rights to the franchise eventually led to Brosnan ending his tenure with Universal Exports. By this time, though, the effects had gone crazy and audiences were being asked to believe in science fiction of sorts. Future missions for Bond would have to address this problem.
After watching Layer Cake for about half an hour, I said to my wife, “That fella there, he’d make a brilliant Bond!” I was, of course, referring to our current James Bond, Daniel Craig. Craig, for many, is the best James Bond. Roger Moore himself has even stated as such. Is Daniel Craig as close to Fleming’s creation as Connery ever was? Yes. However, that doesn’t make him the best Bond, because as I said, there cannot be a best Bond. The James Bond we see on the screen is how that particular production crew and actor want us to see him.
For me the question is wrong. It should be either “What is your favorite Bond movie?” or “When you read a Bond novel, whom do you see in your head when you visualize what is happening on the pages?” If you line the Bond films up to pick one to watch, do you pick solely on the basis of actor? I’d be very surprised if you would. I would select on the basis of which one I enjoy watching more.
Bond became almost superhuman on the screen during Moore’s intergalactic adventures and Brosnan’s invisible car antics. Daniel Craig has brought him almost full circle, back to where Connery started. All Bonds are excellent relative to the era they were made in. For many, of course, the Bond you have a soft spot for is the one you were introduced to the first time. For me it was Moore. I pity those who had to wait in limbo over the Dalton to Brosnan to Craig era, because they were denied the opportunity to see the man in the suit, on the big screen say “Bond, James Bond.”
The mission is a success again 007. It doesn’t matter what he looks like, we know he’ll win because that’s what he does. When I saw Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, I thought Jeremy Renner could play Bond after Craig. Never say never. However, since he became a Bourne, I don’t think it will happen. On that note, even with your skills Mr. Bourne, I think that you too will find that nobody does it better. James Bond will return.
*Written by JP Wooding
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