Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Bond at 50

I have a lot of fond memories associated with the James Bond movies. As a kid, Mark was the first friend I had that got a VCR. His family had one long before anyone else I knew did. And whenever I’d spend the night at his house, we’d have his mom or dad or one of his older brothers take us to the video rental store. We’d often get three or four or sometimes even five movies out at a time and have marathon sessions watching them in his family’s finished basement. Although we were preteens and teenagers during this time, I remember us renting the Death Wish movies, and renting Kentucky Fried Movie along with Used Cars and Moving Violations. But most prominently, I remember renting James Bond movies and staying up all night watching them. (I also remember Mark and I seeing A View to A Kill at the old Gold Circle Cinema in North Canton – the same place he and I saw Ladyhawke and WarGames.)

I have seen all 22 Bond movies along with Casino Royale and Never Say Never Again many, many times in my life (and read all of the original books), but it turns out that prior to a few weeks ago, my wife had only ever seen a handful of the Pierce Brosnan Bonds, and our kiddo hadn’t seen any of them. The trailers for Skyfall caught Jack’s eye, and although he’s not going to get to see any of the Daniel Craig Bonds any time soon, I have been educating Tracy and Jack on vintage Bond… one movie at a time.

We’re not watching the movies in any particular order, we’ve skipped around, hitting Bonds from every era. We’ve made it through a dozen of them so far, and Jack’s favorite by a wide margin is Goldfinger. I guess there is no denying a classic.

I have come to realize, however, as we go through this exercise, that as a child of the ’80s, I kind of got gypped as far as Bond goes. I mean, by the time Mark and I were renting the videos in the early ’80s, Sean Connery had originated the role 20 years earlier, so he wasn’t “our” Bond. And by that time, Roger Moore was old (and looked it) and driven the character far into the jokey, hokey world of one-liners and over-the-top gadgets. When we finally got a new Bond, it ended up being our generation’s George Lazenby: Timothy Dalton. After a nice turn in The Living Daylights, the franchise produced License to Kill, which was simply an action movie with a main character who happened to be named “James Bond.” (Seriously, change Bond’s name to “Riggs” and you’ve got a passable script for Lethal Weapon 2.) The series dumped Dalton after that, and then we got Old Remington Steele as Roger Moore’s Bond. Like I said. We got screwed.

That is why I’m relishing the Daniel Craig Bond. Despite the dip in quality with Quantum of Solace, he’s still my favorite Bond at this point. Nostalgia for For Your Eyes Only or A View to a Kill will only get you so far. And though You Only Live Twice, then Thunderball were my favorite Bond movies for years, the Casino Royale reboot tops it in every way for me.

I have to say, though, revisiting the previous 22 movies has been a lot of fun. I find that it’s been very easy for me to overlook their problem spots (Live and Let Die’s J.W. Pepper, Diamonds Are Forever’s Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd, along with Bambi and Thumper, etc.) and just roll with the good stuff and enjoy the movies and the girls and the cars and the gadgets and the quips, and revel in the rest of my family’s first-time viewing joy.

Parting Thought: If I ever had an audience with anyone even remotely responsible for the Bond movies, I would relentlessly push for a Daniel Craig reboot of Moonraker. That movie is ripe for updating, à la Casino Royale. Someone get on that, please!