21 December 2007

Guest: Bond, James Bond (1987-1989)

1987 - The Living Daylights - Rather than crack wise about 007’s inability to fit into modern times with his obsolete sophistication, Eon Productions finally decides to force that mother into modern times, updating him with new execution styles, new technology, and a new cynical attitude. Even new Moneypenny. They even go as far as kinda-sorta-not-really creating an origins story, showing off Bond’s skill during a training exercise gone wrong, which ends up being… pretty damn cool.

Timothy Dalton injects much needed youth into the role and as such, the movie feels dangerous. Or maybe it’s the change in cameraman, whatever gets John Glen’s heart back into things. I was struck by how dark everything looked, especially coming from the guy who compromised his style and directed Octopussy. Things behind the iron curtain haven’t looked this bleak since From Russia With Love.

Smacking of a more epic For Your Eyes Only, the relationship with the female lead plays a large role in the decisions 007 makes. There’s a tremendous amount of suspense because of their chemistry, and since the series is once again taking a step back and reexamining its formula, it feels like anything can happen to her.

There still exists the series’ “patented” brand of humor, but this is the first time a Bond film has felt like a spy film in at least a decade. I ask once more: why aren’t more of them like this?

“Eh, you’ve had your eight. Now I’ll have my eighty!” (7.0/10)
d. John Glen

1989 - Licence to Kill - Ever wondered what Bond would look like in an 80’s action film again? WHY?!

Wins the award for most depressing decline for any given actor’s series of Bond films. Forgetting that they already brought Bond up to speed to reflect the audience’s taste, the filmmakers go even further by reflecting the action films of the decade, possibly the biggest mistake they could make. An hour passes before the movie finally feels like a Bond adventure; it takes showing Dalton betting at a casino in a tux, and it’s so brief that I can almost feel the movie climbing off of me and saying ‘Was it good for you?’

Licence to Kill is about ¼ of a Bond film and ¾ of three other films, meshed awkwardly together. Why not get the motivation for the mission out of the way in the escape sequence, instead of introducing the characters, the villains, the methods, and taking forever to do all of it? Got me. Yes, Nassau is very beautiful, but does that have to be the setting every fucking time scuba diving is involved? DOES IT REALLY?

Felix Leiter, his new wife, and Bond’s useless first-act sidekick Sharky (guess what he knows a lot about) share loads of scenes with the star, but in this decade, that’s a mark of impending death. At least my question is finally answered: there’s dark (GOOD) and there’s sadistic (BAD) and here, they clearly tipped it too far towards the latter. Dismemberment-by-shark, implosion-by-decompression, and killed-by-rock-crusher are cool, but they all belong in a film with better characterization.

It’s in the final half hour where the love of making this film shows, and elevates the movie back into average territory. 007 nearly jackknifes himself to get his vengeance, going head-to-knife with scene-saving Benicio del Toro, who isn’t the main villain but hell he should have been. Trucks, explosions, Wayne Newton, closing credits soon follow.

Farewell, Timothy Dalton. The next role I see of yours will be the one where you take a steeple to the chin.

You may proceed to wow me, Pierce Brosnan.

“Launder it.” (5.0/10)
d. John Glen