Back to contents - Before Moore - The Roger Moore years


It's clear that Moonraker is as far as the Bond formula could go. Ideally, the series ought to have ended here, on a high. Because (with a few notable exceptions) the series has never been as good since. For Your Eyes Only is a reasonable spy thriller, but quite forgettable as a Bond film. Octopussy on the other hand, is like a last gasp of greatness - it's almost up there with The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.
Roger clowns around A brilliant pre-credits scene, the exotic location of India, a fantastically suave villain played by Louis Jourdan, and a believable love interest. And for those Roger Moore detractors out there, a terrifying prospect - he actually dresses up in a clown's outfit! Final proof that he's turned Bond into a caricature? Well, no - in fact, this scene is the most tense of the entire film. If Octopussy had been the last in the series, I could have forgiven For Your Eyes Only. But it just keeps getting worse...

Not even Roger Moore can save A View to a Kill. The potentially good plot is ruined by bad writing, bad acting, and a total lack of interest in what makes a Bond film special. The Living Daylights is a mixed bag. Timothy Dalton is a great actor, and plays Fleming's intense Bond - but he doesn't play the movie Bond. He has a singular inability to deliver one-liners. There are great moments - notably the scene where Bond escapes from Czechoslovakia by tobogganing in a cello case! But it all dissolves into a confusing bundle in Afghanistan (which may be strangely topical, but doesn't help the film). And then Licence to Kill, as everyone knows, is just appalling.

And so, after a long rest, GoldenEye seems like something of a renaissance. Pierce Brosnan is a popular Bond at the moment. Oddly, I think he's far more in the mould of Roger Moore than Sean Connery - suave, elegant and witty. Here's a man who can deliver the jokes - unfortunately, the current crop of writers are not a patch on Mankiewicz and Wood, providing crude double entendres like third-rate Talbot Rothwells. At least the film itself goes for the spectacular once more - forget the misguided attempts to analyse Bond's psyche, and just enjoy the fun. The end is a bit of a disappointment though - no big battle, just a couple of men duking it out.

It's a pity that Tomorrow Never Dies is a hastily knocked together ultraviolent Hollywood thriller, all machine guns blazing like some ghastly Lethal Weapon rip-off. And The World Is Not Enough is not very interesting. You know Bond's going wrong when he can fall onto the surface of the Millennium Dome and fracture his shoulder. Surely it ought to have collapsed under him and cushioned his fall! Brosnan reportedly wants to stretch his acting muscles as Bond - the thing is, he's not a very good actor and it isn't a serious acting part. He should play on his strengths, namely the light comedy. Brosnan probably thinks the confrontation with Elektra is his big moment. His best scene is clearly when he's impersonating the Russian nuclear scientist, complete with cod Russian accent and air of studied nonchalance. It's a masterpiece of comic understatement, ranking almost up there with Roger Moore and the fish.

So where next? With Brosnan talking about the next film being his last, people are already speculating on the next Bond. (Russell Crowe... I ask you...) Personally, I've always had a soft spot for Hugh Grant, who I think is the natural successor to Roger Moore. But the casting is only one element of a successful Bond film - they need writers and directors who appreciate the formula and the humour inherent in it. With a bit of love and attention, it's still not too late to save Bond... Bond, James Bond

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