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With the new James Bond film Casino Royale rushing toward us at turbo speed (it opens on November 17 in the States), Cinematical tackles the question: Which Bond is the Best?
Most people have their stock answers ready to go for this one. It's either a quick, "Roger Moore" or "Sean Connery." Does anyone actually pick George Lazenby? I always end up feeling sorry for him. He went from hunk-of-the-moment in a chocolate bar commercial to potentially being one of the biggest stars on the planet. But would you want to follow in Sean Connery's shoes? Go rent On Her Majesty's Secret Service if you haven't seen it, it's worth a look. Plus it's the only James Bond film with a metareference. In the opening scene, Lazenby saves a woman from drowning and she slaps him before running away. He looks directly at the camera and says, "This never happened to the other fellow." Ouch. So, by default in our books, after only being in one film and forced to try to follow up the original, he's out of the running for best Bond. That leaves us with Connery, Moore, Dalton and Brosnan ...
Which brings us to Roger Moore, who brought a much lighter wit and sense of humor to the Bond films. He had many quips and comebacks, and turned everything said to him into sexual innuendo more than Connery ever did. Moore always seemed like he was about to crack a smile, even while being inches away from death. He had been approached to play Bond after Connery while he was still doing the television show The Saint, but couldn't leave his contract. It might be blasphemy to some, but I always liked him better in that show than I did as Bond. That is, except when I was around ten years-old, then he was the coolest guy on the planet. If you'd asked me this question around the time Moonraker was out, we would've gone on and on about how cool Roger Moore was in outer space. Just as an FYI, Moonraker doesn't really hold up that well, at least for me. I mean, James Bond in zero gravity with lasers? At least Jaws was in it.
Then came Timothy Dalton, who had also been approached to play Bond after Connery, but felt that he was too young at the time. He went on to accept the role after Roger Moore stepped down, and his turn as the superspy in The Living Daylights (remember the title song from that movie by A-Ha?) grossed more than the previous two Moore bond films, and even beat Die Hard and Lethal Weapon at the box office. Not a bad debut. However, his second film Licence to Kill tanked miserably when it was released in 1989, and was only the second Bond film to fail at the box office after On Her Majesty's Secret Service. To me, Dalton always seemed like he had just woken up from a long nap, or that he needed one. Where Moore was too laid back, Dalton was too over the top. He did a better job as the smarmy villain in Disney's The Rocketeer. I think the problem for me was that he'll always be Prince Barin in Flash Gordon, and not the next James Bond.
Then came Pierce Brosnan, who had also been asked to play Bond before, but he was also tied to a television series, starring in Remington Steele at the time. After the Licence to Kill debacle, Bond vanished from the silver screen for six years. Brosnan came into the role in 1995 with GoldenEye, and there was no doubt that Bond was back. Brosnan's films remain some of the highest grossing in the series, and Die Another Day is the highest grossing Bond film ever. Brosnan did a great job of channeling both Connery and Moore, making his superspy both mirthful and cocky. Brosnan also had the added bonus of spectacular visual effects, with each film having to top the previous one in terms of sheer scale and amount of things blown up. Brosnan makes the grade as the second-best Bond, although you have to be very forgiving of the fact that he starred with Denise Richards in The World is Not Enough. Extremely forgiving. In fact, rush to Netflix or your favorite video store and rent Brosnan's great film The Matador to wash that taste out of your mouth.
Brosnan played Bond in four very successful films, and was interested in appearing in a fifth, but he eventually departed the role and there were rumors that everyone from Orlando Bloom to Hugh Jackman were going to take over the role, but it eventually ended up going to Daniel Craig. Craig, who was great in Layer Cake, is virtually unknown as a leading actor to most American audiences and wasn't met with open arms immediately; he even spurred some fans to boycott the film. Early reports are favorable, but you're going to have to decide for yourself. If you've seen the trailer, then you know that the film revolves around Bond before he became a 00-agent, meaning he has to have two kills on his record in order to get that famous three digit number. He's much more emotionally vulnerable and not reliant on all the fancy gadgets you've come to expect. He definitely seems like the most "I'm gonna make you cry" Bond we've ever seen on the screen. The action sequences look fantastic, but his whole "You've stripped me of my armor" line makes me throw up a tiny bit in my mouth every time I hear it.
However, none of these guys are Sean Connery. How can you be better than this guy? Even today, Connery just oozes James Bond appeal. He combined just the right amount of suave, arrogance, emotion and sex appeal. Plus he laid down what people just came to expect in a James Bond film; a guy who gets the woman, defies death, saves the world and doesn't break a sweat while doing it. When guys put on a white dinner jacket with black slacks and shoots the cuffs, they're secretly thinking "I am totally Sean Connery right now." He'll walk into a room as Bond with his half-closed eyes, and you'll find yourself wondering how you can pull that off the way he does. They made the mold with him, and everyone who has followed in the role has, whether they've said it in interviews or not, tried to copy him. He is James Bond, baby, and will always be the best.