After three films, Daniel Craig has really established himself as the new James Bond. And why not? He’s got the looks, the attitude, the skills – he seems equally at home mingling with the decadent rich or getting down and dirty in a back alley brawl.
But he’s still not the best Bond.
Brosnan was great, while his 007 movies were hit or miss. But he’s not the best, either.
Neither were George Lazenby, Roger Moore or Timothy Dalton.
Hell, even Ian Fleming’s original version of the character from the books wasn’t the best!
Because Sean Connery is, bar none, THE Commander James Bond, HMSS, Agent 007, etc.
Think about it. If you’ve seen one Bond film, you really have seen them all. They all go something like this…
Rich but odd bad guy us up to no good. Only one man can stop the evil plot: Bond, James Bond! This secret agent (who isn’t very secret) struts around exotic locales, kicks some ass, tomcats around with improbably named floozies, utters a few one-liners and then there’s a big showdown at the end.
It’s a formula, but it works.
And it worked BEST when Connery was the star.
Now, Sean Connery hasn’t portrayed James Bond for decades (since ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ in the official film series, although he did return to the role once, which we’ll get to), bit he remains the standard by which all other Bonds are judged.
Sone say it’s Connery himself, and that’s certainly true. the man is a great actor.
Some say it’s the accent. Maybe.
Some say the Connery movies were more faithful to the books, and to Ian Fleming’s conception of the character. Mmmm, yes and no.
I say it’s all that, plus a very important detail: timing.
See, the formula wasn’t a cliche back then, it was new. When ‘Dr. No’ first hit theaters, audiences were blown away. The locations! The bizarre villain! The suave spy who can take on anything! The babes! The gadgets – well, the gadgets were kind of minimal at first, really.
So you have this cinematic breath of fresh air, this ridiculously manly but debonair lead actor, these awesome shoots around the world, these sinister malconents with their weird henchmen and operatic schemes, big action setpieces, absurdly pretty women. What’s not to like?
So add to this the fact that Connery’s Bond was just as brutal and vicious as the villains, albeit very, very cool, plus the very idea of what a well-rounded fellow SHOULD be in the 60′s (it’s no accident Bond first became popular in the US through ‘Playboy’ magazine) and you’ve got a can’t miss property that’s guaranteed to sell tickets.
Plus, the global political climate was still such that the idea of England saving the day was still fairly reasonable; if Bond were invented today, he’d probably be American.
People like to pretend that Connery stayed top Bond because the movies got more ridiculous and over the top later on. These people are overlooking ‘You Only Live Twice’, which has 007 disguised as a Japanese man IN JAPAN, which looks as ludicrous as it must seem to anyone reading this.
Here’s the final proof of which Bond is the best Bond: Ian Fleming was so impressed with Connery that Fleming CHANGED BOND to be more like the actor! Fleming even gave Bond a Scottish ancestry because of Connery’s accent! This despite the fact that Fleming actually disliked the gadgets and such of the Bond films.
So with ‘Dr. No’, ‘Goldfinger’, ‘From Russia With Love’, ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ and the rest in place, Connery stepped down from the role he made famous (AGAIN; I’ll discuss George Lazenby next time). And he vowed he would never play James Bond again.
‘Never Say Never Again’ was a remake of ‘Thunderball’, one of Connery’s Bond flicks. It was made by a different company than Eon, so it’s considered an unofficial Bond movie. But it had one very important thing: Sean Connery.
The major (and welcome) twist to this flick was that it dealt with the idea of Bond aging. While Roger Moore kept pretending to be in his 30′s, Connery came back as a Bond who really was 20 years older, who was maybe slowing down a bit – a 007 who might be losing his edge.
And you know what? He pulled it off. He made you believe that James Bond in his 50′s or 60′s could be just as tough and just as charming as James Nond in THE 50′s or 60′s.
I’d bet good money that even today, Connery could play James Bond in his 80′s and STILL pull it off. With all due respect to Daniel Craig and the rest, I really wish he would.