BONDAGE: NO STOCK IN BOND

by Jake on April 22, 2013

Timothy DaltonNow, in my other James Bond articles, I’ve probably stepped on some toes. I’ve said nothing but good things about George Lazenby while trashing Roger Moore (to be fair, I don’t think Moore was bad, just that his Bond films mostly were). Now I’m going to descend into what some will consider absurdity by praising Timothy Dalton.

Yes!

Timothy Dalton, who only played 007 twice, is usually dismissed as an inferior stand-in, just a placeholder between Moore and Pierce Brosnan. But in fact, the only reason audiences didn’t take to Dalton was that he was the new guy. Plus, these movies were not the comedic kid stuff of the later Roger Moore sequels – THIS Bond owed a lot more to Ian Fleming and the original concept of the character.

Again – and it bears repeating – James Bond is a ruthless, coldblooded killer. His world is one of violence, with sex and alcohol thrown in to relieve the constant tension of a life on the edge. Sean Connery certainly embodied this at first. Roger Moore was always more of a gentleman.

Timothy Dalton was playing a modern version of what Bond is: a type of elite Special Forces soldier, a Black Ops triggerman.

And to be fair, Dalton had the look, he had the style and he was willing to get his hands dirty, all of which are necessary for 007. He was intense, which fit Fleming’s character perfectly.

Now, the transition was handled fairly smoothly. ‘The Living Daylights‘ is traditional Bond stuff, for the most part. Its also the last to be adapted from an Ian Fleming story until ‘Casino Royale‘ restarted the franchise. Sure, Dalton’s Bond is a bit rougher, less humorous, he’s dressed more appropriately for combat, but he still slips on the evening wear and plays with his gadgets when the story calls for it, so all in all, it wasn’t a radical departure.

That came next.

Licence To KillLicence to Kill‘ is still the most violent James Bond movie ever made. It’s also one that breaks from the formula while still hearkening back to the old films. Once again, Bond’s CIA counterpart, Felix Leiter, shows up – and is savagely mauled by sharks! The death of Bond’s wife is referenced; an event which happened to Lazenby’s Bond. The whole thing starts off pleasant and becomes a bloodbath as Leiter and his new bride are targeted by drug runners.

On a personal vendetta, James Bond goes rogue. He answers violence with violence, proving himself just as willing to play dirty as the baddest of bad guys.

It’s awesome. And in fact, it’s exactly the way Bond is portrayed in the Daniel Craig films. So it seems that Dalton and his movies were ahead of their time.

To be honest, it was just what the series needed. While fans weren’t pleased, the kinder, gentler Bond of the 70′s was just not what the character is about. Frankly, any Bond film you can take your kids to is doing something wrong.

So while the Dalton films are often dismissed, they paced the way for all future 007 movies. Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig both have different styles, but never again would Bond be anything less than an assassin, and while they’ve never made a sequel as bloody as ‘Licence to Kill‘, they’ve never made another ‘Octopussy‘ either.

Well, ‘Die Another Day‘ came close. But that’s another article.

In the end, it’s all about how the popular perception shapes a character. While Ian Fleming despised the often absurd gadgets in the Bond movies, they are, in fact, what people have come to expect. And the lovable version of the character as played by Roger Moore had become accepted as the standard. Dalton broke Bond out of that rut, and we should all be grateful. If the legal wrangling over who owned what rights hadn’t kept 007 out of the cinema for six long years, Timothy Dalton might be remembered as the best James Bond, rather than largely overlooked.

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