Before starting this project, in my mind James Bond movies were ones of fun escapism, where we’re whisked away to exotic landscapes and following a protagonist who’s sexy, suave, and smarter than your average bear as he saves the world again and again single-handed. The reality of watching 15 Bond movies within 30 days showed a different Bond, where he’s a promiscuous lech whose penis has magical properties, where no means yes of course, please ravage me, and his spying skills were bumbling at best and war crimes at worst. The Bond that I built up in my mind was far and away from the actual Bond depicted on-screen.
Isn’t this true of anything nostalgic, however? I recall my magical, wonderful childhood in the 1980s as a time where everything was right and well in the world and only got worse from there on. However, once growing up with an adult lens to view history through, I found out that USA in the 1980’s had a lot of discouraging problems that were neatly swept under the official narrative’s rug. I’ve since learned that every era had its terrible problems, and while I idealize the time before I was born as some sort of amazing paradise that I’m angry to have missed, I’ve realized that the problems of that past were as treacherous and awful as the problems of today—I was just taught that those days were wonderful and glorious and nothing but blue skies.
I enjoyed Bond films for their escapism without realizing that what I was escaping into meant a world of problems for anybody that wasn’t James Bond. Between the rampant racism and sexism displayed in this film series, I also started to grow weary of watching this singular figure as the solution to all of the world’s problems. Funny enough, no matter how many times he saved the world, there was yet another crisis that he had to rush to and fix before the world fell into yet another pit of despair. Watching 15 of these movies so closely together, I got the sense that James Bond was a rather sad figure. He was never allowed his own life or time to build something for himself; he was always abandoning the women he loved and the life he wanted “for king and country,” always throwing his body into harm’s way to try and save the world. While a somewhat disturbing performance of “white man’s burden,” he was also a lonely figure that was just an inch away from death and largely an unsung hero when he saved the world from (X)’s clutches and machinations.
James Bond also gets kind of boring, really: at least, watching them back-to-back makes it boring. The movies follow the exact same formula to varying degrees of success. Every other movie is pretty great, but the other half…hoo boy. So here’s my overall summery of the first 15 movies, based on what I’ve seen so far:
Dr. No: 4 out of 4 Bonds. It’s the first movie and easily one of my favorites. It defined the “Bond aesthetic” while Sean Connery puts in a dynamic performance as Bond right out of the gate.
From Russia with Love: 3½ out of 4 Bonds. Cracking smart Cold War caper that features a lot of double-crossing spy plotting and excellent pacing.
Goldfinger: 3 out of 4 Bonds. A somewhat-dated Bond film with some unfortunate implications about how Bond views the world around him. But it’s a classic of the genre with a lot of iconic characters and scenes.
Thunderball: 1 out of 4 Bonds. A garbage film except for the little sub that stole my heart, Blippy. I had to suffer through this one twice, since Never Say Never Again was just a retread of this.
You Only Live Twice: 4 out of 4 Bonds. A huge rebound after the disappointing Thunderball. While it has a lot of unfortunate racist implications, it was a good time and a Bond film I would revisit. Also, the scenery and aesthetics of Japan are just fantastic.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service: 1½ out of 4 Bonds. Ugh: Bond falls in love. Featuring possibly the worst ending of any Bond movie. The rest of the movie kind of sucks, as well. There’s a reason Lazenby was one and done with the franchise.
Diamonds Are Forever: 1½ out of 4 Bonds. Another stinker, this one set in the cheapest, sleaziest sections of Las Vegas. Sluggish.
Live And Let Die: 3½ out of 4 Bonds. This movie was insane and a lot of fun. Bonus points for really poking fun at some of the sillier parts of American culture.
The Man With The Golden Gun: 1¾ out of 4 Bonds. Unlike the previous entry, this was a completely insane movie for no other reason than to be off-the-wall crazy. Unfortunately, it was also rather boring.
The Spy Who Loved Me: 4 out of 4 Bonds. Maybe the best Bond movie that I watched for this project. Fun, interesting, action-packed, and well done. Just the tops.
Moonraker: ½ out of 4 Bonds. Just a big, stupid movie. When it’s not boring, it’s just nonsense. A Star Wars-influenced space adventure without the adventure. Avoid at all costs! Well, watch the opening action sequence, which is stellar. And then turn it off.
For Your Eyes Only: 2½ out of 4 Bonds. Some great stunt work in a film that’s hampered by a fair amount of boring stretches. Still, way better than Moonraker.
Octopussy: 2½ out of 4 Bonds. A surprisingly enjoyable Bond film! Completely bonkers at times (a large part of the plot revolves around a circus), but a standard Bond adventure.
A View to a Kill: 1 ½ out of 4 Bonds: Bond starts showing his age in this movie, and while the villains were great (especially Christopher Walken, who could read the phone book and be compelling), Roger Moore often looks tired. This movie was also just a retelling of Goldfinger, so C- for effort.
Never Say Never Again: 1 out of 4 Bonds. This was terrible, non-canonical, and featured a very aged Sean Connery as Bond. It was also a retelling of the terrible Thunderball. Yeesh.
I was surprised when I collated all of these ratings and found that the majority of Bond movies up to this point fell between average to below average in my ratings. There are a fair amount of good-to-excellent ratings (Top Bond films so far: Dr. No, From Russia with Love, You Only Live Twice, Live and Let Die, and The Spy Who Loved Me), so about 1/3 of the series was above average up to this point. But when a Bond film is bad, it is terrible.
In the 60 days since I’ve started this blog with (near) daily lengthy “comedy” recaps, I’ve averaged 4 views a day. Which is nice, but if I just posted a stupid meme on Facebook, I’d get about the same traffic. Also, for doing humor recaps of movies while I watch them, this isn’t the kind of traffic I’m looking for or really could care about for a free blog. I also started this project as a way to rekindle my writing process and discipline, which it has, so good for me and this project’s purpose working out!
Besides this, I’ve been going through a bad breakup, so I’ve been using this recap blog as a way to work through it. A funny(?) thing that came from this is realizing how much more I’ve been objectifying the attractive women in these movies while my personal life has gone down the toilet. At least it helped me figure out some things, in a weird way–mostly that I’m ready to move on.
While I said that I would break the Bonds, the Bonds broke me. Through the tedium of watching 2+ hour-long action/adventure movies made between the early 1960s to the mid-1980s, and the sheer focus and effort it took to write (hopefully humorous) commentary in real-time while while doing so, I started to kind of resent James Bond. In my opening essay for this project, I talked about how James Bond epitomized the straight, white male fantasy of the 20th century, but by the end of it I just started to kind of hate the guy, mostly because he’s a supremely selfish creature. He views women as pleasure objects solely there for his gratification, treats his co-workers and co-conspirators with a shocking lack of respect or consideration, and strolls through each film like he’s a God-Emperor on this planet. While initially I thought this sort of characterization held a lot of appeal, having watched 30 hours of this schtick, it just left me disgusted by the character of James Bond.
This isn’t to say that this project is completely over: I still have 10 more Bond films in the franchise to bring this project to completion. But it’s December and the holidays are coming up fast. Besides this, I have my own writing to do, and this side business of writing silly movie recaps is taking away from that. So, if you’ve been reading along with these recaps, thank you: I hope that I made you laugh a little along the way. If you’re a Future Person who has stumbled across these reviews, thanks to you as well, and if you like this blog, please favorite it, or comment on a review, or share it on your WordPress blog or on Facebook. And don’t worry: “Breaking the Bonds” will return in The Living Daylights…eventually.