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Sunday, 2 September 2012

Countdown to Skyfall - We finally get Fleming's Bond

Out of all the actors who have played James Bond, it was Welsh thespian, Timothy Dalton who came closest to the spy Ian Fleming created on the printed page. Long before the Daniel Craig Bonds reinvented the wheel, Dalton's tough as nails Bond was setting the screen alive with a faithful interpretation of the literary James Bond. It is ironic that Dalton's Bond was criticised for being without humour and far too aggressive and yet it is these qualities that are leading many to say that Daniel Craig is the best Bond ever. Maybe the world wasn't ready for a tough no nonsense James Bond in 1987, but the fact remains that Dalton was the closet we have ever gotten to Ian Fleming's creation.

As soon as Dalton was cast he went and read the entire Fleming canon and this shows in his portrayal of the character.

"I think Roger was fine as Bond, but the films had become too much techno-pop and had lost track of their sense of story. I mean, every film seemed to have a villain who had to rule or destroy the world. If you want to believe in the fantasy on screen, then you have to believe in the characters and use them as a stepping-stone to lead you into this fantasy world. That's a demand I made, and Albert Broccoli agreed with me."  Timothy Dalton

Dalton's first Bond, The Living Daylights is excellent - well apart from the 80's pop of the title track. Right from the pre-credits sequence we are in Fleming's world. We are introduced to Bond during a training exercise and we are shown shots of several actors who have Bond'ish looks, before we cut to Dalton himself - clinging to the rock of Gibraltar as an assassin above him attempts to take out a team of 00 agents.  It was a refreshing change of pace, as even long time Moore fans,like myself, had to admit that the actor had stayed too long in the role and if we were going for this gritty hard edged Bond then I had no trouble accepting the Timothy Dalton chap in the role.

Living Daylight was excellent - it toughened up Bond and brought him into a more realistic universe, and yet retained many of the classic elements that are all important to the franchise - without these the Bond films just become generic action movies. Dalton's second and final Bond movie, Licence to Kill is often thought of as a flop but it wasn't - it under-performed in the North American market but was released alongside Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Back to the Future II - It also didn't help that the film's title, originally Licence Revoked, was changed at the last moment because someone in the EON team didn't think the Americans would understand the title  after American test screenings showed 'Licence Revoked' to be a common American phrase for the withdrawal of a driving licence. It bettered Living Daylights in all other markets though and the production team were very happy with their new James Bond.

The one problem I have with the Dalton Bond is that they took away his super penis and made him a one woman man. This was done because the AIDS hysteria was at its highest in the mid-80's, and it was thought a Bond who bedded different women every few scenes was a bad role model - it seems that like the producers behind the latest Bond movies, that the production team forgot that the celluloid Bond had developed into some sort of superman and was not meant to be taken too seriously.

Licence to Kill though is another great Dalton Bond, though maybe not quite as good as Living Daylights - it is overly grim and it is a relief when Q comes into the movie at the half way point to provide much needed comic relief . However Dalton is once again excellent in the role. Following the film legal problems kept Bond from screens for several years, and when the series did return Dalton just didn't want to do anymore Bonds. And so we moved on to the Pierce Brosnan years.I liked Pierce but his Bond was a mixture of Connery and Moore and although very successful, he didn't quite have that hard edge that Dalton brought to the role.

 And so for  two movies we really had Ian Fleming's James Bond on the screen. 

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