Monday, December 9, 2013

James Bond Series.

Dr. No

“Bond. James Bond.” was first uttered by Sean Connery in the opening scene of Dr. No in which he introduced the world to 007. Bond is sent to Jamaica to investigate the death of a fellow British agent, where he discovers the underground base of Dr. Julius No and his plot to end the US space program. Shot for a relatively low $1m, Dr. No was an international success and went on to gross over 60 times its budget.

From Russia with Love

In Connery’s second turn as Bond, we see evil crime cartel SPECTRE use a Soviet encryption machine to lure 007 to his death. With a pre-title sequence, a theme song with lyrics, a secret weapon gadget for Bond, a helicopter sequence and the line “James Bond will return/be back” in the credits – From Russia With Love established the iconic formula for a Bond film that we’re familiar with today.
GoldFinger (1964)
“James Bond is back in action! Everything he touches turns to excitement!” declared the poster of the franchise’s quintessential instalment. Whilst investigating smuggler Auric Goldfinger, Bond dodges the hat-spinning henchman, Oddjob, and uncovers a sinister plot to contaminate Fort Knox gold reserve. The first Bond blockbuster, Goldfinger’s stellar cast (including Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore) led to the film becoming a huge success both critically and commercially. “Do you expect me to talk?” “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”

Thunderball sees James head to the Bahamas to recover two nuclear warheads stolen by SPECTRE agent Emilio Largo, who attempts to hold the world ransom for $100 million.Thunderball is, to date, the most financially successful movie of the series when adjusted for inflation, having grossed over $140 million worldwide.

You only Live Twice
Roald Dahl’s screenplay saw 007 travel to Japan to investigate the disappearance of a manned spaceship. It is here that we first meet Blofeld – the scar-faced, Nehru-suit wearing, cat-lover who heads SPECTRE – as he tries to instigate nuclear war between the East and West. You Only Live Twice saw a dip in the franchise’s critical reception but also introduced martial arts and ninja sequences to mainstream Western audiences, effectively beginning the Kung Fu explosion of the 1970s.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service
George Lazenby’s first and last outing as Bond saw 007 go undercover to investigate Blofeld’s plot to sterilise the world’s food supply using a group of beautiful, brainwashed women from around the globe. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service also sought to tie Bond down, introducing links to previous films in the title sequence, and seeing Bond marry Tracy di Vicenzo (played by Diana Rigg).

Diamonds are Forever
In an attempt to recreate the success of Goldfinger, director Guy Hamilton and star Sean Connery returned to the Bond franchise for Diamonds Are Forever. This instalment saw Bond attempt to defeat Blofeld and SPECTRE for the last time, whilst preventing the master criminal from building a giant laser with the potential to destroy Washington D.C. Diamonds Are Forever was a return to critical form for the Bond franchise, though received criticism for its camp tone.

Live and Let Die
Roger Moore’s debut appearance saw Bond reinvented for a more progressive audience. Released during the height of the blaxploitation era, 007 is less concerned with international super-villains of the Cold War, and instead investigates the origins of heroin that is hitting the streets of Harlem. Live And Let Die featured the first African American Bond girl, and Paul McCartney’s opening theme was recently voted by fans as the best of the franchise.

The Man with the Golden Gun
In Moore’s second outing Bond again travels to the Far East, this time to recover a device that can harness the power of the sun. Here he must face off with an assassin dubbed the “Man With The Golden Gun” and his dwarf henchman, Nick Nack. The movie’s overall comedic feel led the BFI to describe it as “the most disappointing of the 1970s Bond films.”

The Spy who Loved Me
The first Bond film produced by Albert Broccoli alone (without co-producer Harry Altzman), The Spy Who Loved Me follows 007 as he investigates the hijacking of British and Russian submarines carrying nuclear warheads, before discovering that a reclusive megalomaniac named Stromberg plans to destroy the world and create a new civilisation under the sea. The metal-toothed henchman ‘Jaws’ also made his first appearance in this film, which saw the franchise return to critical form.

In order to exploit the growing interest in sci-fi after the release of Star Wars, Moonrakerbecame the most expensive film the franchise had seen at the time. Bond investigates the theft of a space shuttle, which leads 007 into outer space to prevent Hugo Dax’s plot to re-populate the world with a master race. Despite receiving praise for its impressive visual effects, Moonraker’s sci-fi focus and ill-judged humour leaves it generally regarded by audiences as the most outlandish Bond film.

For Your Eyes Only
After the over-the-top aesthetic of Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only represented a return to the more gritty and realistic style of the early Bond films and the works of Ian Fleming. Bond, along with a woman seeking revenge for the murder of her parents, it attempts to locate a missile command system while becoming tangled in a web of deception spun by a Greek businessmen.

Bond is tasked with uncovering an international jewel smuggling operation. This leads him to India where the wealthy prince, Kamal Khan, and his associate, Octopussy, are plotting to force disarmament in Europe with the use of a nuclear weapon. Octopussy did relatively poorly at the box office, possibly due to Bond’s goofy undercover costumes, yet still managed to gross more than independent competitor Never Say Never Again.

Never Say Never Again
Often discounted as an ‘official’ Bond film, as it wasn’t produced by Eon, Never Say Never Again was the result of a lengthy legal battle amongst the writers of Thunderball. Essentially a remake of the 1962 hit, the movie saw Connery reprise the role of Bond after a 12-year hiatus. The film was warmly received by critics, mainly due to its classier script, but also because of the public perception that Connery was the quintessential James Bond.

A View to a Kill
Roger Moore’s seventh and final outing as Bond is generally regarded by critics as the weakest episode in the franchise. A View To A Kill sees 007 investigate a horse racing scam, which leads him to the mad industrialist Max Zorin, who plans to create a worldwide microchip monopoly by destroying California’s Silicon Valley. Critics took umbrage with director John Glen’s disassociated treatment of the violence on screen, as well as Bond’s age (57-year-old Roger Moore was now older than his female co-star’s mother).

The Living Daylights
After years of turning down the role of Bond, Timothy Dalton stepped into the tux for the first of two films in The Living Daylights. This instalment saw 007 organise the defection of a Soviet general, before having to cross all seven continents in order to prevent an evil arms dealer from starting World War III. Dalton’s debut brought considerably warmer critical praise than its preceding instalments, with many commending on the closeness of Dalton’s performance with the Bond of Fleming’s original novels.

Licence to Kill
Licence To Kill was undoubtedly the darkest Bond film. After 007’s long-time associate Felix is maimed by a shark, and his wife raped and murdered, Bond leaves Her Majesty’s Secret Service on a quest to avenge the newlyweds, which leads him to drug lord Franz Sanchez.Licence To Kill delivered the lowest box office return of the franchise (when adjusted for inflation) most probably due to it being the only Bond film to receive a “15” rating.

A six-year hiatus, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, gave Brosnan’s debut Bond film a chance to move into modernity. GoldenEye sees Bond tasked by M, played for the first time by Judi Dench, to investigate the destruction of a Russian research centre and prevent the hijacking of a nuclear space weapon. The movie’s modern aesthetic, particularly its use of CGI effects, led to Goldeneye becoming the most financially successful Bond film since Moonraker.

Tomorrow Never Dies
The first Bond film made after the death of producer Albert Broccoli, Tomorrow Never Diessaw 007 tasked with stopping a psychopathic media mogul from inducing war between China and the UK in order to obtain exclusive global media coverage. The film was met with a mixed critical reception, though many highlighted the interesting satirical parallels between the characterisation of the villain, Elliot Carver, and Rupert Murdoch.

The World is not Enough
Bond is tasked with protecting an oil heiress from her former kidnapper, an international terrorist who can’t feel pain, when he uncovers Renard’s scheme to increase petroleum prices by triggering a nuclear meltdown. The last film to feature Desmond Llewelyn as Q, The World Is Not Enough was a commercial success, but received criticism for the characterisation of Dr. Christmas Jones, who was labelled the worst Bond girl of all time.

Die Another Day
The final film of Pierce Bosnan’s tenure, and of the original Bond timeline, saw 007 investigating the connection between a North Korean terrorist and a diamond mogul responsible for developing an international space weapon. Die Another Day is regarded by fans as one of the weaker Bond films, and drew criticism for its excessive product placement (the most in any movie at the time), and over-reliance on CGI.

Casino Royale
Casino Royale rebooted the narrative framework of Bond, following his first mission after earning his licence to kill in which 007 is sent to stop a banker for the world’s terrorist organizations from winning a high-stakes poker tournament in Montenegro. Craig’s brooding and realistic performance was a departure from the gadget and innuendo heavy films that preceded it, and resulted in Casino Royale receiving the best critical reception for a Bond film since the Connery era and the highest box office return for the series so far.

Quantum of Solace
A direct sequel to Casino Royale, Quantum Of Solace sees Bond seeking vengeance from a wealthy environmentalist attempting to organise a coup d’├ętat and seize control of Bolivia’s water supply. Whilst met with mixed reviews from critics, Craig’s angsty performance was again praised, as were the film’s impressive action sequences. Multiple product placement deals also made Quantum Of Solace a great commercial success, and contributed to the highest budget of the series so far.

Released to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the James Bond franchise, Skyfall will see 007’s loyalty to M tested after MI6 is attacked by a cyberterrorist and former agent. Directed by Academy Award winner Sam Mendes, early critical reception of Skyfall has been extremely positive, with Sir Roger Moore calling it “the biggest Bond film there has ever been”, and tipping Craig to becoming the best Bond in history.

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