In 2006 it was announced that Daniel Craig would take over the character of James Bond in Eon production’s long running spy franchise. The reaction of fans and tabloids around the world begged a reinstatement of Peirce Brosnan as the blond haired blue eyed Craig fell unsuitably short of fanfare in the role. No one wanted anything to do with a Commander in the Royal Navy who wears a life jacket on a boat to a press release. Bond himself Roger Moore has spoken of the fan and press reaction to Craig’s induction when he stated “I had never experienced such a massive hate campaign. Websites were created demanding Pierce Brosnan be reinstated and peddling very negative comments and opinions about Daniel. I felt hugely sorry for him as, although he’d turn a blind eye to them, he would have been very aware of what was being said” (“Bond on Bond” Moore p.166). Sadly I was one of the detractors hating the idea of a blond Bond. How could they butcher the image of our most beloved cross cultural secret agent?! Boy am I glad I was wrong.
As Maximilian Le Cain said in an article "Emotion" of a truthfully unrelated director Wong Kar-wai’s cinema, "Looking at [Wong] is like trying to focus clearly on an object seen through a mighty waterfall. To so much as think of his name is to unleash a mental cascade of the richest, most vibrantly emotional audio/visual material of the past twenty years” the same could be said writing about the Character of James Bond. Not in that it is one man that brings these characters to life but many in the form of one. It has been fifty years since Sean Connery graced our silver screens as novelist Ian Flemming’s character James Bond. In that time six actors have officially portrayed the character in twenty-three Eon produced films. In this time we have met many incarnations of James Bond each one different in their own way while similar enough to still be considered Bond.
Sean Connery made six films not counting his non Eon remake of Thunderball, Jokingly titled Never Say Never Again. Connery was the best in my eyes. My favorite. Number 1. He is James Bond. Setting the stage for all to come after him. Not just for the cars, girls, and functional gadgets but his brawn and will. A scrapper, fists up, lets have a drink then save the world kind of guy he took Bond on the most daring and exotic of missions while maintaining a lavish lifestyle. Connery did this while still appealing to the working class with his boxer’s physique. George Lazenby is now almost forgettable as the Australian model who landed the part in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service with Connery’s exit from the role. With no acting experience prior to he was handed the keys to a kingdom that he refused to return to in fear of typecasting. I bet he feels silly now. Roger Moore made seven films as the titular character. I never enjoyed his outings as much as the others. I actually even like Lazenby’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service over any of the Moore staples. His humor is so over the top, too playful, and the obvious 1970’s era everything zap the will to watch right out of me. Not much was ever said of his Brown hair either even in the wake of Craig’s hiring years later. Out of respect he is the longest reigning Bond.
Timothy Dalton was by far the most ahead of his time. A darker gritter Bond more focused on his mission than jokes, womanizing, and gadgets. More akin to the writings of Flemming and less Hollywood glam. His outings are very much so the stepping stone for Craig’s eventual portrayal. Dalton would be asked to take over Bond as a young man to replace Connery and Lazenby however he would not be able to and would be called upon again after the noticeably aging Moore finally stepped down. Peirce Brosnan who, like Dalton, was asked once before to play Bond upon Moore’s departure was held back by outside obligations. Only after law suits stalled Daltons third outing was Brosnan able to obtain the role after Dalton’s departure. Not without his issues as the character many felt his Bond to be too charming, too weak, and too gadget prone while foiling sub-par plots. Yet this is the Bond in service as I grew up. Holding him in a higher position than others just as many fans have done with Moore as these are our first glimpses into the character. And then there was one.
Daniel Craig is the new exception. Craig reinvented what it was to be Bond. Drinking Beer as opposed to his famous vodka martini, showing signs of morality after his first kill yet still morphing into what we know to be Bond over time. We find glaring departures from classic Bond Staples being replaced with bare boned fury and ingenuity. Gone are the increasingly over the top gadgets, humorous after battle quips, and lovable cast of side characters and in come the grit and action. With the three Craig era Bond films currently released we are given a darker more human Bond. Craig’s portrayal is, as one might call, a “modern re-imaging” not unlike that of the Timothy Dalton era Bond of the 1980’s. I couldn’t think of anyone better for the part after I left the theater the night Casino Royal came out. Now seven years later SkyFall, Craig’s third outing as bond, has hit with a mighty force. Craig is tasked with bringing his last two films to a close and carries his Bond full circle from novice to super secret agent of lore. Where Bond was just getting his first mission in Casino Royal and avenging his love in Quantum of Solace we find him in SkyFall war torn and seasoned. SkyFall sets out to establish what makes Bond… Bond. Coming to terms with his role in MI6 as an old dog while finding his footing to carry himself on to new missions.
While Craig’s Bond looked to prove the opposite his last installment aims to bring it all back on new terms. With SkyFall It’s the functional gadgets and the surrounding cast of characters that establish Bonds personality just as it is the man who portrays him. With that in mind we see the return of Moneypenny as well as a youthful, yet old souled, Q; Two characters absent since the reluctant resignation of Brosnan and the rebooting of the franchise. The only connection with the past films in the series being Judi Dench’s return as Brosnan era M and the infamous Aston Martin DB9 celebrated as the original car of Connery era James Bond. Seeing Craig’s Bond trot the globe and finally coming to understand who he is was a magical experience. Equipping the film with homages to Connery with the revelation that Bond is Scottish, raised by his parents groundskeeper whos casting choice echos that of a later in life bearded Connery. Craig delves deep to bring Bond’s origins to rest letting the SkyFall to rise from the ashes whole. A new era approaches for an old war horse.
This Bond doesn’t have black hair and isn’t six feet tall. Yet he carries himself as Bond would. He Speaks as if he has always been in Bonds shoes. For now in these brief seconds of fame he is Bond. Until the next man comes to claim the crown and run out from under the shadows of his predecessors. Now with Craig at the age of 45 and with only one or two film options left in his contract it is rumored the next list of actors are even more shocking than that of the one Craig spawned from. Names such as Will Smith and Idris Elba round out an otherwise tame list of Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, and Jude Law. With Craig we are given the chance to realize that Bond is not Just black hair and a British accent. He is an idea. The soul protector of a world that never stops needing it’s globe trotting gentlemen hero. Give him a Walter PPK, Tuxedo and, license to kill and send him on his way. Fifty years of service, three hair colors, and six actors later he is still the most recognizable spy on the planet.