Written by Michael DeZubiria
Before you go out and watch the much-anticipated new James Bond movie Quantum of Solace, here is a quick recap on the evolution of the cinema’s most successful and recognizable stars.
James Bond has been portrayed, so far, by six different actors – Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig – and his movies have undergone even more change and variety than the people portraying him.
Thankfully, the movies are generally unrelated stories so you don’t have to watch each successive sequel in order to really understand and appreciate the newer installments, but it’s always good to know about the history of the series before watching the newest releases.
As you know, Quantum of Solace is the 23rd Bond film (although only the 22nd official one – Never Say Never Again is not recognized as an official 007 film), and I have gone back and reviewed the first 22 movies so you don’t have to spend 50 or so hours catching up. So here they are, starting with the Bonds of Sean Connery. Enjoy!
Sean Connery introduced us to a much calmer and more collected Bond than we would see in later years. Oh and he drinks a lot more. If I didn’t know any better I would assume that the movie was bank-rolled by Smirnoff!
Bond is sent to investigate the killing of one of his fellow agents, and the course of his investigation puts him on the trail of Dr. No, who is not the most imaginative villain, but a suspensefully slow introduction keeps him effective.
Bond is sent to Istanbul, Turkey to acquire a Russian cypher machine called Lektor (as in Hannibal-, you ask? No, because Thomas Harris wouldn’t write Manhunter and introduce Hannibal to the world for another 20 years). Unfortunately, the Russians know nothing about a cypher machine called Lektor because it’s all a ploy by SPECTRE to lure Bond into a trap to avenge their lost agent, Dr. No.
Austin Powers moments – the coke-bottle-spectacled henchwoman #3 is clearly the inspiration for Frau Farbissina, as well as the first appearance of the desk-side death buttons, the probable source of Mr. Bigglesworth, Dr. Evil’s cat, and Dr. Evil’s insistence that he will “not tolerate failure.”
Daniela Bianchi stars as Tatiana Romanova, the second Bond girl. In retrospect (considering the sad fate of the next Bond girl…), it sure seems that she dodged a bullet with that character name, but nonetheless, this is one of the best of the series.
The Bank of England discovers that someone is stockpiling vast quantities of gold and suspects international bullion dealer Auric Goldfinger of being involved. His name did nothing to suggest his innocence! Bond is sent to investigate, and he soon discovers that Goldfinger plans to contaminate the gold reserve at Fort Knox, causing economic chaos throughout the west while at the same time causing the value of his own gold to skyrocket.
We see Q introducing a whole array of cool Bond gadgets for the first time in Goldfinger, and under new direction, Bond is clumsier and more human than he was before. He makes mistakes and doesn’t always know exactly what’s going on.
Austin Powers moments – British actress Honor Blackman stars as Pussy Galore, the clear inspiration for Alotta Fagina, and Bond tied to a table with a laser beam slowly creeping towards him had a clear influence on the International Man of Mystery. “Do you expect me to talk?” Bond asks. “No,” Goldfinger replies. “I expect you to die!” Austin Powers’ shoe-throwing character Random Task also comes from Goldfinger‘s hat-throwing Odd Job.
Notable trivia – Goldfinger’s laser beam is the first laser beam ever to be used in a film.
The evil SPECTRE organization returns, this time having stolen two warheads and holding the entire world hostage for $100,000,000. Bond is sent along with all of Britain’s other secret agents to recover the warheads before millions of people are killed.
The film’s underwater climax shows its years, but Thunderball might be the best film in the series. Claudine Auger also stars as Domino, who I think is one of the best Bond girls, along with Ursula Andress from Dr. No and Kim Basinger from Never Say Never Again.
Austin Powers moment – “One hundred…BILLION…dollars!”
(Omission notice – in April 1967, about three months before the release of You Only Live Twice, the first version of Casino Royale was released into theaters. It is not included in this list for the same reason that Austin Powers is not included. Both are spoofs of the series and therefore are not 007 films.)
An American space capsule is swallowed by what is thought to be a Russian spaceship, nearly triggering World War III. The British, however, suspect that SPECTRE is once again involved, and they send James Bond to investigate their mysterious motives.
The capsule went down somewhere near Japan, so Bond’s mission is to find out where the capsule is being held as America and Russia hold twitching fingers over the big red buttons that would end humanity as we know it. The situation is complicated when Russia also loses a ship, ultimately leading Bond into a calamitous confrontation with the formidable villain Blofeld.
Japanese actress Mie Hama stars as the curiously named Kissy Suzuki, the first Asian Bond girl, and also notable is the outstanding performance from Donald Pleasance as Blofeld.
Austin Powers moments – Blofeld is more inspiration for Dr. Evil. Definitely the facial scar but also the outfit, the look, and the ever-present cat. Also, Austin Powers takes place in the year that this movie was made…
Interesting Bond trivia – this is one of the only films in which he never introduces himself with the classic “Bond. James Bond.”
Enter George Lazenby in his only outing as James Bond. Strangely, the film opens with Bond saving a woman from “drowning,” I suppose as he frantically grabs her after she wades slowly out into calm water, and then he carries her back to the beach, where she has managed to become unconscious. It’s unclear what exactly happened to her, but nonetheless this goes on to be one of the best opening sequences of the entire series.
Once again, Bond is on the trail of Blofeld, who has a lethal virus that he threatens to unleash upon the world, endangering every living thing in the world.
No Austin Powers moments to speak of, but this installment is unique in more ways than any other Bond film. There is a whole line of Bond girls, Bond at one point impersonates a man who doesn’t like women, and at other points he utters the lines “I love you,” and “Will you marry me?”
Bond trivia – the title of The World is Not Enough originated in this film, and the main Bond girl in this movie looks like Shirley Manson, the singer of the band Garbage, who would do the theme song for that film 30 years later.
Sean Connery reprises the role of James Bond as British Intelligence suspects a world-wide diamond smuggling operation and sends Bond to investigate. Bond’s search leads him to a millionaire American casino owner, who turns out to be none other than Ernst Blofeld.
Closer inspection reveals that Blofeld plans to use the diamonds not to corner the jewelry market but for a deadly laser capable of destroying massive targets on land, sea and air. Bond sets out with the beautiful Tiffany Case to stop him, but first he has to deal with a series of other villains.
Diamonds Are Forever is not one of the best Bond films, but it gets interesting almost immediately and has a great story.
No Austin Powers moments, but in this installment are probably the best one-liners of the entire series. In particular, “That’s a nice little nothing you’re wearing, I approve!” And my favorite of all time, when Bond is introduced to the beautiful Plenty O’Toole, he responds without hesitation, “Named after your father, perhaps?”
Roger Moore was not off to a good start in Live and Let Die, his first adventure as James Bond. No matter how you look at it, this is an unimpressive black sheep in the 007 family. It’s a good hour into the movie before anything resembling an action sequence appears, which is the movie’s biggest problem. It’s slow moving and plodding, and the story isn’t interesting enough to make up for the lack of excitement. A lot of the movie feels more like a soap opera than a spy movie.
Bond is sent to investigate the mysterious deaths of several secret agents from all over the world, who have all been killed within 24 hours of each other. Bond’s investigation leads him to a Harlem crime boss named Mr. Big who plans to flood America with billions of dollars worth of heroin. What a guy!
Central to the story is the beautiful Solitaire, Mr. Big’s tarot card reader, whose gifts are crucial to him but whose other, ah, gifts are particularly of interest to Mr. Bond.
Austin Powers moment – “Start the unnecessarily slow-moving dipping mechanism!”
Best one-liner – Rosie Carver: “But you wouldn’t kill me, not after what we just done…”
Bond: “Well, I certainly wouldn’t have killed you before…”
Get it? Get it?
A contract killer named Scaramanga charges one million dollars for each kill, no doubt because of the trademark golden gun he carries and gold bullets he uses on his victims. Bond is sent to investigate until it turns out that he is Scaramanga’s next target.
M tries to relieve him of his duty until the danger passes, but Bond takes the case into his own hands, feeling that the mission is too important to leave alone. He’s surprised to find that Scaramanga holds him in the highest respect, and that, like himeself, Scaramanga is also seeking a device called the “Solex Agitator,” which is capable of directly harnessing the sun’s energy.
Bond girls Mary Goodnight and Andrea Anders are more central to the plot than in the usual Bond film, as does Scaramanga’s charmingly named and surprisingly dangerous midget sidekick Nick Nack. And there are also plenty of other amusing names, like one of Scaramanga’s associates, Hi Fat, and a naked asian hottie named Chu Me.
Bond trivia – tragically, Herve Villechaize, the midget actor who played Nick Nack, committed suicide in 1993, not because of career trouble, as most people assume, but because he lived in constant pain due to the fact that, while his body was small, his internal organs were normal size. His ashes were scattered off Point Fermin in Los Angeles.
Not only has the British Royal Navy AND the Russiand simultaneously lost track of one of their nuclear submarines (one with sixteen nuclear warheads aboard), but it also seems that someone has developled a technology capable of tracking submerged submarines and is offering it to the highest bidder.
The British send James Bond to find out who is selling the tracking device and locate the missing vessels before any of the warheads are fired.
Karl Stromber, the movie’s villain, bears an astonishing resemblance to Jules Verne’s Captain Nemo, right down to the love of the ocean and the breathtaking underwater lair. He plans to start a war between the Russians and the British, knowing that global destruction will follow and pave the way, get this, for his dream of creating a whole new society under the sea!
Bond has a tense relationship with XXX (the beautiful Russian agent he is obliged to team up with), as he had killed her fiance in the movie’s opening sequence. She declares that she’s going to kill him as soon as their mission is over, and the daunting presence of Jaws, possibly the most recognizable villain of the entire Bond series, doesn’t help matters…
Pop Culture Reference – Homer: “Marge, kids, everything’s gonna be just fine. We’re gonna start a new life, under the sea…”
Marge: “Homer, that’s your solution to everything, to live under the sea. It’s not gonna happen!”
Homer: “Not with that attitude…”
Surprisingly enough, I would argue that this is the best of Roger Moore’s efforts as James Bond. ‘Bond in space’ isn’t exactly a premise that inspires confidence that it will be a good movie, but this one was unexpectedly good.
A spaceship has been hijacked and it’s up to Bond to find out who’s behind it all. He is brought to a man named Drax who has a huge space station undetected by U.S. or Soviet radar, along with a deadly plot involving massive chemical warfare on the unsuspecting populations below.
Jaws is back by popular demand although he has a less than enviable role in the film. His character is constantly shrouded in ridiculousness, but is remarkably watchable as always, and while the naming of Bond girl ‘Dr. Goodhead’ is not quite as straightforward as ‘Pussy Galore,’ it’s no less descriptive…
Austin Powers moment – Austin’s tiny, tiny spy camera.
Bond trivia – the musical code played to get into the Drax laboratory is the tune played back and forth between the humans and aliens in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
A sunken ship off the coast of Albania sets off a frantic search for ATAC, Britain’s high-tech encryption device which will give it’s owner total control of the Polaris nuclear submarines. The Russians learn of the situation and Bond is soon in a race to find the device before they do, with the help of the beautiful Medena Havelock, whose parents were murdered by a person who is crucial to Bond’s mission to find the ATAC. He has to engage her assistance while at the same time preventing her from avenging her parents before he is able to retrieve the device…
Favorite 007 moments – Bond leaps off a tall fence, using a pool umbrella in true Mary Poppins form to coast safely to the ground below. There is also an underwater scene where he gives Medena what I imagine is supposed to be a heartwarming, romantic look, but unfortunately he looks like E.T. in a wetsuit. Pass the Reese’s Pieces!
Bond trivia – After numerous models falsely claimed ownership, the legs on the poster for the movie were ultimately revealed to belong to 22-year-old New York model Joyce Bartle. Also, it was during the production of For Your Eyes Only that Cassandra Harris, who appears in the film as Countess Lisl von Schlaf, introduced Albert R. Broccoli to her husband, a young, novice actor named Pierce Brosnan.
It must be some kind of sign of the times that a movie could be released in 1983 with a title like Octopussy and still get a PG rating from the unpredictable MPAA. Either Howard Stern has taught me nothing, or that title contains one of the Seven Deadly Words!
At any rate, watching Octopussy gave me the feeling that Bond must get some kind of preferential treatment because, even now, after 23 movies, he has never been put in a position where he runs the risk of dying like one of his fellow agents dies in this movie – in a clown suit clutching a Faberge egg (I’m assuming this doesn’t happen in Quantum of Solace).
Bond’s investigation of his colleague’s death leads him to an elaborate smuggling operation involving counterfeit Faberge eggs and ultimately leading to World War III. Also interesting is that the main villain in the movie is a woman who calls herself “Octopussy” because that was her father’s pet name for her when she was a kid. No wonder she grew to be such a well-balanced adult!
And if that’s not enough, one of the villains in the movie has a buzz-saw yo-yo. You can’t get any more vintage 007 than that!
Bond trivia – in Texas Hold ‘Em, a hand with a pair of eights is called an “octopuss.” A hand with a pair of eights is actually seen in Casino Royale almost 25 years later.
Released less than four months after Octopussy, Never Say Never Again was heavily marketed as the return of Sean Connery in the role of 007 (even the title refers to it), but was less successful than Octopussy.
SPECTRE agent Ernst Blofeld has returned, this time having stolen two Tomahawk cruise missiles with plans to blackmail NATO and hold the world hostage (Dr. Evil: “Oh, hell let’s just do what we always do…). The influence of Thunderball is unmistakable, but Never Say Never Again stands on its own despite having dated badly.
Kim Basinger stars as Domino, arguably one of best Bond girls of the series, and Rowan Atkinson also has a hilarious cameo.
Austin Powers moments – Dr. Evil: “You know, I have one simple request. And that is to have sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads!” inspired by the sharks with implanted guiding mechanisms in this movie, and Largo, the villain, leaves Bond alive with crucial information (“I’ll just leave him there without actually witnessing his death and just assume everything went to plan, what?”).
Bond trivia – Never Say Never Again is not recognized as an official James Bond film because it was really only made because of remake rights owned by producer Kevin McClory relating to Thunderball. Also, a young Steven Seagal worked as a martial arts trainer for Sean Connery in preparation for this film, and during training, Seagal broke Connery’s wrist!
Best one-liner – when asked for a urine sample – “If you could just fill this beaker for me…”
Bond: “From here?”
Note – Sean Connery is now 78 years old. I think it’s probably safe to start saying “never” again…
I’m struck by the evolution of the 007 stories from the earlier films to ones like A View To A Kill, in which a classic Bond-style villain Max Zorin (a wonderfully nefarious Christopher Walken, looking like Lucius Malfoy) plans to set off an underground earthquake – get this – to sink the entire Silicon Valley.
You see, if Zorin sinks the Silicon Valley, he’ll have full control of the computer manufacturing market, and Zorin Industries are also in possession of a computer chip that can create a magnetic pulse that would shut down every computer operated machine that uses a similar chip, “from toasters to the most sophisticated computers.”
I didn’t know toasters were computerized in the mid 1980s, but if Zorin were to set off an explosion over England he could completely incapacitate the British national defense network. And on top of that, the entirety of the British population would be completely toast-less. You can understand their concern.
One of the villains is named May Day, played by Jamaican actress Grace Jones (who was dating an unknown Swedish actor named Dolph Lundgren at the time) and she is one of the rare examples of real character development and change in a Bond film.
Bond trivia – on the DVD audio commentary, Roger Moore reveals that this is his least favorite of the seven 007 films that he starred in, because it was too violent and because he felt he was too old for the role.
James Bond had been in theaters for 25 years by the time The Living Daylights was released, and this is the first time Bond was played by anyone other than Sean Connery or Roger Moore, other than George Lazenby’s single performance in On Her Majesty’ Secret Service. Needless to say, Timothy Dalton had big shoes to fill in his first Bond outing, so which may explain why he was helped along by a steep increase in the movie’s violence and some much better action.
After a Russian officer named Georgi Koskov defects to the west he is abducted from a secret hiding place, leading Bond on a wild chase that reveals a massive global weapons scheme involving the Russians, the Americans and none other than the Afghan resistance, the Mujahadeen. The airborne climax is also one of the more thrilling of the series.
Bond trivia – the woman in the white negligee on the movie’s poster is an American model named Kathy Stangel. She was supposedly paid $600 for the photo shoot.
Bond attends his CIA friend Felix Leiter’s marriage, but then an escaped drug lord named Franz Sanchez tortures Leiter, who had capturd him, and kills his wife. Bond sets out for revenge against Sanchez, turning in his 00 status wen he is prohibited from taking the matter into his own hands.
There is a tense relationship between Bond and his beautiful ally Pam Bouvier because of her suspicious relationship with Sanzchez. The film is noticably more violent than most other 007 movies and, while the story is good, it also has some of the more outlandish action sequences. A semi-truck, for example, does a wheelie in this movie. Nice!
Also watch for a short and unenviable role by a young Benicio del Toro!
Bond trivia – the movie was originally titled License Revoked but the title was changed in part because less than 50% of Americans surveyed knew what “revoked” meant.
After a six year absense (the longest delay in the series), Bond blasts back onto the scene as Pierce Brosnan finally takes on the role (he was actually signed on to perform the role for The Living Daylights but had to back out due to contractual obligations to his other project, the television series “Remington Steele”), and he wastes no time. The movie starts out with one of the best and most exciting opening action sequences of the entire series.
Bond’s mission is to retrieve the stolen access key to the “Goldeneye,” which is a satellite that can shoot a laser to the surface of the earth and disable every electronic device within a radius of about 30 miles. Sounds remarkably similar to A View To A Kill, but things really get interesting when Bond’s search reveals a stunning secret, a 00 agent that was supposedly killed years earlier resurfaces and he turns out to be behind the whole operation. Bond has to fight to stop an old friend, with the help of the cleverly named Xenia Onatopp, before he uses the Goldeneye to destroy London.
Note – This is Judi Dench’s first portrayal of the character M, and in the movie she addresses one of the most common public complaints about the character of James Bond, calling him at one point “a sexist, misogynist dinosaur.” Also, GoldenEye was enormously successful, it had the highest box office draw of any 007 film up to that time (more than $350,000,000 worldwide), despite the tagline “You know the name. You know the number,” which seems to me to be one step away from “You know the drill!”
Bond trivia – numerous changes had to be made to the script during actual production because the plot was almost identical to that of the Arnold Schwarzenegger thriller True Lies, which was released as GoldenEye was filming. A title like True Lies should have been attached to a 007 film anyway though, right?
Enormously powerful media mogul Elliot Carver is attached to the disappearance of a British battleship in the South China Sea because of suspicions brought about by his inability to achieve broadcasting rights in mainland China and thus complete his global communications empire. To get past them, he arranges to create a war between them and the British by convincing each that the other is making hostile advances.
Bond’s way into Carver’s world is through his wife, who is Bond’s former lover. He joins forces with a deadly Chinese agent, Wai Lin, to stop Carver from creating worldwide pandemonium for the sake of the big headlines that will make him the most powerful media mogul in the world.
Note – License To Kill was originally meant to take place in China, but the Chinese government made so many restrictive demands, such as full veto rights over the script, that the location was ultimately scrapped. Now, in Tomorrow Never Dies (the first Bond film with absolutely no references to Ian Fleming or any of his stories), we get a story about a media mogul whose only obstacle is restrictive problems created by the Chinese government.
Bond trivia – First Bond film released after Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (sorry, no more Austin Powers moments!), and Teri Hatcher was pregnant during her performance!
This unusually talky 007 outing gives us Denise Richards in the role of the main Bond girl but the movie falters when it asks us to accept her as a nuclear physicist. I’m sorry, but Richards just doesn’t have the acting chops to pull off a role like that. It’s just a little too hard to take her seriously when she’s walking around in her cute little shorts and halter top and talking about plutonium and nuclear physics.
A British oil tycoon is killed in a bombing, leaving his oil empire to his daughter, Elektra King. Her new wealth affords her international attention, but also the attention of her father’s killer, Renard, a brilliantly effective villain portrayed by Robert Carlyle. It seems that Renard has a bullet lodged in his brain making him unable to feel physical pain (and slowly killing him), and revenge is the only thing that he has left to live for. Not a good combination for anyone hoping to stop Renard from destroying a new oil pipeline and destroy Europe with a nuclear bomb.
Note – This was Desmond Llewelyn’s last performance as Q. He died one month after the film was released.
Bond trivia – The opening sequence, the longest in any Bond film ever made at about 15 minutes, was filmed over a peroid of seven weeks, and the filming was broadcast live over the internet. Also, the Latin phrase Orbis non sufficit (“the world is not enough”), is the motto of the Bond family that is given in both the novel and the film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969).
After being captured and tortured while on a mission in North Korea (and then held prisoner for a substantial period of time), Bond is awarded his freedom in exchange for the release of Zao, a powerful Korean terrorist who knows the identity of the person who betrayed Bond in Korea, leading to his capture and imprisonment.
Bond’s search leads him to a mysterious billionaire, who’s involvement in diamond trading provides him with the means to build a diamond-encrusted satellite, a ‘solar mirror,’ with the power to harness and concentrate the energy of the sun, creating a massive laser cannon powerful enough to destroy anything on earth in its path.
There is also a strange sub-plot about using DNA to transform peoples physical appearance, giving us one of the movie’s bizarre villains, a blue-eyed asian man who looks the way he does because he was interrupted in the middle of his transformation. But it is Toby Stevens’ performance as Gustav Graves, the movie’s main villain, that steals the show. His performance is so shadowy and sinister that he doesn’t need the slightest scrap of make-up or special effects to be an effective villain.
Bond trivia – production of Die Another Day was delayed so that it could have a 2002 release to coincide with the 40-year anniversary of the first Bond film, Dr. No, and the 50-year anniversary of the writing of the first Bond novel. For the true Bond enthusiast, there are references to every preceding Bond film hidden within this one. Happy hunting!
Daniel Craig is given a unique opportunity in his first adventure as James Bond. Casino Royale is a prequel to all of the rest of the Bond films, and Craig gives us a younger and less experienced 007, showing us some of the formative experiences that made him into the character that we have come to know and love.
Craig’s Bond is something totally different than anything we’ve seen before – he’s reckless and unpredictable, he allows his emotions to control him and he makes drastic mistakes. He is embarking on his first mission since being granted 00 status, and his learning experience is not without difficulties.
A man named Le Chiffre makes a living by bankrolling terrorists, and after losing $100 million of his terrorist investors’ money in a botched attempt to destroy a prototype plane that would revolutionize the air travel industry, he has to win back the money in a high-stakes poker game or face their wrath.
Bond is sent to prevent him from winning, reminding him in advance that if he loses, the British government will have directly financed terrorism. It is an astonishingly fast-paced entry in the 007 saga with many of the series’ biggest and most elaborate and exciting action set pieces. The movie shows how Bond became who he is, and while the closing shot in the movie seemed like a perfect place to end the series, the upcoming release of Quantum of Solace indicates that one of the cinema’s most famous characters is not going anywhere anytime soon.
Note – Casino Royale is one of only two 007 movies in which he says the words, “I love you.” The last time he said it was in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969).
Bond trivia – As of 2007, Casino Royale is the most commercially successful Bond film, and it’s a good thing too, because at one point, in a single afternoon of shooting, three Aston Martins (valued at $300,000 each), were destroyed for the car rolling sequence. Also, Daniel Craig is the first actor ever to portray James Bond who is younger than the series itself, and he’s also the first blonde Bond.
Best one-liner: Bond: “Vodka martini.”
Bartender: “Shaken or stirred?”
Bond: “Do I look like I give a damn?”
23. Quantum of Solace (2008), PG-13, 106 mins.
Quantum of Solace begins mere days after the point where Casino Royale left off, which is probably why Daniel Craig is in almost exactly the same position on this movie poster and dressed the same and holding the same gun as he was in the closing shot of the last film.
Bond must struggle to avoid making his newest mission too personal as he investigates Mr. White, who he captured at the end of Casino Royale, and the orgnization that led to what happened with the character of Vesper at the end of that film.
A case of mistaken identity leads Bond to the beautiful Camille, who in turn leads Bond to a ruthless businessman named Dominic Greene and a shady criminal organization called Quantum. He discovers that Greene is developing an elaborate plot to take control of South American’s water supply. Bond must get to the heart of his plan and stop him before he gets his way, all the while trying to find the man responsible for Vesper’s betrayal.
Note – in an interview with GQ Magazine, Daniel Craig mentioned that he was actively involved in selecting the film’s title, and he also revealed that, “in the great tradition of Bond movies, the film’s title is often meaningless.”
Bond trivia – Quantum of Solace will be released on November 14th, 2008.
Check out my recent review of Quantum of Solace here.