This year, the James Bond film series turns 50, which by all rights means it should be driving a sports car, be on its third wife, and facing its impending retirement. However, fifty is a sweet number for the franchise, which will be releasing its 23rd official entry next month. As such, I’ll be writing about the decisive moments in the franchise’s history, in no particular order.
My first focus is on Goldeneye, if only for the reason that it was my first Bond film. Having seen all other official Bond entries, as well as the non-official Never See Never Again, I have a greater breadth of knowledge about the franchise, and what Goldeneye actually meant for the franchise.
Between Licence to Kill (1989) and Goldeneye (1995), a lot of things had changed. Disputes between various production companies had delayed the 17th Bond feature, which had been hoped to be released in either 1992 or 1993. The continuing delays led Timothy Dalton to reluctantly resign from the role, so as to free his schedule. Now, I like Dalton’s Bond (I’ll be talking about it later on), but surprisingly, this proved to be a blessing in disguise.
In the midst of all this turmoil, the Cold War, which had been the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s series of novels, and the original backdrop for the film series, had ended. Many wondered if Bond would survive.
However, Bond returned successfully. Granted, Goldeneye is not a perfect film. It has some serious flaws, but within the original continuity (i.e. all films before Casino Royale in 2006), it is the quintessential Bond film; everything that needs to be destroyed blows up in big explosions, the villains all die glorious (if not logical) deaths, Bond gets the women, there’s elements that don’t quite make sense, some unusual allies, and as ever, there’s a nice friendly CIA contact. However, Goldeneye also reflects the changing times; one of Bond’s allies is a Russian mobster, the women are stronger and more independent, and the head of MI6 is a woman (played brilliantly by Judi Dench).
The Janus syndicate, a subtle ode to the old SPECTRE crime ring of early Bond films, is a brilliant heavy, and the idea of having its leader be a former ally is also a nice move. The tank sequence is arguably the moment when it becomes apparent that Bond is back, and like other sequences in the film, it may not be 100% logical, but it makes the film entertaining, which is really all we should expect.
It can be argued that the six year layoff was also a blessing in disguise. The film benefited from not coming out the immediate fallout of the Cold War’s end; the development, falling into place, and stability of the world afterwards benefited the film, in which the threat would have caused another major shift. The new setting was a perfect place to reinvigorate the series, which along with the shift in actor, provided a means of really moving the series forward.
However, the most contemporary aspect of Goldeneye is its media connections; I don’t know how many hours of my youth were lost playing the video game based off of the film, but I do remember that the game was fun, exciting, and an all-around good time. It was, from a 2012 perspective, a very simple game; there wasn’t audio outside of the score, the auto-aim function made shooting really easy, and the graphics were simple. However, it is a video game that underscores the point about multi-play capability: you could play it multiple times without issue, you could play the multiplayer over and over, and in either case you would never get bored.
Back to the film. The wild success of Goldeneye resulted in MGM/UA green lighting the next film before Goldeneye‘s theatrical run was over, which in turn resulted in a rushed production for Tomorrow Never Dies.
The film itself is lacking in a few areas; the supporting character of Boris is a bit over the top, the villain’s plot is a bit complicated, and the film sometimes stops when it should move, and vice versa. However, if you were the production company (EON), you were delighted. The film did two things: it proved that James Bond will always return, and it shifted Bond into the 1990s.