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A Bond By Any Other Name

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As Spectre is released for the home market, Beth Kelly muses on the two most recent Bonds...

Since being freed from the pages of Ian Fleming’s novel series, James Bond, history’s most notorious superspy, has conspired and charmed his way through Hollywood. And while Sean Connery is often held as the gold standard for all Bond actors, each has contributed his own strengths and abilities to the overall film canon.

Pierce Brosnan as James Bond

Each acting incarnation of British spy was also tied to the era which he lived and filmed, portraying the social and political climate of the time. The two most recent actors to take on the role - Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig– have brought Bond to contemporary audiences, and reinvigorated his timeless appeal. Brosnan made his Bond debut with Goldeneye in 1995, in a post-Soviet world in which the renowned sexual escapades of previous James Bonds would have been considered not only outdated but stupidly dangerous at a time when AIDS was never far outside of the public consciousness. As such, Brosnan’s Bond, while still suave and sexy, was far more about the action than the sex, even flirting with monogamy far more than any Bond before him.

Brosnan’s Bond was also considered to be one of the first to meld previous versions of the character into one smoothly charismatic persona, particularly combining Connery’s physically imposing presence with Roger Moore’s wit and jovial take on the character and adding an intellectual quality that was uniquely his own. Daniel Craig, in rebooting the franchise with Casino Royale, brought Bond back to his roots, giving us a darker and more dangerous take on the character and bringing him full circle back to Ian Fleming’s vision as written in much of the source material. In doing so, Craig is also a Bond for his time, more grim and cynical in today’s world of political upheaval, distrust, and disillusion.

When it comes to Bond villains, we generally expect villainy on a global scale, either trying to take over the world, dominate it, or destroy parts of it. When comparing the last two Bond incarnations, Brosnan’s films have the more memorable villains by far, starting with Goldeneye and Alec Trevelyan, played marvelously by Sean Bean, Xenia Onatopp, played by Famke Janssen, and Boris Grishenko, played by Alan Cumming. From attempts to cause a Great Britain-wide financial crisis to cover up the huge theft from the Bank of London, the villainous plots just get more spectacular for Brosnan’s Bond. In taking us back to Bond's roots in Casino Royale with Daniel Craig, the villains were slightly less ambitious in the beginning and thus a bit less memorable.

Daniel Craig as James Bond

However, and regardless of the criteria applied, there’s nothing forgettable about the Bond women over the years, and both Brosnan and Craig have their fair share of beautiful conquests in this arena. Brosnan’s Bond gets intimate with the likes of Teri Hatcher, Denise Richards, and Halle Berry before his reign comes to an end. Craig likewise has his fair share of Bond babes in the forms of Eva Green, Caterina Murino, and Olga Kurylenko. Just as the James Bond character has evolved to reflect the times he films in, so too have the Bond women evolved over the decades, with today’s “babes” being much more self-sufficient and independent than those of prior generations.

Regardless of who is playing Bond, just as Diamonds are Forever, so apparently is the possibility of viewing some or all of your favorite Bond films of any era at least once a year and likely more often around the holidays on cable stations like AMC and FX - check your local channels as many of them run Bond marathons around this time of year. If that doesn’t provide enough of a fix, then Spectre is out now to enjoy in the comfort of your own secret villain's lair!

See also:

Craig, Connery and Co: but just who is the best James Bond?


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