Join Adam as he takes a look at everything you thought you knew about pop culture and entertainment, but actually…
James Bond sucks at his job.
Okay, sure. From Connery to Craig, Bond has always handled sticky wickets like atomic bombs and laser beams with his patent dry witticisms but if you take a step back and assess his actual missions, it’s a wonder just how Bond has stayed employed all these years. Now, let’s be clear- Bond’s success/failure ratio doesn’t match up with the quality of his films. He kicked ass in Thunderball, or at least I heard he did. It’s hard to actually stay awake through that one. While Skyfall was far from a successful mission, it was arguably one of the best modern Bond films because of that very failing.
But swap your place in the audience for the role of Bond’s superior, M. What must those post-mission briefings be like? Bond’s first outing saw the superspy breach the mad Doctor No’s island fortress to avert an eventual nuclear holocaust by, wait for it… causing a nuclear explosion after getting spotted just kind of walking around singing show tunes. Let’s just say stealth wasn’t Connery’s strong suit.
At least he did better there than he did in Goldfinger. Arguably, one of the best in the franchise, but actually… Bond doesn’t do anything to stop Goldfinger at all. Seriously, watch this one. It’s almost fascinating how ineffectual Sean Connery is here. He immediately gets an innocent woman killed hours into getting his assignment after blatantly blowing his cover for no reason, then gets her sister killed, then Bond … a spy I will remind you, gets caught several times by Goldfinger and overpowered by his man servants(?) who look like they haven’t eaten in weeks. Ultimately, it is the mere happenstance of Pussy Galore (yes, that was her name) deciding to turn on Goldfinger, that averts disaster; all while Bond watches, handcuffed to a bomb which he doesn’t even get to diffuse!
Of course Connery takes credit by claiming it was his “appeal to her maternal instinct” that convinced Pussy Galore to turn on Goldfinger. And by “maternal instinct” he means one in a string of grimacing sex scenes that don’t exactly age well. But actually… casual misogyny is the least of his problems going forward.
George Lazenby drops in for “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” Incidentally, that title proved longer than his tenure. How’d he do? Well this was 1969, so after busting up this particular villain’s swinger’s club, Bond thinks he can just drive off into the sunset with his new arranged marriage bride in the throes of love. But actually… “Oh God! Blofeld just killed my wife!” You’d have figured Bond would wait to actually catch the villain before popping that bottle of Bollinger ‘53 in celebration. Oh yeah, Bond got married in that movie. Weird, right?
Roger Moore accomplished more in a sensible cardigan with his casual strolling than perhaps both of his predecessors. His was a Bond that actually had to rely on spy work because the wiry Moore certainly wasn’t going to be running through walls like the current Bond, Daniel Craig, nor did he have the luxury of falling ass backward into third act deus ex machinas as Connery often did.
But actually… I have to assume M was giving Roger Moore’s James Bond assignments from that other stack of missions, you know, the low-impact cases for gentlemen of a certain disposition. Moore was fifty-seven by the time he was taking on Christopher Walken and Grace Jones in View to a Kill and looked every leathery day of it. His gingerly “action” scenes and liberal use of stunt doubles highlighted an impotency that bled into and defined his portrayal of the character.
I thought Timothy Dalton’s portrayal of Bond for the next two films were quietly effective at first, but actually… HIS FRIEND GOT HIS LEGS ATE OFF BY A FREAKING SHARK! Seriously, do not let this man bed or befriend you, it does not end well.
Then there’s Pierce Brosnan. If nothing else, “the other guy in Mrs. Doubtfire” had his own panache. A verve, if you will, that was always cool under pressure while saving the day. But actually… his was a secret agent whose success was really dependent upon an increasingly weak supporting cast. While this relationship is part and parcel with the brand, the bar that this formula hinges upon fell so steeply from film to film that having to rely on Denise Richards in The World is not Enough, aka Christmas Jones, and Halle Berry in Die Another Day that Bond looks even less competent by having his missions’ successes dependent upon their credibility. Let’s face it- if you’re MI6 and your agent’s success is in the hands of Denise Richards, you have got to ask yourself, what kind of spy joint are you really running?
Also, the actor who portrayed Bond’s gadget man, Q, gets swapped out for John Cleese in the midst of this ‘90s run. Think on that, how much faith can you have on an agent whose field tools were manufactured by Monty Python?
The thing about Daniel Craig’s Bond is that he just looks so damn good at his job that we just assume he is good at his job. But actually… he’s kinda careless. Take the undeniably great Casino Royale, the cold open is Bond basically botching his mission, saying “fuck it”, and murdering his targets instead. I know, “license to kill” and all that. I’m just saying, these aren’t the Oxford manners of a nee Remmington Steele that we’ve grown accustomed to. He then precedes to lose at cards, get poisoned, tortured, played and compromised by his girlfriend, Vesper, all while mistakenly pinning his friend for a betrayal he did not take part in.
How did it end up for that friend a few films down the road? Whatever happened to Vesper, apart from the cocktail that’s actually not any good? Do I have to remind you of the shark again? They got killed, of course! And the cliff notes on Quantum of Solace? He only incidentally accomplishes his mission by escaping the villain’s lair as it explodes. Yes, if you’re keeping track at home, that is in fact a pattern.
Skyfall was amazing but was nothing if not an exercise in futility for Bond. We loved watching the opening scene’s train fight; but actually… not such a great day for Bond as he fails to apprehend his target before taking a long drink in the river. Then he goes into that weird Scott Weiland/Jimmy Buffet phase and plays with scorpions for a while. All this, before ultimately failing to protect M, essentially the maguffin purpose driving the entire film.
Again, a successful mission does not a great movie make. Some of the best Bond films were the ones with his back against the wall just trying to stay ahead of the curve, but actually… James Bond is really bad at his job.