Amph 60+ Years of James Bond 007

Discussion in 'Community' started by Ender Sai, Dec 1, 2012.

  1. Champion of the Force Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 27, 1999
    star 4
    Back in the late 90s/early 00s when everyone was going ga-ga over Brosnan (remember when people called him the greatest Bond since Connery?) Dalton (and his films) always seemed to cop flack, usually for one or more of the following reasons:
    1. Brosnan was the preferred choice (until NBC screwed him over), not Dalton, ergo he was not the producers' preferred Bond.
    2. He only made 2 films, so he must have done something wrong.
    3. Dalton's second film 'bombed' (I'm not sure how true that statement is - I think it did ok worldwide overall) and effectively killed off the franchise for 6 years, so Dalton must have screwed it up somehow.

    I think E_S nailed it - most of the criticism in the past from the general movie-going public seemed to come across more as received wisdom than anything objective. I think Dalton gets more appreciation these days now that we're into the Craig era and people understand more the style the Dalton films were aiming for.
    Last edited by Champion of the Force, Apr 30, 2013
  2. yankee8255 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 31, 2005
    star 6
    Dalton's problem, imo, is mainly one of timing. Te franchise had been run in to the ground by that point, so who ever came along was going to have a hard time. On top of that, everyone knew Dalton was the producers's second choice, behind a fairly well-known and popular Pierce Brosnan, who seemed like a perfect fit to play Bond. And lastly, the material isn't all that great: mediocre villain, mediocre story. I think if Dalton had come along aat the timeCraig did, or if producers had taken a longer break after Moore and really come up with a first-rate story and supporting cast, Dalton would get his due. Which he is, belatedly.
  3. I Are The Internets Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 20, 2012
    star 8
    This is a really good film with a really idiotic climactic fight from what I remember. Doesn't the one general guy go after Bond with a shielded gun? Despite the fact that his lower torso is completely exposed?
  4. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 10
    It's worth noting The Living Daylights was wildly successful and well received at the time of release. Dalton's next film caused issues, mostly because it was a return to the source material after years of watered down attempts (FYEO) or embarrassing clownishness (Moonraker, Octopussy, AVTAK).
  5. yankee8255 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 31, 2005
    star 6
    In the end, I guess the question comes down to why Craig has been wildly successful and Dalton had only limited success. One factor is definitely casting and script quality. Not sure who I'd call the best Bond Girl of all time, but Eva Green certainly did the best acting job. Mads Mikkelsen was a tremendous. Also had good supporting jobs from Wright and Giannini. And the CR script was tremendous. But you also had a 4 year gap after DAD, so that anticipation could build up a bit. When they transitioned to Dalton, they stayed on the every 2 years schedule. Would have made sense to take a break, and get a top notch script.
  6. drg4 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 30, 2005
    star 4
    The Living Daylights actually played better for me before the Craig era. Back then, the film's shortcomings were eclipsed by Dalton's performance and the attempt at gravitas. Yet Casino Royale managed this, while delivering stunning action sequences, indelible supporting characters, and a magnificent screenplay.
  7. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    A better script would make a difference, I think. There's also the issue of following Moore -- for twelve years, Moore, and even to an extent Connery before him, had trained audiences to believe that James Bond was all about quips and gadgets and crazy villains. For Dalton to right away go to a harder style of Bond was a big departure, especially when he wasn't established, and there were already two towering icons as Bond. Craig had the advantage both of coming into a culture that was more receptive to that type of moviemaking and had gotten enough of corny adventures, and of coming in when Bond transitions were a well-established thing -- there had been Connery, Moore, Dalton, and Brosnan already, plus Lazenby -- though the culture really has no memory of Lazenby. Dalton had to be the first guy in after only one real transition in the public's eye -- from the long-running, beloved Connery to the longer-running, inexplicably beloved Moore. Add in the fact that he only got in two movies before the series went on an unplanned hiatus and parted ways with him, and he just didn't get a chance to establish himself in the public mind. He didn't have time to build up public goodwill for the kind of departure that Licence to Kill was, and he didn't last long enough to get a fair shake in cultural hindsight. As a result, it became easy to pooh-pooh him as not a good enough Bond, and you get that sort of received-wisdom dismissal of something rather than a critical evaluation of it.

    The public can kiss my ass, though. Dalton is fantastic. I'll go back to my actor rankings:

    1. Dalton
    2. Good Connery
    3. Lazenby
    4. Bad Connery
    5. Good Moore
    6. Bad Moore
    And the villain rankings. which are probably the most slapdash of all my rankings:
    1. Blofeld (OHMSS)
    2. Kristatos
    3. Grant/Klebb
    4. Scaramanga
    5. Zorin
    6. Goldfinger
    7. Dr. No
    8. Jaws (TSWLM)
    9. Stromberg
    10. Drax
    11. Kananga
    12. Blofeld (DAF)
    13. Koskov/Whitaker
    14. Largo
    15. Orlov/Khan
    16. Jaws (Moonraker)
    17. Blofeld (YOLT)
  8. JoinTheSchwarz Comms Admin & Community Manager

    Administrator
    Member Since:
    Nov 21, 2002
    star 8
    As I said earlier, time has improved my opinion of this movie. When I first saw it, its (let's say) schizoid nature really eclipsed everything else. You have a badass Bond riding a cello case and cutting holes on ice with a car. You have two dangerous Soviet villains but they behave like they were developementally challenged. You have a classic urban adventure but it ends playing Rambo III alongside Osama, I mean, Kahn. Kind of a mess. Now, if I'm fair, it's not a bad movie. It's a pretty good movie, even. The sum of the parts is better than the parts themselves would make you believe.

    And what to say about Dalton? The next entry was my first Bond movie in the theater, so he is my Bond. And he's a perfect Fleming Bond, as well. Cold, complex, relentless... he was extremely unlucky. He was given a movie that was little more than a follow-up to Moore and an introduction to the new Bond, and then a movie that totally broke the formula and went with a personal vendetta storyline. In a sense, even though he played a great Bond, he never had a chance to play a real Bond Movie. A shame.


    1. From Russia with Love
    2. On Her Majesty's Secret Service
    3. Goldfinger
    4. For Your Eyes Only
    5. Dr. No
    6. The Living Daylights
    7. The Spy Who Loved Me
    8. You Only Live Twice
    9. Thunderball
    10. The Man with the Golden Gun
    11. A View to a Kill
    12. Octopussy
    13. Diamonds Are Forever
    14. Live and Let Die
    15. Moonraker
  9. soitscometothis Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 11, 2003
    star 5
    By the time Dalton took over, everyone felt Moore was way too old for the part and that a younger guy was needed. Like two movies ago. I was very keen on seeing a younger Bond, so I went into the film with a certain amount of enthusiasm for the new guy. Unfortunately I found the resulting film totally bland and uninteresting, and my opinion hasn't changed.

    Everything people have said about the script having too much of a Moore flavour - ridiculous bits like the cello-chase needed an over-the-top Moore-style take on the character, and Dalton's serious low-key Bond is left looking awkward and silly. I don't think Dalton brings off any of the quips in this, which is strange because in his later films like Hot Fuzz I think he's got good comic timing, so maybe it's just the script? Whatever the reason, I don't think much of him as Bond in this installment; in Licence To Kill I think he and the film are much more suited to one another, and I think he works great, but in TLD... fish out of water.

    The villains are lacking, I'm not a big Maryam d'Arbo fan and despite the character actually having a character I just find her uninteresting, and too much of the film is a bit silly without being fantastical enough to be fun. Overall I find TLD a thrill-free ride.

    Awkward and underwhelming in TLD, much better in LTK. He's a very good actor, but he lacks the easy-going light-touch of Moore or Brosnan for the silly super-hero stuff that he's sometimes called-on to play, and he doesn't have the tougher edge that Connery and Craig brought to the role. He tends to look bored and vaguely annoyed when in the role, though I suspect this is because Flemming's Bond is supposed to be rather jaded and fed-up with his job; the trouble is, imo, he never got support from the scripts for this interpretation. With more realistic scripts that had more emotional depth I think he would have shone far brighter.

    It's certainly not a good fit for him.

    Moore was relaxed and easy-going, letting you know he wasn't taking the material too seriously, and audiences understood that; Dalton was too much of a dramatic actor and not enough of a movie-star for what he was given, and consequently doesn't appear to be in on the joke. I think his films are being reappraised in light of what the general public now expect from Bond.

    I find ranking 007 films against each other very difficult as they can be so different in their appeal - hard hitting spy thriller, wacky action-comedy, surreal romantic fantasy... the series is all over the place.
    Last edited by soitscometothis, May 1, 2013
  10. drg4 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 30, 2005
    star 4
    What's interesting for me is that The Living Daylights marks the beginning of an uninterrupted strain of Bond girls who possess actual personalities. The reason why I haven't written up a Top Ten Bond Girl list up to this point is because I'd have to base their merits entirely on beauty; apart from Tracy, Melena and maybe Pussy Galore, the ladies are fairly nondescript. In the Dalton, Brosnan and Craig eras, however, they cease to be mere wallpaper. Huge shift here. (Except for Denise Richards and Halle Berry...both of whom sucked royally.)
  11. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    I don't know. I'd say that for as much as Dalton moved Bond away and forward from Moore in style, the Bond girls took a huge step back. I suppose any of the Bond girls had more of a personality than Tanya Roberts did, but then again, the iconic PPK had more of a personality than Tanya Roberts. But Maryam d'Arbo looked totally out of place, and I think the only thing her character ever did in the movie was either hiding behind Bond's coattails looking wide-eyed, or doing whatever the person who was speaking the loudest at the time told her to do. The chemistry was awkward, and was like if Bond had a little sister who just finished prep school and was going on a holiday with her older brother.

    Moving on to LtK, at the time, I had a crush on Carey Lowell. Her character had A LOT of wasted potential, and the character's greatest contribution was when she ripped off her velcro skirt to reveal her garter pistol, but that's pure eye candy. The scenes with her at Prof. Butcher's academy (or whatever that was) were horrible...horrible.. The drug dealer's girlfriend was just a MacGuffin in a dress. No fault of Dalton's, but I'd actually say the best Bond girl (who wasn't even an actual Bond girl) of Dalton's 2 movies was the girl in the bikini on the boat at the beginning of TLD. She had more chemistry when she was "looking for a real man" than d'Arbo, Lowell, and Soto had combined.

    Now, I say when you get to Goldeneye, Natalia and Xenia Onnatop, represent the two sides of the Bond girl you described in your post-where their looks are matched by their personality. But then again, as you mentioned, Denise Richards and Halle Berry are yet to come, and they both undo Goldeneye, but that's because for that time, it became trendy to shoehorn a star into a role just for the name, instead of actually looking for a decent yin to Bond's yan.

    For Dalton in general, I would agree with the prior assessments as well. Whoever stepped into that role immediately after Moore for such a change would have been "Lazenby'd." I actually like Dalton much more than half of Moore's work, but the problem is that Dalton's pair of movies were schizophrenic. I don't think that any of the writers or the production team knew what to do with Bond, which is ironic, because AFAIK, Broccoli was still personally involved with Dalton's Bond. But as a result, you end up with things like Wayne Newton and/or the cello slide, right along side of what Dalton was able to bring to the role. Dalton was just never allowed to have a signature portrayal for him. Had Goldeneye come 2 years after LTK with Dalton in the role to complete his "trilogy," he would be much more fondly remembered.
  12. I Are The Internets Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 20, 2012
    star 8
    Wasn't Goldeneye made with the original intent of having Dalton in the role? That would've been something.
  13. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    I must defend Maryam d'Abo and Carey Lowell. It's true that Bond's relationship with Kara has a strong protective element -- I wouldn't quite characterize it as little-sister -- but that's the point. She's a naive, sweet young artist who's been duped and manipulated by the villain, and that brings out Bond's desire to protect her (and have sex with her, because he's Bond and he can't help himself) while he's simultaneously manipulating her himself. What makes it work is that that comes back to bite him, and he only gets back in her good graces when she realizes that Bond may have manipulated her, but so did Koskov, and unlike Bond Koskov didn't care about her at all. The relationship totally worked, it was just atypical for the series.

    Carey Lowell, well, that's coming up next, so I'll save it for then.
  14. dp4m Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Nov 8, 2001
    star 10
    I know @Ender_Sai and I vociferously disagree (and I suspect @Havac will as well) but I truly disliked Carey Lowell entirely with the exception of the initial bar scene.
  15. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Your opinions and feelings are wrong and you should feel bad about them.
  16. darthcaedus1138 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2007
    star 5
    Since I couldn't muster the time/care to remember Moore's stinker of a run, I'll say I really enjoyed The Living Daylights and that Dalton is one of the absolutely great Bonds.
  17. dp4m Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Nov 8, 2001
    star 10
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  18. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    Well yeah, I'd guess I would agree with this in relation to what the writers probably wanted, but not framed in the context of the original observation. The only problem is that Kara didn't grow, really develop at all actually, during the entire movie. If you take her at the beginning, and compare her final scene, her picking out a new pair of shoes seems like it would occupy as much thought as she displayed after going on an adventure of a lifetime.... (Hmmm, pumps or flats...or Austria or Afghanistan... I'll just ask James..") I just don't think the "protective nature" worked at all with Kara. Now, going back to Lazenby, there was the perfect protective nature-Tracy was fiesty, but most certainly needed protecting from herself. (which again, was the point.) Lazenby's Bond played off of that to perfection. Now, you can't really compare Kara to Tracy, that's not why I mention her, but Kara might as well have been a cute puppy that Bond had to put in his suit jacket pocket and protect throughout all the exotic locations.

    The above seems slightly more harsh than I'm intending. I thought d'Abo was ok. She just represented the weak point of the film-one of those things which it seemed that the production team just didn't know which direction to take the character in, and it reflected the uncertain tone of the movie.
  19. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    [IMG]

    Licence to Kill (1989)

    Behind the scenes

    Wilson and Maibaum continued their roles as writers for this one, which they and Broccoli wanted to continue Dalton's darker, less fantastical take on Bond. Broccoli wanted a new setting for the series, and was looking at China, which led the writers to generate ideas for a few Chinese setpieces and a plot based around the Golden Triangle drug trade. Broccoli dropped China, however, as The Last Emperor had already gotten there first, and moved on to Latin America. That allowed the drug angle to remain in, and was new territory for the Bond series, though recent American action films had been heavily mining the new Latin American drug lords for villains. Dalton's darker Bond would be pulled into an intense, violent revenge tale focusing on Franz Sanchez, a drug lord loosely inspired by Manuel Noriega. Rather than using a real nation, the fictional Republic of Isthmus was created for Sanchez to corruptly run from the shadows. The revenge angle was designed to play up Bond's past with Tracy, with Leiter's tragic marriage calling his own to mind. Perhaps as a leftover of the initial East Asian concept, Wilson had samurai films on the mind, especially Yojimbo, and conceived of Bond as a ronin, a masterless figure bringing down Sanchez by sowing dissension from within. The film was only outlined when the Writer's Guild of America went on strike, forcing Maibaum out. Wilson wrote the entire script himself. With the Fleming stories mostly exhausted and the short story titles remaining not particularly cinematic, this became the first film not to take its name from a Fleming title. It did pull a few elements from Fleming, such as Felix Leiter's mauling by a shark (from Live and Let Die) and the character Milton Krest (from The Hildebrand Rarity).

    Dalton returned as Bond for the second and last time, with another actor returning for a second and last time: David Hedison became the first ever repeat Leiter. Hedison wasn't the Leiter from The Living Daylights -- he was the Leiter from Live and Let Die, released sixteen years before LTK. Since Leiter was so important to the plot, and his marriage and maiming would be big scenes that drove Bond, the producers wanted to bring back a previous Leiter to help create a connection with the audience. The Living Daylights had been the first appearance of Leiter since LALD, and Hedison had had much more screentime in LALD than John Terry had had in TLD.

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    Roberto Davi was cast as the villain on the advice of Maibaum and Tina Broccoli. Davi took the role seriously, researching both Colombia and the Bond books, which he used for inspiration in designing his portrayal of Sanchez. Davi also played Bond in auditions for the secondary Bond girl, and was instrumental in selecting Talisa Soto for the role. The main Bond girl was Carey Lowell, a naturally tomboyish type who auditioned in jeans and a leather jacket.

    Wayne Newton got cast in a supporting role via the most effective technique known to man -- being famous, and petitioning for a cameo because he was a big fan. Pedro Armendariz, Jr. got cast in his cameo more personally -- his father, Pedro Armendariz, Sr., had memorably played Kerim Bey in From Russia with Love shortly before succumbing to cancer.

    Principal shooting took place in Mexico, and due to punishing changes to British tax law, Licence to Kill became the first Bond not to shoot in the UK at all, though Pinewood was used for post-production. The Florida Keys were the other shooting location.

    John Barry was not available due to recent surgery, so Michael Kamen was brought in to take over the scoring duties. Barry never ended up returning to the series, though he had worked on it on and off, mostly on, since the beginning. Guitarists Eric Clapton and Vic Flick (who had played guitar on the original recording of the James Bond theme) were brought in to write the title song. They did so. The producers REJECTED ERIC CLAPTON and went with Gladys Knight instead. God punished them by delaying the next Bond film for six years and pushing Timothy Dalton out of the role.

    The film was not as successful at the box office as hoped. It did better business than A View to a Kill, but only barely, and that not accounting for inflation. While this is often blamed on the darker turn in the script and Dalton's performance, the film was handicapped by two significant factors, likely more important to the outcome: it suffered weak marketing in America, the main source of the weak box office. The film was initially titled Licence Revoked, and was changed relatively late after the producers realized that Americans associated the phrase with losing their drivers' licenses. The more evocative title Licence to Kill was applied, but it delayed the effort to roll out the marketing machine. The other factor was that the movie was released in the middle of what was becoming the summer blockbuster season, and faced stiff competition from Batman, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Lethal Weapon 2, and Back to the Future Part II. Though it had been a regular occurrence previously, no Bond film was ever released during the summer again. Further, as a smaller factor, the film had been hit with higher ratings due to the more graphic violence, which limited its audience more than usual in some markets.

    Plot

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    James Bond and Felix Leiter, now working for the DEA, are on their way to Leiter's wedding when Leiter is informed that most-wanted drug kingpin Sanchez has left his secure base of operations in Isthmus and can be nabbed in the Bahamas, where he is retrieving his runaway abused girlfriend. Leiter suits up for the raid, and Bond goes with. They succeed in capturing Sanchez and parachute into the wedding. Sanchez escapes prison almost immediately, however, and exacts his vengeance on Leiter, raping and killing his new bride and torturing Leiter by letting a shark nibble on him.

    An absolutely furious Bond immediately goes off to seek the heads of everyone responsible. He finds Milton Krest's operation, which is a front for Sanchez's drug trade and is where Leiter was tortured. Bond kills the corrupt DEA agent who helped Sanchez escape, but Krest is already out to sea. 007 is pulled in by M, who orders him on to a new assignment and forbids him from pursuing a private vendetta. Bond attempts to resign, but M puts him on suspension instead, revoking his license to kill. Bond escapes and tracks down Krest at sea, where he is taking on a fresh shipment of drugs. Bond destroys the drugs and flies off in a seaplane full of the money meant for Sanchez. He then tracks down the identity of one of Leiter's contacts, ex-CIA pilot Pam Bouvier, and meets her in the Bahamas, saving her from Sanchez's henchman Dario.

    Bond heads to Isthmus City with Bouvier, where he starts posing as an assassin looking to serve Sanchez. He's joined in the field by Q, who was sent by Moneypenny when she realized that Bond was operating on his own. Bond tries to snipe Sanchez, but is stopped and captured by Royal Hong Kong Police running an undercover operation to find the secret center of Sanchez's operations. As MI6 agent Fallon is about to take Bond into custody, Sanchez attacks the location. Sanchez thinks that the Hong Kong infiltrators were behind the assassination attempt, and as he found Bond strapped to a table, Bond is able to convince Sanchez that they captured him because he was trying to stop them. Sanchez starts trusting Bond, and Bond uses the opportunity to take his stolen money and set up Krest when he arrives in port. Sanchez kills Krest and takes Bond into his confidence, while Bond is busy turning Sanchez's mistress into an ally.

    Bond goes along when Sanchez takes his Asian contacts on a tour of his facility, which is disguised as a televangelist's spiritual retreat. Sanchez can dissolve his cocaine in gasoline and is hoping to start selling to the Asian buyers. Dario then joins Bond for the first time and recognizes him from the Bahamas, triggering a fight. Bond is captured, but the lab is on fire. Bouvier arrives and helps Bond defeat Dario and escape in her plane. They find Sanchez, escaping with multiple semi tankers full of cocaine gas, which Bond takes out one by one, finally fighting Sanchez, who is drenched in gas from a crashed tanker. Bond lights him up with a lighter from Leiter, and afterward lets his friend know that he has taken revenge for him. M takes Bond back into MI6.

    Bond himself

    This is Dalton fully in the zone as Bond. The zaniness is stripped back, and the focus is on a cold, ferocious Bond hunting down the men responsible for performing a heinous act against his friends. It's a righteously angry Bond out for revenge, and it lets Dalton show off both the dark, serious tone with which he imbues the character and do some serious acting as he emotes and holds up his end of a script that doesn't give the "Bond's inner rage and turmoil" angle that great a showcase. We get to see a new side of Bond for the first time in a long time, watching him get passionate and take a situation really seriously. He was supposed to be in much the same position in Diamonds Are Forever, but DAF didn't really pull that one off.

    [IMG]

    We also get to see Bond in a new situation, operating on his own, rogue. It's maybe not as punchy as it could be, since he's still got allies, including Q, which really undermines the concept that he doesn't have MI6 support, but there's a lot done with Bond blundering headfirst into situations he doesn't understand. He's not briefed on the situation and he doesn't have resources to call on, so he disrupts other programs to get at Sanchez and gets in over his head. He has to rely on good luck to get through it, but there's also a definite element of Bond setting up his own play all by himself, which feels fresh. LTK expands Bond's character for the first time in a long time, and it shows off Dalton at his best.

    How it fits into the series

    Licence to Kill is an expansion of what The Living Daylights was doing -- TLD created a new, modernized take on Fleming's original spy, and LTK placed him outside his usual context, in a charged personal quest. It expands the character and shows him off in a new light. The fact that the series went on hiatus after this and Dalton eventually left without doing any more films means that LTK thus sacrificed the ability to do a "proper" Bond film with Dalton in the role at his full capacity, but the tale we do get is compelling and still shows off Dalton at the top of his game, displaying the potential for new directions his take gave to the franchise.

    LTK is a new kind of Bond film. It combines the in-the-trenches grit of FRWL with the personal stakes and inquiry into Bond's character of OHMSS, much as the Craig run would later do. It's tragic that Dalton didn't get to do more films, because I think we would have seen further growth in the series, but what we got was very good, and you can still see traces of it in GoldenEye, though the Brosnan run slipped back away from Dalton's sensibility.

    It must also be noted that this was the last film before the end of the Cold War and legal issues combined to put the series on its longest break between movies ever, in which period Dalton left the series, his supporting cast of Bliss and Brown didn't outlast him, Cubby Broccoli passed his producing role on to his children, and Bond arguably entered his most distinctively new era, one we might recognize today as "modern."

    Review

    As much as I'd like to praise it to the heavens, Licence to Kill isn't a perfect movie. Frankly, it calls for an even more dramatic touch than it has, one that treats Bond's revenge quest with more gravitas. Moment's like Bond's attempted resignation from the service, followed by his outright rebellion, pass with little sense of weight, and the film never quite slows down enough to spend some time one-on-one with Bond and get into his head. It also tends to go gimmicky, as it's still a product of its time. But the good news is that the film is packed full of little touches that, if they don't quite give us the full treatment of a grieving, rage-filled Bond, get at the idea subtly, accompanied by Dalton's great acting. The end result is a film that doesn't quite ascend to the dramatic heights it could, but is still a high-quality portrait of an out-of-control Bond on a rampage.

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    The film does a lot of things right, and gets at a lot of new areas. The start, gimmicky scenario and plane stunt aside (eat your heart out, Bane!), is great for showing us Bond as a human being, a person among friends, enjoying life, celebrating Leiter's marriage. It's a whole new way of seeing Bond, and sets up a great contrast for what's to come. The way Della is all over Bond and has an implied past of her own with him is weird, but I'll let it slide. Hedison also turns in one of the best pre-Wright Leiter performances, much better than his forgettable turn in Live and Let Die.

    Then there's the moment when things change. I've got to admit, I'm not a big fan of Della's death. Leiter gets maimed – he really should have been killed, and I think it was a mistake for the film to back out of it as long as they were going to incapacitate him – and an attack on his friend should be enough to motivate Bond. Raping and killing an innocent woman with a secondhand connection to Bond is a little distasteful. It also makes for a weird ending, when Felix has to be all happy that Bond got him some revenge, but it's slightly too light, and runs too close to, "Wow, it's like my wife was never raped and murdered at all!" territory. It does, however, serve to give Bond a nasty echo of his own truncated marriage, and sets him off on a furious quest for vengeance. I love the fact that Bond's first instinct is, essentially, to burn everything to the ground. Go after Sanchez and kill him. Law? Arrest? Who cares? Everyone involved in this is going to die. There's a great reflection of that in the scene of Killifer's death, when Sharkey is visibly repulsed but Bond looks on emotionless, maybe a little pleased with himself, watching a shark eat a guy. It's just a stone-cold ****-you face.

    Bond then flees M rather than go on suspension after he refuses to stop pursuing Sanchez. It's nice to see M acting like a hardass on Bond, but it would also be nice to see a little more humanity in their relationship, a little of M's understanding that he can't push Bond on things like this, the way we got in OHMSS. Nevertheless, this launches Bond into the meat of the movie, which is just wonderful. Like I said, we don't spend a lot of time with Bond's emotions, but they come through in the bitter, full-speed-ahead way he barrels through situations and gets in over his head without backup or intelligence. He gets aboard Krest's boat, but lacks a clear idea of what exactly he's going to do other than kill Sanchez, and when Sanchez isn't there, he gets so pissed off at the death of Sharkey that he blows his cover to kill the man responsible, then has to scramble to stay alive while still diverting himself to destroy Krest's shipment out of an uncontrollable urge to give Krest the ol' ****-you. It's just chaos, and Bond is lucky to escape alive.

    Bond develops a bit clearer plan later, but he's still impetuous and overeager for Sanchez's head. He nearly loses his chance because he doesn't know that he's blundering into a sting operation, and his interference ends up destroying two different operations against Sanchez and nearly costing Bond his own life. Only luck gets Bond out of it, and some brilliant quick thinking puts him in Sanchez's inner circle as a result. Another recurring element, alongside Bond's blundering, is his constant attempt to run off his allies. He keeps trying to get Bouvier, Q, and Lupe to leave, both out of generalized anger and out of an attempt to protect them from what Bond is treating, on some level, as a suicide mission.

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    The film also does great work subtly drawing parallels between Bond and Sanchez. Both make a point of their disregard for money, Bond willing to throw it away in the name of revenge for his friend, just as Sanchez is willing to throw away his own money to make a point of honor. Both put honor and loyalty above money – Sanchez rather hilariously and puzzlingly so, for a businessman, which makes his indifference at the end, in face of the dollars passing before his business manager's eyes, both funny and indicative of the depths to which Sanchez is obsessed with his macho code of honor above all else. There are also numerous moments when Sanchez saves Bond's life. He saves him from capture by MI6 and actually advances Bond's cause by taking him into his inner circle. He accidentally saves Bond in the lab, by causing the distraction Bond needs. His immediate and demonstrative vengeance on Heller gives Bond an escape route from the fire. The parallelism and symbiosis between Bond and his villain are a great way of driving home an important aspect of Dalton's take on Bond, that Bond isn't much different from the other guys.

    Sanchez makes a good villain for that. As a Latin American drug lord, he's practically an obligatory villain for an eighties action movie, but his grounded nature is perfect for a gritty revenge tale. He's not out to destroy humankind or turn the Cold War hot. He's just a common criminal kingpin, brutal and obsessed with machismo, and Bond's friend got in his way. In fact, Sanchez's lack of baroque inflections makes him even more menacing, because he's that much more real. The rogues' gallery of other villains, like Killifer and Krest, suit that sensibility. The larger-than-life factor is added more by the henchman, Dario, in a great crazy-eyes performance by Benicio Del Toro with more than a little homoeroticism added to the mix.

    [IMG]

    As long as we're talking characters, Pam Bouvier is maybe my favorite Bond girl. It's not just that she's gorgeous – though she is, and in a girl-next-door way that makes her even more attractive – but of all the many Bond girls so far, she's the first one to really stand on her own as a character and be a full, genuine match for Bond. She's fully competent, and in the scene in which she's introduced, she actually comes out better in the barroom brawl than Bond does. There's a great dynamic individually, in which they're each condescending to the other as an amateur, and she has reason to think she's justified. She outguns him with that shotgun, and holds her own in the fight. She knows the situation and he doesn't. It sets up a wonderful back-and-forth, and as attracted as she is to Bond, she's also the first really feminist Bond girl, one who objects to Bond throwing her into the role of executive secretary and is taken just as seriously as Bond by the movie. Previously, Amasova was the standard for a Bond girl who was as competent as Bond, but for all that she got the drop on him once or twice, he always got to treat her with a little condescension, and she got her agency essentially wiped out by sleeping with him. Melina Havelock was probably the most rounded, stand-on-her-own character, one with real agency and a real relationship with Bond, but she was also an amateur who had to be protected by a clearly senior Bond. Bouvier is the full package, fully competent in the field, with agency of her own, and with a real relationship. I'm really impressed with how seriously LTK actually takes the emotions of her relationship with Bond. Previous movies tended to focus on Bond sweeping the girls off their feet with his seductiveness, and then he felt vaguely protective toward them, and there wasn't a lot there. Tracy had a real romance, but most of the rest were just lusts of convenience not shown to involve any real emotional depth. Here, we get a Bond girl who clearly harbors deep feelings for Bond, and is hurt by his dalliance with Lupe (the scene in which they come face-to-face and Bouvier is hit with jealousy and betrayal is great, both for the emotional content and for Q scrabbling to defuse the situation and all but rolling his eyes at Bond's antics). What's more, we get that great scene at the end, where she's hurt and runs off – and Bond notices and follows her and makes a big romantic gesture, demonstrating that he harbors real emotions and concern for her feelings as well. There's some actual romance-type stuff here, not just adventure-movie seduction. The "Why don't you wait until you're asked?" "Why don't you ask me?" exchange is a great bit of writing, and in both instances the lines play as actually romantic, not just surface-seductive. I can't applaud the handling of this relationship enough.

    [IMG]

    Speaking of relationships, I like the way the film takes Bond's departure from the service as an opportunity to underline the depths of his relationships there. The way Moneypenny is distraught at his absence, and sends Q to look after him, is wonderful, one of my favorite Moneypenny scenes. And Q – this is my favorite Q movie, sending Desmond Llewelyn into the field for a really prominent role supporting Bond like a badass and making clear the warmth he has for Bond under the "Now pay attention, 007" exterior.

    Wayne Newton is also hilarious as Professor Joe Butcher. It's a cheesy element, and I don't think the TV-cover idea makes any real sense, but it's too damn fun for me to care. The film itself seems to almost treat the total vagueness of Butcher's institute as a joke – meditation, research, love, televangelizing cult, whatever, who cares, it's a front anyway. Newton himself is completely winning as Professor Joe, exuding a sleazy charm, and his genial "Bless your heart!" makes for an uproariously affable response to every setback he faces, as if he's constantly in character.

    Not all the action is completely solid – it tends to go too gimmicky, and the long truck chase at the end is a good example – and I really would have liked a deeper examination of Bond, but the movie is so incredibly good at the little details, so good in its characters and relationships, that it still stands as one of the absolute best Bond films. I wish Dalton had had a much longer career – he deserved it – but at least he got Licence to Kill.

    Rankings
    1. From Russia with Love
    2. On Her Majesty's Secret Service
    3. Licence to Kill
    4. Dr. No
    5. For Your Eyes Only
    6. The Living Daylights
    7. The Spy Who Loved Me
    8. Goldfinger
    9. Thunderball
    10. You Only Live Twice
    11. The Man with the Golden Gun
    12. A View to a Kill
    13. Diamonds Are Forever
    14. Octopussy
    15. Live and Let Die
    16. Moonraker
    Questions for discussion

    1. Licence to Kill has passionate defenders, but it also has critics. What does each side have to say?
    2. I've suggested that this film is rather sui generis. Do you think that's true?
    3. How does Licence to Kill reflect the shifting landscape of the action-film genre by the end of the eighties? Is this influence any different from the way shifting trends have influenced Bond before?
    4. We had some discussion of Carey Lowell before. Does she or doesn't she work in the role?
    5. Has any previous Bond movie had as much going on thematically as Licence to Kill? If so, please elaborate.
    6. This is Dalton's last movie, as well as Caroline Bliss's and Robert Brown's, and Albert Broccoli's last as producer. Care to offer some retrospective evaluations?
    7. I've ranked this as the third-best Bond movie so far, making it only the third film since the very beginning of the series to be better than its debut entry, in my opinion. We all love Bond here, but does the series have as serious an ongoing quality problem as I think?
  20. JoinTheSchwarz Comms Admin & Community Manager

    Administrator
    Member Since:
    Nov 21, 2002
    star 8
    I'll post my review later, but first I'm going to post my rankings just for the sake of controversy:

    1. Licence to Kill
    2. From Russia with Love
    3. On Her Majesty's Secret Service
    4. Goldfinger
    5. For Your Eyes Only
    6. Dr. No
    7. The Living Daylights
    8. The Spy Who Loved Me
    9. You Only Live Twice
    10. Thunderball
    11. The Man with the Golden Gun
    12. A View to a Kill
    13. Octopussy
    14. Diamonds Are Forever
    15. Live and Let Die
    16. Moonraker
  21. drg4 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 30, 2005
    star 4
    First, LTK is the first truly accomplished Bond film since OHMSS.

    Second, LTK is the closest we'll get to an OHMSS follow-up, only with a better lead actor and Sanchez substituted for Blofeld.

    Third, the "too-violent" critique doesn't have much credence, considering that the admittedly grisly deaths are executed by the villains and that, unlike Brosnan, Dalton isn't mowing down henchmen by the dozens. (I'll get to that later, with the overrated Goldeneye.)

    Fourth, if you don't like LTK, you're a loony. This movie has fully-realized characters, two breathtaking action sequences (the waterskiing-plane escape and the finale), and a plot revolving around Bond using his cunning instead of his trigger-finger and phallus.

    Fifth, it's mighty sad to see Dalton go, but if he was to be saddled with Brosnan's schizophrenic melodrama/bizarro trainwrecks, better that it end here.

    Sixth, the cheery ending kinda sucks--sure Felix, we'll go fishing!!--but no Bond movie is perfect, and I just stop the movie with Sanchez's demise (which happens to be the best Bond villain death ever!).
    JoinTheSchwarz likes this.
  22. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Honestly, I don't think the violence thing has that much going for it, either. Yeah, Krest's exploding head is gory, but other than that, it's pretty much run of the mill action violence. I think it's more the lack of the typical lighthearted offsetting elements, and the fact that the movie took the violence seriously rather than treating it as a punchline, that made it stick out and everyone go, "Oh, it's so violent." Really, it's just darker overall, so they're less comfortable with the violence now.

    Lighten it up, and you can fit in Campbell's obsession with endless machinegunning no problem!

    Speaking of Sanchez and Blofeld, I did love the joke of giving Sanchez a pet iguana with the same diamond collar as Blofeld's cat. I think that's the kind of smartass touch that can fit in the film and be silly and jokey without dragging down the tone of the film.
  23. JoinTheSchwarz Comms Admin & Community Manager

    Administrator
    Member Since:
    Nov 21, 2002
    star 8
    I... had never noticed that. And I've seen this movie tens of times. [face_blush]
  24. drg4 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 30, 2005
    star 4
    Neither did I. It's kinda like when someone pointed out that the Emperor's theme was subverted for The Phantom Menace ending: "Wow. That's more clever than the series deserves..."
  25. I Are The Internets Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 20, 2012
    star 8
    This is a very strange movie because it's very much a product of its time while it has also aged gracefully. It's probably the best Bond film until Casino Royale comes along. Again, it's really too bad Dalton only did 2 films.