‘Tis the season for end-of-year lists. ‘Tis also the season for James Bond’s filmography to clog up our TV listings.
While this means 007th heaven when it comes to out-and-out Bond classics like From Russia With Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964) and Casino Royale (2006) – as opposed to the 1967 effort starring David Niven and Woody Allen – it usually also means a repeat showing of some of the super spy’s not-so-super offerings.
Following the excellent Skyfall (2012), there is genuine anticipation for Spectre, Craig’s fourth outing in the role. But for now, let’s moonrake over the Bond movies that are a load of thunderballs.
Which are the worst Bond films in your opinion?
1. Die Another Day (2002)
You have to feel sorry for Pierce Brosnan; a genuinely good actor when given material he can get his teeth into (The Matador (2005) being just one example). But when it came to his tenure as 007 – a role he was born to play – he was ill-served and none more so than in this nadir for the franchise. A strong opening reel wherein Bond gets captured by the evil North Korean army and is tortured and eventually released by a reluctant British government promises much, but the default switch soon gets flipped and before we know it we’re being asked to swallow gubbins involving an ice palace, a space laser and a car with a cloaking device. To make matters worse, Madonna puts in a performance that would insult a piece of wood and a smarmy Toby Stephens is so over-the-top it’s laughable. To top it off we have Bond Kite. Surfing. On. A. Tsunami. A film so bad everyone went away and took a very long and hard look at themselves and came back with Casino Royale.
2. A View To A Kill (1985)
After six movies and 12 years in the role, the 57-year-old Roger Moore was looking a little long in the tooth to be playing the walking killing and sex machine that is James Bond. However, in classic ‘one last job’ style, they renewed his license to kill one more time for a film that proved to mark the end of an era. Moore has been quoted as saying that A View To A Kill was his least enjoyable 007 experience and it shows in the uncomfortable expression glued on his face, not least of which during his seducing of Tanya Roberts’ Bond girl, a woman whose mother was younger than Moore. However, it’s the genuinely squirmy bedroom scene between Moore and Grace Jones’ May Day that will have you sitting uncomfortably in your seat. Whoever thought that was a good idea is anyone’s guess. A tired and flabby movie (featuring a half decent villain in Christopher Walken’s Zorin to be fair) that marked a sad end to Moore’s reign.
3. The World Is Not Enough (1999)
Only in the world of 007 would Denise Richards be cast as a nuclear physicist – and one called Christmas Jones at that. The rot had been setting into Brosnan’s tenure since Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), but the nudge wink approach adopted throughout Moore’s residence was well and truly back following the Dalton years (the most underrated Bond in my book) and Brosnan’s solid debut GoldenEye (1995). While Robert Carlyle is better than the material he’s given playing international terrorist Francis Begbie… sorry, Renard, the narrative is all over the place, while the stunts merely reheat what we’ve seen before (ski chase? Yep. Helicopter action? You betcha). And let’s not forget that immortal line given by a post-coital Bond to Jones: “I thought Christmas came only once a year.” Wahey!
4. Octopussy (1983)
While Moore’s sixth outing in the tuxedo has its merits – an inclination towards a more serious plot being the most welcome – there’s a point in Octopussy when the cast and crew probably looked at each other and collectively realised that, by being a Roger Moore Bond movie, it therefore should contractually get very silly indeed. Moore must have raised an eyebrow in the way only Moore can when he read in the script that he’d have to get dressed up in a clown outfit to save the day. Maud Adams is at least Moore’s age and is the best thing about the film (the movie is named after her character after all), but Louis Jourdan doesn’t cut the mustard as the villain and tennis pro Vijay Amritraj should probably have stayed on the courts rather than turn up as Bond’s Indian ally Vijay.
5. Quantum Of Solace (2008)
The fates were against Quantum Of Solace. The back-to-basics Casino Royale had given the franchise the shot in the arm it so desperately needed and the pressure was on from the studio to keep the cash tills ringing. The decision to directly follow the events of Casino Royale certainly made sense as it provided the opportunity to explore the themes thrown up by Bond’s traumatic previous outing. However, the Writers Guild of America strike proved a crippling blow to the script’s development and things got so bad that Craig himself ended up trying to rewrite certain scenes. The script’s lack of cohesiveness shows in the undercooked dialogue, while director Marc Forster’s lack of action credentials revealed itself in the uneven set pieces; many of which tried to emulate the jittery Bourne-style shaky cam, but came off as confused and second-rate. A film that leaves you shaky, but not stirred.