In the era when gritty reboot was the order of the day for action/fantasy films, one actor took the most famous franchise in the world back to the pages of the author Ian Fleming…and was never appreciated for that.
If history has been unkind to any actor - well there are thousands but it will not sit well with the content that I am about to type – it will be Timothy Dalton and his performance as Ian Fleming’s secret agent, Agent OO7 James Bond.
A great hero to the fans of the brilliant, exciting, thrillers written by Fleming in the 50s and 60s, Dalton single handedly took the franchise to a new direction in 1987, taking over from geriatric (but affable) Roger Moore* whose Bond films were nothing more than self-parodied excuse for display of outrageous gadgets, stunts and cleavages. Not that we are complaining about the latter, the films descended into the pit of impossibilities ignoring the mood established by Fleming in his wonderful books.
Then, the Bond franchise did the same and this time, mistaking Fleming’s Bond for Terminator, they got a superb actor in form of Daniel Craig to play cyborg-ish Bond…it was only during the quieter moments when we actually saw Craig channelling Ian Fleming’s creation, as a wonderful actor of his calibre should. Unfortunately, the rest of the time the script treated the character the same way it would treat light sabre in the Star Wars films. Film fans worldwide lapped it up wholesale.
The audience of the 80s, unfortunately, was not really sure what it wants as far as action genre is concerned. It embraced Die Hard and Lethal Weapon, but turned its nose up to
Trouble is, the entire world was never ready for a Flemingesque James Bond from day one when the spearheading Dr. No appeared on screen. Despite what most fans would think, agent OO7 as played by the magnificent Sean Connery was only mildly related to the James Bond of the book. Sure, Connery was good looking and a “tough customer” as per the superspy of the book, but Fleming’s creation was dark, never sure of his moral stand as far as his role as assassin is concerned. His womanising tendencies does not involve woman swooning after him after couple of groan inducing puns. He worked his way to know his lady friends, and actually have loved most of them passionately.
The James Bond of the books was a lonely man who appreciated friendships that he can’t have on the account of his job. He takes time to have lunch with his chief-of-staff when he’s around in the office and have good working and personal relationship with the American ally, Felix Leiter.
If you feel these qualities does not represent James Bond at all, then you have not read Fleming.
Yes, he actually does. His love affair with Kara offers perhaps the most tender and heart warming moments ever in the film franchise’s history (George Lazenby/Bond fans will disagree I am sure). Not only have that, in this and the next film, Bond also displayed a warm friendship with Q, the gadget-master, not dissimilar to the book character who’s close with this chief of staff.
But let me get back to the gritty reboot thing. Am I giving too much credit to the actor for the reboot, considering the producers were pretty powerful and has all the say? No. The actor who was suppose to take over in 1986 was Pierce Brosnan and he was doing a romantic comedy TV series remember? He would have kept the comedic angle on with his boyish good look and sense of humour. Luckily he was unavailable, and
It was a desparate time for the producers and they bowed to demand and the scriptwriters had to tweak the script to his strength (dramatic portrayal, no-nonsense approach) and later, for the second film, the entire script was written with
For that, I say thank god for Daniel Craig. But let us thank Timothy Dalton first. Sean Connery may be the best Bond, but
*whatever my complaints are about