James Bond is one of the longest-running franchises in cinematic history. Thrilling audiences for over half a century. I’ve always loved James Bond films and while not all the movies are great, I enjoyed each of the actors (Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig) who had the privilege of getting an…. ehm, license to thrill movie goers. Now with Daniel Craig strapping on his Walther PPK to play our favourite spy for one final time, I started to look back at the franchise.
For the most part, fans of the franchise would agree that Connery is Bond. He made Bond the character we know and love today. He is the reason Bond is a household name. Roger Moore played Bond in the most films, and while some were great, the quality dipped by Octopussy. George Lazenby may have been in one film, but it is a fan favourite. Pierce Brosnan did a fine job as Bond, unfortunately the quality of the films took a turn for the worse by the release of Die Another Day. Daniel Craig embraced the role of Bond and returned the character to his roots. Casino Royale is a great film and Craig’s portrayal redeemed the franchise for modern movie goers.
However, if there is one actor who always seems to get the short end of the stick in this franchise, it's Timothy Dalton. He seems to be overlooked by fans and critics alike, yet he really deserves a little more love. Dalton may have been in only two films (The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill) but his contributions are significant.
I recently re-watched the films and I can honestly say, Dalton may have saved the franchise. I mean no offense to Roger Moore, but by the time A View To A Kill and Octopussy were released, the plots were ridiculous and Bond was reduced to a comic detective. Dalton’s portrayal of Bond was truer to the Ian Fleming character from the novels. This Bond was darker, more brooding and his humour was very dry. The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill reset the Bond franchise, the character and film formula by bringing back a sense of espionage and realism to the series. In some ways, they are a precursor to the Daniel Craig Bond films of today.
There are few reasons as to why Timothy Dalton tends to get forgotten or overlooked. First, as campy as the James Bond films were, Roger Moore played the character for 12 years, he was ingrained in our psyche. He played the role of Bond longer than anyone else and he successful continued the franchise from the one and only Sean Connery.
Second, movie audiences simply weren’t ready for a leaner, meaner, grittier Bond. Most audiences were knee deep in over the top action films from Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal.
Third, as great as The Living Daylights is, the films villains were weak. If Daltons Bond had a worthy villain, I’m sure The Living Daylights would be on everyone’s top-ten list.
Fourth, Bond fans were not ready for 007 going rogue like he did in Licence to Kill. It was unthinkable at that time and it defies the franchise’s or MI6’s gallantry. Although going rogue seems the norm in today’s modern films, including Craig’s Bond, movie audiences weren’t ready for it at the time.
Fifth, Dalton’s portrayal of 007 is thirty years ahead of its time. The movies really need to be re-watched and re-evaluated in order to see their importance they had in saving the franchise from extinction.
So here is a tip of vodka martini to Timothy Dalton, the forgotten 007.