Film and TV

Cinema Slap Fight: James Bond Vs. James Bond...Times Three

In which I destroy any remaining goodwill people harbor towards me.

The character of James Bond has been around, in movie format, for almost 50 years. Commander Bond, agent 007 of MI6, made his film debut in 1962's Dr. No and has been, minus a six-year hiatus (1989-1995), a steady presence in theaters ever since (the character had previous TV and radio representation, but we won't concern ourselves with those). The 23rd "official" film -- official meaning produced by EON Productions -- comes out in November 2012. It's the second highest grossing film franchise of all time (behind Harry Potter, though don't be surprised if Captain Jack Sparrow knocks it off in the next few years as well).

Given all that, it's high time we named the best Bond.

In This Corner...and This Other Corner: I'm not doing six of these. Sean Connery is the first, and many consider the best, 007. He was followed by George Lazenby, who quit after one film, after which EON brought back Connery. Roger Moore remains the actor with the most "official" Bond movies with seven (Connery returned for the seventh time in the non-EON Never Say Never Again), and was also the oldest actor to portray 007 (58 years old when A View to a Kill came out in 1985...Connery was 53 in NSNA).

Moore was followed by Timothy Dalton, who actually turned the role down in 1968 because he felt he was too young. Dalton hung on for two movies, resigning before his contractually agreed-upon third film due to legal issues surrounding MGM/UA's sale and the licensing of the back Bond catalog. He was replaced by Pierce Brosnan, who only failed to take the role earlier because he was still starring in Remington Steele. Brosnan's tenure started out strong with the superior Goldeneye, but soon lapsed into Moore-levels of camp. The jury's still out on current 007 Daniel Craig, though his movies are both in the upper ranks of the franchise's box office.

Quotability:

One of 007's trademarks, at least until recent years, is his gift for zingers. People think the offhand one-liner after killing a bad guy came into being during the '80s action era, but has been dropping verbal science (Bond mots?) since the Kennedy administration.

Without weighing this category to account for the Roger Moore One-Liner Era, Moore wins in a walk. Connery probably comes in second, no one else even comes close.

Best Bond? Really, Who Cares About James Bond? This is movies, man. Who cares if Greedo shot first? Or if Ted Turner colorized Casablanca? Of if they remade The Texas Chainsaw Massacre?

James Bond may be, as M refers to him in Goldeneye, "a sexist, misogynist dinosaur," and "a relic of the Cold War." Or he might be that last shout-out to a bygone era, a mythologically simpler time, when your enemies were either monolithically evil (the U.S.S.R.) or superlatively deranged (Max Zorin). He's cinematic comfort food; probably not for everyday consumption, but perfectly fine -- and enjoyable -- in moderation.

What cares about Bond? I do. And so (probably) do you, if you're wasting time reading this.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar