What can be said about James Bond? He is one of the greatest film icons in history, and his movies are a part of one of the longest running film franchises ever. Many men have donned the persona of MI6’s greatest agent, but the one I wish to discuss today is the most recent addition to the James Bond Hall of Fame: Daniel Craig. The topic of Daniel Craig as James Bond has been controversial for me at least, as many/most of my friends think that he is the best Bond, while I do not. I’ll save that revelation for later. I have seen Craig’s films out of order, and that had affected my initial perception of him, but as I have recently seen Skyfall and thus finished the Craig “trilogy”, I can safely say that the Bond franchise is in good hands. I want to lay down my opinion of his trilogy, and then evaluate Craig as opposed to other Bonds. So, without further ado, let us begin!
I liken the Craig trilogy of Bond films to the Indiana Jones trilogy, but with one exception (I’ll get to it in a moment).
Just hear me out, guys…
Casino Royale is like Raiders: a perfect start to the trilogy, not a perfect movie per se, but great nonetheless. Quantum of Solace is like Temple of Doom: the weakest of the three, improving upon some aspects, but still not as good as the first. Skyfall is like Last Crusade: the best of the trilogy, a perfect movie overall. Now, for my exception: While I will staunchly defend Temple of Doom, as I believe it is not that bad of a movie, Quantum of Solace is a horrible pile of steaming dog shit. I’ll explain myself when I reach the appropriate point in this review, but for now let’s just leave it at that.
Casino Royale. This movie is my personal favorite in the Craig trilogy, and I will explain why in a moment. This movie introduces Bond in his first mission on her majesty’s secret service (heh heh), and has him entering the great Casino Royale to face off against the terrible Le Chiffre. Along the way, he encounters his new love interest, Vesper, and the two later fall in love. I really enjoyed the falling in love part, because it reminded me so much of my favorite Bond movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. I think that it was executed very well in Casino Royale, though not as good as OHMSS. Plus, Eva Green is super hot, so there’s that factor.
There is one other aspect that I really want to discuss: Le Chiffre. He is one of my favorite Bond villains, but I don’t believe he should be very high on a ranking list, as he gradually gets worse later in the movie. At first, he is this badass, evil gambler who can just dominate the whole game.
Alright, let the discussion begin! Who would win in a poker game: Le Chiffre or Lonnigan from The Sting?
Taking all bets!!! I digress. As the movie goes on, however, Le Chiffre breaks down really quickly, and turns into this crazy, desperate pawn. Compare him to the likes of Goldfinger, or even Silva from Skyfall. Neither of these two villains breaks until the very end, even at all. But Le Chiffre, on the other hand…Let me just use the interrogation scene from Casino Royale as my evidence.
You know the one.
Other than that, this movie was very well done, and a great start to the series. Plus, it has one of the best scenes in Bond history: the ending. Seriously, this is up there with Bond meeting Blofeld from You Only Live Twice, the ending in OHMSS, and the interrogation scene in Goldfinger (No, mister Bond, I expect you to DIE!!)! Daniel Craig delivers the classic line very well: “The name’s Bond…James Bond.” However, where this scene really shines is David Arnold’s version of the Bond theme, what I consider to be the definitive version. Aaaaahh, man! So good!
To be honest, I really don’t have much to say about Quantum of Solace, as a quarter of the way through the move, I stopped understanding what was going on, and I honestly stopped caring, too. The main issue that I have with this film is that it is the only Bond movie that can’t stand on its own: it is a true sequel in the sense of the word. The greatest strength of the Bond movies is that each one can stand on its own. Sure, there are some things that carry from film to film, but overall each is a different story, and you could start from any point in the series and still be fine. This cannot be said about Quantum. I had no idea what was going on, and that is because the plot was in essence a complete follow up to Casino Royale. Sure this is because I saw this one first, and not Casino Royale, but that doesn’t matter. On top of that, the action was only average, the villain was stupid, and Craig’s performance was lacking compared with the other two. In the end, as a result from all these factors, Quantum of Solace remains the weakest in the Craig trilogy.
Ah, Skyfall. How can I even begin to talk about Skyfall? Let me start off with this. Throughout my quest of watching every James Bond movie, I gave each one a rating, from a 1 to 5 scale, 5 being perfect, 1 being a pile of shit. Out of all the Bond movies, I only consider 3 to be perfect in every way: Goldfinger, Goldeneye, and Skyfall. The plot was ingenious, the villain excellent, and Craig’s performance at his best. He wasn’t a rookie like in Casino Royale, and he wasn’t an emotional wreck like in Quantum. Skyfall truly houses Craig’s best performance as Bond yet. While it is certainly not my favorite Bond movie, I hold nothing but praise for Skyfall. Silva was a triumph as a villain: his motives clearly and cleverly set up, his character interesting and his execution brilliant.
Now this is a Bond villain I can really get behind!
I would definitely put Silva high in the pantheon of Bond villains, right under Blofeld and Goldfinger. This movie also made palpable the relationship between M and Bond, not just as boss and agent, but as mother and son. This, too, applies to Silva and M. Such an agent versus agent plot device is extremely evocative of Goldeneye’s Bond and Trevelyan, but each of these relationships holds its own appeal. While Goldeneye’s was more small scale and intimate, Skyfall’s was more big-picture and epic. In general, Skyfall was on an epic scale as compared to many other Bond movies. For proof, one needs only to look at my favorite part in the movie: the final showdown at Skyfall, Bond’s childhood home in Scotland. That is why I think Skyfall is such an achievement in the Bond franchise. Even though Judy Dench’s M dies, she is replaced by one of my favorite actors, Ralph Fiennes. I look forward to the relationship between Bond and the new M in movies to come.
Now let me get this out of the way first:
I think the best Bond is Sean Connery.
Yes, I’m going to jump on the bandwagon that has existed since the sixties, but I don’t care. Connery is the perfect, well-rounded Bond: equal amounts of womanizing charm, catchy one-liners, and amazing action. I guess this is a moot point, since he was the first Bond, but that doesn’t mean I don’t recognize the achievements of other Bonds, like Craig. In fact, I think Craig is the second best Bond. Like I already said, Connery is the well-rounded Bond.
George Lazenby, my personal favorite, is what I like to call the precursor to Daniel Craig: he is very similar to Connery, but has this more human air about him that I find very appealing.
Roger Moore was kind of like Connery on steroids: he took the womanizing and one-liner type comedy to the extreme, many times overplaying the character to the point of it being cheesy.
Timothy Dalton was an interesting Bond: he was more serious than other Bonds, focusing more on action than on the other facets that make Bond, well, Bond.
Pierce Brosnan was great: not only was he the best looking Bond, but he was like Connery except he took the action to a whole other level.
Daniel Craig is like Connery and Lazenby combined: he is well rounded like Connery but at the same time is the legacy of the human-like Bond that Lazenby created in the sixties. With that statement, you might ask why Craig is not better than Connery. Well, who do you think of when you think Bond? Daniel Craig? Pierce Brosnan? Timothy Dalton? Roger Moore? George Lazenby? No, you think Sean Connery! Sean Connery is not only a well-rounded Bond, Sean Connery IS Bond! YOU CAN’T TOP THAT!! Now, you may say, “GMS, you could say that about anything, that the first of anything is always the best!” And, well, you’re right. But, I don’t believe that that is true of everything, just of this. And, I could present this same argument used on me to the stalwart fans of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. But, I won’t talk about that issue right now. I’m just saying that Connery is Bond, and nothing will change that. However, I’m not denying that the other Bonds have done well. I still think that Craig is the second best Bond. In the end, each Bond has his own appeal, and you may think differently than I about your favorite/best Bond. One cannot deny, though, that Daniel Craig has made a significant contribution to the Bond franchise, one that I do not think should be forgotten.