When you sit down to do something like this, your immediate thought about what the bottom film is going to be usually goes to two films. Instinctively, you probably go, “Die Another Day.” But then when you think about it for a half a second after that, you go, “No… Octopussy.” Because those are by consensus (or just by immediate thought) the two worst Bond films.
But then, when I started watching this again, I went, “Whoa… I didn’t know this was a contender.” I knew I didn’t care for this film. I knew that, of the two Dalton films, I liked Licence to Kill a lot more than I liked The Living Daylights. But I only figured this would be like, #19. And as I started watching this movie (and you’ll see it as I write the synopsis), I kept going, “Wow… I really don’t like this.” (Relatively, of course.) And I’d watched Octopussy just before it. So I was actually able to directly compare my opinions.
The thing that differentiated them for me (since I’m pretty sure most people’s bottom three Bond films would generally be the same) was that — Die Another Day is just overdone. It’s not horrible, it just takes things to unnecessary levels, and that makes it bad. Octopussy is just bad. It’s a bad Bond movie. It’s like a Bond movie going through the motions. But this — this to me didn’t even feel like a Bond movie. It felt like a Bond movie the way Live Free or Die Hard felt like a Die Hard movie — I know it was by name, but it certainly didn’t feel like one, and it really just ruined (for me) a lot of the core elements of what a Bond movie is supposed to be. So the result to me is less interesting than even Octopussy, because at least there, I can go, “Well at least it’s Bond.” Here, I’m like, “I don’t even know what I’m watching. Bond wouldn’t do this.”
I struggled over what was going to be #22 for a while, but every time I thought about it, I kept coming back to this one. So this is how we start our list, with what I consider to be the weakest Bond movie of the series.
Let me set this up by giving you a little backstory — I knew nothing about Bond until 2006. I hadn’t really seen any of the films; I’d seen GoldenEye, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day, and then maybe a clip or two of the early Connery films (like Ursula Andress coming out of the water, Bond and the laser in Goldfinger, Oddjob… that stuff). Then, in January or February of 2007, Casino Royale was playing on my school’s film series. And a friend of mine said, “We should go to that.” And I was leery — to me the word Bond constituted hokey, tongue-in-cheek films from the 60s, the likes of which were parodied by Mike Myers. Plus, I knew how bad Die Another Day was. So I was like, “Why the fuck would I want to see that?”
But my friend said — “No, trust me, you should go to this. It’s really good.” So I went, and I was blown away. Because to me, Casino Royale is kind of like The Dark Knight of Bond films — it’s so good it transcends the fact that it’s part of a certain franchise. It’s just a good movie, first and foremost. And then I got excited to see Quantum of Solace when it came out, and slowly became a fan of the franchise. But — I hadn’t actually seen any of the earlier films. My Bond knowledge was purely Brosnan and Craig.
So what I did was, right after I graduated college (like, actually right after. As soon as all my assignments were in and I had nothing left to do), the first thing I told myself I was gonna do was watch all 22 Bond movies in order as a graduation present to myself. Since I’d bought the DVD collection but never actually watched them. (This is before the Oscar Quest, even. I watched the Bond movies before I started the Oscar Quest.) I managed to get Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball and half of You Only Live Twice (up to the helicopter chase with Osato’s secretary) watched before my actual graduation. Though I ended up actually having to watch the last two over again, since it was senior week when I was watching them, and I got progressively drunker over senior week and couldn’t remember anything I watched.
So that’s where our story starts — with me watching all the Bond films. (more…)