Nobody Does Bond Better, 005: Pierced Through the Heart

After numerous false starts and (failed) attempts to maintain the hoity-toity façade of arguing “nobody does Bond better” for this current entry, I have decided to take a somewhat different approach this time out. Many readers announcing themselves as genuine Bond fans found it quite easy to leave remarks like “Roger Moore was a wimp,” or “Lazenby was a zero,” or other ungenerous comments about anyone other than Sean Connery, but I must say, I’m the one having a hard time here.

I’m just gonna say it, even though it is actually almost physically painful to write it plainly:

The Pierce Brosnan James Bond films are very disappointing to me.

There. It’s over. Now work with me here a little while I worm my way around to the part where I say his four films as 007 still have some awesome things about them, not to mention the fact that Brosnan’s tenure in the role is actually a very poignant one, seeing as how his real life has more in common with the literary Bond than that of any of the other stars who played him.

First, and this might sound a little silly, but Brosnan never even got to “own” a single Fleming title to himself. The World Is Not Enough? Close, but no cigar. As a matter of substance, I know that’s a zero, but as a powerful symbol of how his Bond outings bore the least resemblance to anything Ian Fleming, it explains things very well.

I hear you—The Spy Who Loved Me had nothing to do with Fleming either. True, the Bond folks were legally (if unfortunately) obligated to use only the title and nothing else from the novel, but the film turned out to be a pretty nifty remake of You Only Live Twice. And, it has Jaws, so there. And, it has Barbara Bach, so…yum.

(Will we wait forever for the appearance of Vivienne Michel? That’s what Fleming wanted, so my guess is yes. Maybe look for her onscreen around the time a movie of Catcher in the Rye comes out.)

Brosnan liked the Bond of Fleming, and wanted to do justice to him, and while most of us aren’t really crying “Oh, thank God I’m not Pierce Brosnan, and have to deal with the disappointment of never truly being the ‘Fleming’ Bond,” we must understand that Brosnan is an actor, and thus an artist, and thus vulnerable to–no matter the amount of personal wealth and professional privilege–feeling honest disappointment at unfulfilled artistic ambition.

Pierced Through the Heart

GoldenEye / Tomorrow Never Dies / The World Is Not Enough / Die Another Day

Good grief, just look at those titles. They do bring to mind that old even-odd-numbered Star Trek theory, where it’s only the even-numbered Treks that are quality films. In this case, though, it’s the odd-numbered Brosnans that not only have the better titles, but are, in fact, the better movies.

When Brosnan was first asked to play Bond in the late ‘80s and take over from the retiring Moore, the producers of his hit series Remington Steele got the bright idea to screw him over and keep him on television as Steele longer than they’d agreed. They then proceeded to make a few highly aggravating Steele adventures, introducing a rival character named “Tony” and a completely unconvincing love triangle with Laura Holt. Tony was a macho jerk (no offense, Jack Scalia, I’m sure you’re a decent guy), and because pretty gals reliably get all weak-kneed over macho jerks in the movies and on TV (and occasionally in real life), Laura inexplicably had a case of the hots for Tony. (He was a jerk but not a wuss, an important distinction that explains why Laura never fell for Murphy, who was also sort of a jerk, but lacked the curly hair, hairy chest, and aggressive Indiana Jones impersonation) This made for truly nauseating fare as the mystery stories—always McGuffins for the Steele-Holt romance anyway—took on a new queasy twist, and the viewer couldn’t help but get the impression that jerkface Tony might just be groomed to become the “new” Remington Steele.

As Brosnan was forced to endure this revolting extension of his until-then-terrific show, Timothy Dalton became a really cool James Bond in movies that strove to be like the “good” Bond films. Great stories, a minimum of silly humor, etc. He got to make two of these before MGM/UA got into all sorts of financial mayhem that delayed the next Bond for six years.

Dalton out, Brosnan in.

Except that, by that point, the Eon folks had already made good on most of the “usable” Fleming titles. The ones that didn’t headline movies had already been squeezed into the films in other ways—“The Property of a Lady,” for example, was a crucial element of Octopussy—so, feeling like “The Hildebrand Rarity” and “Risico” weren’t going to have any juice, they had already started making the titles up themselves.

GoldenEye is not so bad, as far as made-up Bond titles go, a nod to the name Fleming gave his Jamaican estate. Brosnan’s first turn as Bond was, in fact, his best overall. The Eric Serra score even works, more or less, and isn’t the abomination many fans have labeled it. But it’s downhill from there.

The Cold War had ended by the time GE came out, and we were reportedly living in times after history had “ended” (what a ridiculous claim) and had not yet, well, “re-started” with the events of 9/11. Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough are sporadically fun, and while it’s important to remember the Bond films were never particularly known for being “edgy” to begin with, these installments feel maddeningly irrelevant. The Bond producers made their first stab at recapturing gritty relevance, post-September 11, with Die Another Day, which didn’t quite cut the mustard because everyone was too busy making it a 24-frames-per-second Trivial Pursuit celebration of movie Bond’s 40th anniversary.

Brosnan played a suave Bond, a Bond who meant business, a funny Bond, and yes—a “vulnerable” Bond. His version of 007 is a little too emotionally overwrought at times for my tastes. His “issues” are a bit too visible. But then there’s this:

Bond Girl Cassandra Harris in For Your Eyes Only (1981)

Like the literary Bond, Brosnan wasn’t really raised by his parents, but by others. Also like the literary Bond, Brosnan lost his wife to tragedy. When he first came to the attention of Albert R. Broccoli, he was visiting the set of For Your Eyes Only, where then-wife Cassandra Harris was portraying the Countess Lisl von Schlaf. Harris was one of the most beautiful, most alluring Bond women ever, in one of the best Bond films ever. When she passed away from ovarian cancer in 1991, Brosnan’s biography was forever grafted to the fictional life story of 007, in that his spouse was taken from him in an awful, untimely way.

Moore, Dalton, and Brosnan have all had to play the “Tracy moment” at least once. Watch Brosnan’s Tracy moment in TWINE. It’s the most delicate and subtle of any of them, and was surely a tough beat for the actor to play, though he certainly must have wanted to confront it onscreen, being a Bond fan himself and wanting to make his portrayal faithful to the spirit of Fleming.  It may not be the biggest or most memorable of those moments, but in all fairness, let’s get on with it and accord the Brosnan era the respect it’s due:

Best in Suit

Connery had the baby blue terry-cloth jumpsuit; Lazenby the kilt; Moore the brutally dated, four-pocket leisure suit (The Man with the Golden Gun), and, for those who objected to it, the actual clown regalia. Just try to find one of Brosnan’s outfits from his time in the role that’s an equal misfire, just one that isn’t perfectly tailored and completely stylish. Brosnan wore Brioni, Omega, Ballantyne Cashmere, Turnbull & Asser, and nobody wore it better. The problem with this singular achievement is that it often kept us from believing that this 007 would ever get significantly roughed up. I mean, look at him. Every single hair of that “black comma” accounted for. He has a few bloody good dust-ups in his films (his brutal fistfight with Sean Bean in GE comes to mind), but then there’s that straightening-the-tie gag that comes across a little Dukakis when he’s in the tank, and a little repetitive (if not absolutely nutty) when he does it underwater in TWINE. Most of the time, it’s pure James Bond, but every so often, it comes across a little Macy’s catalog.

Best Original Cast Replacement

Judi Dench as M

Robert Brown made a fine M, first taking over the role in Octopussy after series stalwart Bernard Lee made his final appearance in Moonraker (there was no appearance by M in FYEO) and continuing through the Dalton films. When Brosnan became Bond, the decision was made to recast the support staff at MI6 (with the exception of Desmond Llewelyn’s Q). The advice was to go for a star, so they found one of the best. Her tough relationship with 007 is a highlight of the four films, even though the scripts started to stretch credibility in the service of maximizing her screen time.

And the Bond Girl Oscar Goes to…

Halle Berry

Like it or not, Ms. Berry is the sole “Bond girl” to have reached the elevated status of Oscar winner. (Dame Judi, not a “Bond Girl,” doesn’t count. Ditto Basinger, kids.) I like it, even if her sadly one-dimensional character in the film leaves me really cold, because I think she’s a terrific actress. None other than future Bond helmer Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace) was responsible for getting her to the podium by way of her searing performance in Monster’s Ball. She’s not just the gal from BAPS and X-Men.

Best Crew Replacement

Composer David Arnold

Series composer John Barry will always be a tough act to follow, though many composers did serviceable or even stellar jobs subbing for him on the films for which he was unavailable (Martin and Hamlisch come to mind for me). David Arnold not only fearlessly took the Barry “sound” and legacy and celebrated it, simultaneously adding his own distinctive style to the mix, he’s now earned the distinction of being the only composer besides Barry to score more than one 007 film (Barry did 11; Arnold will have six at the completion of Bond 23). Listen closely to “White Knight,” the first significant cue for Arnold’s debut 007 score, Tomorrow Never Dies: You’ll hear not only the exciting “Bond is Back” horn blasts first heard in From Russia with Love, but the swirling strings from the main theme of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and the welcome return of the wah-wah trumpet riffs that manage to afford the listener retro pleasures without coming across as terribly dated or comic (as they had been so brilliantly parodied in the Austin Powers films). I think Arnold is best when he tones down the electronica (which reached its extreme in DAD…pretty much like everything else about the film), and I’d like to see him work further into the moodier and more melodic and romantic elements of the Barry sound, but Arnold has quickly become nearly as indispensible an asset to the series as his predecessor.

Best Hotel Entrance

Many fans regard DAD as one of the weaker entries in the series. I’m one of them. Still, I’m forced to award it the honor of having the best hotel entrance in the franchise. Bond is forever checking into swanky hotels, getting immediate, first-class service while casting an eye towards a gorgeous female passerby and coolly receiving her lustful admiration. Here, Brosnan repeats a little gag that I seem to recall him playing out first on Steele, where he thinks nothing of strolling into a spotless, shiny establishment a filthy mess, head held high, class miraculously intact. Only the Brosnan Bond can appear this disheveled…and still sell his billion-dollar status.

Sexiest Moneypenny


Samantha Bond

The Bond producers decided to strengthen the feminist elements of the series not only by casting iron lady Dench as M—they also elected to make 007’s ever-faithful flirting partner at the office a little more sassy, a little more sexy, a little more capable of giving just as good as she got. Listen to Ms. Bond’s Moneypenny during the limo briefing in TND; she really goes out of her way (along with M) to mock the way the service uses Bond’s attractiveness to their advantage. (M: “…and then pump her for information.” Moneypenny: “You’ll just have to decide how much pumping is needed.”) Ms. Bond also enjoys what I would call the greatest “fan fiction” moment in all of the Bond films, when she puts the virtual reality machine designed by faux-Q “R” (John Cleese) to steamy good use.

Best Music Video for a Rejected Bond Song

Swan Lee, Tomorrow Never Dies

Just for fun:

YouTube Preview Image

In closing: Brosnan’s quartet of 007 films, blockbusters all, nevertheless feel very “thin” to me, and that’s not his fault. He’d expressed the desire to make the official film of Casino Royale. Too bad, Pierce. You didn’t get to do that, either. Maybe it was expressing a preference for Quentin Tarantino as director. The Bond producers will never, ever hire a director whose style and personality will overwhelm Bond.

But Eon, you kinda owe him, because it’s largely on the strength of his charm that his films are as good as they are. My dream is for Brosnan to have a Never Say Never Again moment. Anything’s possible in this era of filmmaking, where goofy trailers become full-on crazy features (and great ones, at that). Why not let some enterprising filmmaker—OK, even Tarantino, if you want him—make a compelling short film of, say, “007 in New York,” and let Brosnan be Bond one more time?

You don’t even have to ditch the reference to Solange, seeing as how you’ll be putting this “meta” project in a fashionable alternate universe, maybe releasing it in between Jeffrey Deaver’s Carte Blanche this year and Bond 23 in 2012.

But if you must make some sort of substitution for the already-used name…how about calling her “Viv”?

After all, it was that kind of thinking outside the box—way outside the box—that soon brought the series out of the dregs of creative exhaustion and back to explosive new life.

James Bond Will Return With: Nobody Does Bond Better, 006: A Craig-Like Face

Previously: Nobody Does Bond Better, 001: The Connery Craze / Nobody Does Bond Better, 002: George Lazenby, A Model Bond / Nobody Does Bond Better, 003: Moore, Roger Moore / Nobody Does Bond Better, 004: The Dangerous Timothy Dalton

  • Bond Trader.

    I suspect I’m alone in my preference for Pierce Brosnan among all the Bond actors (yes indeed. Believe it or not, I prefer him to Sean and Craig). I agree that over all, Sean, Timothy and Craig are probably better actors. But we’re specifically talking James Bond. To my mind, Pierce was the best James Bond (and by the way… Roger was the Brooks Brothers model with the perfect hair, not Pierce. Roger Moore appears as though he’s on a catwalk as he strolls through La Guardia airport in LIVE AND LET DIE). It’s not that there was anything necessarily wrong with any other James Bond actor (including Roger. He was great in FOR YOUR EYES ONLY), Pierce was simply able to play the part with the right emotional touch no matter what any given scene required. in certain aspects, the others, for whatever reason, were slightly lacking. Now, I realize that this view is debatable, but we are talking personal preference after all. I think everyone can agree that he did great fight and action scenes. In that department at least, he was unmatched. But you’re certainly correct about the quality of the scripts for the Pierce Brosnan James Bond films, Mr. Allen. Basically, they left just a bit to be desired. Pierce wasn’t the problem. The writing was the problem. Some scripts were better than others, but one got the feeling that the Bond producers just couldn’t find anyone who could come up with any new ideas. GOLDENEYE, TOMORROW NEVER DIES, and DIE ANOTHER DAY are thinly disguised Bond adventures from the 1960′s (that silly laser beam satelite in DIE ANOTHER DAY was nothing but a rehashed idea from DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER), and the best of the four, THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH, tries just a liitle too hard to be dramatic, meaningful and relevant. But despite all this, Pierce Brosnan’s presence successfully elevates the material and rescues each film. And finally Mr. Allen, what can I say about David Arnold’s music that you didn’t already say? In many respects he’s as good as the master, John Barry himself. Like Pierce Brosnan, Arnold also elevates the material. But I must disagree with you about Eric Serra’s score for GOLDENEYE. As far as I’m concerned, it’s no better than Michel LeGrand’s efforts on NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN. Which is to say, it’s awful!

  • http://www.moviesunlimited.com George D. Allen

    Bond Trader, welcome back! I think you’ll probably find a lot of people who share your preference for Brosnan. I remember being so thrilled about his casting, thinking he would be the perfect Bond ever since first becoming a fan with the Steele series–but yes, even as much as many if not most of the Bond films recycle their formulas over and over, there were usually enough fresh elements to the story or well-thought-out-and-choreographed suspense & action scenes to set them apart from each other. It’s just my opinion that these four feel more recycled and/or watered-down than most. As for the Serra score, I actually disliked it very much when I first saw the movie (’cause we’re all so conditioned by the Barry sound) — and you have a sense the producers may have felt they needed a little insurance, too, after recruiting John Altman to provide a more traditional rendering of the Bond theme during the St. Petersburg tank chase…but over time I’ve come to enjoy it a lot for the departure it is. I like the romantic sweep of the love/tragedy theme that breaks up the emphasis on percussive elements throughout the rest of the score. Maybe I’m just transferring too much of my love for his “Fifth Element” music…I also think Tina Turner’s/Bono/Edge song is the best of the Brosnan four. I think Arnold as title song writer came into his own later…well, now I’m getting ahead of myself. I like a lot of TWINE–the pre-title sequence is refreshing in that Bond “fails” his way into the main credits; I enjoy Sophie Marceau’s performance; Robert Carlyle is a terrific actor, I just wish they hadn’t felt the need to add that sci-fi element to his character (“He feels no pain…” etc. Yuck); the “I never miss” bit at the end is cold-blooded and satisfyingly so…but oh, how I will never forget slinking down in my seat during the manic, endless, overly noisy climax of DAD. I like to watch Rosamund Pike and Halle Berry in a catfight as much as the next guy, but…The Catfight Was Not Enough. And they went a little too far, in my opinion, with giving “outsider” directors the latitude to work in gimmicky visual riffs that had no place in the Bond style, stuff that went much, much further than, say, putting filters in front of the camera lens (a tactic the Eon folks were known to discourage DPs from using, to keep the image “clean” and less likely to date) Yes, you, Lee Tamahori! To close (and unbury myself from the snow), I should mention I had wanted to include a reference to the late Derek Meddings somehow(the FX/miniatures wizard whose last film was GoldenEye), but one can only tinker with these things for so long.

  • Bond Trader.

    I don’t know if I’m right but I suspect that the writers and directors were told one of two things during the Brosnan era. They were either asked to imitate the 60′s Bond films in many respects, which explains why so many elements from the four Brosnan films are recycled from the Bond films of the 60′s. Or… They were in fact unfamiliar with those earlier films, which explains why the Brosnan films simply contain little originality. In other words, the writers and directors of the Brosnan films actually thought their ideas were new and fresh. They simply created the cliche’ idea of a Bond adventure, something that they thought the public wanted and expected to see. And you know what…? No matter how we, the hard core Bond fan might feel about it, if that was their actual approach, they were absolutely right! After all, every single one of the Pierce Brosnan James Bond films was a hugely successful blockbuster. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, up to that time, DIE ANOTHER DAY was the biggest hit in the entire series. That’s why I was so very surprised when I learned that Pierce was dropped from CASINO ROYALE. To my mind, when it came to that film, he received very shabby treatment from the Bond producers. He gives them four hugely successful films (hugely successful primarily because HE was the star of those films) only to be unceremoniously canned. I’m not complaining about Daniel Craig and the quality of his work in CASINO ROYALE. It’s a great film. One of the best in the series. I just think that Pierce Brosnan deserved the chance to finally test his acting chops as James Bond with a truly great and dramatic script in a truly great and dramatic James Bond film. The fact that Brosnan did not appear in CASINO ROYALE was a crime. I would have loved to have seen him in it. Oh well… But before I go I just want to say one more thing about Eric Serra… I warmed to George Martin’s score for LIVE AND LET DIE (dated though it may be). I warmed to Marvin Hamlisch’s score for THE SPY WHO LOVE ME (the music for the opening ski chase is great). I even warmed to Michael Kamen’s score for LISENCE TO KILL (genuinely suspenseful and dramatic). But I just couldn’t warm up to Eric Serra’s score for GOLDENEYE. It may be a good score for a movie, but it’s certainly no good for a James Bond movie. Proof of this is demonstrated by the fact that the producers didn’t ask him back, thank God! Long live David Arnold!

  • Bond Trader.

    Mr. Allen,
    What do you think about the way Barbara treated Pierce where CASINO ROYALE is concerned? Do you think it was fair or logical to drop him and hire a relatively unknown actor to play James Bond? And how well do you think Pierce would have done if he finally had the chance to sink his teeth into a truly meaty James Bond adventure like CASINO ROYALE? In order to accomodate Pierce, they could have made a few minor changes to the script and continue the series chronology, rather than concoct an entirely new beginning for the James Bond character. I don’t like that aspect of the Daniel Craig films.

  • http://www.moviesunlimited.com George D. Allen

    I guess I can only feel so much one way or the other about the whole Brosnan-Eon kerfuffle, ’cause obviously, I wasn’t there, and I only really know the public side of it, so to speak. As I mentioned in the piece, I believe Brosnan’s charm makes his films quite a bit stronger than they might otherwise be, and maybe it would be nice to see him reappear as Bond in some sort of little “parallel universe” short Bond movie (I mentioned 007 in New York, ’cause they’re NEVER gonna use that title for an official film.), but I also recognize that’s pretty much fantasy-film-fan-speak, since Brosnan has said Bond is now a world behind him. (Who can blame him? After so many years, an actor wants to move on) I won’t say so much about the Craig era here, naturally, because that’s next for me to cover. I will say that yes, I did think it was time for a major course correction in the series after DAD.

  • James Sedares

    Each of the Bond actors has brought something to the role. (Even Lazenby!) Brosnan brought a New Age sensitivity to the part that certainly has its detractors. I find the biggest problem with Brosnan’s portrayal to be his physique, which appears slight, with narrow shoulders and a decidedly un-alpha male posture. I never felt he would be tough enough in a fight the way Connery was. You actually believed that Connery could kick the living beejesus out of you!
    That aside, Pierce does look good in a tux and a suit, and he carries himself with class, unlike Craig’s thuggish (“Do I look like a give a *$#?”)
    attitude. Brosnan also looks like Fleming’s description of Bond. Remember, Hoagy Carmichael was the model for Fleming’s Bond. (Check him out in “To Have And Have Not”).
    I agree that the four Brosnan films are forgettable, but there are are some things to appreciate, Halle Berry being a major one.
    I seem to be in the complete minority for my appreciation of Roger Moore as Bond, who I think gets a very unfair rap. Moore’s Bond had class, humor, and physical presence. true, he was sometime for Saint than true Bond, he carries it off well, particularly in The Spy Who Loved Me, and For Your Eyes Only. Dalton was just plain dour in the role. Even Lazenby brought a self-deprecating humor and grace. But Connery remains the gold standard. His is the only Bond that will survive for as long as we watch movies.

  • Scott Lamb

    I disagree with this whoever wrote/typed up this article about Pierce Brosnan being the top actor who portraied secret agent, 007 James Bond.
    In my opinion, either Sean Conery or Roger Moore were the very best actors to portray that role. :D

  • JoHeFi

    This is my listing for James Bond actors in order from Best to Worst (possible spoilers):

    1. Roger Moore – preferred his humor to Sean Connery.
    2. Sean Connery – I think his version of Bond got better with each movie.
    3. Daniel Craig – his attitude in the movies seemed more genuine than other actors
    4. George Lazenby – gets the tough luck award: had to follow Connery and get married in the same movie. Best opening line ever in a movie, though: “This never happened to the other fellow.” Classic.
    5. Pierce Brosnan – his performance seemed forced and unnatural. The plots in his movies were way over the top.
    6. Timothy Dalton – horrible. No other word for it.

    On a side note, The World is not Enough title for Brosnan’s third movie may have come from the title of the Bond family crest mentioned in Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Just saw the movie recently and got struck by the mention of the family crest meaning.

    • Bruce Reber

      The actual motto is “Orbis Non Sufficit”, Latin for “The World Is Not Enough”.

  • Chrissy S

    I liked Roger Moore, I thought he was the perfect Bond.

  • Keith Foxon

    Sean and Rodger–two best Bond actors ever
    Brosnan always looked phony
    Craig not suave enough
    Dalton and Lazenby should never have been cast.

  • Chester

    Daniel Craig, by far, fits the Fleming model. Craig’s Bond just doesn’t give a damn. My favourite scene has him being mistaken for a parking valet, then saying nothing, takes the owner’s keys, smashes the car up parking it and then tosses the keys over his shoulder and walks away. The topic of this story, Brosnian almost hit the mark in DAD. A likeable chap who did well, I thought. Better than I expected in the role, but Daniel Craig (and this really surprised me) actually does it better than Connery. And Connery was good,,,, very good.

  • Shawn

    I grew up watching Connery and Moore as Bond and I find watching Brosnan as 007 unbearable. If I can kick the guy’s a**, he shouldn’t be Bond…period! Brosnan just isn’t believable with that skinny frame of his and his forced “Bondness”. Roger Moore at least had that sly sense of humor that helped establish his intelligence to escape a difficult situation. Connery was just the sh*t with his perfect blend of “tough guy”, humor, rebelliousness and sophistication.

  • xDJ@V.YouBraveWorld.Tube

    It’s 21st century, and the franchise is tired.

  • John T

    I agree with your assessment of Brosnan’s Bond era. He just never jelled in the role. It is very curious since Pierce is excellent in every other film he appears in. (To name just a few examples — Nomads, The Ghost Writer, Seraphim Falls, After The Sunset, The Matador, even Mars Attacks.)

  • http://www.moviesunlimited.com George D. Allen

    John T, my own favorite non-Bond Brosnan film role (I say film because my favorite role for him altogether remains Remington Steele) was the remake of The Thomas Crown Affair. I’d also really like to see The Fourth Protocol come back into print. Meanwhile, I’m sure happy to see a few comments praising the Moore era! And Chester, make sure you return for my closing post in the series on the Daniel Craig films!

  • Christopher Anne Samson

    I had hoped for a great deal more from Pierce Brosnan’s Bond. While Remington Steele proved that he could be quite charming, what had really made me believe he could BE Bond was his chilling performance as an IRA hit man in the Bob Hoskins gangster film ‘The Long Good Friday.’ I liked Brosnan’s Bond a great deal more than his Bond movies.

    The problem I have with Brosnan’s Bond films does not lie with Brosnan, but in the feeling that the elements do not gel. The villain in a Bond film is very important to the success of that film, not just the performance, but their writing. The villains during Brosnan’s stint as Bond came up short, while the actors chosen were all capable and promising, something was missing in the end. (The finest Bond villain in my mind remains Gert Frobe’s Auric Goldfinger.)

    One of my favorite Bond sequences is in GoldenEye. Seeking information Bond is forced to consult his former opponent Valentin Dmitrovich Zukovsky. The former KGB agent, now Russian Mafia, has a grudge against Bond and may well wish him dead. Here Zykovsky is sharply played by Robbie Coltrane. There is menace in the scene and spark to the give and take. When his subsequent appearance in TWNE demoted Zukovsky to comic relief I was sorely disappointed.

    In this lies the essence of my problems with Brosnan’s time as Bond. The producers seemed to be grasping for how to create a balance of the various elements of each period of Bond and how to bring a sense of freshness to the expected. For example, with Connery the humor was dryer and the banter a bit tighter than Moore’s, which to choose? How to fit in the opening stunt and the big production stunt now expected? An author of a successful mystery series once observed that in a series you create a folk dance which must be trusted and respected. In Brosnan’s time the producers failed to understand the dance and the result was out of step.

  • Bond Trader.

    I like your observations Christopher. They mirror my comments above. The producers clearly decided to give us “the same as before, only different.” The problem with the villains is a bit more complicated. As independent operators, they don’t carry the same menace as Blofeld and the numerous members of the world wide terror organization known as SPECTRE (a problem that also plagued the James Bond films of Roger Moore). The bottom line is, to my mind anyway, Pierce Brosnan was the perfect James Bond. Truly better than any of the other Bond actors. In fact, as I have said, his presence elevated the material he was given. He just didn’t have a whole heck of a lot to work with. Which means of course, whatever the problem may be with his Bond films, it wasn’t his fault.

  • Richard

    I was never a fan of “Remington” Bond. I gave up on Brosnan after his first Bond film. Give me Connery or Craig anytime.

    • Bruce Reber

      I saw Brosnan 7 years BB (Before Bond) doing Diet Coke commercials on TV in 1988 that looked like auditions for 007, with him fighting off bad guys with karate kicks and chops. Does anyone else remember?

  • Steve Fortes

    I enjoyed Mr. Allen’s piece on Pierce Brosnan as I’ve enjoyed all the earlier Bond pieces.

    I think certain factors helped Mr. Brosnan’s Bond pictures be so popular. One was the hiatus since License to Kill. People were really ready for a more serious take on Bond, more so than when Timothy Dalton took the 180 degree turn from Roger Moore’s interpretation. Also, Pierce Brosnan has such a likability as an actor and person that you root for him. I liked the fact that he wanted to add more character to Bond. I’d always wondered what happened to his relationships with the various women after the pictures had ended. I think it got nicely encapsulated in Natalya’s dialogue with him in Goldeneye.

    “How can you be so cold?”
    “It’s what keeps me alive.”
    No, it’s what keeps you alone!”

    I also found that in his romantic interludes he fairly devoured the women, especially in GE & TND. Some unmet need or desire? But he also had fun with the part. Watch him the the garage chase in TND as he bounces from one side of the back seat to the other. The looks of frustration while trying to handle the keypad remote and the look of glee when he gets the Q device to reinflate the tires.

    That said his 4 pictures did have some disappointments. They were sometimes overwritten, had too many puns (DAD)and they always had to shoehorn in the “Bond, James Bond” line. Even Sean Connery never said it in every film. It especially fell flat in TWINE. There was also a push and pull between character development and the action set pieces, with the action usually winning out. At times making it seem like the picture had a split personality, TWINE.

    I do have to disagree about the Eric Serra score. To me Mr. Serra will always be the composer for Luc Besson. His score for GE was too far off the mark. David Arnold on the other hand is a great replacement for John Barry. I knew right from the gun barrell sequence in TND that he knew exactly what the picture needed.

    I enjoy Judi Dench as M. I never liked Robert Brown especially after Bernard Lee who especially in the earlier films perfectly captured the M of the books. Ms. Dench’s no nonsense talk with Bond in GE and her dealings with the old boy network in TND were great. She’s really been able to shine in the Daniel Craig Bond’s as her role and character have been expanded.

    I love and miss Samantha Bond’s Moneypenny. She was smart and sassy and I loved her push and pull with Bond, espeically in GE.

    One final word about Mr. Brosnan and this goes for all of the actors who have played Bond. They have been very good at sharing the spotlight and the picture with others. This is especially true of Mr. Brosnan in DAD in which he is very gracious of sharing the screen with Halle Berry.

  • http://www.moviesunlimited.com George D. Allen

    Thanks for the kind words, Steve! I’m with you 100% on almost everything you say — sometimes w/Brosnan it’s the littlest things that are fun, as you mentioned his enjoyment of the car remote (it’s nice to see Bond crack a big grin once in a while), and it’s either Michael Wilson or Martin Campbell that remarks in the GE commentary about the pretitle bit where Bond’s setting the explosive charge, a bullet snaps right next to him, and he barely flinches, as if it’s a gnat. Great stuff. I like his line in TWINE when he says that to get on in life he “takes pleasure.” I did like Brown’s M, even if he did have a little of the Nigel Bruce Watson in him. I’m really hoping they get around to Moneypenny in Bond 23.

  • Rick Thompson

    I’m in the Brosnan camp, perhaps second only to Connery. Moore made the part too cartoonish, reaching the heights of dreadfulness in “The Man With the Golden Gun” and “Moonraker.” Lazenby was better than he any right to be, but didn’t quite hit the mark. Dalton was too damn dour (even Connery thought Dalton underestimated the role, and he also decried the lack of humor). As for Craig, I don’t buy James Bond as thug.

    Brosnan achieved a balance of suave and danger, willing to outright cruel at times, that no one with the possible exception of Connery has been able to achieve.

    When I saw GoldenEye, during the pre-credit sequence I could almost hear the audience around me relax: “Yeah, our guy is back!” Brosnan had that effect.

    While John Barry will always be the sound of Bond, I have to agree that David Arnold has done a fine job of continuing the legacy. Concerning Eric Serra, his score was wretched (I read that Arnold was brought in to replace parts of the “Goldeneye” score uncredited.) — except for one cue. In the pre-credit sequence, we get the James Bond Theme quoted on timpani. Nifty! And let’s be glad that Bono and The Edge certainly knew what a Bond title song was supposed to sound like. Wow!

  • Kirk

    I don’t bash but Brosnan is probably my least favorite Bond. Out of his four films as 007, I really only like Goldeneye. He seemed more intense in that one than the others, I like my Bond’s on the edge a bit, as Fleming’s Bond always seemed to me. Brosnan always came across as too vulnerable. The one thing that always bothered me is his “misty eyed” moments (006 getting “killed” in the pre-title sequence; finding Paris dead; having to kill Elektra). I just don’t like Bond getting misty eyed except over Vesper and especially Tracy. I know I’m a bit of a throwback. I hope I don’t offend any Brosnan fans. I feel Brosnan was never given quite the right script to be “Fleming’s Bond”. He could’ve done it easily (if you don’t think so check out The Fourth Protocol w/ Brosnan and Michael Caine or The Tailor Of Panama w/ Geoffrey Rush Brosnan can pull off cold, ruthless bastards like a pro). Actually Goldeneye is one of my ten favorite 007 movies. I hope I don’t come off hating P.B. I don’t, I just don’t think he was given the right scripts to really do 007 the kind of justice he could have (the same goes for Moore).

  • Steve Fortes

    George:

    I was thinking that scene in Goldeneye was a Martin Campbell touch as Daniel Craig does something similar in the Venice climax of Casino Royale. Or maybe Campbell liked it so much that he suggested it to Daniel Craig.

  • Bond Trader.

    Mr. Allen,
    I am placing this message here because it is your most recent article about James Bond. Since we’ve talked about the James Bond film scores in the recent past I fully expected you to address the passing of the incomparable John Barry. I have since come to the conclusion that Mr. Barry fully deserves an article of his own. Just let me say that John Barry will never be replaced. There are composers who write melodies. Composers who write songs. Composers who write scores. John Barry was in a class of his own. He was a composer who wrote for the soul. Only a handful of people ever created such music. Since we’re all familiar with his great Bond scores I don’t have to mention them again. But he did something that few others ever achieved. Or, for that matter, ever COULD achieve (no matter what…). He made a God awful film actually watchable! It’s the 1976 re-make of KING KONG! The special effects in that film are so bad it’s downright aggravating! However, John Barry’s score provides emotion to that film that would have been otherwise impossible. In fact, his score for the 1976 KING KONG is simply great music in and of itself. I always mentally remove it from its origin whenever I listen to it. If you approach it in that manner, it’s truly sublime music. I will forever miss John Barry.

  • http://www.moviesunlimited.com George D. Allen

    Bond Trader — yes. If I’m not mistaken, the Brosnan entry was posted just before Barry’s passing. A tribute of some kind would sure be nice. I’ll see what I can do (or, you know, you could always do the “guest blog” thing here and pen some thoughts of your own!). And hey, come on! I don’t like, I LOVE the Dino Kong. Grodin’s smarmy performance is terrific, Jeff Bridges does (what is now) his usual outstanding job. Maybe the score prejudices me too much. I remember seeing that in the theater as a kid and having quite a good time…something I wonder about when it comes to, say, the Jackson Kong redux. Did kids who saw that think it was great? I was a little disappointed in that I never felt that subversive quality that really stands out in both the ’33 and ’76 versions. I know he wanted to marry an old-fashioned approach to cutting-edge effects, but the overall impact for me was a bit musty, like a museum piece. Don’t get me wrong, I think Jackson’s a genius. I ran into him here in Philly years ago outside a 3D Imax screening of Zemeckis’ “Beowulf” and got to shake his hand and talk to him for a minute about it, so I’m real interested to see what he and Spielberg do w/this Tintin movie. Back to Barry — among my many, many favorites of his scores are the ones for “Body Heat” and “Chaplin.” His greatness will be sorely missed.

  • Bond Trader.

    THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS. That’s a John Barry score to die for!

  • Bond Trader.

    Mr. Allen,
    Talking about the last two film versions of KING KONG gets us off topic, but what the heck… The problem with the ’76 “Kong” was director John Guillermin. He just had no idea at all how to best make use of the existing special effects technology of that time. Consequently, he failed to take scale into account in so far as camera speed was concerned. And when it comes to something like KING KONG, if the visual effects don’t work (which they certainly didn’t), then nothing else will work (which they certainly didn’t!). As for Peter Jackson’s 2005 re-make, what can I say? I love that film! In fact, even though the 1933 original is still a great movie, I honestly believe that Jackson’s version is the definitive interpretation of KING KONG! You may think my opinion is tantamount to heresy, but please hear me out. I agree that there was more than a little overkill with much of the animal action in Jackson’s film, but the special effects were superb. More than that, Jackson’s Kong has depth that is simply missing from the two previous films. We’ve all had a favorite pet. A dog or cat that we dearly loved. Well, you see, Kong was alone on Skull Island. Suddenly, he acquires a wonderful new pet that he dearly loves. A creature with whom he can interact on a very direct and personal level. He comes to love his human pet so completely that he willingly risks his life for her. This is an aspect of Kong’s character that was only touched upon in the past. For this reason, Peter Jackson’s KING KONG touches the heart in a very meaningful way. The other films simply failed to achieve such emotion (moreover, even though I don’t remember who composed the score for Jackson’s film, I very much enjoy its score. It just tends to be a tiny bit repetitive. But I suspect that’s due to the fact that the composer had very little time to work on it before the film’s scheduled release). And finally, can you tell me how a contributor to this board might become a “guest blogger?”

  • Paul Reid

    I think you’re forgetting one major award that needs to go to Pierce- Best Videogame tie-in. nearly 14 years on and Goldeneye 007 is still an unmatched classic and the high water mark for bond games.

    I’m looking forward to the Craig article- I can just see his awards now: most number of mobile phone tricks, most number of shirts dstroyed…

  • http://www.moviesunlimited.com George D. Allen

    Paul — Yes! Your Goldeneye videogame award very well should have been in there. When it first came out I recall playing it quite often. And I love the number of shirts destroyed idea for Craig. I do have in mind an “award” somewhat related to that observation.

  • chris

    I knew Brosnan would make a good Bond when I saw his press conference before the making of GoldenEye and the first thing he said about the character of Bond was that he was a widower(something he was as well). I consider GoldenEye to be one of the classic Bond films to be ranked with most of the Connery’s. Unfortunetly, the writers and directors of the movies to follow really let him down.

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  • rocky-o

    being a bond fan since film one with mr. connery, i have often expressed my appreciation for both sean and timothy dalton, who i thought was the best in ‘licence to kill’…as far as pierce went, i liked him as bond, but his movies weren’t worthy of him, except for ‘tomorrow never dies’, which was his best and one of the best in the series…’goldeneye’ was o.k., but ‘the world is not enough’ was a joke, and ‘die another day’, featuring the horrific hallie berry, was almost bordering on the pathetic roger moore era…