Following the triumph of Skyfall, the fourth Daniel Craig Bond was always going to have a hard time living up to the hype, but when Spectre premiered a week early in the UK the reviews were all very positive. The release in the US saw a dampening of enthusiasm and for many the film ranked as the worst of the series so far. I would be one of those but on rewatching my opinion has and has not changed.
It was the bad luck of the James Bond series to always be in some kind of limbo. There were court cases, studio disputes, writers' strikes and the bankruptcy of MGM. And yet these delays could have good effects and with Skyfall the Bond series produced its most critically and commercially successful film.
Quantum of Solace is one of my favourite Bond films. And I know that isn't a popular opinion. On first watching it, I - along with everyone else - was disappointed. Casino Royale had set up the character so well and seemed so measured and by comparison, its follow up felt too influenced by the Bourne films, way too frenetically edited and had a plot which got lost in the ricochets and machine gunning. But re-watching significantly changed my opinion.
With the new Bond film in 2006, it was necessary for the franchise not just to recast Bond but to some extent to reinvent him. Martin Campbell came in to direct his second film after overtures from Quentin Tarantino were rejected. The idea was to take Bond back to the original Ian Fleming conception with his very first novel Casino Royale.
One aspect of Pierce Brosnan's tenure as James Bond is the variety behind the camera. Each of his four films had a different director behind the camera. Martin Campbell was followed by Roger Spottiswoode and Michael Apted who all maintained a fairly consistent aesthetic. But Lee Tamahori brought to Die Another Day a new vision which sought to update Bond and which unfortunately had the effect of creating the worst and most dated looking of Brosnan's reign.
Writing Bond Blog has given me some genuine revelations. Watching the films in sequence, you can see the developments and the repetitions, the lack of originality and the occasional innovation. I assumed that my own judgement was already fairly fixed as I'd seen every film multiple times. I wasn't ready to dislike Live and Let Die as much as I ended up doing, or totally reassessing the Timothy Dalton films. Likewise, The World is Not Enough was a film I'd written off as a boring dip in quality, but I'm happy to say I was wrong.
On leaving the cinema after GoldenEye, I was very ready to see another Bronson Bond and so too were the studio and undoubtedly Brosnan himself, having waited so long to land the role. Tomorrow Never Dies ended up suffering from the rush, as the script had to be ditched and then rewritten as the film was going into production. The result however is a solid Bond and, for me, the best Brosnan.
When GoldenEye came out six years after License to Kill, it felt as if the Bond franchise needed fresh blood. There was the U2 penned Bond song, sung by Tina Turner, a new director in Martin Campbell who had previously made his name with the BBC TV drama Edge of Darkness, and a new Bond. Going to the cinema in 1995, I had almost forgotten about Bond. I was certainly no longer in the childish stage of enjoyment. I was 23 years old; almost done at university with my first degree and not yet ready for the sweet but sickly intoxication of nostalgia.
One of the happier results of this Bond Blog is that I've had the opportunity to totally reassess the Timothy Dalton Bonds. I saw the two films at the cinema probably at a time that I was already falling out of love with the franchise, putting away childish things etc. But now watching them in the context of the slide in quality from Diamonds Are Forever on, they come as a refreshing brace of films. Films that are actually films, unlike most of the Moore entries. And License to Kill has the audacity to try and escape the Bond formula.
At this stage of the franchise, a reinvention was needed. Roger Moore had taken 007 into a tried and tested template of comedy action film. Fluff entertainment with incredible stunts and equally incredible storylines. For a new Bond, an arduous search had come to several dead ends, Pierce Brosnan and Sam Neill were both close to getting the part, but finally it landed at the reluctant feet of stage actor Timothy Dalton.