Battle of the Bonds // Part 000 // Mission Briefing

Exploring the 007 film franchise, from Dr. No to No Time To Die

Photo by Coldfinger

The story of how my Bond fandom began is a familiar one.

Film nights with my father, cable TV marathons around the holidays, routine home video rentals, and carefully choreographed playground stunts with wooden Walther PPK in hand helped shape my childhood, my appreciation for film, and my desire to see more than what those playgrounds could offer.

My experience with the James Bond franchise feels singular, but I know I’m just one of a great many who have been transfixed by secret agent 007's unique brand of stylish espionage over the years.

And still, I’ve found that whenever I immerse myself in a Bond film, whether for the first or the hundredth time, I’m once again transported to that childhood playground, enraptured by the grandeur of it all. With each passing year, I find my appreciation for the stalwart franchise deepening as I see more of the world and experience more of what I so desperately craved reflecting back at me through the screen in my younger years.

The exotic locales (and the ladies inhabiting them), the swaggering scores, the slick set designs, the sheer sense of class and sophistication, the nonchalant quipping in the face of danger…I simply loved it all.

Photo by ArkadeBurt

James Bond first entered the literary lexicon and collective zeitgeist in 1953 with Ian Fleming’s gin-soaked, smoke-swirled breakthrough novel Casino Royale. Just nine years later, 007 made his silver screen debut in 1962’s Dr. No, introducing himself to a global audience and setting in motion what would become the longest-running continuous English-language film series of all time.

Long before the age of caped crusaders and meticulously-mined IP, it was Bond who set the standard for film franchise superheroes and the modern-day blockbuster.

Nearly six decades after the film franchise began, Bond continues on. His latest adventure coming by way of 2021’s oft-delayed No Time To Die starring Daniel Craig in his fifth and final turn as the secret agent.

After Craig drives his Aston Martin off into the sunset and his swan song has had its time in the limelight, a new actor will be announced to continue the legacy of the world’s favorite superspy.

Such is the way of things.

Such is the beauty of this franchise.

With each passing decade, the James Bond mythos continues, renews, and expands. With each subsequent generation, new fans discover Bond…discover their Bond.

Photo by Collider

Only six actors have (officially) portrayed Bond on the big screen, each delivering a wholly unique take on a timeless character that has steadily evolved (a relative term, to be sure) across twenty-five films and nearly sixty years of pop culture history.

Sean Connery.

George Lazenby.

Roger Moore.

Timothy Dalton.

Pierce Brosnan.

Daniel Craig.

Photo by Tom Richmond

Throughout those films and performances we’ve experienced exhilarating highs: cinematic thrills forever etched into the minds of filmgoers. We’ve also witnessed undeniable lows, including moments of harshly illuminating racism, sexism, and homophobia that will not be shied away from here.

The styles of each film are reflected by the eras in which they were made, providing a snapshot in time of each film’s release year…for good and for bad; the takes on the character from each Bond actor are informed by previous films and their receptions…for good and for bad.

Bond films follow a predictable, tried-and-true formula, yet the quality, tone, and impact of each film and actor’s performance vary wildly from film to film.

And that is exactly what makes this franchise so fun and everlasting.

Even when Bond is bad (sometimes especially when Bond is bad), there’s nothing quite like the 007 filmgoing experience. Each film is an event and each installment carries an ever-increasing weight of expectation accumulated from all that’s come before.

Photo by Caracol TV

So, fellow Bond lover or curious bystander that’s made it this far, if you’re looking for a blog bombastic enough to crown one singular actor as the definitive James Bond, you’ve come to the wrong place.

That’s not what this is about.

Boiling down the six variations of the James Bond film character in an effort to determine who did it better undermines the cultural significance of 007.

The beauty of Bond is the evolution, is the variation in cinematic quality, is the fact that no one Bond is quite like the other.

Bond films are silly, Bond films are routinely juvenile and offensive, yet in spite of their warts, Bond films matter a whole lot to me.

Over the course of this 007-part passion project, I’ll dive deep into each Bond actor, their films, and their legacies. At the end of this celebratory ride, you’ll know who my favorite Bond is, who I believe the best Bond to be, and, more importantly, why each Bond has played a critical role in ensuring this franchise is here to stay.

I love James Bond, and all Bonds hold a special place in my heart.

Some just take up more space than others.

GIF by Giphy

Welcome to Battle of the Bonds.

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Asheville-based writer following the feel and chasing down wonder.

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Blake Matson Becker

Blake Matson Becker

Asheville-based writer following the feel and chasing down wonder.

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