Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Roger Moore Review

A collection of thoughts on the seven films in which Roger Moore plays the character of James Bond (incomplete and in no particular order):  
  • The very first thing I noticed: when Bond steps into the gun barrel and prepares to shoot, he is no longer wearing a fedora and is now wearing flared pants.  Bond is definitely a character that changes with the times.
  • Moore’s is a more casual Bond in general, but while he is clearly differentiated from Connery in the early films, he becomes increasingly snobby, condescending, and sexist in later ones.  And I didn’t like the ways they tried to differentiate him from Connery--why was Bond smoking cigars and drinking whisky?  Going back to cigarettes and martinis was definitely the right move, even if bringing back the nasty, sexist attitude was not.
  • It took one or two films for disco to really influence the soundtrack, but once it did the discofied Bond theme in those few films was awesome!  It’s too bad that same disco influence didn’t really carry over to the title songs.  After “Live and Let Die” by Paul McCartney and Wings the title sings got worse with each outing until “A View to a Kill” by Duran Duran, which closed out the Roger Moore era.  Slow and saccharine were not words I ever thought I would use to describe Bond music until I heard these monstrosities.
  • One major development that also made “A View to a Kill” perhaps the best Bond title sequence yet: the women/female silhouettes were actually wearing clothes - at least enough clothing to cover their more private pieces.  And there was a straight on shot of Bond’s face in the title sequence, which was a bit jarring, along with male silhouettes.
  • The bright neon and blacklit colors of the title sequence in A View to a Kill screamed ‘80s in the same way Live and Let Die exemplified the 1970s.  It was interesting, though, that the outrageous ‘80s fashion sensibility was only present in the actual film with the character of May Day, played by Grace Jones.
  • I’m going to put it out there: Christopher Walkin was actually quite good looking as a young man.  I kept thinking how much he could have passed as a member of a boy band.  It took me by surprise having only seen his later films.
  • Roger Moore, on the other hand, was not so young by the end of his Bond run.  Let’s face it, he was not young when he started playing the role.  By the end of 12 years, he was really starting to look old.  It was quite impressive he could still do as much physical acting as he did.
  • According to the DVD leaflet with The Spy Who Loved Me, “the designated Bond girl is much more . . . not only Bond’s ally in the film, she is just as intelligent, lethal, and resourceful as 007,” which supposedly “signaled a new era for the series--one in which Bond’s paramours would have increasingly accomplished resumes--and reflected to changing role of women in society in the wake of the modern women’s liberation movement.”  If I stretch, I might believe this to be the case in The Spy Who Loved Me, but really, besides the fact that Triple X was a fellow agent (of the KGB), she wasn’t that much more effective than some previous Bond girls, especially Tracy from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service or Pussy Galore in Goldfinger.  I had similar reactions to the Bond girls in Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, and Octopussy.  Stacey Sutton in A View to a Kill was just as inept as any previously ineffective Bond girl, while May Day, a stronger character, was the villain cast in stereotypes, sexuality and exoticism.  Ultimately, for every “increasingly accomplished” Bond Girl there are a handful of other women in the films whose only role is to take orders and look pretty.
  • My ideal Bond girl is not only “as intelligent, lethal and resourceful as 007 himself”; she is also capable of being just Bond’s professional colleague who does not feel the need to jump into bed with him just because the mission is completed successfully.  She actually recognizes and calls Bond out on the sexual harassment he inflicts upon her.  By the middle of the Moore era you could easily predict that the final words of the film would be a Bond Girl sighing the words “Oh, James”--so annoying.  Isn’t it sad that I should be so impressed that Bond somehow maintained enough scruples to not sleep with 18-year-old BiBi in For Your Eyes Only?  
  • So disappointing that the only explicit mention of the women’s movement in any of the films 1) did not come until A View to a Kill, in 1985, the height of backlash and 2) was made in the context of a joke - in response to the odd look Stacey Sutton gets wearing stilettoes with her construction jumpsuit Bond says, “It’s women’s lib, taking over the teamsters.”
  • Turns out it was beneficial to watch all of Moore’s films in relatively quick succession and in order.  I recognized the Sherriff from Live and Let Die when he returned in The Man with the Golden Gun.  I could identify enough with Jaws after seeing him in The Spy Who Loved Me to cheer him on when he went from villain to hero in Moonraker.  I was able to pick out the running joke of an Italian tourist shocked by Bond’s crazy vehicles in three sequential films.  And I knew why M was “on leave” in For Your Eyes Only: the actor who played him in previous films had died.  (the new M is not as good).
  • Also beneficial was that having previously seen OHMSS I picked up on the significance of Bond’s pre-title visit to the grave of Teresa Bond that led to a helicopter chase with Blofeld.  I was actually quite surprised that they returned to Bond’s marriage plot line and disappointed when they dropped it completely after the titles.
  • While I’m curious what Ian Fleming’s original stories are, I’m happy that the Bond films change them to keep with the times.  The themes of energy crisis, d├ętente, and microchips warm my historian’s heart.  (The parody of Margaret Thatcher at the end of For Your Eyes Only did not, although it was a crazy coincidence that we had just watched The Iron Lady the night before).
  • The Man with the Golden Gun totally sucked when it comes to gadgets, but I loved the spy gadgetry in the other films--and that Q seems to have a lab set up in any exotic locale Bond finds himself in, as does M seem to set up an office in the craziest of places.  Of all the awesome gadgets, the Lotus Esprit submarine car in The Spy Who Loved Me was the coolest of them all, especially since we had just seen it parodied in Despicable Me 2 a few nights earlier.  Speaking of, this news item from the last 24 hours is relevant (another crazy coincidence!  I just randomly came across it when googling for the real name of “James Bond underwater car”).
  • My overall impression of the Roger Moore era is that the films had become highly formularized.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, and it might just be that I am finally picking up on the formula after having watched so many.  But formula does tend to grow stale after a while, so here’s hoping that a new leading man will inject some energy into the series for me (I get the sense that I probably shouldn’t count on that with Timothy Dalton, but who knows?).
What are your thoughts on the Roger Moore Bond films?  

(Also, three cheers for reaching a remaining film count in the single digits!)