Even during a successful six decade run, the Bond producers have had to get a hold of reality every now and then. Sometimes you just need to get back to the basics. In fact, it’s happened on four different occasions. A villain’s diabolical plan too outlandish, gadgets beyond unrealistic, and humorous scenes turning into full-on camp.
These were the times when 007 needed to “get down to earth.”
ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (1969) – After 1967’s You Only Live Twice, the Bond team didn’t just need a new lead actor… they needed a new direction. YOLT gave us a helicopter picking up a car with a giant magnet, a hollowed-out volcano for the villain’s lair, and insane ninjas. OHMSS was the first time Bond needed a bit of a reset. The film was more serious, stuck to the core of Ian Fleming’s novel, hardly had any gadgets, and the action sequences were more brutal and realistic. This new Bond style didn’t last long, since Diamonds Are Forever ushered in the wacky James Bond 1970s.
FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (1981) – The title of this article is “when James Bond comes back down to earth.” Now I mean it literally. In the Summer of 1979, James Bond went into space. That happened. For Cubby Broccoli, Moonraker was a Bond too far. FYEO is probably the most serious Roger Moore as 007 movie you could ever get. It’s more of a throwback to the gritty style of From Russia With Love.
THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS (1987) – How do you go from 12 years of Roger Moore camp to Timothy Dalton’s no-nonsense edge? It wasn’t an easy transition after 1985’s bonkers A View To A Kill. Pierce Brosnan was originally the first choice to replace Moore and it made sense. Pierce’s Bond is just a less lighthearted version of Roger’s. When Brosnan couldn’t get out of his NBC contract, Dalton stepped in. TLD and Dalton were the beta-test for Casino Royale and Daniel Craig nearly 20 years later.
CASINO ROYALE (2006) – Speaking of which… Die Another Day gave us surfing, DNA switching, kite-surfing tsunamis, an invisible car, and some of the worst puns in film history. DAD is the mother of all eye rolls when it comes to the Bond franchise. Thankfully, four years later we got a grounded Bond flick and it was fantastic. Going from Brosnan to Craig, Die Another Day to Casino Royale, is the most shocking transition in franchise history.
With Craig playing Bond for probably the 5th and final time in 2019 or 2020, and since his replacement will either be an actor similar to his style or an actor closer to Brosnan/Moore, James Bond won’t have a need to return down to earth for quite some time.