With “Skyfall,” James Bond is still going strong after 50 years

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Opening this Friday, November 9 at local theaters is the 23rd James Bond film, Skyfall, and the franchise is also celebrating 50 years since the first release of its first Bond film, Dr. No. The tuxedo-wearing super stud Bond character is based on the novels of English author Ian Fleming, wrote his first Bond novel in 1952 with Casino Royale and died shortly after the second film, 1963’s From Russia With Love, was made. A few of his Bond novels were published after his death and were turned into films. The Bond franchise has since gone on to become the second highest-grossing film series—only behind the Harry Potter franchise. Since the 1960s, the franchise has grossed over $5 billion in the U.S. alone.

The Bond character has become a worldwide iconic character ever since his first screen moments played by the direct and suave Scotsman Sean Connery, who went on to star in six films, has probably appeared in the strongest films in the bunch and I would argue that he has been the best Bond, for my money. He had everything you wanted in a superspy: good looks, intelligence, strong will, muscles, and a way with the ladies that upped his cool factor beyond that of any action hero today. Dr. No was considered a low-budget film at one million dollars and went on to gross over $60 million, cementing the franchise and unleashing the franchise that has been going strong ever since.

What if Connery had never played Bond? He was not the first choice of Fleming or producer Albert Broccoli: they were looking into The Prisoner himself, Patrick McGoohan. Broccoli even wanted Cary Grant to play 007, but was unable to make it work due to contractual agreements.

Once Connery said he wanted to retire from the role following 1967’s You Only Live Twice, the torch was passed to one-and-done Australian George Lazenby with 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

After Connery returned for 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever, the series switched Bonds again in the form of English actor Roger Moore, who went on to star in seven Bond films, the most by any actor yet, and had a nice run with the character starting with 1973’s Live and Let Die until his last role in 1985’s A View to a Kill. Another English actor, Timothy Dalton, who had been considered to play Bond years earlier, finally got his chance when he took over the reins in 1987 with The Living Daylights, but only stuck around for one more Bond: 1989’s License to Kill.

It was not until 1995’s GoldenEye, starring Irishman Pierce Brosnan, that the series started to become relevant again, as Brosnan proved to have dashes of Connery.  Once the decision was made that Brosnan was not going to reprise his Bond role after 2002’s dreadful Die Another Day, the tuxedo was donned by English actor Daniel Craig with 2006’s outstanding Casino Royale, one of the best Bond films to date. The series seemed to be lifted again, and Craig has settled into the role with the kind of charisma, danger, and style that we have not seen since Connery played the role some 30 years ago.

After the disappointing 2008 entry Quantum of Solace, the franchise finds its footing once again in the newest and entertaining Skyfall. Even if situations go completely haywire at times and some of the dialogue that is spoken throughout the film does not make a lick of sense, it shows Craig’s Bond is human and has some serious dramatic moments that have been lacking in previous entries.

It’s hard to believe the series has been on screen so many times over the past 50 years; Skyfall brings a welcome gravitas to a character who for the past 50 years has seemed invincible. By the conclusion of Skyfall, the franchise could be setting up for another “shake-up”; hopefully that will not mean a new actor playing Bond, but a story with more dramatic weight and fewer explosions.