Friday, March 1, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #1: Dr. No

To start off my retrospective, we take a look at Bond’s first cinematic appearance, Dr. No. James Bond was originally created by English author Ian Fleming, and who should seek out the rights to make a film based on his books? Why, none other than Albert Broccoli and Henry Saltzman, who formed a partnership in bringing Bond to the big screen. The two had initially wanted to start with Thunderball, but due to circumstances, they opted for Dr. No. The film was to be directed by Terence Young, but casting Bond himself was an issue. They had initially thought of Cary Grant, and even considered the likes of Roger Moore (And we’ll get to him real soon). Enter Scottish actor Sean Connery. That’s right, the guy Darrel Hammond used to play in the SNL parodies of Jeopardy!, that was this guy. Connery was 30 when he signed on for five feature films, and the movie’s production was set in stone.

We’re introduced to James Bond, an MI6 agent given the elite codename 007. Bond is sent to Jamaica to investigate a secret plot set up by intimidating genius Dr. No, a plot to derail the US space program that many spies working for the doctor don’t want uncovered. Evidence points Bond to Crab Key, an isolated island of restricted status, and with the help of an island boater and a mysterious young woman, Bond is in a race against time to stop the doctor.

In many ways, this movie is what popularized the light on plot, big on thrills style of action film. And speaking of which, the plot is pretty light, particularly in the case of characters. When we meet James Bond, he’s a slick, debonair, charming guy, and that’s it. When you look at this movie without the stylistic charm, you do realize that it’s about as deep as a puddle. However, in the case of movies like this, a simplistic plot is the way to go. It moves quickly, and the action and suspense are very fun to watch. Just because Bond isn’t a deep guy doesn’t mean he’s not awesome, and Sean Connery is the perfect man for that job.

This movie also introduced numerous Bond staples that would recur throughout the years, such as the signature “Bond. James Bond.”, the gun barrel sequence, the bond girls (Ursula Andress’ character is practically iconic), the scarred Bond villains, and Monty Norman’s main theme that not even a single person wouldn’t recognize.

But now, I have to address my issues with the movie. I may be in a minority on this, but I find the character of Dr. No to be boring. He just feels so dull, so dry, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t baffled by his motivations. I also found the climax to be a bit underwhelming. And considering that this is the first Bond film, there is a bit of a rookie feel to it. But for what it’s worth, it’s still a very good rookie feel. Is it perfect, no, but it’s still thoroughly entertaining. It was a great way to start Bond off, and would lead to a franchise that would exceed expectations in the coming years.

**** / *****

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