The Propper Place to Start is At the Beginning

Over at io9, they’re showing off some tantalizing clips form the forthcoming James Bond film, Skyfall. And as usual, the comments have turned to the perennial discussion as to where to start as a new Bond fan.

If you just want to prep for Skyfall, go back and watch Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace (in that order, as they’re direrectly related). Otherwise, the older Bond films can be watched in any order.

However, everyone has their favorites, so here’s mine:

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, while unpopular among many Bond fans, is actually a solid movie and closest in tone and style to the modern Craig-era films. It features George Lazenby as the most serious and dour of Bonds, but he brings a humanity and pathos to the character that was often overlooked before Daniel Craig. This movie has everything people say they like about the newer Bond films, but did it in the 60s. I think what puts people off is Lazenby’s skin tight ruffled tuxedo shirt.

Before Daniel Craig, the hands-down fan favorite Bond was Sean Connery. He’s fine but really his movies are mostly interchangeable. The stand out film was Goldfinger, which features a goldbug of a villain trying to steal all the gold in Fort Knox and one of the sillier henchman, Odd Job, the hulking Chinese bodyguard with a boomarang hat.

Bond Aficionados are divided on the Roger Moore films. Some of them are downright silly (Octopussy) while others attain a strange surrealist quality that is fun in its own right. For my money, The Man With the Golden Gun is the epitome of the mid 70s surreal take on Bond. It features Christopher Lee as the titular golden gun wielding assassin, his superfluous third nipple, and Herve Villechez as his dwarf henchman. There’s a protracted chase scene through the canals of Thailand, where Bond picks up a racist American on vacation form Louisiana to gawk at the funny looking Asians, a pair of schoolgirl karate experts with a Bruce Lee-analog uncle, and a secret base inside the lopsided wreck of the Queen Elizabeth. Also, the plot revolves around a solar powered laser gun. It’s awesome.

If you feel the need to be a completist, you’ll have to endure the Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan era, where Bond sort of lost steam, as these were all made in the late 80s and 90s. It wasn’t his fault really. The Cold War was winding down and stateless terrorism had yet to become a real threat. Bond just has no real purpose in these movies, and that crept into the subtext, with rather contrived plots that existed solely to prove Bond was still a necessity, and, relying on tech McGuffins and unlikely bond girls who serve no purpose. Also, an invisible car for some reason. Goldeneye is probably the most enjoyable of these films, as you at least get a small but scenery-chewing performance from Alan Cumming as the nerdy computer scientist.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go see if The Man With the Golden Gun is streaming on Netflix.