There are lots of polarising questions you can ask people that can cause anything from a polite discussion to outright fisticuffs:
Is God real? Marmite or Vegemite? Hillary or Trump?
When it comes to films, perhaps the biggest is “Who’s the best Bond – Sean Connery or Roger Moore?
The correct answer is of course Roger Moore. As a kid I’d seen Moore on TV in endless repeats of The Saint but I first saw him as Bond in The Spy Who Loved Me and I was hooked. From the opening strains of the title song by Carly Simon to the underwater car it had all the elements of the perfect spy thriller. Best of all, Moore played Bond as a suave gentleman with his tongue firmly stuck in his cheek.
Looking back now the Bond films of that era were incredibly sexist, camp and completely unrealistic, but as a teenager that all washed over me – after all this was still the era when Miss World and Miss Universe rated well on TV and a male character could still slap a woman on the ass and get away with it. What’s more, my generation had been promised (via endless TV shows, films and even some overenthusiastic educators) moonbases and driverless cars by 1999 – so the scientific advances of the Bond films didn’t seem that outlandish.
After The Spy Who Loved Me came a slew of other Bond films with Moore at the helm: Moonraker with its zany space battle; For Your Eyes Only, the superb Octopussy, and who can forget A View to a Kill with the statuesque Grace Jones.
In all of these films, Roger Moore played his role to perfection and in a way that no other man has been able to.
Moore knew the essence of Bond was escapist nonsense – a chance for a grown man to play up and be naughty. He never took himself or the role too seriously and that’s why it worked. The action occurred in far-flung exotic locations and mostly affected rich and powerful people. Your ordinary folks were mostly just bystanders watching as the action passed them by and only occasionally getting caught up in it.
In the Moore era, the Bond films were beyond real, a fantasy world where the villains were over the top and their diabolical schemes so deliciously extraordinary they were riveting to watch.
Since Moore’s departure from playing Bond the films have become more ‘real’ and gritty but also pretty boring. Worse still, particularly under Daniel Craig, Bond has lost his charm and his sense of humour – he has become just another hired gun with no personality.
There is little now to distinguish a Bond film from any other spy/action film – the franchise has lost its mojo and relies on predictable (yet still spectacular) action sequences.
Even the villains have lost their grandeur – they’ve become sadistic thuggish caricatures with no flair.
The books that kicked off the films were written by Ian Fleming in the 50s and 60s and are therefore rooted in the culture of those decades. Perhaps it is time to admit that James Bond belongs in the past and his death is long overdue.
Let a new generation of spy heroes such as The Kingsmen take over and leave James Bond to posterity.
RIP Roger Moore (1927 – 2017) – you played James Bond to perfection.