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A James Bond Under The Radar: Reflections on the Timothy Dalton Era

What if Timothy Dalton is the best Bond, actually?
Timothy Dalton James Bond
By  and  · Published on August 27th, 2020

Licence To Kill Pam Bouvier

Which of these films should a non-Bond fan see?

Bond Beginner:

Again, it’s got to be License to Kill. The film does a solid job establishing Bond and Felix’s relationship before tragedy strikes. So I don’t think prior knowledge of their decades-long friendship is a barrier to entry. The general premise of The Living Daylights is very “Bond” in that we’re dealing with Russians, arms dealers, and big-picture political shenanigans (hello, Mujahideen). But because License to Kill is more personal, I think it would be more accessible to new audiences. Especially new audiences who are turned off by the “Bond stops an entrepreneur from inciting a for-profit nuclear war” shtick. License to Kill isn’t a film about saving the world; it’s a film about getting revenge. In a word (or two): hell yeah.

Bond Veteran:

As much as The Living Daylights doesn’t have the style I want from my Bond movies, it does have a classic Bond narrative, and I’ll second everything Meg has already said. I also think anyone who prefers the current era of a more serious Bond has to respect that we wouldn’t be here without Dalton. So for that reason, it probably wouldn’t hurt to watch both. But if you were to only pick one, go with Licence to Kill.

The Living Daylights Tuxleneck

What element from these films would you like to see come back in future Bonds? What do you want to see left in the past?

Bond Beginner:

In action films, emotional men are rarely given more to do than brood. And I think what makes Dalton special is that he runs the gamut of, you know, having feelings. He isn’t strong and silent. He’s a melodramatic disaster. Whether he’s having a blast or deeply frustrated, Dalton can’t, and doesn’t, hold back. I’d like to see more of that from the franchise. Although perhaps what I’m really asking is for more Dalton. A girl can dream. I would also like to see the return of the best Bond gadget ever, a.k.a. the tux that is also a turtleneck. A tuxleneck if you will.

In terms of what I’d like to ditch from this era, I’d like to see Kara go. Okay, that’s not fair. I’d like to do away with what she represents: a Bond girl who doesn’t offer more than dependent, clingy, comic relief. It’s been a drag since Tiffany Case, and it needs to stop.

Bond Veteran:

I could watch an entire movie of Bond and Felix being buddies and it still wouldn’t be enough. Bring back that and give me some extra, please.

It’s tough to say what I want to keep here because as much as I can recognize this isn’t the Bond era for me, personally, I know that this was probably a much-needed break for people who don’t love the antics of the Moore films. The best thing about Bond is that the films are so varied, so shifting in tone, and so amenable to the times. I don’t mind Bond movies that I don’t vibe with if I know that they will work for someone.

Sure, there are things here I’m not personally into, but I can see they exist for a reason. I’ll agree with Meg that Kara is unremarkable and I wish the film had more to offer in terms of Bond girls. I think having only one Bond girl in a film can be a real gamble, and going forward I like when Bond films embrace the idea of the more the merrier. I don’t come to this franchise for monogamy.

The Living Daylights Bang Bang Shoot Shoot

What’s your favorite so far? Least favorite?

Bond Beginner:

Favorite: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Least favorite: You Only Live Twice.

Bond Veteran:

Favorite: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Least favorite: Thunderball

The End.

But Meg and Anna will return in Bondathon Part Four: The Brosnan Era!

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Based in the Pacific North West, Meg enjoys long scrambles on cliff faces and cozying up with a good piece of 1960s eurotrash. As a senior contributor at FSR, Meg's objective is to spread the good word about the best of sleaze, genre, and practical effects.