Is Bond a suave, sweet-talking super agent, or is he a JerkassOvert Operative who solves problems by blowing them up? Is he truly loyal to England, or is he just Married to the Job? Is he a misogynist, or does he go through Bond girls like tissue paper because his attempts at real romance blew up in his face? The debate goes on, and each actor brings a slightly different interpretation to the table as well.
Animator Chuck Jones once made a tongue in cheek in theory in his autobiography that James Bond was in fact an egotistical bumbler, but comes out of each situation looking so suave and hyper competent because he is placed against an even more buffoonish and Genre BlindRogues Gallery.
Albert R. Broccoli first attempted to obtain the rights to the books in the late fifties for his production company Warwick Films and managed to secure a meeting with Ian Fleming. His then-partner Irving Allen didn't share Cubby's enthusiasm and told Fleming to his face that he didn't think the novels were good enough for television.
Rod Taylor recalls being offered the role of Bond:
I thought it was beneath me. I didn't think Bond would be successful in the movies. That was one of the greatest mistakes of my career! Every time a new Bond picture became a smash hit, I tore out my hair. Cubby and I have laughed about it ever since.
The films from The '70s and The '80s are very divisive, because of how silly the last Connery film and the Moore films are and how serious the Dalton films are. The only film that most people can agree on from this period is The Spy Who Loved Me, which most fans consider to be great.
After all, are the best James Bond movies the most serious and realistic, like the early Connery-era movies, and the whole Lazenby, Dalton, and Craig eras? Or the movies that embrace fantasy and comedy, like the later Connery-era movies and the majority of the Moore and Brosnan eras?
Or, if you've listened to the very faithfully adapted BBC4 radio dramas, Toby Stephens.
The original M, Bernard Lee, is exactly what you'd imagine 007's boss would sound like.
Dork Age: Just like fellow British cultural treasure Doctor Who, this franchise has run for over fifty years, so everyone has their own Dork Age. Unfortunately, this is precisely where the aforementioned Broken Base comes in.
Then you have the other way around (though more subdued): the people who think the series' low points are when it takes itself too seriously and forgets to be fun in the process, like the Timothy Dalton and Daniel Craig installments.
The Judi Dench take on M is easily the most memorable version of the character and has received gradually more screen time as her time in the role has continued. That she was kept as M despite the Continuity Reboot is a testament to how good she was.
Escapist Character: The movies had undergone Serial Escalation as the producers tried to outdo themselves with increasingly over-the-top quips, cars, gadgets, and Bond Girls. The Daniel Craig incarnation shows him being much more flawed.
Fandom Heresy: "The Codename Theory," which states that "James Bond" is a cover identity given to whatever agent currently holds the rank of 007 (and thus each actor to portray Bond has been playing a "different" character) is very divisive. Some like the idea a lot, while others hate the fact that it tries to take Bond continuityfar more seriously than Eon Productions ever has, and even that it turns Call Backs into plotholes (why do people remember Bond and know him by name from before he was an agent? Why were souvenirs from Connery!Bond's missions in Lazenby!Bond's desk? Why would Moore!Bond pay respects to his predecessor's dead wife? Why does Leiter recognize Dalton!Bond? Why would MI6 bother with such a pointless masquerade?) and veers into over-the-top parody territory in similar fashion to the infamous 1967 Casino Royale that wasn't produced by Eon. Lee Tamahori, director of Die Another Day, is a supporter of this theory and reportedly planned to canonize it by having Sean Connery cameo as the now-elderly "First" Bond, endearing him either more or less to a lot of fans. It was actively Jossed by Skyfall, as Bond visits his parents' graves and their names are "Bond". However, since Daniel Craig's Bond is an explicit Continuity Reboot, the theory persists that the first five Bonds were agents using code names. Others just go the extra mile and explain it all with The Multiverse.
Fan-Preferred Couple: It's pretty rare to find a fanfic where James is paired with one of the women from his adventures, unless it's Vesper or Tracy. Het fans tend to like James/Moneypenny, and slash fans James/Alec. The most popular pairing on AO 3 is James/Q, with almost tenfold the second-most popular pairing, James/M(Dench).
Everything that went wrong with the series pre-reboot (absurd plots, megalomaniac villains, over-focus on gadgets, jokes undermining the seriousness of the situation) was in evidence in mild form as early as Goldfinger. This is "original sin" in more than one sense, as all those things were inherent to the series' character pre-reboot — enough so that the films with Daniel Craig simply don't feel like James Bond films to some viewers. It runs the other way as well, though not as drastically — Dr. No and From Russia with Love feels closer to Quantum of Solace than Goldfinger in some respects.
A recurring complaint in the franchise is when Bond Girls are useless in the plot and need to be saved frequently by Bond. These people seem to forget that Honey Ryder, the Bond Girl from the first movie Dr. No, already had this problem. If you look closely, you will find that she adds nothing to the plot and does not help Bond at any time, having to be rescued by him at the climax. Honey could have been taken from the movie and the events would have happened the same way. The difference is that the character is still friendly and charismatic, something other Bond Girls would not be in the future. Also, this problem could easily be forgiven for being just the first movie in the franchise.
Fans who complain about the seriousness and violence of the Craig era, to the point that their films don't look like a James Bond movie, probably don't know or have forgotten that those elements already existed in the Timothy Dalton movies. The big difference is that Dalton Era movies are still utilizing these elements within the established franchise formula, unlike Craig Era.
One-Scene Wonder: M, Q, and Miss Moneypenny in the first 20 films pre-reboot, especially with Bernard Lee as M, Desmond Llewelyn as Q, and Lois Maxwell as Moneypenny. They rarely had much screentime (sometimes it was no more than one scene per film), yet to fans they were an indispensable part of the series.
The Scrappy: Something inevitable in a franchise with more than 50 years of existence and 25 films, but some characters really stand out in the dislike they receive from fans.
Sheriff JW Pepper from Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun, a stereotypical racist sheriff. Not only are his racist quips bloody awful now (and they weren't even funny then), he has the most annoying, chippy voice in the entire world. Think Jar Jar Binks crossed with the villains from Deliverance. It's a rare character that can set one's teeth on edge simply by speaking.
Mary Goodnight from The Man with the Golden Gun, due to Britt Ekland's Dull Surprise acting, and the character constantly coming across as both The Load, a Distressed Damsel and a bad Comic Relief, despite supposedly being a trained secret agent. It also doesn't help that Andrea Anders, the secondary Bond Girl played by Maud Adams (who would return as the main Bond Girl in Octopussy), is widely considered to be much better-acted and a more interesting character, only to be unceremoniously killed off halfway through the film.
Holly Goodhead from Moonraker is often considered one of the dullest and least interesting Bond Girl in the entire series. Many fans think her dynamic is just a less interesting copy of Bond's dynamic with Anya Amasova in The Spy Who Loved Me. Another common criticism is that she has virtually no impact on the plot after her abduction in Rio, other than providing someone for Bond to exposit to and then have sex with at the end, whereas even the more widely hated Bond Girls at least did something in the climaxes of their respective films. Unless you count her piloting the airship that levels the humanity-destroying bombs during the last stretch, of course, but her bland personality is still a persistent issue for most. This is made worse by the fact that her book counterpart is Gala Brand, one of the few great women characters that Fleming wrote.
Stacey Sutton from A View to a Kill screams at the slightest provocation, gets captured at the most inconvenient times and forces Bond to rescue her, fails to notice Zorin sneaking up on her in a zeppelin, and survives over the much interesting May Day.
Jinx from Die Another Day. The character is supposed to be an impressive agent on the same level as Bond, but she is often kidnapped by the villains and has to be saved by Bond, her jokes are horrible, and just like as Goodnight, Stacey and Christmas, the character seems to be there only for Bond to have someone to go to bed at the end of the film, after the infinitely more interesting Miranda Frost turns out to be a traitor.
The quality of the individual films have been bumpy with no clear odd/even pattern, even for the same actor. Some films criticized at the time of release have been Vindicated by History since. But the Daniel Craig era has the odd-numberedfilms receiving critical acclaim, while the even-numbered films got ok-to-mixed reception.
An example with the Bond actors themselves: The odd-numbered actors (Connery, Moore and Brosnan) are generally humorous portrayals with over-the-top gimmick gadgets, while the even-numbered ones (Lazenby, Dalton and Craig) have generally portrayed the character with more pathos, angst and seriousness and less emphasis on gadgets. The first set has next to no introspection while the second set is soaked in it.
Although many have praised the Daniel CraigBond films for being more gritty and realistic than the sometimes-campy Bond films of previous years, there are a significant number of fans who 'miss' the implausible gadgets, girls with suggestive names, and over-the-top villains and wish them to return. At a more general level, these fans often feel like the Craig films aren't really Bond films at all, having a lot more in common with The Bourne Series than with previous Bond films. Another aspect of this is Bond's personality; the Craig-era Bond is the only one (with Timothy Dalton to some degree) who seems to hate his job, while the one thing the others all seemed to share was a genuine joy at living life as a secret agent.
Conversely, those who like the more realistic tone of the Craig-era films have expressed disappointment with Spectre for its inclusion of more over-the-top elements.
They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Many fans like R, Q's replacement for The World is Not Enough and Die Another Day. The fact that it was played by John Cleese obviously helps. Unfortunately, the franchise had a reboot after Die Another Day, and many fans regret that because of that, he only appeared in two films in the franchise.
They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: You Only Live Twice, Diamonds Are Forever (something of a passion project for Fleming who was very interested in diamond smuggling, see his book, The Diamond Smugglers) and the first four movies of the Moore era discarded Ian Fleming's interesting and intricate plots from the books that gave them their titles in favour of formulaic and often campy affairs.note Except perhaps The Spy Who Loved Me; in between the book's controversial (even for Bond standards) views on women, the fact that it was told from the Bond Girl's point of view, and that Bond himself doesn't even appear until the last third of the story, it would've hardly been made into a film. Fleming in fact personally felt that it was his worst book, and regretted it so much that he only allowed its title to be used for future works, not allowing its plot to be adapted.You Only Live Twice in particular, discarded the revenge plot for something of lesser stature, a mistake the producers clearly regretted as they triedtwice to create the perfect Bond revenge film.
Instead of spending all day here, let's just say "Early Bond" + "Women" (note that the books have other value issues as well, but the women are most prominent). Roger Moore couldn't hide his discomfort attempting to imitate such demeanour in The Man with the Golden Gun.
"Early Bond" + "Race" wasn't the best combination, either. Dr. No and You Only Live Twice are very uncomfortable to watch today, and it can be argued quite convincingly that Live and Let Die has a fundamentally racist subtext.
Values Resonance: After the Cold War ended, there was some speculation that James Bond had no place in popular culture. However, with 9/11 and The War on Terror coming into the fold, some have decided that a spy who battles multinational terrorist groups might still be relevant after all.
Only the Creator Does It Right: The novels written after Fleming's death aren't particularly famous or well-regarded, although Colonel Sun stands out as being the only post-Fleming novel as well-regarded as the originals. It helps that it was written by Kingsley Amis, who was friends with Fleming and (according to some) helped clean up Golden Gun for publication.
Seinfield Is Unfunny: Fleming chose the name, James Bond, because it sounded like the most boring and non-descript name imaginable to him. However, decades of the books and films permeating world popular culture have given that name a coolness and glamour with a forceful simplicity that a multi-syllabic name could not match today.
They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: In the short story "Blast from the Past", Bond finally meets his son James Suzuki, whom he fathered in You Only Live Twice. After three decades of non-existence, what is he used for? As a corpse in a revenge plot against Bond, who is brushed aside so that Bond can finish his business with Irma Bunt, the accomplice in the death of his wife Tracy.
Trapped by Mountain Lions: As a part of Ian Fleming's apparent obsession with food and high-class living, many of the books take detours from Bond investigating a world-spanning conspiracy to describe him having lunch in great detail.
In Casino Royale, when Vesper is kidnapped, Bond gets annoyed and says women should Stay in the Kitchen and let men do the work. This is intentional, as Bond's misogyny leads to him being easily manipulated and suffering the first major loss of the series.
In From Russia with Love, Bond laughs when Kerim Bey tells the story of how he kidnapped and abused a woman.
All of Bond's thoughts about gay people in Goldfinger are horrendous. Let's just say that there is a moment when Bond says it's all the consequence of the equal vote between men and women.
During Fleming's run, Bond likes but patronizes Blacks, hates Koreans for some reason but loves the Japanese and thinks "sex equality" has fostered bisexual misfits.
Though outright rape is still portrayed negatively, Fleming was known for his love of BDSM and often incorporates mentions of rough sex, spankings as punishment, and the psychological effects of torture in ways that come off as...easy to misinterpret.