Sunday Matinee: Goldeneye

sunday-matineeI didn’t mind the The Living Daylights and Licence To Kill, the two Timothy Dalton James Bond movies.  They were a noble attempt to change things up that never clicked with audiences. Licence To Kill (originally “Licence Revoked” until concerns nobody knew what “revoked” meant forced the name change) was released in 1989 against other, more successful action films like Batman, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Lethal Weapon 2. It didn’t have a chance.

Licence To Kill was the last of the Dalton Bonds and it was the lowest-grossing of the series. As a result, there wouldn’t be another Bond movie until late 1995 — the more than six-year gap being the long-running franchise’s longest.

But when Bond finally came back, he came back big.

GoldeneyeSomeone recently asked me if the latest Bond movie, Spectre, is the last of the series. Fair question, because it’s pretty obvious the filmmakers wanted to wrap up the Craig movies with a “final Bond movie” feel.

I said “no of course not. Maybe not with Daniel Craig, but Bond will return.”

I didn’t mind Spectre, but it was disappointing. A James Bond movie I DO like is 1995’s Goldeneye, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this week. What makes Goldeneye special is that it reinvigorated the franchise and got people interested in James Bond again.

Goldeneye introduced Pierce Brosnan as Bond. Brosnan was originally signed up to play Bond back in the 1980s but his Remington Steele contract with NBC got in the way. After a such a long absence from the screen there were some critics that felt the character was unnecessary. The Cold War was over and movies like 1994’s True Lies showed that anybody could make a badass action-spy movie. Since Bond first appeared in the 1960’s there were spoofs, knock-offs and more. The character had moved away from being a simple action hero and became an icon over the years but the trouble with being an icon is that it becomes tough to stay relevant and interesting. Just ask Superman.

It doesn’t mean that great stories can’t be told it just means that it requires a little more effort.

Goldeneye starts in 1986 with Bond and agent 006 aka Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean) raiding a Russian base. Bond escapes but 006 is seemingly killed. The present (1995) finds Bond dealing with a new M (Dame Judi Dench) who finds him outdated. Bond and MI6 then find out that someone has stolen a Russian satellite weapon called Goldeneye. It seems that a person named Janus stole the weapon which is essentially an EMP bomb designed to wipe out the electronics of wherever it’s aimed at.

Bond teams up with Russian Goldeneye computer programmer Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco) and ends up fighting the evil Janus — who turns out to be the now-slightly disfigured, two-faced 006 — and his ruthless but excitable henchwoman, Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen).

The movie isn’t bad. It’s not Brosnan’s best Bond movie — the next film, Tomorrow Never Dies, is — but it succeeded in making Bond relevant and renewed interest in the series.

It’s funny that 20 years ago they were desperate to continue Bond and now it feels like they’re wrapping things up. But Bond will return. He always does.

Author: Shane Hnetka

Shane Hnetka spends most of his life watching movies and reading comic books, using his vast knowledge of genre culture for evil instead of good.