With the still-untitled James Bond 25 scheduled to arrive in theaters in November of 2019, it may seem like the franchise, which has been going for 55 years and counting, was always destined to run forever. In the early 1990s, however, all that was nearly derailed, as behind the scenes issues kept Bond off the screen for six painful years.
But by 1995, things were cleared back up, and a new era of the franchise began. Timothy Dalton, who had taken over the lead role after Roger Moore retired, decided that two Bond films were plenty, and a new Bond was chosen. What followed was an era of Bond movies that revived the franchise, ushering a whole new generation of fans. Let’s run down some of the biggest reasons that 1990s Bond movies are worth everybody’s attention.
Brosnan was a perfect Bond. He looked and sounded the part, and he had the suave, debonair attitude you expect from the character. He had all the sex appeal of Sean Connery, all the deadpan humor of Roger Moore, and he looked smart enough to marry Diana Rigg, should the opportunity arise. Really, he had all the positive attributes of earlier Bond actors.
In truth, Brosnan should have been the one cast post-Roger Moore, but he missed out on landing the role due to starring in the hit TV show Remington Steele, in which he played a kind of TV-budget form of the Bond character. When Dalton retired, Steele was over, and the production wasted no time giving audiences the younger, more handsome [in this writer’s opinion] Bond.
Dalton wasn’t the only actor who retired from the franchise at this stage. Robert Brown, who had played M since the Roger Moore days, decided he was also done. The franchise decided that this was the perfect opportunity to inject some gender equality into the mix, and hired Dench to play the first female M, making her the first woman Bond actually had to answer to.
The producers were inspired to cast her by Stella Rimington, the first female head of MI-5, who ascended to that position in 1992. But while Rimington only held her position for four years. Dench hung on far longer, and became the longest-serving M ever, spanning from 1995-2015.
The Bond films are forever trying to keep up with computer technology, and the arrival of the internet in the 1990s gave the franchise an opportunity to think further about how a “world wide web” would impact the latest spy technology. Laser wristwatches gave way to mobile phones that read fingerprints, start cars, pick locks, and helpfully taser bad guys. Can we really blame Desmond Llewelyn for wanting to stay on as Q when these are the fun toys he gets to invent?
Bond’s villains also got an upgrade, starting with Goldeneye’s 006, Alec Trevelyan, played by the great Sean Bean, and followed by Jonathan Pryce as Elliot Carver in Tomorrow Never Dies. Goldeneye also included Xenia Onatopp, a modern update to the 1960s type Bond girl, complete with hilarious name.
But it was The World Is Not Enough where the series took a big step forward with the first true main villain of a Bond film, Elektra King. Some might argue Renard was the real villain of the piece, but he seemed to take orders from her as much, if not more so, than she did from him.
Relevance In A Changing World
Most importantly, the 1990s brought a revival to Bond. In between the time that License To Kill was released and Goldeneye arrived, the Soviet Union collapsed, the threat of communism disappeared, and the Cold War evaporated. The Russians, who Bond pitted himself against for 30 years suddenly weren’t such terrifying foes. Did this world even need Bond?
The answer turned out to be yes. The plots took on a new urgency, as the destabilization the Soviet collapse created allowed for the series to consider where the next enemies might come from. Tomorrow Never Dies considers terrorism in the years prior to 9-11, The World Is Not Enough delves into countries like Kazakhstan, left to their own devices without the USSR, and Goldeneye reminds us that sometimes the biggest threats are right here at home.
The Bond films of the 1990s were some of the best of the franchise and helped ensure the series longevity into the 21st century. Get a taste of that action right here on CHARGE! with our screenings of Tomorrow Never Dies.