Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Memory Bank: The Battle of the Bonds
The year 1983 was widely termed -- at least in genre circles -- “The Battle of the Bonds,” because Sean Connery was returning to the silver screen as agent 007 for the first time in over a decade (since Diamonds are Forever in 1971).
However, in a strange quirk of scheduling, Connery’s film, Never Say Never Again was set to go head-to-head with Roger Moore’s sixth outing as James Bond, Octopussy.
Originally, both films were to be released in the same summer, which meant that audiences would have the opportunity to -- head-to-head -- size-up the Bonds and their performances.
Never Say Never Again, however, blinked first, and it was moved back to the autumn of 1983. This shift left 007 some space at the box office, and Octopussy was a major hit in the summer of Return of the Jedi, Superman III and WarGames.
But I still remember the term “Battle of the Bonds,” and a special "Double Bond" Starlog Magazine cover of the celebrity death match. There were also heated debates in my middle-school cafeteria about which Bond was definitively the best.
Although I had grown up with Roger Moore, I had discovered the Connery Bond movies on ABC TV reruns and come around to the thinking that while Moore was a heck of a lot of fun, Connery was really tops.
My friends in the sixth grade didn’t agree, and they let me know it.
I remember them stating that Connery was too old to play Bond (though, actually, Roger Moore is a little older, if memory serves), and that his films lacked the special effects wizardry and humor of the Moore epics. I responded that Connery was tougher, and that his films had greater virtue in terms of style.
I would like to think the lunchroom battle was a draw, but I was the only one taking up Connery’s cause, so I probably lost. I think what finally did me in was an exchange in which I noted that Roger Moore used stuntmen too much. My best friend promptly replied that Connery only needed stunt people…in the love scenes.
After that point, all was lost. I occasionally wonder what my friends, all-grown-up, think today, if they happen to even remember these particular conversations. Did their opinions change? Or did later Bonds Dalton, Brosnan and Craig supersede Moore in their affections? I do know that my best friend and I were both huge Dalton fans after The Living Daylights (1987).
In terms of the actual movie battle between Never Say Never Again and Octopussy, I felt that Never Say Never Again won on character, thanks in large part to Klaus Maria Brandauer, Barbara Carrera and Connery himself. But Octopussy scored higher on action, spectacle, and score.
In terms of Bond performances, Connery carried the day not because he is a better actor necessarily, but because Never Say Never Again allowed him to (charmingly) acknowledge his age, and he showcased a grace and ease that indeed comes with age.
By contrast, Roger Moore in Octopussy wore his pants hiked-up over his belly-button like a senior citizen and yet still had to play the physically-perfect, non-aging, white dinner jacket version of James Bond. I have no doubt that Moore could have more-than-adequately pulled off some of the same humor that Connery did in his film, but the Octopussy script simply afforded no opportunity.
Again, my buddies beat me like a drum in arguments over the two films. They insisted Never Say Never Again was dull and lacking in action. Meanwhile, none of them could stop talking about Octopussy’s (admittedly-brilliant) pre-title sequence involving the mini-plane called an Acro-Star.
So, in my middle school cafeteria, anyway, Roger Moore won the Battle of the Bonds hands down, and if I’m not mistaken, Octopussy also won out at the box office. I still prefer Never Say Never Again and Connery’s portrayal, though I freely acknowledge my deep affection for Roger Moore and his 1973–1985 era.
Do you remember the Battle of the Bonds? And if so, who was your winner?