Website last updated: 19-11-2019

A Four-way James Bond: 2019’s Bonded Anniversary Year

By: Greg Bechtloff
Published:
2019-10-18
Four-way James Bond anniversary 2019
As shooting winds down on the 25th James Bond film from EON Productions, No Time To Die starring Daniel Craig, and we eagerly await its arrival in cinemas, now may be a good time to look back since this year marks a four-way anniversary for a disparate array of entries in the Bond film canon. 50 years of On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) directed by Peter Hunt. 40 years of Moonraker (1979) directed by Lewis Gilbert. 30 years for Licence to Kill (1989) directed by John Glen, and 20 years of The World Is Not Enough (1999) directed by Michael Apted.

Bond fans do not have to be told how resilient the series has proven. James Bond films have weathered many challenges over the years. The current movie is number 25 in the series and interest and anticipation are sky high. I doubt that will happen for the 25th installment of The Fast and The Furious series.

With that in mind, From Sweden With Love proposes to take a trip down memory lane and provide a brief meditation on each of the anniversary films. The through-line of this four-part series is to provide context and commentary on each of the films celebrating a milestone this year. I want to comment on the legacy each film has left for the series.

I am not going to review the making of each of these films or the reception at the time of release. That has been done in many other places. Check out Ajay Chowdhury and Matthew Fields’ book Some Kind of Hero for that. I am concerned here with legacy and lessons learned.

Part One: The China Anniversary: The World Is Not Enough (1999) starring Pierce Brosnan as James Bond


We start with The World Is Not Enough, Pierce Brosnan’s third outing as 007. By this time Brosnan had settled comfortably into the role of Bond after the huge successes of GoldenEye (1995) and Tomorrow Never Dies (1997).


Even though those films were massive moneymakers, many of those concerned, including Brosnan himself, felt that James Bond was somehow untethered.

Brosnan probably felt the criticism that Tomorrow Never Dies was such a hard charging action flick that the character of Bond himself was just an adjunct to the story. Brosnan yearned for more of the complex characterization of James Bond that can be found in the Fleming novels and which was occasionally glimpsed in the Sean Connery and Roger Moore iterations of the character. He even said in his very first press conference in 1994, that he wanted to peel back the layers of Bond and reveal the character’s inner self.

This feeling led to new creative talent being brought in. Chief among these were Neal Purvis & Robert Wade (our interview with them from 2012). This young British writing duo were coming off such indie films as Plunkett & Macleane and Let Him Have It. These films melded action, drama and wit all in the British idiom. Perfect for the James Bond series.

Screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade in 2012
Screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade in 2012. All rights reserved.

Purvis and Wade proved their Bond mettle to the James Bond franchise on The World Is Not Enough. The duo has gone on to become the writers that producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson turn to again and again. Purvis and Wade have worked on every single Bond film from The World Is Not Enough to No Time To Die.

Sometimes they start the writing process as they did with Die Another Day (2002) and Quantum of Solace (2008). Other times they are brought back after another writer stalls such as on SPECTRE (2015).

On No Time To Die they started the script process. They left off when Danny Boyle was hired and brought in his own writer John Hodge. When Boyle and Hodge abruptly departed, they came back to salvage or amend what they had originally started. That is a story that has yet to be fully parsed out.

Suffice it to say, the team of Purvis and Wade is the enduring legacy from The World Is Not Enough to the continuing James Bond films.


Another legacy from The World Is Not Enough was the attempt to dig deeper with characterization and motivation for characters besides James Bond. The hiring of drama and documentary director Michael Apted heralded this approach. Apted brought in his wife Dana Stevens to flesh out the female characters especially since this film would have the first female main villain.

Granted, whether that approach was entirely successful in the way that the film turned out is debatable. I am not here to take a side. I am just pointing out that a sense of deeper motivation for the villains and the leading lady was started on this film. The approach bore much more solid fruit in later films such as Casino Royale (2006) and Skyfall (2012).

One other legacy of The World Is Not Enough was the intention to reposition the James Bond series for the new century. Having successfully reinvented the Bond series in the 1990’s, the producers had every intention to carry on into the new Millennium.

This approach is evident in The World Is Not Enough as Desmond Llewelyn is transitioned out and John Cleese eased in as the new Q. The Millennium Dome (now renamed the O2 Arena) in London is featured, and the Y2K issue acknowledged. Little hints that we are moving onwards, and that the series would take it further.

We know that they doubled down on this for the next film Die Another Day and that it paid off bigtime. The world changed though, and the series needed to change with it. That however is a story for another day.

Next week... 30 years of Licence to Kill starring Timothy Dalton.

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#anniversaries
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#film_anniversaries
#greg_bechtloff
#pierce_brosnan
#the_world_is_not_enough

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