Website last updated: 6-12-2019

Pearl Anniversary for the 1989 James Bond film Licence To Kill

By: Greg Bechtloff
Published:
2019-11-11
Licence to Kill 30th Anniversary
2019 marks the Pearl Anniversary for the 1989 James Bond film Licence to Kill directed by John Glen and starring Timothy Dalton as Ian Fleming's 007. This is part II of the Four-Way James Bond anniversaries in 2019 series written by FSWL contributor Greg Bechtloff.

Timothy Dalton’s second and final 007 film marks its 30th anniversary in 2019.

Official theatrical trailer for Licence to Kill



This is probably the most problematic film for the big anniversary year 2019. The lessons learned from Licence To Kill are mostly negative and proved a cautionary warning to the continuation of the Bond series.

Creatively, this film seemed to co-opt too many ideas and themes of the 1980’s type of Joel Silver action films that usually starred Mel Gibson. The American television hit Miami Vice was also channeled. On top of that, topical 1980’s issues such as fake televangelism and Wall Street scandals were added to the mix but were underdeveloped.

The film features a druglord villain and locations in Florida and South America. The specters of Carlos Lederer and Manuel Noriega hang over the plot. This dates the movie firmly in the 1980’s. Even in the Cold War era, the Soviets were never really the villains in those films.

The lesson here is that James Bond films should be timely yet somehow timeless. It is a hard balancing act but when the balance is askew the result is a film like Licence To Kill.

Perhaps the bigger legacy of Licence To Kill is that marketing does matter. A LOT. When we see Daniel Craig in a new Omega Watch ad we must fully realize that those ads play a major role in making his series of Bond films so successful. Bond must be a cultural heavyweight; his appearance in ads for luxury items like watches and champagne reinforce the desire to see the new film.

The perceived “failure” of Licence To Kill (especially in the United States) was not due to Batman, Lethal Weapon 2 and Indiana Jones stealing all the cinematic thunder. It was in fact a weak marketing campaign.


The indifferent and tired posters that were cranked out seemed to softly say that James Bond was back instead of shouting it from the rafters. An edgy series of poster art conceived by Bob Peak were tossed in favor of a bland, straight to VHS photo montage.

This was a hard lesson to learn from the former world beating James Bond series. But the situation was definitely rectified. When James Bond did return after a six year gap, marketing helped bring Bond back to new heights. The combined efforts of Omega Watches, Bollinger, Church’s Shoes and others with a savvier studio effort all propelled Bond back to its glory days.

On a more uplifting note, the one continuing legacy from Licence To Kill was the series debut of Daniel Kleinman. Kleinman directed the music video of the Gladys Knight theme song. Its striking to see the fresh and bright take on the Bond icons in that music video. Contrast that to the tired and underwhelming Maurice Binder title sequence in the film itself.

The series went on hiatus for six years after Licence To Kill. Maurice Binder died in 1991. The producers sagely turned to Daniel Kleinman to pick where Binder left off. Kleinman skillfully paid homage to all the imagery that came before but took it to a higher level as well. Bond fans are all curious to see what visual alchemy that Kleinman has created for No Time To Die.

Next up... Moonraker starring Roger Moore.

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