Monday, May 13, 2013

Licence to Kill - James Bond Movie Posters

"License to Kill" Becomes Timothy Dalton's Final Appearance - and Where Are the Bond Girls?

License to Kill movie poster
"Licence To Kill."

Timothy Dalton came and went in two films as the successor to Roger Moore, and there isn't really much more to say about his brief tenure. Dalton did a competent job, and certainly had his share of fanatical fans, but Roger Moore was a tough act to follow. In essence, and this is no slight to Dalton, but he was a stop-gap until Pierce Brosnan became available (Brosnan was tied up in a contract that did not permit him to become Bond for several years). It didn't help that Timothy Dalton would have been better suited for the energetic side of the James Bond role when he made the short list some years earlier, at the time of production planning of "For Your Eyes Only." The Eon producers, though, concluded that half-hearted search by retaining the aging Roger Moore for a few more films. So, "Licence to Kill," a decidedly mediocre Bond film, became Dalton's swan song as Pierce's obligations cleared up.

License to Kill Timothy Dalton movie poster
Not only are the women de-emphasized in the "Licence to Kill" posters - they aren't even all there. They become ghostly apparitions, off to the side and in the background.

Mediocre really is the right word to apply to "License to Kill." The film posters for "Licence to Kill" were mediocre, as was just about everything else about the two Timothy Dalton films. Again, that is not a slight on Dalton's ability, it simply was a creatively barren period for the James Bond team. The James Bond crew from the '60s was getting on in years and, frankly, it was beginning to look as if they just didn't much care about breaking new ground any longer. People were dropping off with each production - this was Maurice Binder's swan song designing the title sequence, and it is fair to say that the quality of that key part of the James Bond film equation dropped significantly after "License to Kill" and remained depressed until "Casino Royale" almost 20 years later.

License to Kill movie poster
Not a woman in sight.

There were no memorable villains in "The Licence to Kill," the Bond girls were only so-so, and the plots were pedestrian. Timothy Dalton's patented shark-grin was unique, but not enough to make the films particularly entertaining. The spin at the time was that Dalton would be more macho, "as Ian Fleming intended." They say that, of course, with every new James Bond actor. The scripts didn't really emphasize that, and Dalton's James Bond wound up without much of a unique character such as Sean Connery (manly) or Roger Moore (light-hearted). Probably the best you could say was that he was a "gritty" James Bond. The film posters focused heavily on Dalton running about and smirking because they had very little else to go on.

License to Kill Timothy Dalton
The "Licence to Kill" posters inexplicably shunted the women off to the side, putting them in the background and sometimes eliminating them completely. This was a big - and for many unwelcome - change from earlier in the series.

One of the biggest problems with Timothy Dalton's tenure is that, in reaction to the increasingly unrealistic and jokey tone of the final Roger Moore films, the people at EON were determined to recreate James Bond as pure tough guy (they say they want to do this every time they bring in a new James Bond). Thus, Dalton does a lot of gun-waving and arm-waving in the print ads, and the women are marginalized. However, Timothy Dalton simply doesn't project evil very well, and the production team kept sabotaging the effort. You keep thinking that Dalton is going to break out into a smile when he is trying to be intense, and he comes off looking simply confused. Some of the advertising reflects this, as if the producers realized this was a battle they were never really going to win. Even when he tries to look tough, Dalton comes off looking just constipated, as if he's really trying hard to retain control. It worked out in the end, because people like an edge of humor even though Dalton didn't really deliver it anywhere near as effectively as Roger Moore in his prime. Oh, one more thing - there was a reason the girls were prominently positioned in the Connery/Moore posters. Don't tamper with success. The secret sauce for the James Bond films is the Bond girls, not James Bond's pistol.

License to Kill Timothy Dalton

License to Kill Timothy Dalton

License to Kill Timothy Dalton

License to Kill Timothy Dalton


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