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Re: James Bond's Darkest Hour: An Essay on Licence to Kill

I don't think LTK feels small or like a TV movie. I've never seen a TV movie from the 1980's (lartely CGI has changed what TV can do dramatically) that had scenes like the "fishing" in the PTS, the entire sequence where Bond waterskiis, the "spiritual center" and the truck chase. I'd say TMWTGG feels a lot more like a TV movie, mostly saved by the "James Bond Island" location. DAF also gives me more ofa TV movie feel than LTK ever has.
I do agree there isn't enough globetrotting in LTK. The Barrelhead sequence should have been moved to Thailand, I think. It needn't cost more or even require filming in Thailand, at least by the main unit. Just let the scene remain a night scene (perhaps ad a short scene of Bond's plane landing, get some Asian extras, change the set and it would have worked. By having a scene set in south east Asia the audience would accept the "ninja" scene more easily too. I never had a problem with that scene, but I understand some do.

Last edited by Number24 (17th Jun 2020 19:43)

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Re: James Bond's Darkest Hour: An Essay on Licence to Kill

The ninjas always felt strange from my point of view, a slightly pointless addition. The Chinese financiers backing Sanchez also feels a little ripped from the film version of GF where Goldfinger is supported by American gangsters. Also notable that LTK is the only 80s Bond not to feature General Gogol or the KGB, perhaps a mistake in hindsight given that the Berlin Wall fell that very year. With this context in mind a small-scale plot concerning drug smuggling feels a little detached from where the real action is going on, over the other side of the Iron Curtain.

With regards to TV movie-style direction, there are two possible explanations for this fault. Firstly, the fact that (as I understand it) Eon were still in debt following the hugely expensive production of Moonraker ten years earlier (ouch!). Secondly, there is the critique of John Glen's direction, which lacks the huge orchestrated scale of Lewis Gilbert or the witty visual panache of Guy Hamilton. Compare for example Glen's direction with the more dynamic contemporary efforts of John Mctiernan (The Hunt for Red October 1990) or Wolfgang Peterson (In the Line of Fire 1993). Glen does fine work to begin with in FYEO but after four films a shake-up might have been interesting. The way 'action' was shot had changed hugely since 1981 with the advent of Indiana Jones and Die Hard yet FYEO has the same solidly workmanlike yet efficient 'look' as LTK. Nearly a decade since, a change might have helped.

There are other technical problems to contend with as well, such as flat lighting, bland costumes and Michael Kamen's Die Hard-inspired soundtrack, which feels a little generic and dilutes the Bond atmosphere where a strong dose of Barry brass might have elevated proceedings considerably (similarly to Barry's excellent score for AVTAK.)

It strikes me that none of the Bonds set in the United States- except for GF and a small chunk of CR- have fared particularly well. DAF, LALD, MR, AVTAK and LTK, not many critical darlings amongst that squad of films. Does anyone else think the film could have done with more exotic locations? I know there was initially a plan to film on location in China but this was shelved for some reason. Anyone else agree? What about the irrelevance of the plotline to political events in Eastern Europe and beyond? Does this, rather than the direction, make the film feel lacking and 'small'?

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Re: James Bond's Darkest Hour: An Essay on Licence to Kill

I think the Asian druglords and police agents expanded the movie and made it "bigger". It also made sense plotwise to me.

Setting the movie in Eastern Europe at the time would have dated the movie quickly. That was the reason EON scrapped the idea of setting TND in Hong Kong during the transfer of power - setting a movie at a particular time and place in history dates it.

John Glen wasn't a bad director, but he never was a very good one either. One of my favourite alternative history Bond movies is LTK directed by Ridley Scott, but I like your Wolfgang Pettersen idea. If that happened LTK would have been his first English language movie, right after Das Boot.

I've also noiticed that most Bond movies set mainly in America (other than GF) tend to be divisive.

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Re: James Bond's Darkest Hour: An Essay on Licence to Kill

Goldfinger actually has very bland landscapes, except for the Alps.
It's just postwar American sprawl.
Felix is seen exiting a Kentucky Fried Chicken at one point!
...but as with aVtaK, Barry's music elevates it and it's got a couple other things going for it as well.

As a general rule, I think foreign exoticism is something audiences want from a Bondfilm, and the more familiar the landscapes, the less satisfying the Bondfilm.
The last two Craigs were weak on this point because they returned to London for the final act (though from the point of view of a north american London is relatively exotic)

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Re: James Bond's Darkest Hour: An Essay on Licence to Kill

A different aspect of criticism I've just thought of comes from Sir Hillary Bray's suggestion about action setpieces. I think it is true to say that the setpieces in LTK for the most part feel small-scale and limited for some reason, including the plane skydiving and the water-skiing escape. The bar-room fight is outright badly staged, with the use of the narwhal a gag more suited to MR or OP. The action setpieces in this film also feel quite short somehow, particularly the strangely paced PTS. Compare the action in this PTS with the freefall stunt in MR, for example. The climactic truck chase is often praised but I find it rather derivative of the similar one in Raiders of the Lost Ark, with the hero hanging/climbing on the vehicle in order to reach and brawl the driver. The rest, as I say, feel small-scale. I think GE effectively brought back the style of long, slightly jokey incident-packed chases redolent of FYEO's ski chase or TSWLM's Lotus chase, along with more energetic direction.

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Re: James Bond's Darkest Hour: An Essay on Licence to Kill

Number24 wrote:

I don't think LTK feels small or like a TV movie. I've never seen a TV movie from the 1980's (lartely CGI has changed what TV can do dramatically) that had scenes like the "fishing" in the PTS, the entire sequence where Bond waterskiis, the "spiritual center" and the truck chase. I'd say TMWTGG feels a lot more like a TV movie, mostly saved by the "James Bond Island" location. DAF also gives me more of a TV movie feel than LTK ever has.

Just repeating myself ......

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Re: James Bond's Darkest Hour: An Essay on Licence to Kill

I do agree that TMWTGG also looks a bit cheap, especially the funhouse which looks like a cast-off set from some weird alien domain in 1960s Star Trek. DAF is similar, though most of this can be blamed on poor location scouting in Amsterdam and Las Vegas. Visual splendour doesn't necessarily guarantee a strong plot and characters, though. (see MR and more egregiously the lushly photographed DAD.)

LTK may have expensive action sequences, however the point I think is that they lack gripping, exciting presentation. That's an indictment of a budget ($42,000,000 to be exact)badly spent.

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Re: James Bond's Darkest Hour: An Essay on Licence to Kill

Any other thoughts on the action sequences or the film's failure to handle the explosive contemporary geopolitics in Eastern Europe at the time?

I must say I knew LTK was one of the more controversial Bonds but didn't think this would provoke such a variety of interesting, civilised debates! Its an encouraging start to my time on this forum...

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Re: James Bond's Darkest Hour: An Essay on Licence to Kill

"That's largely why Scaramanga some people don't like too but could never put their finger on why, though decidedly he's a bit more exotic with his lair and stuff. "

I consider Scaramanga a more traditional Bond villain as his plan does eventually morph into "massive scheme to destabilise the world" with the Solex Agitator, increasing the stakes from merely wanting to kill Bond. Sanchez, though, wants to smuggle more drugs using the trucks. That's it. At least in FYEO the drug smuggling is a sideshow compared to the Soviets getting the ATAC, and in TLD the opium trafficking is small fry compared to rogue Russians hotting up the Cold War. I guess what I'm trying to say is that Sanchez's overarching plan is too basic in scope and small-scale for a Bond villain. The 'bad guy wants to start nuclear war between country A and country B in order to get control of item C' plot trope is overused for sure, but at least it involves huge stakes. Sanchez's ambitions, well, don't.

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Re: James Bond's Darkest Hour: An Essay on Licence to Kill

SpectreOfDefeat wrote:

Any other thoughts on the action sequences or the film's failure to handle the explosive contemporary geopolitics in Eastern Europe at the time?

The action sequences in LTK fall flat for me.

But I agree with Number24 that setting LTK in late-80s Eastern Europe could have aged the film badly, even though we may not have known it at the time.  Setting a Bond film among current geopolitical events is a risky approach -- one need look no further than the previous film, in which Bond partnered with the cute and cuddly Afghan mujahideen, who of course morphed into the Taliban.

Hilly...you old devil!

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Re: James Bond's Darkest Hour: An Essay on Licence to Kill

Sanchez wants to divide up the north and south American markets among the drug lords of the world to minimise the drug wars between the cartels and maximise the output.

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Re: James Bond's Darkest Hour: An Essay on Licence to Kill

To be fair, it might well have been risky to send Bond hurtling into the midst of the Soviet collapse in 1989 given who Bond had allied with in the third act of TLD. I do seem to remember that some of the reason for LTK avoiding mention of the Cold War was because the writers felt they had to find new enemies for Bond to encounter in the future, given the way things in the Soviet Union had been going since Gorbachev's rise in 1985. It is notable that in his final two appearances- 1985's AVTAK and 1987's TLD- General Gogol is noticeably friendlier to Bond and MI6 than in FYEO, which was released at the height of Reagan-era tough rhetoric. In AVTAK Gogol even takes tea in M's office!

I guess it is strange for Bond to go to the US and face ruthless drug dealers rather than-as with DAF- bumbling comedy gangsters straight out of an overdone parody. With the exception of Felix Leiter, the other US officials are portrayed as unhelpful and incompetent, while Krest is weaselling and greedy, Joe Butcher is a slimy conman and Killifer is treacherous and corrupt. The film overall doesn't present a very positive portrait of the nation supposed to be Bond- and, by extension Britain's- closest ally abroad. Any thoughts on this apparent strand of anti-Americanism/ the move away from Cold War politics?

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Re: James Bond's Darkest Hour: An Essay on Licence to Kill

I remember pretty well the end of the cold war. I did my national service in 1991-92, just when the Soviet Union collapsed. It was obvious the USSR was expriencing huge proiblems, it wasn't obvious what would happen. A more competent and well planned coup by the conservative communist may have rolled back Perestroika. Setting LTK in that part of the world in 1991 would have been a huge gamble on history.

All the DEA agents other than Killifer were shown in a positive light, but the plot demanded that Bond played the more active part in what happened.

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Re: James Bond's Darkest Hour: An Essay on Licence to Kill

SpectreOfDefeat wrote:

....with this incarnation of Bond was ‘tough’. Posters for Dalton’s first instalment in 1987, The Living Daylights, heralded ‘the most dangerous Bond ever’, a man who was ‘living on the edge'.

And here is the problem of both of Dalton movies!
You have the approach of a 'tough' 'most dangerous Bond ever' and then the main actor behaves like a cuddly teddybear in Love in longer parts of the movie!
I may repeat myself here, just look at his interactions with Kara, Della, and his 'hurt feelings' play when his license is revoked and his terrible pathetic attempts to insert humor of any kind.
You have posted many good reasons, why Dalton's movies tanked at the Box office, but you disregard the main factor for that lack of success:

DALTON

Large parts of the US audience never accepted him, the US distribution wanted to have him fired and you simply ignore this factor.
With the exception of Lazenby every other "New" Bond actor was able to pull the BO numbers up significantly - not Dalton!
Now you compare TLD with AVTAK which had similar numbers at the BO:
AVTAK was the last movie of a visibly slightly too old main actor vs. a fresh new start with a much younger fresher actor.
As you are criticizing Moore's performance in the action scenes:
That is easily said in 2020, but you fail to understand the historical context that was at the beginning of the 80s
Until First Blood (1982) a movie with a mild BO success had to put action and violence in context with humor!
I challenge you to give me one blockbuster movie, which showed explicit violence in a family (non war) movie prior to First Blood.
So until then (1982) action in movies (which where all intended for cinema audiences and not nerds on computer/tv screens) had to be like what you see in the Moore age!
And you don't seriously expect Moore shifting to graphic violence in his final movies after having established his interpretation for the role for a decade.
So criticizing Moore for the execution and spirit in his action scenes is shallow and unfair.

Last edited by Higgins (18th Jun 2020 11:10)

President of the 'Misty Eyes Club'.

-------Dalton - the weak and weepy Bond!------

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Re: James Bond's Darkest Hour: An Essay on Licence to Kill

Who critoizised Moore for a lack of action? I missed that post.

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Re: James Bond's Darkest Hour: An Essay on Licence to Kill

>> But the cartoonish antics of Moore’s tenure, occasionally violent as they are, stand a million miles away from the style, tone and direction of the repeated scenes of slaughter in Licence to Kill<<

I was not speaking about „lack of action“ in the Moore era but the context in which action and violence was embedded and which is often labeled as being „cartoonish“.

I am sure your occulist will confirm this  ajb007/biggrin

President of the 'Misty Eyes Club'.

-------Dalton - the weak and weepy Bond!------

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Re: James Bond's Darkest Hour: An Essay on Licence to Kill

Higgins wrote:

So criticizing Moore for the lack of action is shallow and unfair.

I'll keep the glasses I have now for a few more years  ajb007/biggrin

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Re: James Bond's Darkest Hour: An Essay on Licence to Kill

Ok, poor wording on my side, I‘ll edit my comment  ajb007/biggrin

Higgins wrote:

So criticizing Moore for the execution and spirit in his action scenes is shallow and unfair.

Last edited by Higgins (18th Jun 2020 11:12)

President of the 'Misty Eyes Club'.

-------Dalton - the weak and weepy Bond!------

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Re: James Bond's Darkest Hour: An Essay on Licence to Kill

Higgins wrote:

I may repeat myself here

ajb007/amazed  ajb007/amazed  ajb007/amazed

(Collapses in shock at the very thought)

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Re: James Bond's Darkest Hour: An Essay on Licence to Kill

Hey, I have tried to make my argument well-thought and rational.

No need for that casual sarcasm  ajb007/biggrin  ajb007/tongue

President of the 'Misty Eyes Club'.

-------Dalton - the weak and weepy Bond!------

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Re: James Bond's Darkest Hour: An Essay on Licence to Kill

In fact Higgins should be commended for writing a long post about Dalton and not mentioning his "tears" once  ajb007/biggrin

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Re: James Bond's Darkest Hour: An Essay on Licence to Kill

Of course you are right, N24, but he'd wonder what was happening if there was no standard response.

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Re: James Bond's Darkest Hour: An Essay on Licence to Kill

"You have the approach of a 'tough' 'most dangerous Bond ever' and then the main actor behaves like a cuddly teddybear in Love in longer parts of the movie!"

I think part of the intention of the film-makers here was to have Dalton do many of his own stunts, for example his increased participation in the Land Rover chase/fight in the PTS of TLD. Similarly as said earlier Dalton displays a greater level of ruthlessness throughout, for example when somewhat brutally despatching Necros in TLD and Sanchez in LTK. I suspect that the increased romantic aspect of TLD is supposed to hark back to Fleming, as part of Dalton's stated project to 'humanise'' Bond. The jury's out on whether that worked in his favour though, the clash of a strong romantic subplot against the characterisation of a less warm, distant version of Bond. I think it does (see Saunders' death in TLD and Bond's ensuing coldness towards Kara, one of Dalton's best moments in the role.)


As for Moore's less 'energetic' action scenes; by 1985 (the start year of the essay) we'd had Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981 and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in 1984. Both family franchise films and both displaying an increased level of violent sensibility in comparison, yet also with strong undercurrents of humour as well. LTK reacts with increased gore but lacks the matching humour or dynamic direction to make the transformation convincing. What do others think re the dated (or not) stylings of Moore's action scenes in comparison with Dalton's in LTK?

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Actually I think Indy put a fire under their bottom to try and achieve what it did, thus we got Octopussy which obviously worked quite well imo because it was campy in a good way...sort of like how Indy did it. The reason VTAK drags on for me is the lack of that dynamic.

LTK wasn't much of a reaction to anything if you ask me, they were just doing their thing. Now that might be the reason for it but I agree largely with Higgins on the fact it was Dalton more than anything else.

OP though wasn't that big a draw regardless, anyway. 80s was an era of decline for Bond. That's why it "died".

a reasonable rate of return

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Re: James Bond's Darkest Hour: An Essay on Licence to Kill

"Now that might be the reason for it but I agree largely with Higgins on the fact it was Dalton more than anything else."

Another factor which wasn't really Dalton's fault per se was that Brosnan had come so close to being cast in 1986 that anyone else would have felt like a disappointment- thus leading to (unfair) perceptions that Dalton had been cast as 'only second best'. I do agree that while Dalton is undeniably tougher than Moore, he lacks a certain screen physicality when put in a line-up alongside other action heroes of the time such as Willis and Schwarzenegger. Maybe it was this disparity that put off American audiences, rather than pitchfork-waving mobs clamouring for Moore or Brosnan?

"OP though wasn't that big a draw regardless, anyway. 80s was an era of decline for Bond. That's why it "died"."

This is true. After the high of MR's release in 1979 the box office receipts started to decline gradually from FYEO onwards, as said. It's also notable that the tone of the series becomes generally flip-flopping around this point. You have the campy Moonraker, the serious FYEO, the mostly campy OP, the zany weird stylings of AVTAK, the mostly serious TLD and finally the much more gritty LTK. Perhaps by the time of LTK general audiences (and critics) were a little confused, and unsure of what to expect out of a typical Bond film anymore?