This week, amidst all of the horrors of the terrorist attack in Manchester, we got the terrible news that actor Roger Moore had died at the age of 89. Moore has become a household name thanks to his numerous television and film roles but it is his time playing James Bond that cemented his place in the annals of pop culture history. Everyone has their own favourite James Bond but I guess Sean Connery and Roger Moore are two of the more iconic names associated with the role. Connery was the first Bond and created the basis for the character. However, it was Roger Moore who stepped in, after George Lazenby’s forgettable attempt, to give the character his own spin. For my part, I think Moore is my ultimate Bond. I mean a huge part of me will always love Pierce Brosnan because it’s Pierce fucking Brosnan. He’s ridiculous but wonderful. I’d also be so bold as to say that Brosnan and Moore both approached the role in similar ways, which probably explains why they’re both my favourite. I understand why people think Sean Connery is the best and, I admit, he’s bloody great. I just prefer my Bond to be a little sillier and that’s one thing we came to expect from the Sir Roger. Bur you know what, I’ll be honest, I think it really just comes down to the eyebrow.
If you don’t count Never Say Never Again, which a lot of people don’t because it isn’t canon, then Roger Moore played James Bond in the most films. If you do count it then he ties for first place with Sean Connery. No matter how petulant you are, it’s clear that these two actors are pretty important when it comes to the character of James Bond. Both had very different approaches to the role and, in quote you’ll have seen a lot since his death this week, Roger Moore himself suggests that Connery played the character as a killer whilst he played him as a lover. I think this sums up the differences quite well. Sean Connery had fun with the role but it was Roger Moore that really got to grips with the funny. He played to his strengths and presented the character as suave, sophisticated and very silly. Moore’s own sense of humour is evident in his interviews and he was always well aware of the absurdity that went with the Bond brand. So he used it for all it was worth.
As he got older, Moore’s bond relied on humour more than the physical side and some of his films are up there the best of the franchise. His first film, on the other hand, is fairly forgettable and. until I rewatched it for the purposes of this blog, I couldn’t have told you a lot about it. James is called into action after 3 British agents die in mysterious but connected circumstances. He finds that a dangerous Caribbean dictator, Dr Kananga, is running around town as his drug baron alter ego Mr Big. The plot itself is very convoluted and overly complicated. We see Bond stick out like a sore thumb in African American communities as the Bond franchise embraced the blaxploitation films of the era. It makes for kind of uncomfortable viewing nowadays but the film was a financial success at the time.
The problems with Live and Let Die aren’t necessarily that it’s a bad film. I mean it’s not great but there are some interesting ideas floating around. The main issue is that it’s a bad James Bond film. We lack that super villain presence and the crazy gadgets. Instead we just have groups of drug smugglers chasing Bond through the Louisiana marshes in speedboats. It’s exciting to a point but we’ve had better chases. And ones that weren’t punctuated with the world’s most annoying and stereotypically Southern Sheriff. This is a film that just doesn’t really know where it’s going or how to make it big enough. People had come to expect great things with James Bond and they wanted to see him fight a villain who could destroy the planet. Instead we see him chasing voodoo loving drug dealers. We were on more realistic ground but the simplicity of the plot gets lost in a confusing narrative. It should have kept things more basic.
Roger Moore takes some time to get used to the character and this is definitely not one of this greatest moments. Although, there is a certain twinkle in his eye that suggests he is constantly aware of how crazy this all is even if he keeps his poker face on for the entire film. It’s got all the aspects that will become Moore’s trademark but he isn’t quite self-assured enough to pull it off yet here. There are some pretty great moments, though, and it’s a good start. He also works really well alongside his female co-star, Jane Seymour. As much as I hate the huge 24 year age gap between the pair, I think they have great chemistry. and Seymour has to be up at the top of the most beautiful Bond girls of all time.
After watching this film again after so long, I’m kind of upset that I picked this film to celebrate the life of Roger Moore. It’s an overly complicated, lengthy and fairly forgettable film in the entire franchise. There are some great elements and some fantastic scenes but it never really feels like it’s on steady ground. It has a lot of things we’ve come to expect from a Bond film but it lacks the finesse and grandeur of the rest. It’s just not outrageous enough. We’ve seen with the Daniel Craig era that realistic Bond can be successful but it still needs to be over-the-top to give the character room to move. Instead, things just awkwardly plod from one location to the next. Despite all this, I still love Roger Moore and, when it comes to James Bond, nobody does it better.