What the late Ian Fleming probably never envisioned for his hero, James Bond, was that he'd change so dramatically every few years. But that's what Britain's most famous spy has done over his long movie life.
With the latest OO7 adventure-spy film, 'The Living Daylights,' directed by John Glen based on a screenplay by Richard Maibaum and Michael Wilson, the Bond hero is as good-looking, as resourceful and as amorous as ever.
But as portrayed by actor Timothy Dalton, Bond is about the most passionate and serious 007 we have seen to date. This Bond is given to moods and even flinches.
It's almost startling to see a contemplative James Bond replace the smirking, cynical character so engagingly played by Sean Connery, and the slick and aloof Bond who Roger Moore brought to life in the part.
If it weren't for the background of high-technology gadgetry, beautiful women and exotic locations, this Bond would hardly seem kin at all to the Bond who has now appeared in 16 films.
The continuity is undoubtedly due to the fact that screenwriter Maibaum has written or co-written 12 of the Bond films, including 'For Your Eyes Only' and 'Octopussy.' The pace is break-neck; the situations impossibly complicated and dangerous, and the outcome -- if not the methods -- predictable.
In 'The Living Daylights,' Bond is assigned the task of eliminating a KGB boss that has been fingered by a Russian defector, played smarmily by Jeroen Krabbe, as the mastermind of a plot to rub out all of Britian's and the United State's top spies. But Bond doubts the veracity of the supposed plot, and his search for the truth -- that the defector himself is mixed up with a unscrupulous American arms salesman, played by Joe Don Baker -- takes Bond to north Africa, Vienna and Afghanistan.
Of course, Bond is armed with the latest spy toys -- an ingenious set of car keys seems, and, of course, the famous OO7 car, which Agent Q lovingly patches together for each movie only to have Bond smash it up, gives moviegoer their quotient of thrills and chills.
With his new thoughtful attitude, Bond also seems a much more attentive lover in 'The Living Daylights,' and downright monogomous once he becomes attached to another defector, Kara Milovy, played by Maryam d'Abo, who is used by the rotten Russian to further his gunrunning plot with the evil American.
In almost every cerebral and physical feature, this Bond is destined to surprise audiences raised on the Connery-Moore legend. For poise and wit, Connery still beats all other Bonds hand down, and Moore had no match when it came to cool.
But Dalton's Bond brings the British spy much closer to the head and heart of a real character. This James Bond is not only an ingenious character; he's a human one. Some audiences may feel let down to see their hero portrayed in this demeaning fashion. But James Bond may have found picked up some new fans with 'The Living Daylights.'
This movie is rated PG.