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November 19, 2012

From Connery to Craig, 007 style mirrored the times

(Continued)

The early Cold War-era Connery films were top heavy with stateless master-race crazies seeking world domination. The "Star Wars" era resulted in the unfortunate "Moonraker," with its zero-gravity laser battles barely mussing Moore's cast- iron coif.

Nothing mussed Moore really, which is why he was the most freeze-dried of the Bonds — a debonair hologram. Even Brosnan, also afflicted with blow-dry suavity, had his ornery side. Moore became fully human only in "The Spy Who Loved Me," when Jaws's chompers were bearing down on the aghast Bond's jugular.

In the eighties, with the advent of the violent Stallone- Schwarzenegger pulpathons, movies like "For Your Eyes Only" and "License to Kill," the latter starring the moody, Hamlet-esque Dalton, emphasized ground-level crunch-and-thud theatrics.

In "Skyfall," Bond, who doesn't seem to be especially computer literate, faces off against cyberwarriors. But throughout the series, no matter who his adversaries are — blatant or shadowy, high-tech or lowdown — Bond generally dispatches them the old-fashioned way: one on one.

He's battled baddies with cast-iron pecs and poison-tipped shoes (Robert Shaw and Lotte Lenya, respectively, in "From Russia With Love"). He's fended off stainless steel incisors (Richard Kiel's Jaws in "The Spy Who Loved Me" and "Moonraker") and steel-rimmed bowler hats (Harold Sakata's Oddjob in "Goldfinger"). Mads Mikkelsen in "Casino Royale" literally cried tears of blood.

He's tooled around in autogyros, space-station shuttles, Aston Martins, Lotuses, even invisible cars.

The Bond series also has the distinction of being a pioneer in the dubious realm of product placement. Not for nothing was "Die Another Day" dubbed "Buy Another Day."

Throughout it all Bond remains the avatar of "For King and Country" sangfroid. He leapt to freedom in "The Spy Who Loved Me" in a Union Jack parachute. To kick off the London Olympics, Craig's Bond escorted the Queen herself from Buckingham Palace. It was a Rule Britannia joke the whole world was in on.

The Bond franchise has more global reach than the old empire ever did.

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