James Bond Review: Goldeneye (dir. by Martin Campbell)

After License to Kill, there was darkness.

The Bond Franchise would hit the longest lull in the series history, a break of about 6 years before Goldeneye came into fruition. I remember seeing the poster for Goldeneye in a subway station and the shock of both finding out there was finally a Bond film and that they managed to pick one of my favorite Bond choices at the time in Pierce Brosnan.

Albert “Cubby” Broccoli was upset with the response of License to Kill after its release. In the process, he decided to try something new and perhaps go with a different writer / director pairing. John Glen did a number of the Bond films leading up to this, and like a change in coaching, Broccoli may have felt it wasn’t going where it should. MGM, who was in the process of dying (and let’s face it, MGM was like that for some time), were in a deal that would allow the new owners to publish the Bond movies on TV without any consent or control from EON Productions. It was basically a fight to hold on to the ownership of the entire Bond Library, from what I’m finding. I could be wrong there, but it’s how I read into it.

Additionally, Dalton was supposed to do a third Bond film, but the issues between MGM and EON lasted so long that he eventually decided to bow out. Brosnan was approached to play Bond right after Moore finished A View to A Kill, but was unable to do so due to the success of Remington Steele. It was only after License to Kill (and Dalton’s departure) that the offer came back again and this time he jumped right on it.

One of the challenges for Goldeneye was to come up with a story for Bond. With the Cold War ending around the beginning of the decade, they couldn’t use General Gogol and the other angles that worked well in previous 007 files. The story that was made was seemingly tailored to work around that. Goldeneye deals with a joint mission with James and Alex Trevelyan (Sean Bean), who is also 006. During the mission, 006 is believed killed and Bond is able to both complete the job and escape. Bond later discovers that Trevelyan is alive and is behind a plot to fire an orbital EMP that would let him rob all of the banks in London via an electronic transfer. The film concentrates on how Bond doesn’t exactly fit in, considering that so much has changed around him.

One thing that Goldeneye really failed at was the music. Instead of the traditional Orchestra like tones from John Barry, they went with The Professional’s Eric Serra. The music was a mixture of electronic sounds and beats, a major departure from everything that Bond fans up until that point knew. For a number of Bond fans, the music just didn’t work for the film in any way (or only marginally made sense). This would be later rectified in Tomorrow Never Dies and a composer change. Here’s a bit of trivia: The end song of Goldeneye, “The Experience of Love” is actually a song made for The Professional, and an instrumental version of that song can be heard in that film’s soundtrack. Not the first time that’s happened musically – A James Horner track for James Cameron’s Aliens can be heard in the movie Die Hard – but it is a first for a Bond film, as far as I can tell.

Martin Campbell took over the directing for Goldeneye. While he doesn’t have a perfect track record (see Green Lantern and The Legend of Zorro), he was able to pull an action film together. He did so well with Goldeneye that he was actually brought on to film Casino Royale, possibly because both films were different kinds of reboots.

Another notable difference in Goldeneye is the introduction of Dame Judi Dench as “M”. It marks the first time that M is played by a woman. Her candor towards James is that he is “a relic of the Cold War” and a “misogynist dinosaur”. The chemistry between Brosnan and Dench is a bit rough when compared to her work with Daniel Craig, but the change also lends to an interesting dynamic. For someone who is considered a ladies man, here 007 is having to answer to a woman. Not terrible by any means, but it’s a shake up in the scheme of things. A younger Moneypenny (Samantha Bond) is also introduced, whose attitude is similar to M’s, but not as venomous. Desmond Llewelyn returns as Q, providing Bond with a BMW, outfitted with all of the regular gear. Although an Aston Martin DB5 was used in the beginning of the movie, it’s not the same car that Bond uses for the rest of the film. Where Moore was a Lotus driver and Dalton an Aston Martin one, Brosnan would be found behind BMW’s for the span of his 007 career.

For the Bond girls, two are better than one, and for Goldeneye we were given Izabella Scorupco as Natalia Simonova, a programmer with knowledge of how to stop the Goldeneye and a witness to the attack and theft of the device. The other is Xenia Onatopp, a former Soviet helicopter pilot and assassin, played by X-Men’s Famke Janssen. Jansen’s character is a bit cliche in that she kills with her thighs, but one has to wonder if that was just a carry over from what EON had to work with in previous films.

I thought Sean Bean was a great choice for a Bond Villain. At the time, he was young and dynamic, so  his character was able to hold his own with Bond in the fighting scenes and had a great plan with what he wanted to do with Goldeneye. I wouldn’t mind seeing more Bond guys be of the actual fighting type, rather than ones who let their henchmen do it for them. Speaking of henchmen, Alan Cumming’s hacker was more funny than fearsome to me, providing a comic relief to the film. Robbie Coltrane also adds a bit of humor as a contact of Bond’s that leads him to Trevelyan.

Goldeneye is also the first Bond movie to have it’s very own console based video game, and the impact of that game as a first person console shooter was huge at the time. We leave you with Tina Turner’s theme to the movie, with the assistance of Bono and the Edge. Tomorrow, we take on Tomorrow Never Dies.

9 responses to “James Bond Review: Goldeneye (dir. by Martin Campbell)

  1. It wasn’t just the first console game based on the Bond franchise, but really one of the best video games ever made. Goldeneye on the N64 pretty much revolutionized first-person shooters during the mid-1990’s.

    It would convince game developers that first-person shooters was viable on the console. Prior to Goldeneye FPS titles were PC-only and it was the limitations of the console controller which kept the genre from the console.

    If it wasn’t for Goldeneye on the N64 we wouldn’t have Halo: Combat Evolve (Which would evolve the console FPS even further) then Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.

    I can guarantee that there are still hundreds of thousands of gamers who have held on to their N64 and their copies of Goldeneye and still have gaming sessions at one’s home.


    • Goldeneye64 changed so many things. My little brother and I used to play the multiplayer all of the time on the split screens, and I couldn’t get the Invincibility cheat for the second stage to save my life. Turned out the way to do it was just like it was done in the film – Pick up any bad guy’s gun as you kill and pass them and use that gun until you run into someone else. You’re right. There are tons of people who probably still play it, or the re-release of the game that came out some time ago. 🙂 Thanks for the reply.


  2. Sure, the videogame was fun and stuff, but your review left out “Goldeneye”‘s most important contribution to the Bond universe, Joe Don Baker!

    (Okay, I guess, technically, Joe Don was a villain in “The Living Daylights,” but that was well before MST3K had made a mockery of his career [“MITCHELL!”]; thus making him entirely inconsequential up to this point.)


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