Dr. No (1962)
A licence to kill, not to get killed
Warning: this review does contain a few vague spoilers.
It's time to kick off the marathon of James Bond movies, starting with the first movie, Dr. No, which debuted in 1962. This movie stars Sean Connery as James Bond, Ursula Andress, Jospeh Wiseman, and Jack Lord.
Dr. No, based off Ian Fleming's novel, follows James Bond, a British spy with a licence to kill, as he seeks to unravel the truth behind a murder and the plans of Dr. No. The James Bond series may be now known for the intense action, but Dr. No isn't what you would call an action movie, but more of an espionage and mystery movie. Yes, people die, and there deadly fights, but those scenes are very short as the story focuses more on the mysterious events unfolding and the characters who are caught up in the mess, especially James Bond.
Being the first James Bond movie, this film spend lots of time building the main character. No, not the back-story of what made him the spy who can do everything, but just who he is in general by focusing on his interactions with people, places, and events. If you've seen or heard about the more recent Bond movies, you may think you would know this character, but Sean Connery's portrayal is much more basic.
Dr. No's James Bond is a confident and charming spy that uses his intelligence, reflexes, and lots of luck, to resolve any situation he is placed in. Notice I said confident, not arrogant, which is one of the most notable differences in Sean Connery's character from later versions. This calm and collected Bond really shines through to make this movie feel more suave than other spy movies, even those in the 1960s.
There are some very huge problems with this film, though, some of which bleeds into the entire franchise. The most notice one is the way the women throw themselves at the secret agent. It is very common in other movies of this era to portray women as presumptuous sex objects, but each female character in this movie appears to be even dumber and more flirtatious than normal. Not even the co-star was spared.
Ursula Andress' character, Honey Ryder, was one of the few characters who actually had some back-story, but that didn't make her character more enjoyable. Her introduction was extremely sexy for the time, but with all the information we got about her, she sounded like a possible ally against the tyrant. Instead, all we got was a woman to hug up to James Bond, a target for a few whimsical puns, which is probably the only reason for her name, and for someone for him to protect and save. Disappointing, but not as disappointing as Dr. No.
Joseph Wiseman's villain was almost comical. Going into detail about this character will spoil too much of the story, but let's just say that he is one very dumb villain. I'm not talking about the part where the tells the hero what he's planning, which is very common in this genre, but I'm talking about everything else. This character is just so unrealistic that it feels like he's the punchline to a very bad joke. There are so many ways they could have fixed Dr. No to make him memorable for the right reasons, but it's like they didn't care. Although, at least Joseph Wiseman's acting was better than most of the other cast.
I know this movie came out before actors began to act like real people, but most of the dialogue in Dr. No is awful. It almost sounds like most of the actors are just reading their lines for the first time, with very little voice fluctuations or emotion. Their body language was fine, but they sounded more like a newscaster than a character. I'm sure it would have helped if their lines weren't so incredibly corny.
I'm honestly surprised that Dr. No successfully started one of the longest movie franchises in history. Sure, it wasn't a horrible movie, but I would barely call it a good movie. Yet, despite it's bad acting, cheesy dialogue and extremely sexist characters, the plot and the suave hero did just that. For those who grew up on James Bond, and watched this movie when it first came out, Dr. No is likely a fond childhood memory, or a long forgotten nightmare. For anyone who enjoys the newer James Bond movies, this may be something to watch for lesson in where it all started. For everyone else, I would recommend that you skip this movie, even with Dr. No's information dump, which sets up the next movie. If you really want the whole story, give it a watch, just don't expect anything groundbreaking nor fantastically entertaining.
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