It is the 1980’s. The feminist movement has had an impact and the new epidemic of HIV/AIDS will have a big impact in the movies. The James Bond franchise was already changing towards the end of Moore’s run. By the time his replacement takes over the whole feel of the franchise would bear little resemblance to how it was in it earlier days.
There is an argument that says that the Bond movies were moving with the times. Even as that is the case it cannot be said that the move was for the better. Herein lies the intrigue. Timothy Dalton is arguably the best actor to have played Bond judged on acting merit. Connery and Moore may have been bigger movie stars, but Dalton’s acting pedigree and ability was better. Yet of the five actors who played Bond for more than one film, his is the least convincing Bond, ironically because he acted! What do I mean? Dalton’s Bond was deep, vulnerable, susceptible to sentiment. An entire movie was based on him acting on his convictions.
That would be fine if it wasn’t for the fact that this was Bond. This was a movie that gave an excuse to enjoy action and thrills without needing much in the way of thought. Dalton demanded a thinking audience. That was a noble step for Bond. It was also a Bond less driven by gadgets and girls, which are arguably two of the key pillars of the franchise. It is almost as though the producers wanted to rein in the loose depiction of Bond that considered women to be another notch on his belt and reolace him with a more conscientious Bond. This could have been seen as the closest to a politically correct Bond as you could have got.
Dalton’s Bond was a distinct departure from his predecessor. The quips were definitely reduced, this was not a man to be messed with. He was serious, he was brooding, he was mindful of the need to be clinical, but he clearly had a conscience about it. Whether those are good or bad things depends on what you expect from Bond. It is noteworthy that you extend the image of the character with the different actor who takes on the role and that has never been more the case than with the difference between Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton.
For what it’s worth, to me Dalton was hamstrung with the time he took the role and the movies he got to front. Living Daylights and Licence to Kill are not the best Bond movies ever and by the time those are done Dalton’s time is already over in the role. He is sandwiched between two characters who would be significant in establishing the brand as a viable player in the movie franchise role. Despite this he can still be commended for the effort he evidently put into the role and one thing he cannot be criticised for is his sincerity in taking the role to new places.