Timothy Dalton was brought in as Bond to replace Roger Moore in 1985, as Moore had decided he was too old for the role. He was a bold, new direction for Bond as he was a young, dramatic actor with none of the winking irreverence that, after 12 years and seven movies of Roger Moore, had come to characterise the role. Dalton only stuck around for two movies, or was only kept for two movies, and his serious take on the role is highly refreshing following the cartoon-y Moore years. It will always be a shame he didn’t get a chance to really stretch his legs in the role and appear in a few more:
The Living Daylights (1987)
Moore or Dalton: The Living Daylights should have been the franchise’s big turning point. The producers had a new, young, broody-looking Bond, and it was time to wipe away the silly, tongue-in-cheek, constant one liners of the Moore Bond era. Instead, it seems as though they simply took a Moore script and filmed it with Dalton.
On the plus side, though, if this had been a Moore Bond, it would have been one of the best. The plot is heavy on espionage, the villains are interesting, and the love interest has a more significant role in the plot than usual. The set pieces are exciting, especially the fight in the plane, but the final showdown between Bond and Whitaker is a little stale.
Half and Half: Dalton makes a cool, dangerous Bond, and he seems uncomfortable with some of the sillier lines and scenes. A sequence in which Bond sleds down the hill in a cello case would seem right at home in a Moore Bond, but Dalton is a different actor and thus a different character, so it rings false.
At this point, the producers weren’t ready for a complete overhaul, or lacked the confidence, so we get a half and half movie. Half lighthearted Bond and half brooding Bond, full of anger and a little angst. It’s interesting in hindsight to look at Dalton’s Bond sandwiched between the cartoon Bonds of Moore and Brosnan and think that he is a man out of time. Nearly twenty years after this, the Bond producers will go full angst with Daniel Craig to praise and success, while Dalton struggles in the role here as he comes across as too serious for the part that seven Roger Moore movies have changed from cool, international super spy into self-parody.
The Living Daylights, for its tonal confusion, is still a very good Bond. It has a fantastic A-Ha theme tune and is stacked with great actors like Art Malik, John Rhys-Davies, and Jeroen Krabbe. The storyline of defections and double crosses is very Cold War and very ’80s. It harkens back to those glory days of spying/spy movies when the bad guys were always in league with the dreaded Russians and no one could be trusted.
Overall: Dalton, much like Lazenby, represents the what could have been of Bonds. If Moore had bowed out earlier, then it’s possible a Dalton Octopussy or a Dalton View to a Kill would have been darker, more riveting movies. It would have been interesting for the producers to really draw the line under the Moore years and make a Bond more in line with early Connery Bonds, with a stripped down spy movie formula, fewer locations, and simpler plots. Instead we get Dalton’s Bond in a Moore Bond world.