I have felt lucky and blessed to have grown up in the 90’s and early 00’s for numerous pop culture reasons. It was a feast of animated series and the rise and subsequent remarkable run of Pixar. I got to witness the dawn of the modern Superhero movie and see Star Wars return to the big-screen with the prequels.
But I think one of the biggest reasons I loved growing up when I did, is that I came of age during the golden age to be a James Bond fan. Indeed, growing up when I did probably played a significant part in turning me into the Bond fan that I am.
From 1995 to 2012, we were blessed with a remarkable run of 007 movies and games. In some ways a comical amount of Bond stories were churned out. That run looks all the more amazing and absurd with the subsequent drought Bond fans currently find themselves in.
Over that 17-year run we got 7 Bond films and 13 James Bond video games. A new Bond property came out at a minimum every other year and numerous times we got a game and movie in the same year. If you were a kid growing up you got a new Bond goodie in your stocking nearly every year.
It was also perfectly timed to kids who were born in the early to mid 90’s and were just discovering movies and games. I was born in 1992 in the midst of the longest gap between films the series has ever seen, a six and a half year chasm from Licence to Kill to Goldeneye.
By the time Goldeneye finally came out in the winter of 1995 I was 3 years old, by 97 with the release of Tomorrow Never Dies and the Goldeneye game I was 5, with a 10 year old brother who was busy playing Golden Gun matches in front of my eyes, while my dad and I watched old Sean Connery and Roger Moore Bond VHS tapes. I quite literally never remember a time I didn’t love James Bond. I never stood a chance.
The movies and games came out at a fever pitch after that. From 1999 to 2006 there was only a single year without either a new game or movie. Seven years old at the start of this run, I was entering my prime years as a Bond fanatic and was blessed with Pierce Brosnan’s 3rd Bond film, The World is Not Enough and the video game version of Tomorrow Never Dies, playing and watching both, along with Goldeneye again and again.
The following year we got 2 game releases in the video game of The World is Not Enough, along with the terrible 007 Racing (they weren’t all hits).
The year after, we got the first of a great EA Bond PlayStation 2 run of games in Agent Under Fire. The sheer volume of hours and hours I lost in frantic multiplayer matches against my childhood bestie could fill a small lake. Turning off gravity, grappling across the map, and just losing countless late nights into the mayhem of Agent Under Fire was a joy and a major source of so many great memories that didn’t just further my love of Bond, but also of video games at large.
With the dawn of 2002, we got another excellent game and movie pairing in Nightfire and Die Another Day: the seventh game and movie released over four years. Nightfire is magnificent and an icon among Bond game fans. A strong contender for being the best Bond game, it is a fun blast of a story with excellent multiplayer modes and just wonderfully-stylized with Pierce Brosnan’s likeness to boot.
As for Die Another Day, the movie is a giant PS2 video game put into film form and how much you enjoy the movie depends a great deal on how you like that. I liked it very much and still find it to be a silly, fun, wonky, good time. I was 10 years old devouring all this content and couldn’t be happier with my little pop culture world.
This was also helped by the fact that 2002 was the 40th anniversary of the Bond film series and thus there were numerous specials, DVD features, magazines, and books celebrating the Bond series; another perfect way to further my insatiable appetite for all things 007.
2003 would be the only year in this run without anything new for Bond fans but our patience was rewarded in 2004 with arguably the best James Bond video game ever made in Everything or Nothing, which also serves as a nice fill in for the 5th Brosnan movie we never got: a thrilling cinematic 3rd person action adventure game with Jaws coming back as a baddie and Willem Dafoe as the big bad and protege of former Bond Villain and fellow weirdo in Christopher Walken’s Max Zorin.
It is a sweeping and grand adventure that makes you feel like Bond and it features a story better than some actual Bond films. It is everything you could want from a Bond game and the highwater mark of the EA Bond era.
The other video game release that year – Goldeneye Rogue Agent – was less so. While a good idea to play from the bad guys point of view and an interesting re-imagining of the Bond mythos with iconic characters like Goldfinger, Oddjob, Scaramanga, Dr. No, Xenia Onatopp, and Blofeld making appearances, it doesn’t really follow through on the cool ideas and is brutally hard in certain places with long drawn out levels and poor checkpoints. It is…not good.
It was a pretty great Christmas present though.
The following year we got the video game adaptation of a beloved early Bond film in From Russia with Love, which even saw Sean Connery return to the character he first brought to life on film. 34 years after his last official appearance as the character and in what would be his last acting role, Connery is great and fits like a glove in the excellent 60’s era Bond setting that the team at EA created. While not quite as magical as the film itself it is a beautiful love letter to a foundational Bond film and a wonderful way to bring the story to life for both old fans and new.
And then we got Casino Royale the next year.
I won’t linger on Casino Royale itself for too long (you can read my extended thoughts here) but the film was like a seismic blast for the Bond series, a massive pivot for who and what the series was. Just 14 at its release, it hit at perhaps the perfect time for me and many other early 90’s Bond fans. We were presented with something markedly different and yet still so Bondian; a massive jolt to the system that presented a more mature piece of storytelling as we were growing up and maturing ourselves. It is a masterstroke of a film and story and dominated the year for me.
And that was the mad run from 1999-2006. Only one single year without anything new and 11 new games and movies released during the stretch, with 4 of those years doubling up on new releases as I went from 7 to 14, probably the key age to try to bring in new fans of your series. By the time the series took another break in 2007, I was firmly in the Bond fan camp.
In 2008, we got the Quantum of Solace game and movie and two years after that, the Goldeneye 007 remake for the Wii along with the Reloaded version for Xbox and PS3. We were also given a new standalone Bond story in video game form for the first time since Everything or Nothing in 007 Bloodstone.
As we came to 2012 and the close of this incredible 17-year run, we got to ring in the 50th anniversary of the James Bond series with a new film and game. The game is one of the worst things I’ve ever played and still my biggest gaming disappointment in 007 Legends but the movie was on the complete other end of the spectrum in Skyfall, the movie both myself and Trevor recently named the greatest Bond film.
Skyfall served as a wonderful culmination of the countless games and movies we had gotten over the prior 17 years. Now 20 years old, I was gifted with this Bond epic that understood and knew the series and its mythos as well as I did.
From 1999 to 2012 was probably when I was at my most feverish levels of James Bond love and fandom, and Skyfall served as a masterpiece of a final note to bring things to a close. A magnificent high.
007 Legends, meanwhile, killed off the video game side of things which, tied with the usual fun lawsuits that serve as the Achilles heel of the Bond series, have kept us from getting a single new James Bond game in the ensuing decade.
On the film side of things, after 7 films in 17 years and a pretty steady clip of a new film every 2 or 3 years, we have gotten exactly 2 in the past decade.
The series itself has seemed to struggle with deciding its direction in film and games after the 50th anniversary and triumph of Skyfall. It has left Bond fans more than a bit adrift, even more so in the wake of the wave of MCU movies that have dominated the box office.
Even for me, I was pulled in other directions in my 20’s by the return of my other favorite storytelling series Star Wars and its wonderful return at almost the exact same time Bond took a step back. Five movies and countless shows and games later, Star Wars pierced through every form of media while James Bond has shrunk away.
And this Bondian retreat seems unsure of its endpoint. A new 007 game is in the works by the team behind the great Hitman trilogy of games, yet with no release date announced, it is anyone’s guess when the decade-long-and-growing video game chasm in Bond releases will be broken.
Even on the movie side of things, we finally got a new Bond film last year in No Time to Die after a 6 year gap. But that movie also served as the end of an era, not the start of a new one, with longtime Bond Daniel Craig officially retired from the role now. With Bond producer Barbara Broccoli going on a media tour about how Daniel Craig walks on water and it’ll take at least 2 or 3 years before they even start up on a new Bond picture, we are left in yet another potentially frustrating vacuum.
And yet, we can always return to the 60-year canon of Bond films, as Trevor and I recently did on That Bond Show, or if you are lucky and of a same age to me, to that wonderful 17-year run: when I fell in love with dusty old VHS tapes of Sean Connery and a shiny new PS2 with 007 games galore, and spent countless halcyon-glazed days humming the Bond theme and loving this absurd British character who has been around since before the moon landing, nearly as long as my dad, and for whom nothing was impossible. For England, James, and for countless other fans like me.