Does James Bond's First Cinematic Outing "Dr. No" Still Hold Up?

Everything must start from some humble beginnings, even James Bond.
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In the fall of 1962, Eon Productions' relatively low-budget film Dr. No was released in theaters to a thunderous wave of applause and box office success. Based on the series of best-selling espionage novels from author Ian Fleming, director Terence Young's Dr. No served as the first in a series of box office palmy James Bond films. While Dr. No was not the first live-action adaptation of Fleming's novels, the feature film was the first to help cement James Bond as a household name amongst worldwide fans.

Little did Fleming or the studio know that the relatively low-budget Dr. No would spawn a countless batch of sequels, becoming one of the most popular and consistently successful franchises in Hollywood history.

As the James Bond character has advanced with the world around him, the franchise has evolved and flourished with new actors, new villains, and state-of-the-art gadgets. However, it's always beneficial for a series to acknowledge its roots as it continues a natural progression.  

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The Bond

The late Sean Connery may not be the quintessential iteration of Bond in the eyes of every 007 fan in the community, but it cannot be denied that the man absolutely set the tone for every forthcoming Bond actor on screen. From the classic catchphrase to the suit and tie combo, the very fabric of Bond's character is laid to bear with this first film. Even Bond's central foe the titular Dr. No would lay the groundwork for future Bond antagonists to follow.

Opening Theme

While not all of the classic iconography associated with the franchise would all come together in this first film, the classic James Bond theme tune by John Barry is there from the start and it sounds just as resonant ever. However, Barry's theme may be as the remainder of the credits theme consists of non-memorable and dancing women silhouetted in shadow (another Bond staple).

As the Bond franchise would gain a larger following with audiences worldwide, world-famous musical talent from former "Beatle" Paul McCartney and Tom Jones to Tina Turner and Madonna would lend their artistic talents to the opening credits.

Dr. No's opening credits are influential for gracing audiences with the classic Bond theme, but the following few jingles are far from the complex of Adele's Skyfall theme.  Barry's main tune is an appropriately fitting theme to thrust audiences into this world of espionage, action, and glamour.

Early Representation

For a film released in the early 1960s, Dr. No does a respectable job of showcasing a variety of characters for both James Bond and viewers to become enamored with. Even though Bond himself may not entangle with each of the women, the fact that the movie manages to feature a multicultural set of both male and female characters in any capacity is leaps and bounds ahead of its time.

A key part of this has to do with a bulk of the film's story occurring in the heart of Kingston, Jamaica where Bond is sent by his superiors in the Supreme Intelligence Service (MI6) to investigate the disappearance of a fellow intelligence operative named John Strangways (Timothy Moxon). Rather than having the action taking place in London or New York City, James ventures to a completely remote land with people of various ethnicities based around the narrative.

As the series went on, the creative team of the films would even go as far as to race bend established series staples such as Bond's C.I.A. confidante Felix Leiter and flirtatious secretary Ms. Moneypenny. 

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The Villain

Serving as the main antagonist of the film is Dr. Julius No (played by Joseph Wiseman). Not only receiving top billing in the movie's title, but No is also a master criminal with his hands in several aspects of the underworld.  While future Bond villains would receive character posters and descriptions prior to the release of the film, the titular foe Dr. No isn't revealed until the final 20 minutes of the film in all his villainous splendor.

The child of a German father and a Chinese mother, No rose to become the treasurer of the most powerful criminal society in China. Though No would often have Bond in his clutches dead to rights, the intellectually superior Julius cannot help but expound his ultimate plan to his foe, in the hopes of either persuading the formidable MI6 agent to switch allegiances or to simply bore the poor fellow.

This is a common critique of the original franchise that several other films and shows would parody, while future James Bond movies would do a better job of layering their villains. Add to that, No's headquarters is an underground lair complete with a dining room, prison chamber, science lab, and an overlarge fish tank filled to the brim with live sharks.

Julius began the classic structure of a Bond villain's headquarters, with the only element missing being a volcano exterior. By the time credits have rolled on Dr. No, audiences have unknowingly been introduced to the main antagonist of the first era of the James Bond film franchise in the form of underground terrorist organization S.P.E.C.T.R.E., of which No was a senior member. S.P.E.C.T.R.E. and its infamous leader Ernst Stavro Blofeld would become a major presence in future installments.  

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Action Sequences / Verdict

Taking into account the time period and the limitations of technology, the first James Bond adventure makes do with the creative advantages it has access to. Bond's go-to weapons supplier simply codenamed Q, responsible for the creation of classic utilities from the weaponized Aston Martin car to James' magnet watch, would not enter the franchise until the 1963 sequel From Russia With Love.

The film utilizes many backdrops and simulators to achieve certain action sequences, particularly the movie's set-piece of Bond fleeing from enemies in a high-speed pursuit. Though, many fans of the current Daniel Craig or even mid-90s to early 2000s Pierce Brosnan Bond films may feel a bit underwhelmed at the dated nature of the original James Bond motion picture. 

Current junior Writing Arts major attending Rowan University. I am an avid writer, comic book reader, and film enthusiast.

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