The pantheon of James Bond movie poster art is well worth exploring; I’ve always been partial to the imaginative illustrated posters of the 1960s and 70s featuring either Sean Connery or Roger Moore with a host of Bond Girls. But for my generation, I think the definitive Bond poster was, and remains, the teaser poster for 1995’s GoldenEye.
For most of us, I think James Bond existed as a sort of grown-up fantasy enjoyed by our parents or possibly our older siblings…but it wasn’t really for us. This was driven home in 1989, when Batman and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade absolutely crushed Licence to Kill at the box office. Yes, Batman was older than Bond by decades, but that movie reestablished the Caped Crusader for my generation. Six years later, GoldenEye did the same thing for 007.
This teaser poster was crafted by advertising campaign designer Bemis Balkind and it sent quite a powerful message in Cineplex lobbies in 1995. The imagery is striking; a close-up of Pierce Brosnan’s face—so close you could be forgiven at first glance if you didn’t know it was him—bathed in an unusual golden hue.
The tagline, “There is no substitute,” worked on two levels. Firstly, it reminds us that in the realm of spy movies, James Bond remains the, ahem, gold standard. Secondly, it was an indirect jab at Mission: Impossible, which was originally scheduled to compete with it but was eventually delayed until May, 1996. (The jab was even more scathing when one accounts for the fact that the original Mission: Impossible TV series itself had been but one of the myriad Bond imitators in the 1960s.) Technospy movies had been on the rise throughout the 1990s anyway, with the proliferation of home computers; the Internet was a vast and intimidating place for most people that evoked as much suspicion as it did wonder. In short, it was the perfect climate in which Ian Fleming’s secret agent could reemerge and reestablish himself in pop culture.
Lest there be any confusion, there is the iconic “007 Gun Symbol” logo in bold red numbers to tell us for whom there is no substitute. In fact, you have to look at the discrete credits at the bottom to even find the title of the movie. It doesn’t matter. You weren’t excited by GoldenEye. You were excited by the return of James Bond.
The release poster that eventually followed was not crafted by Bemis Balkind. Certainly, it’s a fine poster, but it’s a step down in artistic merit from their teaser poster. Though the release poster gives us the sense of a wide angle perspective, it is the teaser poster that breathes—despite being so close in on Pierce Brosnan’s face we can tell whether he trimmed his nose hairs. There is no action taking place in this poster…but we know that some is about to take place. It is a perfect teaser poster.
GoldenEye did more than bring Bond back to the big screen. It brought us a Bond for an entire generation. Old time purists may have balked at the emphasis on action and explosions, but the truth is that my generation needed a Bond who spoke our language. GoldenEye did that, and it was this teaser poster that first caught our attention. Bond was no longer entertainment for our parents. He was ours.
This is the first post in a year-long celebration of 50 Years of 007. JAMES BOND WILL RETURN TO FLICKCHART: THE BLOG.