Out On His Own And Out For Revenge
20 Years Of Licence to Kill
This summer marks the 20th anniversary of 1989’s hard-edged James Bond film, Timothy Dalton’s Licence to Kill. Promising audiences a renegade 007 out on his own for revenge, Licence to Kill has remained today one of the Bond films that most sharply divides fans over their opinions of it.
Debuting in the UK on 13 June 1989, Licence to Kill then went on general release on 4 August and on 14 July in the US.
Despite receiving generally favourable reviews from film critics at the time, Licence to Kill became one of the least successful films box office-wise (and the most unsuccessful overall in the US alone) in the James Bond series with a total worldwide gross of $156.2 million. Various reasons for this poorer-than-usual performance have been discussed, including the title/marketing materials change from Licence Revoked as well as the strong summer competition from othe films such as Batman, Ghostbusters II, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Lethal Weapon 2.
Taking into account the 20th anniversary of the film, CommanderBond.net asked our forum members to recall their first (or most memorable) time seeing Licence to Kill. To share your own remembrance, simply register here (it’s free and only takes a minute) on the CBn Forums.
Looking back at Licence to Kill by… Tybre
My first time came in late February of this year. I’d started reading the books and was really getting into Bond and looking up all the films I hadn’t seen and such on wikipedia. Decided to go on youtube when I heard about Timothy Dalton, see if there were any clips of him online. I stumbled upon the pre-title sequence of The Living Daylights and the car chase sequence of The Living Daylights. Both were very good scenes, and even though Dalton doesn’t talk a lot during them, I was instantly enamored with him. He ousted Pierce Brosnan as my #3 at that point in time. Via continued looking on Wikipedia, I was made incredibly happy when I skimmed the Licence to Kill article. According to Wikipedia, it had more or less faithfully adapted elements of my favorite book, Live and Let Die. Of course I was going to check it out then! I hurried back over to Youtube and started searching for clips. There were none that I found; just a lot of posts of the title sequence or just the song. In the related videos sidebar from one of these, though, was a link to a fan made trailer. Clicked it at once. I was sold from the first few seconds.
The fan trailer opened with a man who looked kind of like and sounded even more like Regis Philbin asking Bond if he had the ring. My first reaction was “Regis in James Bond? That’s awesome and hilarious!” When Bond called him Felix, it only made me even happier. The trailer then cut to Felix carrying Della into their room, only to be met by Sanchez’s men. From this it cut to Sanchez dangling Felix over the shark pool, saying “I want you to know this is nothing personal. It is merely business”. That was it for me. The rest of the trailer was fantastic but from that moment on all my chips were on the table and I wasn’t about to back out. I was going out to Best Buy that night to see if they had On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, as I’d wanted to see the one-off Bond, so I figured I would buy The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill as well. Sadly Best Buy had virtually no Bond films, so I just ordered them off of Amazon instead, expedited, as I was impatient to see Licence.
First thing I did after making my breakfast the Saturday morning they arrived was open up Licence to Kill and pop it into my PS3. I didn’t move from my armchair the entire film. Refused to acknowledge anything my mother or sister said to me. In fact, I completely forgot about my breakfast and just left it sitting on the table. I was enthralled. Sure, it only used Live and Let Die in the early parts — and at that point in time the only other Fleming I had read was From Russia With Love, so the elements of The Hildebrand Rarity were lost on me — but the rest of the film was great. Instantly became one of my favorites, and still holds its place in my top five Bond films. Timothy Dalton kicked Daniel Craig from #1 down to #2 in my list by the time of the scene at Hemingway House. I just positively loved everything about Licence to Kill. Yes, some of the actors in the early parts came across as a bit sub par, but none of the film’s flaws were enough to drag it down for me. It was the most fun I’d ever had watching a Bond film; the first time since I saw Octopussy as I little kid that I really loved what I was seeing on the screen.
I’m very glad I decided to watch Licence to Kill first. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was okay at the time; I love it now that I’ve read Fleming, and it got better with subsequent viewings, but the first viewing was so-so. I watched The Living Daylights pretty late at night and my sister got back with her friends about halfway through it, so I missed a lot of key points because they were being noisy. If I had started with either of these, in the manner that I did, I doubt I would love Bond as much as I do now, because while I loved the books, the books weren’t really enough to convince me to see all 22 films and see them multiple times. But watching Licence to Kill at eight-thirty on a cool Saturday morning in February, I was hooked.
I should point out I know it’s not Regis as Felix Leiter, but that is what I thought while watching the trailer.
Looking back at Licence to Kill by… Mharkin
Now this one is interesting. Licence to Kill is a great film, but it’s never really struck me as anything special. It’s just there for me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s in my Top 10, BUT it’s quite uneventful. Timothy Dalton is definately one of the films highlights.
I think the first time I saw this, was during ITV’s 00-Heaven Season in 1999. I liked it, mostly due to the larger role Q had. I remember laughing out loud at Desmond when he gets thrown over the chair by Bond. I probably got a cheap thrill over seeing a ’15’ rated Bond film when I was 9 years old.
Looking back at Licence to Kill by… Jim
The most memorable experience I had seeing it was in Rugeley (apparently some sort of “place”). It was the second time I had seen it and whilst I had quite liked it at the first attempt, I wasn’t enjoying it at all at the second shot – I was very, very bored, in fact. It may have been a lack of success with the companion that had put me in a bad mood. It may have been “being in Rugeley”.
At one of the interminable Q bits, the doors at the back of the cinema flew open and this revolting old wino – probably the Mayor – staggered in, rushed the screen and puked up all over it.
Well, not necessarily all over it (a body can only contain so much vomit, I find), but sufficiently. As criticism, somehow more immediately arresting that a star system or a letter grading.
Everyone was more interested in the wino than the film. When a Bond film is less diverting than a scabby old tramp chucking his guts, then there’s something inherently wrong with it.
Looking back at Licence to Kill by… Mr. Somerset
I saw it opening day on the 14th—1pm showing as I recall. I showed up an hour early and there was no line, but an outage. I was afraid I might not see the film I waited two years for that day. Luckily, the power came on and the film started on time.
I initially was disappointed in the gunbarrel music, but felt the pre-title sequence was fairly quick paced and exciting—as was pretty much the whole film. There were moments where I felt the Bondian atmosphere was lacking: interrogation of Sanchez, Barrelhead Bar, etc.
I did like the dark aspect of Licence to Kill and saw it the next day with my dad. He loved it and it became of of his faves. The audience cheered (very loudly) at the water ski sequence as well as the wheelie truck stunt. I saw the film a total of 11 times that summer each with a more empty audience than before, but the film enjoyed more each time. I couldn’t wait until summer 1991 for Bond 17 AKA Dalton #3…
Looking back at Licence to Kill by… David_M
I remember being strangely uninterested in this film from the get-go, despite having really liked The Living Daylights. Licence to Kill wasn’t really on my radar at all in the summer of ’89.
My girlfriend at the time (now my wife) won tickets to an advance screening in a radio contest, which was the most exciting thing about the whole deal. We showed up with the other winners, got a little song-and-dance from the DJ and then saw the film. I wasn’t terribly impressed, beyond really liking Carey Lowell in that wet teddy. The low point was probably watching Dalton shove that guy into a drawer full of wet pasta some effects man was wiggling to resemble…what?…maggots?
The thing that stands out most in my memory was that my girlfriend really liked the film, which was novel as she was usually nonplussed by the Bonds. I decided maybe EON was going for a new audience altogether, and maybe that wasn’t a bad thing.
Licence to Kill became the first Bond I didn’t see multiple times in the theater. And remember, I didn’t even pay for the one viewing I did have. So when the box office take turned out to be disappointing and the series went into a 6-year hiatus, I felt pretty guilty for not showing more support. But 20 years on, with the series in no danger of going away, I’m perfectly comfortable sticking with my original impression: “Meh.”
Looking back at Licence to Kill by… O.H.M.S.S.
It was the first movie, produced in my birth year 1989, which I saw.
I remember I enjoyed it very much and I always feel great after that ending, as if I can feel Bond’s relief after the final confrontation with Sanchez. The repeating of the “Why don’t you ask me?” dialogue and that wonderful end title song all contribute to a fantastic feel when I’ve watched this movie.
Timothy Dalton may have only made two Bond films, but to me he will always be my favourite.
Looking back at Licence to Kill by… SpyMaster
My first memory of seeing Licence to Kill was in the winter of July 1989 at the Ocean City Cinema complex in Durban South Africa. It has since closed but part of the building still remains an ice rink. The lines to the box office, seemed to never end, but I managed to cut in on the pretex of buying some snacks and got tickets for myself and my family. This was during the almost crumble of apartheid and we thought we’d be kicked out for such behaviour. Nonetheless, we got good seats and I was extremely pleased with Dalton’s performance. I subsequently got the LP then CD soundtrack, VHS, LaserDisc copies, then Special Edition, Ultimate Edition DVD’s and now finally the HD Blu-Ray. In my honest opinion, Dalton is as closest to Fleming’s 007 as Ian himself.
Looking back at Licence to Kill by… tdalton
My most memorable was probably the last time I watched it, which was the first time I’d seen the film on the Blu-ray format. The transfer of the film on Blu-ray is phenomenal, and one of the best transfers of a film 20+ years old I’ve seen to date. It was like watching the film for the first time, and it really helped to cement Licence to Kill as my favorite of the Bond films.
I love the ending of the film and really don’t understand the criticism that it gets. For me, I consider that to be the end of the first EON franchise (I’ve never been able to see the Brosnan films as a continuation of the films Dr. No–Licence to Kill), as it really closes things out in a very nice way, with Bond not only having gotten revenge for Felix and Della, but also, in a roundabout way, for himself and Tracy as well (since we never got a true revenge film following On Her Majesty’s Secret Service)
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