"Licence To Kill" (re-watch)
Either the unacknowledged gem or the whipping boy of the franchise.
For me, it is neither. But it is definitely a well-paced, tense and action-packed thriller, with great stunts, a scary villain and a smolderingly-angry Timothy Dalton.
Two things that irked me before: Felix being so happy at the end... and the winking fish. Both did not anger me now, instead I think I overreacted before, and now I see that Felix is not that happy, and the winking fish is just a very short shot, trying to...
... and here´s my regular criticism of John Glen´s movies: the funny ending. Somehow his films are all geared up being straight spy stories, yet they all have to end with silly jokes. Why?
I know why. But still, this safety net works completely against LTK´s whole concept, much more than in the previous Glen-films.
As does the Q scene. I love Q, make no mistake. But to have him track down Bond, stick around with him and assist him... no, that is just wrong for this kind of story.
Also... I think Pam is a character with great potential - but the film gives her interesting traits and then takes them away again, reducing her emotional state to a teenager, sulking because Bond is fumbling around with another woman. Glen even has Q console her. C´mon...
But these are minor quibbles in the end. The film is so much better than people thought at that time - and that includes me. When I saw it in theatres, it was the summer of "Batman", "Lethal Weapon 2" and "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade", and... well, people were just preoccupied with those. "Batman" had the macabre, "LW2" had the wink-wink-we´re fun-attitude, and "Indy 3" was fun and had the adventure-factor. LTK, one could argue, went for something else which could have been a wise market decision. But I was not interested in that revenge against a drug-czar-story for Bond. I had expected another TLD. I did not get it, and I was not able to see beyond that, letting the critical consensus of actual critics and friends persuade me: Bond was going downhill.
It may also be that I was oversaturated with Bond. Within seven years we had gotten five Bond films (in the OP year even a second one with NSNA). Maybe that was just too much.
One other thing: on blu-ray at least LTK did not look cheap to me, and the cinematography once again is pretty good. Michael Kamen´s score is interestingly shrill with its strings, brass and percussion - but I like it, it´s different and appropriately aggressive. Then again, would a Barry score have added that certain haunted sadness that could have elevated LTK better? Since the film alludes to Bond´s marriage, another marriage of people close to him ending in death, had the potential to make this story really personal - Bond going after Sanchez in order to finally kill him because he could not kill Blofeld. Unfortunately, this idea is not developed.
As for Timothy Dalton - I already said that I love his portrayal, but I prefer his take on Bond in TLD because it offered him more range. It would have been great to see him do another Bond in order to find out if he could got more out of the character than his simmering seriousness with good-natured friendliness. One thing he, IMO, did not show in both his Bond films is what the other Bond actors pulled off immediately: an arrogant, amused confidence. Dalton always played Bond as someone who struggles to keep his anger controlled. He does not appear to have fun being Bond.