If you’re not the biggest James Bond fan, it’s helpful to understand that the "50" in "Bond 50" doesn’t imply fifty films - rather, it reflects 50 years of the second most lucrative film franchise ever invented (bonus points if you know the leader of the pack). That’s good, actually; working one’s way through fifty films would seem insurmountable to the uninitiated compared to the scant twenty-two available as part of this megapack. In fact, if you’re going to adequately explore this monolithic series of Blu-ray discs, you’ll need to set aside 200+ hours, which, I’m happy to say, is largely worth the effort.
Shy of a few duds ("Moonraker" anyone?), the nearly two dozen Bond films represent not just the very best in spy suspense over the years, but also a respectable statement on the evolution of the medium itself. It’s hugely entertaining to go back to "Dr. No" - gloriously restored in the highest-end digital format - and recall that we used to watch movies for their characters, not their CGI effects, and to a degree even cared little for the plot, which in this case was thin and uninteresting compared to later sequels. Back then it was all about Sean Connery’s devil-may-care attitude, charm with the women, and reliance on all the latest toys... even if it meant a ladies’ handgun.
Some of that whimsy survived even through Pierce Brosnan’s reign as 007; but Daniel Craig’s turn as the character, while as verbally witty as ever, suggests a new sensibility regarding womanizing ("Skyfall" might teach us otherwise, of course). But if Connery’s suave demeanor has yet to be matched by a subsequent Bond, the films more than make up for that shortcoming by escalating the action, pyrotechnics and stunts over the decades.
It’s an exhausting procession, I must say, especially if one takes in the special features, most of which have been released on DVD and in large part are somewhat lackluster. A few gems - including a documentary about the digital conversion process - are worth pursuing, but frustratingly, the special features are not well documented. Their cute Bond-esque naming schemes mask their content, so to delve into the features on any of the 22 discs is a crap shoot: you might get a truly interesting documentary, or you might get a two minute clip lifted directly from the film you just watched with nary an explanation as to why that qualifies as a "special feature."
But then, movie studios still haven’t realized that these days the average viewer doesn’t have the time or inclination to watch every bit of content on a disc, and that it’s not amusing to us to have to hunt out extra content that’s buried contextually - or worse, literally - in the menus of a disc.
However, it’s all here: premieres, deleted scenes, documentaries, interviews, and video blogs of "Skyfall" - although the latter can be seen online for free.
Physically, it’s a stunner of a set. Fox and MGM produced beautiful hard-bound books into which the discs slide, with well-imagined graphics throughout. The only issue I had is that sliding the discs out - and worse, back in - is a difficult proposition, and ultimately I have no doubt that constant watching will slowly destroy the fragile cardboard of the pages. And at $170 (Amazon, which means more just about everywhere else), that will likely result in buyer frustration over the long term.