Those who provided such great comments on my James Bond posts might enjoy checking out (if you haven't been there already) I Expect You To Die!, a blog entirely devoted to the James Bond movie series; the author is reviewing each of the films in order. (Via Jason Bennion.)
He's up to Live and Let Die now, toward which he is rightly merciless. (I liked it as a kid, but even as a kid I thought there was something a little discomfiting about the film's racial politics. Though at that age I probably wouldn't have called it "racial politics.") But that brings me to my last Bond-related point: it's not just Live and Let Die that doesn't hold together as a movie, and it's not just Diamonds Are Forever and it's not just Moonraker, it's almost every Bond film ever made.
The Bond series followed the normal pattern of any series of movies. The first four movies were very strong, with maybe some falling-off in the fourth movie when the series was trying to cope with its own popularity. (Thunderball has its weaknesses, but it has a good story, Connery's last fully-involved performance, and some of the best female characters in the series. It's not as satisfying as the two before it, but it's a good strong movie.) The fifth movie, You Only Live Twice, saved a weak story with great production values; the series tried something a little different in the sixth film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service. That's a very good run, but OHMSS showed an awareness that they'd done most of what they could do and the only thing left was to explore Bond a bit more as a character. Then they decided, for the most part, that exploring Bond as a character was something they wouldn't do again. You'd think that that would have meant a series of stumbling attempts to recapture the early '60s magic, and that's pretty much what happened.
By the '70s, the Bond series was where you'd expect a series to be after turning out many films, several of them very good: it had used up most of Fleming's material, most of its ideas, and its cultural moment had passed. And that was reflected in the quality of the films. Except maybe The Spy Who Loved Me, which works great on its own terms, I think of every post-'60s Bond film (up to the Casino Royale reboot, anyway) as a "yes, but..." movie. Yes, it's entertaining, but the story goes off the rails (The Man With the Golden Gun) or Bond is way too old and the secondary characters aren't very good (Octopussy) or the comedy is really lame (For Your Eyes Only) or it's just a little drab (The Living Daylights) or it just flat-out sucks (Die Another Day). It's kind of amazing that this series survived so long, despite hardly ever turning out a movie that was a fully satisfying whole. (That's my opinion, obviously, not fact.)
I don't actually lament the decision not to do something else like On Her Majesty's Secret Service because I'm not as sold on that movie as everyone else. (And not because of Lazenby. It's because it's too long, a little slow in parts and seems to rely on editing tricks to compensate for some less-than-great action setpieces.) But it is one of the last Bond movies that is an actual movie, telling an actual story. For decades after that, Bond movies were like revues, a series of acts with a story sketched in between them. And the thing is, it worked. It kept people coming back, and kept the series profitable for a long time. I can't actually object to that, I just find it kind of astonishing that in movies, a storytelling medium, the Bond series managed to keep itself alive by more or less rendering storytelling and character irrelevant for years.