After the success of ‘The Living Daylights’, expectations were high for Timothy Dalton’s second go-round as James Bond. Dalton’s more serious take on the Bond character continued into ‘LTK’, advancing to the point where he drew criticism for his portrayal of the secret agent.
In the film, James Bond resigns from MI6 to avenge the torture and maiming of his old CIA friend Felix Leiter. The target of 007’s interest is drug dealer, Franz Sanchez, who ordered the attack on Leiter.
‘LTK’ was faced with problems right from the start, as the initial title of the film was changed late into the production process. First called ‘Licence Revoked’, ‘LTK’ featured the first title that wasn’t also the title of an Ian Fleming story. The change in title forced promotional materials to require last-minute changes that hampered the film’s release.
On the positive side, ‘LTK’ was fairly well received by critics. A darker, more intense 007 offered a better match to the Bond that Fleming imagined in his novels. The stunt work was also praised, including the film’s climax which involved 18-wheel tanker trucks.
Still, there was much criticism of the film. A darker 007 was not universally accepted, and the departure from typical Bond formula seemed to alienate a group of critics.
Even after ‘LTK’ hit theaters, problems didn’t go away. The film faced stiff competition from other movies like ‘Back to the Future Part II’, ‘Lethal Weapon 2’, ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ and ‘Batman’. This factored into the box office take, as ‘LTK’ earned just $34.6 million in the U.S., the lowest U.S. box office haul of any Bond film as adjusted to inflation.
Dalton would step away from the role in 1994, while legal wrangling took place that prevented a new movie from being made. Ultimately, Pierce Brosnan would assume the role of 007 and would return the franchise back to the big screen after a six-year absence.