Thought I'd share my own experience with James Bond:
It started for me in 1977 with The Spy Who Loved me. I wad four years old. Naturally, Star Wars took precedence that year, but I do remember seeing my first Bond movie at a drive-in movie theater. My next Bond movie made a much bigger impression, Moonraker in 1979. I absolutely loved it and can still smell the bubblegum that came with the trading cards.
My mom bought me and my sibs a pack each & we were supposed to share them (bad idea, mom) and when I finally whined enough to get her to buy me more, the 7-11 was all out of them! My heart still experiences a pang whenever I remember that black day. I just kept saying, "It's not fair!" LOL. Although I cannot watch the film at all now, it has profound nostalgic power, and it was one of my all time favorite films until I reached teenage years.
Next up was For Your Eyes Only in 1981, which was all but an obsession for me. I read and reread the Marvel Comics adaptation and wore the videotape out when it finally came on tv & I taped it. It remains a favorite Bond film for me.
Somewhere between 1981 and 1983 my mother sat us all down to watch her favorite of the series, Goldfinger. I had no idea that Bond had ever been played by anyone other than Roger Moore, and was simply knocked down by how cool and dangerous Sean Connery was. Much taping off of tv followed (there must have been a Bond-a-thon on the local station that summer, 'cause I taped most of the Connery's at that time). The Bond films became a joint obsession shared by myself and my brothers, and we obsessed over every last detail of the films, down to recurring names of key production members in the credits.
This era of my Bond fandom climaxed with Octopussy in 1983. At the time, I couldn't imagine a better Bond movie: it had intrigue, action, humor, and Moore! And I had a thing for Maud Adams in that movie for some reason: I guess I liked older women! Octopussy is also on my list of Bond movies I simply cannot watch any longer, but it was a huge deal back in '83.
1983 marks the first major turn in my Bond fandom: the Victory Games role playing set was published that year. My brothers and myself were big-time die rollers back then and my oldest brother picked the game up right away. I don't know how many hours I spent pouring over the rule book and supplemental materials (especially: Q manual, For Your Information, and Villains) from the box set and subsequent modules. It was an education for me. I learned how much bigger the Bond world was than the movies. I started to wonder about the novels. For the time being, I was satisfied with the VG manual and supplements.
For a few years my interest in Bond took a backseat to Frank Herbert's DUNE saga, which invaded my brain in 1984 and didn't let go for about two years. If it wasn't about the planet Arrakis, I just wasn't interested. I devoured the first three novels and loved the David Lynch movie in '84. It was kismet and to this day I can stop the most swinging party dead in milliseconds with my Dune-talk ;)
But Bond soon returned to my mind. My brothers wanted me to check out On Her Majesty's Secret Service and tell them if it was any good or not; I was to tape it just in case. The movie had a bad rep and they didn't want to waste time on it if it was a stinker. I dutifully watched and was blown away. Here was the Bond I had read about in the gaming manuals, the other-Bond was so intrigued by. The same summer, Dr. No was aired. I had always believed Goldfinger to be the oldest Bond movie. The commercials for Dr. No drew me like a magnet: it looked low budget, hard boiled and violent. And boy was it! I watched Dr. No on a virtual loop over that summer. Now I was thoroughly fixated with the harder side of Bond. Moonraker wasn't cutting it anymore.
I decided that the time had come to read Fleming. I headed for the B. Dalton Bookseller at the local mall in search of the OHMSS novel. They didn't have it, so I settled on The Man With The Golden Gun. I still remember vividly the electrical thrill the opening chapter gave me. This was definitely not Roger Moore, not even Sean Connery. The violence was shocking, the atmosphere sweaty and gritty; Bond was a grim character, closer to Clint Eastwood than someone who would hang out at the Playboy Mansion. I loved it, and started plowing my way through the Fleming novels. At this time I discovered the John Gardner novels and started reading those as well. I even ended up reading Col. Sun. My standout memory of the novels is reading Dr. No one hot summer's night; I have reread it innumerable times since, and it always takes me back to that night, unable to put the book down until it was finished, far past midnight. My tastes had altered so drastically I didn't even bother to see A View To A Kill in 1985 (although I bought the Duran Duran single, ha ha!).
This period peaked with the release of Living Daylights in 1987. It was the perfect Bond movie at the perfect time. I had come to the point of disliking most of the Roger Moore films and I was far more into the novels than the movies. I thought the film was epic, and at the time I likened it to John Le Carre's "Smiley" espionage novels. TLD restored my faith in the Bond films and Timothy Dalton remains my personal favorite Bond.
I waited with baited breath for License To Kill to be released. The wait seemed endless. But I was changing rapidly, far more interested in poetry than escapist novels, developing an appetite for Medieval literature, reading Beowulf and the Divine Comedy. I also became very religious at that time, something that would commandeer my life for ten long years. My taste in cinema had drifted over to Orson Welles, Akira Kuroswawa, Fritz Lang and Stanley Kubrick. By the time LTK finally came out, my interest in Bond had waned down to almost nil. I went more out of a force of habit than anything else. For some reason the film rubbed me the wrong way (it is now one of my favorites, go figure). It seemed like yet another violent action movie with a drug lord for a bad guy. The tone seemed uneven (it still does) and Dalton appeared a little tired (looking at it now, this is not surprising, it looks to have been a thoroughly exhausting production for the star). The magic was gone. Within a year or two I could be heard to say, "Is there anything more boring than a James Bond movie?"
For fifteen years, I had no interest in Bond. As the PC 1990's descended, Bond increasingly impressed me as being sexist, gratuitously violent, materialistic and vapid. The Brosnen movies really amplified this impression. I wouldn't have been caught dead anywhere near a Bond movie! A friend kept trying to make me watch Goldeneye but I just blew it off, after a few minutes I'd say, "I can't take another second of this crap, put on a real film!"
I'm not sure when this started to change. Somewhere around 2002 I began to think about my happy boyhood Bond period. If a really good Connery came on television, I would watch a few minutes before moving on. I'd started enjoying cigars, horse racing, boxing. Gradually, the extreme feminist brainwashing I'd received in young adulthood started to wear off. I was no longer religious in any way and I was less sensitive to what imaginary people did in movies. Finally, in 2005, I caved in and reread Dr. No. The floodgates opened again. I bought all the Fleming novels in neat old paperback editions and devoured them that summer. I read a few books about Fleming as well.
It was at this time that rumors started about Casino Royale: it was going to be a return to Fleming, to the original Bond. After watching Die Another Day on cable tv, I was doubtful. But I was there opening night with a lifelong friend and fellow Bond fan. I was completely blown away, as I had been by the films of OHMSS and Dr. No. Here was the Bond I had come to love, someone had finally done it! Big budget, well penned screenplay, real performances. Bond was a human being again, he could be hurt, he had a complex psychology, he was a cartoon superhero no longer. And that Chris Cornell song was killer! The best Bond song since McCartney and "Live & Let Die".
From that point on I never looked back. Today I enjoy Bond more than ever. I love to see how the character divides people: they either see a kindred spirit or a simpleton in a Bond fan. I can't say I trust the tastes of anyone who doesn't appreciate Bond on some level. I figure that they, like myself at one time, need to lighten up and enjoy the simple pleasures a little more. So here's to Fleming, and the actors who have played his great creation, and to the fans for keeping it alive!
Long live James Bond.