Saturday, May 9, 2009

Bond Review #6: Never Say Never Again

Yes folks, we finally have one... A Bond movie that is also a "ugh" movie. It's very dated, it's boring, and sadly I must say that Octopussy, which is not one of the better Moore films, that came out the same year, was a better film.

The idea was to remake Thunderball, as the book rights were not owned by Cubby Broccoli, the producer of the EON James Bond pictures. Well, of course, EON did not like this idea, and the makers of this film and EON were in court every day of filming fighting over what could and could not be put in this movie. What could? Anything that was mentioned in the book Thunderball. What couldn't? Anything in the original Thunderball movie, or anything NOT in the book. It sounds impossible, right? Well, they did it SOMEHOW. The results are not very pleasing though.

We do get Sean Connery back to play Bond, which of course many people wanted to see. The problem with this is that Sean Connery was between his handsome phase, and his full white haired cool-looking phase that he was in, say when The Last Crusade came about. Here, Bond is balding, and he looks kind of ill throughout the whole thing. He kind of even looks worse than Roger Moore looked in Octopussy, which is pretty bad. Even the two sex scenes were kind of embarassing.

Well, how about the plot? The plot is that SPECTRE, run by Blofeld (Max Von Sydow), wants to of course plot extortion and terrorism. I mean, that's what two of those letters stand for in their name after all. One of SPECTRE's agents, Largo (Klaus Brandauer), had two nuclear bombs stolen, and is planning to use them in an extortion attempt on various governments for lots of money. Sound kinda stupid? Yeah, it is, even for Bond. You see, Thunderball was originally written as a script because Ian Fleming was getting tired of his books not being turned into movies. This script didn't get made, and so he turned it into a book. There was a reason it wasn't made. It's kind of stupid. Even when they eventually did make Thunderball as the fourth Bond film, it was a disappointment compared to the previous three films.

Surprisingly, this movie is directed by Irvin Kirshner, three years after he directed The Empire Strikes Back, and his first movie since that one. I won't blame the movie's shortcomings on him though. The music score is terrible because post-production was rushed. He originally wanted James Horner, but couldn't get him. He got a guy that Barbera Streisand worked with. Ugh. The plot is terrible because they legally had to stick to the book. Ugh. He did have good intentions for the movie, but he had a lot of hurdles he couldn't jump.

The movie came out in 1983, and it shows big time. The theme song is horribly dated, and I'd say the worst theme for a Bond movie. It really is a cold war story as well, as most 1980s Bond movies were. These things can't really be helped with a Bond movie though. They are all products of the time they were made in. It's usually one of the great things about Bond. It's like vintage wine. Just don't drink the bad years. 1983, I guess was a bad year with the recession and all.

Locations: 5/10 Bahamas, some Arabic region that is never named, London, the ocean. It's pretty typical Bond here. Some of it is shot rather beautifully, others really bland. Average.

Villains: 8/10 This is one place this movie does well. Brandauer is great as the villain Largo. He's carefully insane. You know, he seems sane on the exterior, but just underneath, he's a crazy psychopath. There's also Barbara Carrera as Fatima Blush. She's a certifiable looney from the beginning. In fact, if you've seen Goldeneye's Xenia Onatopp, you've pretty much seen Fatima Blush. She's a sex obsessed assassin getting pleasure from killing. The other villain is only seen for a total of three minutes, but he gets third billing for the movie! Max Von Sydow plays Blofeld, complete with white kitty cat. He isn't given much to do really.

Bond Girl: 4/10 It's Kim Basinger playing Domino. Ya know, she was the one part I didn't like about Batman, and I don't like her much here either. I have never liked her in any movie I've seen. Sure she's pretty, but she plays the same...exact...character ever single time. She's never more than something pretty to look at while you wait for our hero to do something else. And even if she is pretty, she isn't drop dead gorgeous. Still, they could have done worse.

Direction/Design: 2/10 Now I know I said I do not blame Kirshner for the film being so Ugh-worthy. The production designer though... he gets a LOT of the blame. It has exactly 3 good sequences. The video game in the arcade, the underwater chase of Bond by the tiger shark, and the stuff in the health spa. Other than those aspects, this movie is pretty much a complete failure design-wise. It's as bland as the year 1983 probably was.

Theme Song: 0/10 It's god awful. They play it during the opening scenes, as they couldn't imitate the EON Bond films. I'd have prefered black on white text to this. It ruins the scene. The song is bland, it's boring, it's annoying, it should never have existed. Yes people, it's that bad.

Overall: 3/10 It took every ounce of willpower I had to watch this movie again with the commentary on. I can not for the life of me figure out why this movie made 160 million dollars in the box office. I guess people were just lured in by Connery. This is one I may watch once every five years or so, but no more. Octopussy even was better than this, and it came out the same year.
The blu-ray is not the best. It's got okay picture and audio quality, but it was not put through the Lowry process, not being an official Bond film. The extras are a bit on the fluffy side. You get a trailer, 4 featurettes on various aspects of the film, and a commentary track. The most interesting of these is the featurette on the movie's legal troubles. The commentary track with Kirshner too often falls into telling us what's going on on-screen.

James Bond Reviews will return next week in... Moonraker.

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