Rewatching the James Bond films chronologically. It’s still 1983, with the second of two Bond movies in theaters that year. Never Say Never Again, although not part of the “official” Bond series, nonetheless brings back Sean Connery as 007. The legalities of how and why this happened are well documented elsewhere on the internet, so instead let’s focus on the real question: Is the movie any good?
Blond blurb: The world of espionage is changing, and the Double-0 agents are no longer as valuable as they once were. An older, world-weary Bond is sent off to a spa, where he gets caught up in a plot involving a missing pilot, which in turn leads to a bigger plot involving stolen nuclear warheads.
Bond background: The “Bond is getting older” theme runs throughout the film, as it begins with Bond not in the field, but teaching and in training exercises. There are a lot of lines like, “It’s older but it still works,” in reference (subtly or not so subtly) to Bond’s/Connery’s age.
Bond baddies: Blofeld is back, surprisingly, since we just saw him getting tossed down a smokestack. Because huge chunks of this movie are a repeat of Thunderball, Largo is back, now without the eyepatch. There’s some talk about how he sees this whole thing as one big game, but that’s never really followed up on. Much better is female assassin Fatima Blush, who gets increasingly unhinged in her efforts to prove herself better than Bond. It’s a lot of fun to see her get crazier and crazier as the movie goes along.
Bond babes: Kim Basinger! She plays Domino, Largo’s main squeeze, who of course switches sides and ends up with Bond at the end. Bond spends most of the movie, though, romancing an unnamed fisherwoman (?) he meets in the Bahamas.
Bond best brains: There’s a new Q in this one, going by the name “Algernon.” He shows off an exploding pen, because of course he does, and he equips Bond with yet another laser beam pen, and a motorcycle that can pull off rocket-powered jumps.
Bond bash-ups: The movie’s opening action scene is in a militaristic jungle setting, loudly announcing to the audience, “It’s the ‘80s now!” Bond has a great fight at the spa against gigantic film legend Pat Roach, which concludes with a classic comedic beat. There’s more undersea action, including a fight against some sharks, and a cool motorcycle chase in the south of France. The finale gives us more Indiana Jones-inspired action with an escape on horseback and a shootout inside an ancient underground temple of some sort. The final showdown is underwater again, because Thunderball.
Bond baggage: Bond first meets Largo at… the video arcade! Not just any arcade, but a really fancy one inside a casino, where there are no kids, but adults in their finest evening wear dumping quarters into Centipede or Galaga. Bond and Largo get in one the fun playing a 3-D “world domination” video game that gives electric shocks to the loser.
Bond babble: The movie begins as if it’s in continuity with the previous Bond films, with Bond having been through a lot and a new M at the helm. It’s only afterward that it becomes a literal remake of Thunderball, with a lot of the same characters and plot points. This makes it frustrating when watching all these films as a series. Beyond that, Connery looks like he’s having fun, and I can’t hate any movie with Pat Roach.
Next week: Nice view.
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