11.05.2006

Words About Bond: Part VI

This week, my reviews(with spoilers) of the various James Bond films continues with three different Bonds.

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Words About Bond, 1-3
Words About Bond, 4-6
Words About Bond, 7-9
Words About Bond, 10-12
Words About Bond, 13-15

16Never Say Never Again
Bond: Sean Connery
Villains: Maximillian Largo (Klaus Maria Brandauer), Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Max von Sydow)
Bond Girl: Domino Petachi (Kim Basinger)
Henchman: Fatima Blush

Never Say Never Again isn't a bad movie so much as it was an unnecessary movie. In 1983, Connery agreed to reprise the role that made him famous, working for a rival of EON Productions. Not part of the official series, the film was a modernized version of Thunderball, with an aging Bond. Connery was not only playing the same character, but in a remake. What was he thinking? It would be like Harrison Ford remaking one of his Indiana Jones films and calling it Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold or something equally silly.

Because the filmmakers had the rights to the name Blofeld, when Bond finally defeats his nemesis in For Your Eyes Only, the character goes unnamed in his final appearance in the official series. Blofeld plays a marginally more prominent role in Never Say Never Again, actually appearing on screen, portrayed by Max Von Sydow, whose talents are otherwise wasted. Basinger is young and beautiful, but still learning as she portrays Domino, and the credibility of Connery sweeping her off her feet is strained, though neither the first nor last time he'd woo a much younger leading lady. Barbara Carrera gives such an over-the-top performance as Fatima Blush, that I wondered if Famke Janssen drew inspiration when it was time for her to portray a Bond Villainess over ten years later. The plot is nearly identical to Thunderball, so I don't need to rehash it, though when Bond is sent to the health clinic he genuinely seems to need it.

Blink and you'll miss a young Rowan Atkinson as comic relief. His bumbling rookie agent appears twice in the film, and tries to retrieve Bond at the end of the film, when the agent has retired to a hot tub with Domino. Connery refuses to return, and winks to the camera, indicating that his time as Bond is over, even though most people could have told him that sooner.

17A View to a Kill
Bond: Roger Moore
Villain: Max Zorin (Christopher Walken)
Bond Girl: Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts)
Henchman: May Day (Grace Jones)

Roger Moore's final appearance as 007 had a lot going for it. I hadn't realized Walken once portrayed a Bond villain, and had high expectations when I finally saw it, perhaps too high. Tanya Roberts is beautiful, but one of the least capable of the Bond girls, falling into the stereotypical damsel-in-distress role at every turn. Once again Bond faces a female henchman, and Grace Jones is truly scary, up until she has a change of heart and sacrifices herself to help Bond and prevent an underground explosion that would leave part of California under the sea. Patrick Macnee backs up Bond, and the former Avenger is one of the film's highlights. His Avengers co-star Diana Rigg had played arguable the most important Bond girl, Bond's doomed wife Tracy in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

Walken plays Max Zorin, and his plan starts out small, fixing horse races using microchips to release a stimulant. In Bond tradition, the scheme that unfolds is much larger, as we learn he's a former KGB agent who was trained by Nazi's as a child, and left somewhat unhinged. After Grace Jones' May Day prevents the destruction of Silicon Valley, Bond pursues Zorin, who is escaping in a dirigible with Tanya Roberts as his hostage. The final battle takes place over the Golden Gate Bridge, which Bond ties the blimp to. Bond keeps the girl from falling, sends Walken to a watery grave, and survives the destruction of the blimp when a surviving henchman tries to throw an explosive at them and fails. The only other information of note is the theme song, a Duran Duran tune I'd heard many times before seeing the film, and still hear often today, in my gym's rotation of songs among other places.

18The Living Daylights
Bond: Timothy Dalton
Villains: General Georgi Koskov, Brad Whitaker(Joe Don Baker)
Bond Girl: Kara Milovy(Maryam d'Abo)
Henchman: Necros

The fourth actor to portray 007 in the official series, Timothy Dalton is one of the more underrated, and in many ways surpassed Moore. When he was younger, he turned down an opportunity to replace Connery because he felt he wasn't old enough. In his two outings as Bond, Dalton saved the character from the comedic tangent he'd slipped down in the Moore era, and gave us a much darker hero. The Living Daylights opens with him surviving an assassin's intervention in a training exercise while two other 00 agents are killed. His skills as a sniper are later put to the test, but when a potential assassin is the beautiful cellist Kara Milovy, played by d'Abo, he opts to shoot her weapon rather than take her life, to the chagrin of a fellow agent. As he investigates further, he learns that she's an innocent, misled by her boyfriend General Koskov, a Russian working with a rogue U.S. General, Brad Whitaker, to smuggle drugs to afford arms. They frame another Russian, General Pushkin, played by the incomparable John Rhys-Davies, but Bond soon sorts out the real scheme and foils the bad guys, in the film's climax driving a jeep out the back of a flying transport stocked with opium before it crashes.

Though darker, the film does maintain some of the lighter elements from the previous installments. At one point Bond and Milovy flee down an icy slope on her cello case. In the beginning of the movie, after Bond defeats the assassin who killed his fellow agents by forcing his truck over a cliff, he parachutes on to a boat occupied by a single, impressed woman. It's also interesting to note how different world politics were at the time. I recently saw Rambo III, in which the Afghan Mujahideen help the main character against the Russians. The film is even dedicated to the “gallant” warriors. Similarly, in The Living Daylights, Bond ends up freeing an Afghan warrior and teaming with his Mujahideen to stop the drug trade of the Russians.

The Living Daylights is the first time Miss Moneypenny is played by someone other than Lois Maxwell, as Caroline Bliss takes over the role. Desmond Llewelyn meanwhile continued his historical streak as Q, supplying gadgets to a fourth Bond, including one of the more technologically advanced and well-armed automobiles.

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Words About Bond will return!

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Jeff (neolithic) said...

This is the first lot of Bond flicks I actually saw in the theatres (which may begin to reveal my age). Of the lot discussed here, I think I liked A View to a Kill more than the rest, but it may have had to do with being in Maple Leaf Gardens (ugghh) to see Duran Duran live, the same night they shot the video for The Reflex. The theme song rocked. I just wish at the time I was old enough to appreciate Walken in his role.

As for Casino Royale, I do pray they don't take all the old films and do them over [shudders].

That is all.

11/05/2006 9:19 PM  
Blogger SwanShadow said...

A View to a Kill was a waste of three icons: James Bond, Christopher Walken, and the Golden Gate Bridge.

I liked Timothy Dalton's Bond immensely. I'm not, however, crazy about either of his films. It was as though Eon set out to sabotage Dalton's tenure by foisting upon him two of the dullest plots (and weakest, most nondescript villains) in the entire series.

Yes, it was good that the hokey, jokey Moore Bond scripts were gone. But two dull-as-dishwater Dalton Bond scripts weren't as much of an improvement as they could have been.

11/06/2006 11:04 PM  
Blogger MCF said...

I can kind of see your point with The Living Daylights, but when I get to Licence to Kill, I'm going to disagree. A lot. "Don't you want to know why?"

11/06/2006 11:09 PM  
Blogger SwanShadow said...

I do, I do. Pray tell, sirrah!

11/07/2006 6:46 PM  

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