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Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Superficial Bond Reviews --- #13a: Never Say Never Again

* If you're wondering about the numbering here, 13a, there's a long story surrounding Never Say Never Again, and that it's not an "official" Bond movie and what have you. I won't bother explaining it - if you're interested, you can read about it here.
All you really need to know is that it's sort of a weird stepbrother to the other movies, and a remake of Thunderball.

* NSNA opens with an action scene, and I must admit that it's thrilling to see Sean Connery in action again. He looks strikingly more vital than he did twelve years ago in Diamonds are Forever, and he gets to choke the shit out of some bad guy before my ass has even settled properly in the couch. Good stuff.
Later, it becomes clear that the whole thing was some kind of training exercise, to determine whether Bond can still work his mojo at such an advanced age. So they're going with the "I'm too old for this shit" approach, eh? I actually think this is a great choice - facing the fact that your protagonist is at an advanced age is better than just running around pretending to be young, when your joints are creaking and the liver spots are starting to show.
Know what I mean, Roger?

* Seeing that this is an 80s movie after all, there's lots of gratuitous sex and violence. I'm fine with that - it feels kind of refreshing, and it's done with more youthful energy than I'm used to in the EON Bond movies.
I'm not sure whether it being the 80s justifies that weird and insanely long fight 007 ends up in at his spa (to name but one thing), but at least he's not doing it in a clown suit.
(If you don't get that last in-joke, you can go screw yourself, because then you haven't bothered to read my previous Bond Reviews).

* The scene where the bad guys steal nukes is very good. Efficient and smooth, where Thunderball bored me to heavy drinking with its glacial pace. Performing an underwater nuke heist is supposed to be thrilling - not just vacant and pretty, like when you're gazing like a drooling stoner into an aquarium at the pet shop.

* The women here are a real asset, too. NSNA features a young Kim Basinger, who is so hot that she makes you feel dirty and guilty, no matter what you're thinking while she's on screen.
To match her, Barbara Carrera does an excellent job portraying the psychopathic femme fatale assassin character (a performance that isn't surpassed until Famke Janssen steals the show in Goldeneye more than a decade later).
The fact that Carrera is that weird blend of scary/attractive helps to draw attention away from the fact that she's as stupid as any other Bond villain. Well, at least the writers are stupid: assassination by predicting how a person will react at having a snake thrown into his car while driving, is not a proper way of assassination. What if the guy just flipped out and threw the snake out on pure reflex? You wouldn't be able to blow up his car, stupid! No assassination for you!
The women are young, but they're women, not girls. That means that when it is time for Connery to bang them (inevitably), you can actually watch the scene without retching. This can partly be attributed to Connery's physique. He's in such good shape at 52, that he can even strip off his shirt without shame (something Moore could hardly do, even at 45).
You may think that my man-crush on Connery has gotten too far, but him looking as fit as he does serves two important purposes: It a) makes it credible that a gorgeous thirty-something woman would want to do him and b) makes it believable that Bond can do what he does, since even the young men in the audience realize that a fifty-plus Bond could beat them to a pulp.
I love you, Sean Connery!

Fatima fondles and kisses the snake, while Sigmund Freud spins in his grave

* It's a shame, but some of the 80s flava that lends the production zest, is also hopelessly dated and/or stupid.
The fascination with computer games at the time obviously prompted the filmmakers to let 007 have a computer game duel with the movie's main bad guy. Granted, it's still very early in gaming history, but they should have realized that watching others play a computer game is boring. And watching others play in a movie is meaningless. And watching James Bond play a video game, is meaningless, boring and incredibly wrong.

* The action scenes are all over the place when it comes to quality, but they're never boring, and there are many awesome sets to gape at.
- The prerequisite chase scene is on a motorcycle this time, and can only be described as stupid/good - complete with stunt jumps 'n' all.
- 007 pilots some kind of jet-powered hat rack as well, making him look completely ridiculous. Of course, this is not restricted to the 80s.
- And there's an honest-to-god castle rescue by horse here, where even the animal gets to make an insane stunt jump. Woo hoo, 80s!

* I'm actually in a good mood towards the end of the movie, when Kim Basinger suddenly harpoons the bad guy in way that is both predictable and shit (Blowing someone to smithereens with the excellent pen gun is much more fun).
I lament the wasted talent of Klaus Maria Brandauer in this movie, who does what he can with an almost useless part. You won't be alone, Klaus - there's a whole club for poorly used Bond villain actors that you can join.

* All in all, it's a product that fits right in with what you expect from an action movie from that particular period of time. It smells a little of direct-to-video, and it has moments of craptasticness.
Worth a watch, then, if you're really hung over and can't move far enough from your couch to get to the remote.

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