Take a Drink: for dated music ques
Take a Drink: for the odd feeling of a missing Bond cliché
Do a Shot: when Bond drinks
Do a Shot: for product placement
By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Five Beers) –
After a botched training mission, British super-spy Bond is assigned to a health spa to recover, and to rid himself of “Free Radicals”. While at the spa, Bond uncovers a plot by the evil SPECTRE organization to steal nuclear warheads and to extort the world. In his investigation, he discovers millionaire and philanthropist Maximillian Largo (Klaus Maria Brandauer) is the SPECTRE operative behind the plot. Along the way, Bond meets femme fatale Fatima Blush (Barbara Carrera), whose beauty is as deadly as her sadomasochistic tendencies.
Never Say Never Again is a remake of Thunderball, which was attempted by producer Kevin McClory, who also co-wrote the original novel with Ian Fleming. A long history of lawsuits ended in the 1980s, providing McClory with the ability to make his own Bond film, outside the EON production company set up by Albert Broccoli, which had done all the other films in the series.
There are some things to admire in the movie; the casting of Klaus Maria Brandauer being perhaps the best decision the filmmakers could have come up with. Klaus shines with his devious, scene-stealing portrayal of a truly demented sociopath. Every scene he appears in is immediately made more enjoyable by his stage-presence, with a knowing half-smile that can’t help but draw the audience in.
A much smaller, but equally solid villain performance comes from the great Max Von Sydow as SPECTRE’s leader Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Sydow was a totally different casting “type” from the actors who were asked to play Blofeld in the EON films, and yet through strength of character, he manages to totally embody the mad super-villain archetype.
As much as I love Rowan Atkinson as a performer, his casting as comic relief in the film’s 2nd act feels like a waste of good talent. His character plays absolutely no role in the plot, instead serving to extend the film’s length in the name of light comedy.
Sean Connery just feels lost in this story, without any real direction or chance to shine as a performer. The Bond role shouldn’t be a thankless pursuit, but it is clear he should have hung up his cufflinks after Diamonds are Forever like he said he would. (Rumor has it Connery had a bone to pick with EON productions, and took this role in retribution and as a final insult to Albert Broccoli.)
It is of course understandable that the filmmakers couldn’t use the original Bond theme music, but why they instead chose for the soundtrack to be what amounts to smooth jazz and light disco is beyond me. By 1983, the music featured here was as uncool as bell bottoms and leisure suits. And the song in the opening title sequence is simply an abomination.
The chief problem with Never say Never Again is in pacing. At 134 minutes, the film is about 30 minutes too long. Of course, this was also the case of Thunderball, so it’s no surprise that a story based on the same novel would carry similar problems. Just like Thunderball, the extended “Health Spa” sequence at the beginning of the film feels wasted, as the story doesn’t really begin in earnest until at least a half-hour in. It also highlights the sad fact that while Sean Connery is three years younger than Roger Moore, in this film he seems a heck of a lot older…
Even more painful is the climactic battle, which should be the high point of action and excitement. There simply isn’t a word to describe how uninvolving it is. Director Irving Kirshner was normally very dependable with action scenes, but this feels cold, unemotional.
Capitalizing on new trends is a long-running tradition of James Bond films, from the Blacksploitation elements of Live and Let Die, all the way to changing Bond’s preferred game of Baccarat to Texas Hold ‘Em in Casino Royale. But the “Domination Game” featured in Never Say Never Again is perhaps the most curious. Space-aged vector hologram-based graphics, an awkward electronic voice, and an electric shock delivery system to harm the players are just a few elements of a video game which Bond must play against Largo. The gameplay makes very little sense, and it is clearly obvious that the direction given to Sean Connery was “look hurt, and wiggle the joysticks willy-nilly”.
Released just a few months after the equally unfortunate Octopussy, the movie grossed almost as much at the box office. Sean Connery and Kevin McClory got their wish of embarrassing Albert Broccoli and EON. Was it worth it?…