Digging Double Oh Seven: Never Say Never Again (1983)

While I don’t actually believe in cosmic significance to basic events, I do find it interesting that the year I was born there were two James Bond movies released in theaters. You have the in-cannon Octopussy which will be tomorrow’s movie and Never Say Never Again which brought Sean Connery back to the role he made famous quite a few years before. As I mentioned in my review of For Your Eyes Only, I was worried about this movie for a few reasons. One, I was worried Connery would be too old for the role (much as I thought Moore looked to be getting older in his series) and two, that it wouldn’t really matter because it’s not in cannon. Luckily neither of those wound up being a problem.

I should explain how there could be a James Bond movie that isn’t a part of the James Bond series. Back when Thunderball was being written and created, there was a screenwriter who worked on the project that wound up feeling as though his ideas were used somehow unfairly. There was a lawsuit and Bond creator Ian Fleming made a deal with him that involved cash and the use of some of the characters and ideas. So, with his fair share of legal rights to Bond, SPECTRE and Blofeld, that dude–Kevin McClory–got his stuff together, hired Irvin Kerschner to direct and got Connery to return as Bond. And you know what? The results are surprisingly entertaining. So much so that I wish this movie was actually included in the box set (even though it was original made by Warner Bros. it was eventually sold to MGM who hold the rest of the catalog).

Unlike the other Bond movies, this one actually addressed one of the facts of the movies that we haven’t seen addressed before: Bond not necessarily being the kind of character that fits in with modern sensibilities. In this version of the story, Bond has been around for as long as the movies have been (presumably) and now he’s dealing with a government that doesn’t seem to care about the Double Oh program and doctors who want him to cut out martinis and red meat. But soon enough, he’s needed again as the villain Largo–part of SPECTRE–has a plot to blow up various parts of the world. It’s interesting that, while part of the story revolves around Bond’s age, another part revolves around technology, specifically video games. There’s a scene in a big casino that has a whole section devoted to games like Centipede. Meanwhile, Largo has a 3D game he created himself that involves shooting parts of a 3D map of a country to gain control away from your adversary. It seems silly, but it’s actually a pretty tense moment as Bond plays–and eventually beats–the game’s creator. Is this the first video game bad guy in a movie?

From an action standpoint, the movie doesn’t disappoint. There’s an opening scene of Bond taking out some bad guys that looks like a lot of other 80s action movies which makes it kind of interesting for a Bond movie. There’s also a pretty slick car/motorcycle chase that involves rockets and even some cool gadgets as Bond and Felix Leiter fly around on what look like jet stands for lack of a better term. There’s even a big underground bad guy headquarters with accompanying assault by the good guys, some dangerous ladies (include Bond girl Kim Basinger) and a drop down drag out fight between Bond and a gigantic henchman. All in all, it’s the film’s differences from the rest of the late 70s/early 80s Bond flicks that actually makes it the most fun to watch. There’s a different take on the character and the mythos along with a lack of familiar elements that have made the last two or three canon Bond flicks kind of boring to watch. Oh, Rowan Atkinson’s even in it pre-Bean. He plays a kind of hapless bureaucrat there for comedic purposes, but his character is handled well and doesn’t get annoying, which is something that can’t be said for similar parts in other Bond movies. All in all, good stuff.

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