With 007's most notorious villainous organisation set to make its return in Spectre later this year, and the James Bond franchise celebrating fifty years in cinema with its last installment Skyfall, Ben has taken the opportunity to take in every Eon Productions Bond film in order, from the series' beginnings in 1962 to the present day. Now pay attention...
|"Arguably the most forgettable period in 007's cinematic legacy".|
There's a definite and not entirely surprising divide in the realm of James Bond fandom when it comes to Roger Moore. Those who uphold Moore's seven film tenure as a strong and entertaining iteration of the character - with some even putting him above Connery as top Bond - invariably focus on the actor's opening trio of appearances. Midpoint film Moonraker divides opinion to such an extent that it essentially becomes a wildcard to tip the balance either way, with some calling it Moore's last hurrah whilst others decry it as the tipping point for both the actor and indeed the series as a whole. That leaves Moore's final three films, released during the first half of the 1980s and which, whilst garnering some support from Moore devotees, arguably present the most forgettable period in 007's cinematic legacy.
Perhaps most forgettable of all is Moore's fifth outing, For Your Eyes Only. The extravagance of Moonraker encouraged the series' producers to dial matters down considerably in terms of plot and tone; the result is a story that never manages to get going simply by failing to give the audience a great deal of reasons to care about it. The attempt at a return to low-key plotting focused on Cold War espionage is both honest and admirable in its desire to recapture the success of early films in the series, most obviously From Russia With Love. But director John Glen's sluggish execution, particularly during a second hour that feels almost entirely devoid of fun, means the film fails to ever truly come to life.
Perhaps most problematic within For Your Eyes Only are the characters. Aristotle Kristatos (Julian Glover) is amongst the most nondescript villains ever to come up against 007, although the initial misdirection away from his antagonistic role works well. Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet) is unfortunately memorable only for the complete lack of chemistry she shares with Bond. Worst of all, however, is excruciating ice skater Bibi (Lynn-Holly Johnson), who not only grates in every scene but also delivers some of the most uncomfortable romantic scenes with Bond of any film in the series - Johnson being over thirty year's Moore's junior. Whilst For Your Eyes Only marks the series' lowest ebb since The Man With The Golden Gun, the earlier film had enjoyable elements in isolation, such as Christopher Lee's Scaramanga. Disappointingly, this is never true of Bond's first step into the 1980s, making Glen's debut the weakest entry in the franchise up to this point.
Octopussy initially holds promise of remedying the issues seen in the previous film, with a classic pre-credits sequence involving a miniature fighter jet and an intriguing mystery involving a Fabergé egg set up early on. The problems soon emerge however, with returning director Glen veering wildly throughout from the grimly serious to the camply comedic. A chase through an Indian market takes the franchise dangerously close to parodying itself, with every cliché including hot coals, a bed of nails and sword swallower thrown into the mix; meanwhile former tennis ace Vijay Amritaj, playing an MI6 operative, swipes at bad guys with a conveniently-placed racket as the crowd's heads swivel back and forth à la Wimbledon.
A winning performance from Louis Jourdan as villain Kamal Khan, backed up by genuinely intimidating henchman Gobinda (Kabir Bedi), isn't enough to disguise a plot that becomes tattier and tattier as Octopussy wears on. As the location moves from India to East Germany and the focus onto Octopussy's (Maud Adams) circus during the final act, Glen's film becomes increasingly tedious and ludicrous, with the director once again failing to keep either the momentum or narrative thread going during the second hour. Moore's sixth film is undeniably more fun to sit through than his fifth, but on balance Octopussy is simply too much of a mess in tone and story to be deemed a success.
Moore's final appearance as 007 in 1985, whilst not the strongest of the actor's seven films, thankfully shows definite improvement from his earlier '80s efforts. A View To A Kill is not without its problems, most of which again come from the film's story. Essentially a loose rehash of Goldfinger's plot - with the gold market replaced by that of computer technology - we are made to sit through an aimless and largely unnecessary opening act that has Bond going undercover to investigate racehorse breeding and doping. It's a section that gives Moore plenty of opportunity to reach new levels of eyebrow-brandishing, but ultimately is stretched out far further than it needs to be.
Once the bigger plans of Max Zorin (Christopher Walken) are revealed, A View To A Kill picks up considerably. Walken crafts Zorin into a memorable nemesis in the classic Bond villain mould - perhaps more sadistic and psychotic than those seen previously, but undeniably entertaining. Whilst Grace Jones as May Day feels more at home in the action sequences than in her dialogue-driven scenes, she and Walken form a strong antagonistic partnership for returning director Glen to build his film around. The film is also littered with several pleasing action sequences, ensuring that Moore's swansong is more memorable for the right reasons than the wrong ones.
With seven films over twelve years under his belt, Moore is to date the longest serving actor to play James Bond on screen. In the contemporary film-making climate where many actors are more wary of lengthy franchise commitments than ever, it's an achievement that is unlikely to be surpassed any time soon. But Moore's is also a tenure that eventually took its toll on the series through its longevity. For a number of reasons - uninspired plotting, increasingly outdated values, and Moore's advancing age becoming steadily more apparent to name just three - the Bond franchise once again needed a considerable shake-up if it was to survive past Moore's final film.
|For Your Eyes Only|
|A View To A Kill|