Saturday, November 18, 2006

No head for heights

OK, I've got to nip this in the bud, because I've seen it twice in twenty-four hours: For Your Eyes Only cited among the worst and most cartoonish of Roger Moore's run of James Bond films. Lance tags it as the "worst", actually, which I'll grudgingly accept as a matter of taste, but Harry Knowles cites FYEO as "cheese" along with The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, and dammit, Knowles should know better.

It may be a matter of opinion that FYEO is the best of the Roger Moore films, but it's a simple fact that the film is far less cartoonish than the Bond films of the 1970s. Gone are the freakish henchmen like Jaws, Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd, and Nick-Nack. The film is almost devoid of Q's gadgets. The villains aren't just evil for the sake of being evil, or possessed of bizarre motivations to rule the world; instead the plot revolves around cold-war intrigue (for just the second time in the series, surprisingly enough when one really thinks about it), in which the identity of the main villain isn't even known until about two-thirds of the way through the movie. The various supporting characters around Bond -- the girl Melina, the ally Columbo -- all have histories, and genuine motivations for their various allegiances. Sure, there's some broad humor (mostly involving the annoying figure skater), but there's broad humor in every Bond film. FYEO puts Bond in some very real predicaments in which he can't just survive by pushing a button on his wristwatch or by flipping a switch on the dash of his Lotus, and there's a scene in which Bond executes an assassin in which Roger Moore is as ruthless as Sean Connery ever was.

It's also worth noting that the turn towards cartoonishness didn't start with Roger Moore: Sean Connery's last Bond film (until 1983's "outside the franchise" Never Say Never Again), Diamonds are Forever, is as cartoonish as anything that Moore would do in his first four films as Bond, which I think makes it clear that maybe it's not Moore who played Bond as a cartoon character, but the people who wrote and directed the Bond films of the 70s who made things that way.

Oh, and Octopussy is a very good film too. And A View to a Kill even has its moments, much more so than Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun, both of which are truly bad (although LaLD does have a nice moment when Bond thinks he'll get out of a scrape by the use of his gadget-of-the-week, only to be thwarted).

(On the topic of Casino Royale, I'm hoping to see it next week while I'm on blog-hiatus. But welcome back, Mr. Bond!)

1 comment:

Sean Meade said...

i like FYEO, even if only b/c it was the first Bond film i saw in the theater. doesn't seem that bad...