Never Say Never Again is the second and last “unofficial” Bond film I’ll be watching, and I’m rather thankful for that. It was everything I expected it to be, and less.
After 13 films establishing distinct characters, it was immediately off-putting to me to see different actors portray M, Q, and even Ms. Moneypenny in Never Say Never Again. It was odd enough to see Blofeld portrayed by three different actors in three consecutive “official” Bond films, so you can imagine how I felt when essentially everyone was replaced by unfamiliar faces. I couldn’t help but look upon the establishing scenes of the movie with a little bit of disdain, and my initial thoughts were that it felt like a pretender to the franchise, which, of course, it basically is. On top of all this, my opinion of the movie was not helped by the fact that I found myself constantly comparing it to Thunderball.
Next, while I had been warned about Connery showing his age here, I wasn’t expecting the movie to address this issue head-on, alluding to Bond having recently spent more time “teaching, not doing” and sending him off to a wellness clinic. But while he certainly looks much older, he still looked fitter than Roger Moore has appeared, and he handled his action scenes pretty effectively. So that wasn’t as much of an issue as I expected it to be.
I also really enjoyed the performance of Klaus Maria Brandauer as Largo. His quirky mannerisms, his sporadic pauses in speech, the tangible sourness lurking beneath his charm and sophisticated accent… I bought it, and I thought he was actually one of the better Bond villains, one that had a little more charisma and personality than, say, Drax, Stromberg, or even the original Largo. Largo’s hench(wo)man, however, I didn’t really like. Barbara Carrera eats up her role as Fatima Bush, but I didn’t find her threatening, and I felt the effort to portray her as a steamy, psychotic vixen was overwrought. I mean, her undoing came as a direct result of her need to be acknowledged by 007 as the greatest lover he ever had, and that’s just asinine. Interestingly enough, I found out later that she received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance, so that just goes to show what I know, right?
This brings me to my bottom line: there were actually some enjoyable elements in Never Say Never Again, but there were far more things I took issue with than not. Kim Basinger, 1980s sexpot that she was, is completely forgettable as Bond girl Domino. The video game showdown, while it may have been novel at the time, looks silly now. Several points were either glossed over or left unexplained, like the shark-magnet device (how did that work, exactly?) and the speedy discovery and disarming of the warhead “under” Washington D.C. (and how’d he get it “under” there in the first place?).
All things considered, I’ll take Thunderball over this any day. I am going to go ahead and say that this was the “Bond film” I enjoyed the least so far, and I’m glad it’s not officially included as part of the franchise. However, I’m also willing to concede that my opinion of it might have been different if it was the first Bond film I ever saw, or if I hadn’t seen Thunderball first. It simply didn’t feel like a Bond film without the standard intro, without the iconic theme music, without the regular cast, and that inevitably caused me to dismiss it early on.
Favorite line: “I hope we’re gonna have some gratuitous sex and violence.” — Q to Bond when Bond is reinstated for duty.
Favorite moment: Bond poses as a masseur at a spa and basically fondles Domino all over as he probes her (no pun intended) for information. When the real masseuse appears and Domino figures out that the old man sliding his hands all over her backside was a fraud, she simply smiles and shrugs it off.