All reviews by Stafford Christensen.
Film is a powerful but subjective medium; this is a personal take on movies both classic and contemporary....
Friday, July 15, 2011
Never Say Never Again (1983)
Never See Never Say Never Again
- Before we get into the specifics of Never Say Never Again (1983) – a little background….
Essentially, in the late 1950s, James Bond creator and author Ian Fleming collaborated with Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham on a James Bond screenplay. When the film idea began to fizzle out, Fleming, without permission, novelized the screenplay that he and the others had worked on together into "Thunderball," Fleming himself receiving the sole writing credit. Fleming did not get away with that and a short legal battle ensued in which McClory and Whittingham were awarded co-story writing credits. When producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman's EON Productions began bringing James Bond to the screen (Dr. No (1962) through the in-progress Bond 23), McClory was brought on board, receiving sole producing credits, for the fourth James Bond film Thunderball (1965). Legally, McClory, with his rights as co-author of "Thunderball," would be able to remake the story into another film after ten years and, due to the immense success of the Bond films, McClory was determined to do just that. It took a lot of time for McClory to get his remake but in 1983, the year of the Battle of the Bonds with EON's Octopussy being released the same year, McClory got his Thunderball remake in the "unofficial" (as in non-EON produced) Never Say Never Again with Sean Connery returning to the role.
Now, what do I think of Never Say Never Again as a movie?
Part of me hates the film on principle.... Connery returns for cash in a pointless, sell-out remake of the already extraordinary Thunderball.... but Never Say Never Again is so awful on top of it all that I do not have to use my bias as an excuse for hating it. There is a reason why Never Say Never Again has such a poor reputation – and I think it has something to do with Never Say Never Again being such a bad movie that it makes the Pierce Brosnan Bond films look like Citizen Kane (1941).
Besides Michel Legrad's bubble-gum jazz score and the wretched, awful performances from Klaus Maria Brandauer (who is more animated than Porky Pig after eating a hot tamale) and Barbara Carrera (who is more plastic than Shaquille O'Neal's Madame Tussauds wax effigy), the worst thing about Never Say Never Again is that, for a Bond film that right out of the gate is uninhibited by the EON Bond formula, it is soulless and cheap, pop action fluff that actually feels like it is going through the motions more than the worst of the EON Bond films ever did.
Never Say Never Again is not a straight-up parody but it is hardly played straight - everyone, including Bond, knows that he and everything else going on in the film is one big joke. The entire film has no sense of urgency; no one is taking anything seriously because the film was created simply to be an outlet for watching James Bond screw around for two hours. The tone of the film is summed up perfectly by the Q stand-in early on in the film:
"Good to see you, Mr. Bond. Things have been awfully dull round here. Bureaucrats running the place, things done by the book. Can't make a decision unless the computer gives you the go-ahead. Now you're on this, I hope we're going to have some gratuitous sex and violence!"
There is no danger that the characters face; there is no point to anything in the film other than Sean Connery's return as Bond which allows the tail coat-clutching producers to cash in on the only piece of 007 that Cubby Broccoli did not already own.
Let's see, I'm Kevin McClory and the rest of the production team - I finally get to make Thunderball my way.... How do I do it? I hire a hack director, cast an expired Connery, and pander to the lowest forms of tasteless 1980s filmmaking rather than try to make a smart, thrilling, and unique 007 film that lasts throughout the ages. A Ph.D. is not required to recognize that the film was made solely for a fast collecting at the box office. As a result, the film offers little to appreciate, existing as a collection of lame episodes where Bond gets some, blows stuff up - and then walks into a casino and plays.... a video game? Are you freaking kidding me? The most interesting aspect of Never Say Never Again is that even the fake Q knew that the film was going to suck right from the get go!