April 18, 2011

∴ The Spy Who Love Me

I'm playing along with Dan Benjamin and John Gruber as they critique each of the Bond films, in the order they debuted, on The Talk Show. We've worked through the first five plus one (the classic Connery films) as well as George Lazenby's attempt at the character, in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. We're into Roger Moore's Bond now, having seen Live and Let Die and The Man With the Golden Gun over the past two weeks. Up this week, The Spy Who Loved Me, Bond film number ten.

This Bond film debuted in 1977. Unlike the previous films, this one starts out ridiculous. When you see the metallic ticker tape messaging gadget in his watch you know, this one is going to be a wet turd from the word go.

My notes:

  • more skiing. Lazenby started the skiing Bond thing. Sort of a car chase on a snowy mountainside, but dull. Bond has a goofy exchange of gunplay as he skis down an impossible slope, sometimes backwards (?), ending with his parachuting off a cliff. and then deploys a parachute bearing the British flag. he's supposed to be a secret agent. Must have kept the parachute in a bag or something.
  • first time we see Commander Bond in British naval uniform. up to now he's simply been a secret agent. this is probably due to the movies being made in a different order from that of the published books.
  • Stromberg (the villain) has an elevator with a plexiglass exit chute, to deliver unsuspecting victims to a shark tank. who was he expecting to visit?
  • Stromberg's goal is to start a nuclear war, so the survivors can live under the sea. hmm. the film reflects the cold war paranoia with the bomb, like the previous Thunderball where a pair of nuclear weapons were hijacked.
  • first appearance of Jaws. All 7-foot, 2-inches of him. Jaws was himself a gadget with steel teeth. he didn't seem to have any real criminal talent, though. he just breaks things. and people. he has not aged well.
  • Bond on a camel?
  • good fight scene on a Cairo roof, shorter but reminiscent of the later Jason Bourne rooftop fight scene in The Bourne Ultimatum.
  • I like Max Kalba. he has a certain panache, seems a better villain than Stromberg. too bad he dies quickly.
  • too many puns and quips. Moore is debonaire, but the constant punning confuses the story. if he doesn't take the plot seriously, why should the viewer? The tough spy has become a wanker.
  • "shared bodily warmth." meh. major amasova (agent xxx, this film's Bond girl) wasn't that much of a hottie. and she smoked loaded cigs. funny how she loses her awful accent aboard the train when she says, "what happened?" I wondered the same thing.
  • british secret service and the kgb work together for the first time. detente was a popular theme in real-world relations during the seventies. i liked the cold war better.
  • why would major boothroyd (Q) maintain a lab in a pyramid? does the lab follow Bond on assignment?
  • nice Lotus Esprit. doubles as a submarine. highlight of the film.
  • Stromberg has webbed hands!
  • why did Stromberg's ship suddenly explode after the two subs were destroyed? did someone drop a match? sympathy pains?

The film goes downhill in the second half, becoming a dumb caper. Seems to be an emerging theme in the last couple of Bond films. First half, exploration of the plot; second half, dumb caper. Like the screenwriters got bored with the story, but needed a way to get from introducing new locations and gadgets to "Bond wins."

This film, too, marks the point in the franchise when going to see a new Bond film became something you did out of habit, rather than something that promised movie satisfaction. 1977 was the year Peter Benchley's Jaws hit the big screen, beginning the summer blockbuster tradition in Hollywood filmmaking. I think the Bond films that followed were akin to today's numbered sequels, a half-hearted attempt at sucking more money out of a meme without thinking about the overall quality of the product.

Up next: Moonraker. Outer space combat. Ugh.