Thursday, September 27, 2012

50th Anniversary Bond Rewatch "Never Say Never Again" (1983)

As a fan of the popcorn, guilty pleasure, mindless entertainment aspect of the Bond series of films, I thought it would be interesting to revisit the films with the company of my brain. Maybe there is more to be found than escapism. Maybe some of the culture and thinking of the past 50 years has left its imprint…

When I was a kid, we lived for a while in Costa Rica. While there, we got TV service from some guy with a satellite. You just had one channel hooked into his dish and got to watch whatever he happened to have it tuned into at the time. He watched all the Chicago Cubs games. He also tended to shift it over to one of the premium movie channels in the evening. I don’t know if he cut into “Never Say Never Again” midstream or if I just happened to turn it on then, but my first ever experience of James Bond was the moment in this film where Bond walks into the apartment, finds the dead woman in the waterbed, and chases down Fatima Blush on his tricked out motorcycle.

It’s not your average film series that can burn a random moment of channel surfing onto your memory like that. Then again, this is not really the Bond series. It is another imagining of the character.

It is great to get a different take on this character, especially during the Roger Moore years. This film presents an aging Bond who is past his prime and having to accomplish his mission without the advantage of being a superhero or a joke. (Interestingly, Connery plays this aging Bond being three years younger than the official Bond who was looking every bit the older man in the same year’s “Octopussy.”) As the official series continued it would eventually be influenced by the realism of “Never” and improve as a result. Unfortunately just not right away. This is something that the spy genre as a whole does to the franchise. Films like “XXX,” “The Bourne Identity” and others provide cultural commentary on Bond and in turn introduce changes to the series that help it continue to influence and comment on the culture of its day.

It is curious that in this more realistic take on the character, Bond beds more women than he had up until that point (only the next official entry would equal this film) but he also has one of his more serious relationships and seems to settle down by the end. He also kills fewer people than in any official film. Neither of these facts is necessarily more realistic, but it does say a lot about the time when the film was made. In the years since Bond’s sex count has shrunk (it is not unusual for Bond to only have one “relationship” now) while his kill count has risen.

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