Well, obviously YMMV but for me the ultimate disappointment of NSNA is that it doesn’t have the courage to go in any interesting directions. Granted it’s hamstrung from Square 1 by having to stick to the Thunderball plot, but having a 50-something Connery on board gave them an opening to explore the “aging Bond” angle. Indeed things seem to be going in this direction early on, but after the Shrublands sequence it’s abandoned, so after the first half-hour or so it all comes to nothing more than “Could it be that Bond is too old for this? No, and shame on your for asking.”
It might have been interesting to see how a character so emblematic of the 1960s was coping with the 80s, whether a carefree lothario had any regrets upon reaching middle age without a lasting relationship or family, what it was like for a rugged individualist who valued personal skill and intuition to work in an increasingly tech-oriented agency that had grown to undervalue the importance of those human qualities (I like to think if MI-6 tried to saddle Connery’s Bond with an earpiece communicator like Craig’s, he’d grind it underfoot at the first opportunity). When SPECTRE’s schemes are revealed, you might even get away with a wink at TB itself by having Bond gripe that all these years later, he’s still fighting the same battles. Or if you really want to go bold, leave the toupee at home.
What we got instead was, “Yeah we know he’s older but here’s all the stuff you expect in a Bond film,” and then we get a watered-down, bargain-basement imitation of an Eon Bond, complete with corny humor (sometimes more Benny Hill than Roger Moore) and all the usual trappings, only cheaper and shoddier: so-so stunts, middling practical effects, that goofball Dick Tracy “flying can” thingee and the weakest, most low-energy score until GE finally arrived to say “hold my beer.”
I just feel like the way to beat Eon would have been to go in directions they weren’t able to, like embracing the age issue instead of running away from it. Or delving into dark areas like what a lifetime of living on the edge and dealing death would do a man’s psyche. Sure he’s calm and confident on the outside, but what does a guy like that dream about, and what shape are his nerves in? I mean, “live like there’s no tomorrow” is fine for a young Bond, but what if he does make it to middle, or even old, age? I would think 20+ years spent in combat mode would mess you up pretty good.
Instead, they took the easy way out and opted for the tried-and-true, but without the budget to do it right, it just comes off as a naked cash grab. And…again IMHO…every year that goes by makes the whole “Oh my god Connery’s back” angle less impactful. Yes in 1983 it was a big deal that the impossible was happening and he was back, but now even 1983 is 40 years in the past, and to a younger audience, '71 or '83 are equally ancient. The whole point of NSNA at the time was “let’s give Eon and Roger a poke in the eye” and now I’m not sure the casual viewer even knows it was a rival production.
All that said, I guess I am glad it exists and it was entertaining enough at the time. But given Connery’s reticence to return to the role, I’d have hoped he’d have held out for something that took a few more chances and contributed something special to cinematic Bond.