Deathmatch 2023 - Sideswipes

Alongide the “main” (cough) voting, a daily question on which to vote; this time around, the quality of decision-making, basically.

June 1 - No Time to Die - Bond has a child
  • A good decision, well executed
  • A good decision, poorly executed
  • A bad decision, but executed as well as it was ever likely to be
  • A bad decision, poorly executed

0 voters

1 Like
June 2 - Moonraker - Jaws & Dolly
  • A good decision, well executed
  • A good decision, poorly executed
  • A bad decision, poorly executed
  • A bad decision, but executed as well as it was ever likely to be

0 voters

It felt like a great idea at the time, and in the cinema audiences were laughing with it.

4 Likes

And it was–done in keeping with the spirit and style of the film, which is the logical endpoint for Moore Bond of the 1970s. MR may not be to a viewer’s taste, but it is tonally/aesthetically consistent first moment to last, and Lewis Gilbert’s finest two hours. It is one of the great (re)entries in the series.

3 Likes
June 3 - For Your Eyes Only - Mrs Thatcher and Denis appear
  • A bad decision, poorly executed
  • A bad decision, but executed as well as it was ever going to be
  • A good decision, poorly executed
  • A good decision, well executed

0 voters

1 Like
June 4 - Never Say Never Again
  • A good decision, well executed
  • A bad decision, poorly executed
  • A good decision, poorly executed
  • A bad decision, but executed as well as it was ever going to be

0 voters

It’s in line with the other visual humour we see like the double taking pigeon. A big hulking brute falling in love with a small innocent lady - that gets unexpected deeper meaning at the end of the film. It would be out of place anywhere else but it fits here pretty well.

Bond having a child: I say they did the concept right. We don’t see him becoming domesticated and removed from what we know him to be, but he respects his sudden family enough to let them live at the cost of himself. We get to have our cake and eat it too.

Thatcher: Not really a fan of this one. Ideally I’d have Bond exist in a seperate bubble of reality that doesn’t reference our own existence. I’m happy with world leaders being faceless and known only by their title.

NSNA: I enjoy this more than I probably should, especially from the point of view it gives Connery’s Bond a clearer ending and puts him at seven films with Moore.

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Largo and Fatima Blush are 2 of the best villains of the series: their exchange at the casino about one day killing Domino is twisted villainous perfection.

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The NSNA question is different from the others because it’s not Eon making the decision. Was it a good idea for someone who held Bond film rights to try to cash in? Well, you better believe I would have tried it if it were me. I’m not even sure that qualifies as a “decision” (hmm…there’s a fortune sitting over there with my name on it, should I grab it?) But was the end result well-executed? Not by a long shot. So I said “good decision, poorly executed.”

Recently I came across Siskel and Ebert’s review of NSNA where they fall all over themselves praising NSNA as the first great Bond film in years, and their reaction wasn’t atypical. In retrospect, most folks seem to agree it’s a sub-par effort, and the only conclusion I can reach is that in 1983 perceptions were 100% influenced by the mere participation of Sean Connery, at least among viewers of a certain age (which included a lot of critics). I imagine it would have been the same if the Beatles had reunited and produced a sub-par album. Folks would have been so thrilled to see them together it might have taken years to realize the sound they were making wasn’t great.

Interestingly, NSNA was a prototype for the current trend where aging actors return to their most famous roles after years away from them and the marketing campaign for the film hinges completely on that return. For example, Cruise as Maverick, Keaton as Batman and Harrison Ford as Indy, Han and Deckard. Whether that’s a positive trend I guess depends on your point of view.

4 Likes

Very good points I mostly agree with.

But while NSNA loses steam towards the finale, I do think it is extremely entertaining. It is not on the same level as THUNDERBALL, more like an aging cover band playing legendary hits surprisingly well.

Without Connery, of course, it would not have worked at all. With him, it´s a nice-to-have.

5 Likes

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.

4 Likes

I would agree. The aging Bond you’d think would be fine given Schrublands, but it does beg the question of how much they were allowed to change without legal response.

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Well, Fatima is a completely new creation, even if you can sort of trace her evolution from Fiona, and they got away with that. Nicole likewise is only kind-of, sort of Paula but not really. Plus the hijacking of the Vulcan bomber mutates into a reprogramming of cruise missiles, and there’s the whole new sequence where Domino’s to be sold off at the terrorist bazaar or whatever it is. Not to mention the video game battle. Please not to mention it. So there seems to have been some wiggle room for “tweaks” as long as they stuck to the general framework. Now if they’d tried to take Bond to space, or relocate all the aquatic scenes to snowy mountain locales or poached on other iconic Eon scenes or hallmarks, I’m sure it would have been different.

In that spirit, I think they could’ve gotten away with saying “It’s still Thunderball but now Bond is older.” It’s a function of the lead actor, and things are always adjusted to reflect the lead actor’s qualities. If they’d cast Brosnan it could have skewed the tone more “young and timely” with maybe some of the MTV-ish elements we got with AVTAK (except for the young part), or with Mel Gibson maybe it would’ve been more earthy and rough-and-tumble. But it was Connery, so what’s the angle he brings? A previous history in the role and gray hair (albeit applied with spirit gum). Making Bond older adds a layer to the Fleming/McClory material without fundamentally changing the main plot, and while Eon could theoretically have claimed an aging lead actor was “their” trademark, it would have been pretty embarassing to come right out and say it, and pointless since they couldn’t prove they’d ever done anything with the age issue but put their fingers in their ears and hum loudly.

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That’s the bit I keep sticking on. They sort of start it, and the narrative of Thunderball does allow for it, yet they give it up about halfway through.

You’re judging the film as if it had been made today.

Back then, it would have been considered box office suicide to really contemplate Bond‘s or Connery‘s age.

Those were the days when Bond or other pulp/comic book heroes were just there to entertain, not to be treated like real persons.

Also, don’t forget that NSNA underwent massive problems. It’s a miracle the film came off as well as it did.

Today, it would be made with all the ideas you are mentioning, and it would be interesting to see that.

Then again, does the mass audience really want to see an old Bond with all the problems of age?

SKYFALL went there as far as they could.

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In Skyfall, he wasn’t even all that old yet, and then they undid it all by trotting him out for two more films. Plus the end of SF, with a male M, a Moneypenny and a Q in place at last, seems to be saying, “This is the START of the Bond you remember.” So it’s a mess.

I would argue there’s a precedent for dealing with aging heroes, even way back in the early 80s and even in a “pulp/comic” setting. We need look no further than 1982’s “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” which centered on an aging James T. Kirk and dealt with issues of mortality, regrets about paths not taken, ghosts from the past and old debts coming due. All while serving up plenty of humor, bright colors and zap-zap space action. Kirk and company not only weren’t harmed by the acknowledgement of time passing, the choices made in TWOK reinvigorated the series and kept audiences coming for 4 more TOS films.

Even Connery had already mined this territory in a way with “Robin and Marian.” If any actor deserved to tell the “Last Bond Story” it was he and not Craig. But I agree with you that the real problem is a fundamental lack of imagination and a desire to “play it safe” by not giving audiences anything other than what they were used to. It was a mindset Eon would be locked into for another 20 years, so I guess I can’t expect more from NSNA. Who wants to blow their one chance at Bond-level profits by serving up a film that’s anything but a sure bet? But given that everyone involved must have known it was a “done in one” and could not possibly lead to a rival franchise, I can’t help wishing they’d have been a little daring, anyway. I’m not saying the world would’ve been ready for an NTTD-like “last Bond story” in 1983 (much of it isn’t now!), but surely we could’ve matched the creativity of TWOK.

2 Likes

Fun fact: Shatner hated the script because of all the age consequences for Kirk. Meyer had to rewrite and make it all palatable so Shatner still knew he was the star.

Connery in the Lester film: willing to play his age.

Connery in NSNA: what do you mean, I should look old while Roger does not?

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Maybe part of my issue is that Connery and others said the film would bring a return to FRWL sensibilities. You’d think I’d learn to ignore that BS after a while, just like “this leading lady isn’t the usual Bond bimbo.” But like that little round-headed kid, I kept trying to kick the football anyway. And that’s on me.

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They push the ‘Bond is played out’ angle at the beginning of Skyfall, but a lot of it concerns his shoulder injury and angst against M’s decision with Patrice. Once he apprehends Silva at the island he’s well and truly back to being how he was before. In that sense, it’s not really dissimilar to Never Say Never Again, or Die Another Day. We see Bond encounter obstacles but they never last long - his inner maverick always emerges no matter his age. That’s his default self.

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Charlie Brown Football GIF

1 Like