Bonus Bond! Its the unofficial Bond with the most official Bond, Sean Connery!
I originally wasn’t going to included Never Say Never Again in this series for two reasons. First, it wasn’t included in my blu-ray box set because it wasn’t made by Eon Productions. Second, I had seen the movie before by catching random bits and pieces on TV. What I saw didn’t impress me. But there it was, on one of my streaming service just begging me to watch it all the way through. So, I did.
Before we get to the review, how this movie came to be is interesting. At least more interesting than the movie itself.
The process of getting Bond to the big screen started in the late ’50s as Ian Fleming’s spy novels which featured the character rose in popularity. Fleming first worked on a film screenplay for Bond with two other writers, Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham. During the writing process, McClory released The Boy and The Bridge, a film which flopped horribly. Fleming lost all confidence with McClory’s ability and scrapped the partnership.
Instead, he took the screenplay and turned it into his 1961 Bond novel, Thunderball. After McClory got an advanced copy of the novel, he contacted Whittingham and the two proceeded to take legal action against Fleming. Ironically enough, Thunderball is the novel where Fleming drew from his personal experience the most. His visit to a health clinic, life as a naval officer, and even his own medical records are used in the novel.
Of course, Thunderball went on to become Fleming’s best selling novel and Eon Production’s first choice to bring Bond to the big screen.
Unable to come to an agreement with McClory, Eon Productions skipped Thunderball and opted in 1962 to make Dr. No instead. Besides, Dr. No‘s story about nuclear missiles in the Caribbean was topical for the early ’60s.
An agreement was eventually made with McClory out of court in 1963 and in 1965 Thunderball became Bond’s fourth film. As part of the agreement, McClory received a producers credit and was restricted from producing another version of Thunderball for 10 years. He began working on his version in 1975.
Incredibly, Sean Connery was on board from day one… as a co writer. The film was at first set to be an new Bond adventure but United Artists, the franchise’s copyright holder clamped down. As per their agreement, McClory had to stick to Thunderball‘s story.
Eventually, veteran producer Jack Schwartzman became involved, he smartly convinced Connery to drop the idea of writing for Bond and accept $3 million dollars to return to portraying the character instead.
And that is how in 1983, Never Say Never Again, a remake of Thunderball was released in theatres. Is that wacky or what?
What is also whacky is how it was hardly worth the effort. Outside of a fun first 30 minutes or so, the film isn’t very good.
It is a bit of a shame too because the cast is all top notch. Connery miraculously is still able to deliver the charm that at the age of 53. Kim Basinger is underused as Domino. She has so little to do they tack on these unnecessary dancing scenes. Max von Sydow makes a small appearance as a rather tame Blofeld. I don’t think you see him in the last half of the film.
The villains, Klaus Maria Brandauer as Largo and Barbara Carrera as Fatima Blush are actually pretty good and I think would have shone if the script was better. There is a ridiculous scene where Brandauer and Connery battle over a video game that can kill you… unless you let go of the controller. Imagine that. Bond died because he would let go of a joystick. The fact that they make it work on some level is a credit to their talents.
The action is on the weak side as well. The hand to hand fight scene Bond has with a heavy henchman in the medical center is well done. Apparently, Steven Seagal was the chorographer for it. The rest falls flat. There is an OK motor bike chase but the film is heavy on the underwater scenes with sharks. I guess the effect of Jaws was still being felt by movie goers in 1983, but the ones they choose for this movie looked more cute than threatening. Amazingly, this was director Irwin Kerskner’s follow up to The Empire Strikes Back.
Now for the final (for now) competition with my wife, Sarah, to guess how long it would take Bond to first get laid during each of these films. It was my turn to roll the dice and yet ANOTHER FIVE was rolled first! I think this might be six times in a row now. Jeez. Anway, the second roll was a four which meant Sarah had to choose if Bond would get laid over or under 54 minutes. She wisely chose under.
Connery got with a lady TWICE prior to the 54 minute mark. Point goes to Sarah.
Sarah – 12
Mars – 9
Ugh. At this point…
Never Say Never Again suffers from a weak script. I think that is something Fleming recognized during those early drafts when he changed the project into a novel. Eon Productions had the freedom in the ’60s to take good ideas from it and sprinkle them into the early films. Someone made a video on YouTube showing all of the comparisons. It is quite interesting if you know the movies well:
According to the writers, they were boxed in by having to stick to the original story. Even some lines of dialogue could not be altered. I can buy some of that for the reason why it doesn’t work, but not all. There is too much bloat for a film that runs 2 hours and 17 minutes and the production feels like a made for TV film. Even the jazzy soundtrack is off. Bond is a hero who deserves a full orchestra. Brass and strings.
Never Say Never Again rests on Connery’s laurels, heavily using his screen presence to get to the finish line. I suppose the first clue that this would be the case is the title. Never Say Never Again has nothing to do with the story. It instead is a reference to Connery playing the role for the first time in 12 years. After Diamonds Are Forever he declared in 1971 how he would never appear as Bond again. Well, I can say in 2021 *never* to watching this again.
Get more Bond in you!
From Russia With Love
You Only Live Twice
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Diamonds Are Forever
Live and Let Die
The Man With the Golden Gun
The Spy Who Loved Me
For Your Eyes Only
A View To A Kill
The Living Daylights
Licence To Kill
Tomorrow Never Dies
The World Is Not Enough
Die Another Day
Quantum of Solace
Never Say Never Again