The James Bond Reviews
The Roger Moore Era
Roger Moore has a lighter touch than Sean Connery, but his contribution to the character is essential to Bond's longevity. Moore is more charming and less brutish than Connery, and when he plays to those strengths, his movies shine. He is capable of delivering more fun than Connery, though he is never able to match Connery's more aggressive style. As such, the Moore era fluctuates between action and comedy, often skipping past the violence with a smile and a reassurance that none of this should be taken too seriously. It's easy to write these movies off as goofy, but there are some great films in here that are no less deserving of the James Bond moniker than anything that preceded or followed Roger Moore's run.
LIVE AND LET DIE|
Theme Song: "Live and Let Die" by Paul McCartney and Wings
Villain: Dr. Kananga
Henchmen: Baron Samedi, Tee Hee Johnson, Whisper
Bond girls: Solitaire, Rosie Carver
THE JIST: While investigating the murder of three fellow agents, James Bond learns of a plan by the megalomaniacal Dr. Kananga to flood the black market with heroin grown on the island nation of San Monique, a land where occult mysticism and voodoo practices are rampant.
THE VERDICT: The slight changes to the Bond formula here are refreshing, most notably the exclusion of SPECTRE, the villainous organization that dominated all but one of the previous seven Bond films. It keeps just enough of the campiness to be fun, thanks in no small part to Roger Moore's charm, but never lets itself get carried away by it. The action sequences are at a new high, too, with more practical choreography and less emphasis on over-the-top absurdity. Alas, the black stereotypes are unfortunate; the score is unflatteringly defined by the early 70's (and a lack of John Barry); the inclusion of magic into the Bond universe is a bit odd; and Sheriff Pepper is a wildly out-of-place comic buffoon who is just embarrassingly bad.
THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN|
Theme Song: "The Man with the Golden Gun" by Lulu
Villain: Francisco Scaramanga
Henchman: Nick Nack
Bond girls: Mary Goodnight, Andrea Anders
THE JIST: Responding to an apparent threat to his life, 007 pursues the infamous assassin Francisco Scaramanga all the way to his personal island, where Scaramanga has taken control of a solar power plant and weapon he plans to sell to the highest bidder.
THE VERDICT: The Man with the Golden Gun is a solid Bond adventure, highlighted by Christopher Lee's turn as Scaramanga, a villain who nearly cracked my top ten a few weeks ago. It has some awkward moments--Bond twisting Andrea's arm and threatening her would work for the more ruthless Connery incarnation, but seems out of character for Moore's--and features an unwelcome return of the cartoonish J.W. Pepper during a badly choreographed car chase. There are also some unreasonably convenient plot points; the action sequences are a step down from Live and Let Die; the humor doesn't always land properly; and Scaramanga's ultimate scheme doesn't actually seem all that evil. It never goes off the rails, though, and it is far better than its reputation for nearly killing the franchise suggests.
THE SPY WHO LOVED ME|
Theme Song: "Nobody Does It Better" by Carly Simon
Villain: Karl Stromberg
Bond girl: Anya Amasova
THE JIST: Bond must work with a KGB agent to find a submarine tracking system in the hands of Karl Stromberg, an anarchist who plans to eradicate most of the human race and start over in an underwater paradise of his own design.
THE VERDICT: On one hand, the story relies too much on established Bond tropes and not enough on its own internal logic. It seems like it's trying to go back to the Blofeld years, with Stromberg taking the SPECTRE mastermind's place as psychotic madman in a secret lair with plans to destroy the world, and that's a huge step backward for the franchise. On the other hand, the story charts new character ground for Bond by giving him the most genuinely provocative Bond girl thus far, a competing spy who discovers Bond killed her lover just as they are finally overcoming their differences. This makes Bond more interesting and dimensional than ever before, and more than makes up for the movie's weaknesses, which include a terrible score and goofy set designs. Also, The Spy Who Loved Me deserves credit for introducing us to Jaws, and the action scenes are much improved over The Man with the Golden Gun.
Theme Song: "Moonraker" by Shirley Bassey
Villain: Hugo Drax
Henchmen: Chang, Jaws
Bond girls: Corrine Dufour, Holly Goodhead
THE JIST: An investigation into a missing space shuttle leads James Bond to Hugo Drax, a wealthy industrialist secretly building a space station from which he plans to eradicate the human race and repopulate the Earth with his own master race.
THE VERDICT: This is the point at which the Bond formula devolves into self-parody. It's just a bad movie. The first two acts can't decide if they want to be action or comedy, and ultimately don't succeed in being either. The final act is where it exceeds all bounds of ridiculousness by trying to be a 70's sci-fi spectacle while aping the climax of You Only Live Twice. Drax is also a notably terrible villain with zero charisma and a been-there-done-that plan for humanity; Dr. Goodhead has no chemistry with Bond, and her character is trying too hard to replicate Anya from The Spy Who Loved Me; and it all feels terribly phoned in, even from Roger Moore. Moonraker is easily the worst Bond flick by this point in the franchise.
FOR YOUR EYES ONLY|
Theme Song: "For Your Eyes Only" by Sheena Easton
Villain: Aristotle Kristatos
Henchmen: Emile Leopold Locque, Erich Kriegler
Bond girls: Melina Havelock, Bibi Dahl
THE JIST: When a British spy boat is accidentally sunk by an old naval mine, MI6 and James Bond race against the KGB to recover a device that could be used to control the Royal Navy's fleet of Polaris submarines. Bond matches wits with Aristotle Kristatos, who initially puts Bond on the wrong path to wiping out his competition as he works to sell the device to the Soviets.
THE VERDICT: Though the plot is a bit slow, the score is painfully bad, and Moore is getting much too old (along with Lois Maxwell), this is a huge leap in the right direction following the absurdity of Moonraker. On its own, it's a pretty average Bond film, but as a direct rebuttal to the silliness the franchise had descended into, it's quite good. It is a tighter, more spy-thriller-esque Bond, and it almost feels like Moore has been dropped into the more grounded parts of the Sean Connery era.
Theme Song: "All Time High" by Rita Coolidge
Villain: Kamal Khan, General Orlov
Henchmen: Gobina, Mischka & Grischka
Bond girls: Magna, Octopussy
THE JIST: When 009 turns up dead in East Berlin, clutching a replica Fabergé egg, James Bond springs into action, learning about a plot to detonate a nuclear weapon at a US Air Force base in West Germany by an exiled Afghan prince, a hardline Soviet general, and the travelling circus act of a woman named Octopussy, who believes the plan is merely about smuggling priceless artifacts and replacing them with fakes.
THE VERDICT: It has some truly wacky situations--an island of female assassins, Bond dressed as a clown--but Octopussy is arguably the strongest Moore-era Bond flick. Good action sequences highlight a relatively sophisticated plot; Octopussy (despite that cringe-inducing name) is a wonderful and provocative Bond girl; the movie acknowledges Moore's age and uses it to its advantage; and the henchmen are really good. It's definitely silly, but also highly entertaining. Finally, after five films, it feels like the Roger Moore formula has settled into its groove.
A VIEW TO A KILL|
Theme Song: "A View to a Kill" by Duran Duran
Villain: Maxwell Zorin
Henchmen: May Day, Scarpine, Dr. Carl Mortner
Bond girls: Stacey Sutton, Pola Ivanova
THE JIST: The product of a Nazi experiment to create supermen, Maxwell Zorin schemes to destroy Silicon Valley in an artificially created earthquake and corner the market on silicon microchips, using the wealth and power he has accumulated as a businessman and cheating horse race enthusiast. It is up to MI6 and James Bond to stop him, if only they can uncover his plans in time.
THE VERDICT: Though I love Christopher Walken, and he is clearly having fun here, this movie almost feels like a B-movie ripoff of a James Bond flick. The writing is amateurish; the acting is terrible; and Roger Moore is old enough to be the grandfather of the girls he's sleeping with, which is just creepy. He also doesn't seem physically capable of being Bond anymore, and the action scenes are a bit more goofy than inspired as a result. The Golden Gate Bridge climax is pretty neat, but the movie leading up to it is a mess. It's better than Moonraker (probably because of Walken), but not by very much.
-e. magill 2/10/2016