Never Say Never Again poster

Review: Never Say Never Again (1983)

by Trey Lawson – celluloidsheep.wordpress.com

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Best Bad Quote:

Good to see you Mr. Bond. Things’ve been awfully dull ’round here. I hope we’re going to see some gratuitous sex and violence in this one!”

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Consider this a protest. I refuse to even acknowledge a certain similarly-titled 3D travesty featuring a certain young pop star, so I’m reviewing this instead. The James Bond franchise has a surprisingly complex history. While most of the films were released by EON/United Artists/MGM, every so often an “unofficial” Bond movie would sneak through the cracks. The parody version of Casino Royalehappened because the film rights to that novel had been sold separately from the rest of the others. Never Say Never Again, however, is the result of a much weirder story.

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The fourth James Bond film, Thunderball, was based on a novel which originated as a draft screenplay for a proposed Bond movie – the catch is that the original draft was not solely written by Ian Fleming. He collaborated with a close friend, Kevin McClory, who ultimately had a falling out with both Fleming and EON Productions. The resulting lawsuits left McClory with the rights to the Thunderballplot, as well as a significant claim to the character of Blofeld (which explains his absence from the franchise from 1980 on). Thus, McClory was able to make his own James Bond film – but ONLY if it was a remake of Thunderball.

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This brings us to 1983, when Kevin McClory managed to get funding from Warner Bros to release Never Say Never Again. The movie has a lot going for it, actually. It was directed by Irvin Kershner, fresh off of the success of The Empire Strikes Back. Sean Connery returns as James Bond (a major selling point as the film was in direct competition with the Roger Moore Bond film Octopussy), Max von Sydow appears as Blofeld, Kim Basinger is Domino (the Bond girl of the picture), Klaus Maria Brandauer is a very effective villain, and Rowan Atkinson cameos as a humorous British agent stationed in the Bahamas. Plus, over 20 years before Casino Royale cast Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter, Never Say Never Again was the first Bond movie to cast an African-American as the character (in this case, pro football player-turned-actor Bernie Casey). The film is full of large-scale action sequences, explosions, gadgets – all the hallmarks of a Bond film.

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So what went wrong?

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It’s debatable, but if you ask me the problem is (fittingly for the 1980s) excess. It’s too much of everything that makes a Bond film. The humor, taking its cue from the then-contemporary Roger Moore films, skews toward camp, but often goes too far (an example is Bond and the villain playing a video game instead of playing cards). Hell, at one point Connery literally winks at the camera! It takes the Bond globe-trotting style to the extreme, ultimately featuring scenes in 5 different countries as Bond follows the villain around the globe. Some of the action sequences simply go on for far too long – midway through the film I had to remind myself what the actual plot was, because I’d gotten lost in the stunts and explosions. Speaking of which, the next problem is Connery himself. He makes a great Bond, no argument on that, but by ’83 he was simply getting too old to play a believable secret agent. The film tries to justify this by portraying Bond near the end of his career, holding to older methods in opposition to the reforms being emphasized by M, but all that does is remind the viewer that Connery is too old (he’s actually younger than Roger Moore, but I always thought that by the 80s Moore was too old as well). Also, related to the humor, there is a running gag that MI6 is under-funded and that the gadgets developed by Q (for some reason named Algernon in this version) are considered unreliable.

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Also, running at around 2 hours and 15 minutes, it’s simply too long. The film could easily lose a half hour or so with virtually no detrimental effects on the plot. The actors are all game, but every scene drags on, with a pace that, at its worst, is roughly comparable to a turtle crawling through molasses. Then there’s the main theme song – a key element of any Bond movie – which in this case is one of the most annoying movie songs I have ever heard. It’s the kind of insidious 80s pop drivel that works its way into your head and will not leave. You have no idea how many times I have found myself absent-mindedly humming its melody as I write this review. It’s not cool.

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In short, this is not a very good movie. I personally think it’s better than the worst of the Roger Moore Bond films, but only slightly. But, it’s fun in a quirky, silly sort of way, even if it is way too long. If you’re a Bond fan, and you’ve only ever seen the official Bond films, this one will probably be surprising, but its something that every Bond fan must at some point watch & laugh at. So, join me in avoiding the Bieber 3D monstrosity and tell that underaged saccharine pop star to NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN!

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Rating:

2 out of 5 Shirtless Middle-Aged James Bonds

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One Response to “Review: Never Say Never Again (1983)”

  1. Pauline says:

    Haha great review. I agree with every word. I just watched it and all I can say is what a travesty. And oh Lawdy that theme song beggars belief. I had to Lol because I can’t get it out of my head either. I love Bond, but this? No no no.

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