The original James Bond returned for one last film, sort of.
Sean Connery, who appeared as Bond in the first five films in the franchise and then the seventh film, came back once again, but this time 12 years after his last appearance. Famously, Connery had proclaimed that he would never again play James Bond, which helped lead to the title of the movie, Never Say Never Again.
When I say “sort of,” I mean that this movie is weirdly different than any other movie in the franchise. The difference was hard to nail down, but the absence of some of the iconic Bond traits altered the tone. There was no Bond theme, and the absence of that was noticeable. There was no opening credit gun sight beginning. There was just a feeling that threw me off at the beginning of this movie.
And I kind of dug it.
I also felt as if there were some “Old Man Bond” characteristics in this movie and sprinkled throughout Sean Connery’s performance. I know there is a trend in Marvel Comics these days to tell future stories involving the “Old Man” characters, including Wolverine, Hawkeye, Star-Lord etc. They have been effective stories, but this would have preceded those comics by several decades.
While Bond was still very successful, little details such as pain in his back or his bosses wanting him to get in better shape brought a very effective relatability to the character. We all get old, even James Bond, and to let him show the age, even if it is for just a few scenes, is awesome.
However, another strange situation here was that the continuity was way out of whack. Never Say Never Again was based on the novel Thunderball, which was also a film earlier in the franchise. The earlier film was loosely based on the novel and, for the most part, only had its name. It was not produced by Eon Productions, as most all of the Bond films had been, and, instead, by Taliafilm. Because of this, Never Say Never Again has been considered outside of the Bond film family, treated as it did not exist, much like the original 1967 version of Casino Royale. Neither movie is included in any compilation of Bond movies, and this is the reason why the upcoming Bond movie, No Time to Die, is considered Bond 25, instead of the 27th movie with the character.
This film saw the return of Ernst Blofeld (Max von Sydow), despite deaths at least three times in the series. He was back with SPECTRE and stealing nuclear weapons once again. Blofeld was in the background though as the main villain was Maximillian Largo (Klaus Maria Brandauer). There was an Emilio Largo who appeared in the 1965 movie Thunderball. Maximillian Largo was very entertaining as he was a sociopath and completely unbalanced. He made a fantastic villain. However, like all Bond villains, they just refuse to simply shoot him in the head. Instead of leaving him chained up alive for the vultures to eat, shoot him in the head and be done with it.
Oh, and then suddenly, there was a young Kim Basinger as Domino, the film’s Bond girl. I was quite surprised at her arrival on screen as I did not know that she was ever a Bond girl.
As the film went on, it started feeling more like Bond, but it never truly seemed to completely fit, and as I said, I liked it. The Bond gadgets were here, but were not over used. The humor was well placed and delivered expertly by Connery. There was a bad ass female assassin Fatima (Barbara Carrera) who was trying to kill Bond through much of the first two acts of the film (the final battle scene between her and Bond was just perfectly done).
I thought this was going to be a flop film, since it was treated as if it wasn’t a part of the franchise, but I enjoyed this one a lot more than many of the films that preceded it.