In my review of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) the other day, I wrote briefly about trends involving the youth demographic in the 1980s, and some of the tension in America at the time over age, at least so much as related to its popular President, Ronald Reagan.
Bond may indeed be a bit older here, but as the film deliberately points out (in regards, expressly, to the character's beloved Bentley), he's "still in pretty good shape."
|In matters of death, SPECTRE is strictly impartial...|
As one anxious diplomat describes the plot, it is "the ultimate nightmare," this nuclear blackmail. (And ironically, this story of loose nukes seems more timely and relevant in the 1980s -- when the hawkish, Peace-Through-Strength Reagan decried the "Evil Empire" and jokingly announced that "bombing begins in five minutes," -- than it did in the 1960s, when Thunderball premiered...)
Following a stint at the health farm, Shrublands, Bond heads to the Bahamas, where Largo's yacht, the Flying Saucer, may be carrying at least one of the warheads. There, Largo executes SPECTRE's plot, code-named "The Tears of Allah," all while deceiving his beautiful girlfriend, dancer Domino Petachi (Kim Basinger), about the death of her brother, Jack.
|Shaken but not stirred.|
It's an unofficial Bond film as well, one born from producer Kevin McClory's (1926-2006) early efforts with Ian Fleming to first bring James Bond to the cinema in 1959.
A lawsuit awarded McClory the rights to produce a remake of Thunderball, a story that he initiated, and which was known, over the years as both Warhead and James Bond of the Secret Service. But because the film Never Say Never Again was unofficial at the time of its successful theatrical release, it could not make use of such "official" Bond film touches as Monty Norman's world-famous theme song, and the trademark gun barrel opening.
For some, this is enough to disqualify the effort from serious consideration as a great Bond film.
|Domination, video game style.|
At approximately the hour-point of the narrative, James Bond tricks his way into Largo's casino in Nice, France.
But rather than engage his wily opponent in high-stakes poker, or the oft-seen Baccarat (Chemin de Fer), Bond duels Largo in...a video game.
|...versus a soldier in the field...|
There's something about being a "soldier in the field" -- some combination of instincts and experience -- that takes over in Bond and refuses to "lose." Largo -- for all his intelligence and savvy -- doesn't have that sense of experience, and the game sequence makes this point (right down to the use of game-styled W80s mimicking the plotline of nuclear blackmail).
That too echoes the film's finale. Bond retires from the service after foiling Largo's plans...and it's for one dance, again, with Domino. They become lovers and Bond steadfastly refuses to return to duty, even with M begging. The video game sequence telegraphs the idea of Bond's final, victorious dance after one last game for the rest of the world.
|Two video game monsters, side-by-side.|
Again, he's a watcher, not a doer -- an armchair general rather than a soldier in the field -- and that proves his undoing. He doesn't understand what physical pain and danger can drive a man to do; can drive Bond to do.
|In shades of b&w, Bond's space in the frame is squeezed out.|
|More unconventional framing for a movie hero icon.|