Never Say Never Again
There have been more literary characters over time that has become famous. A lot of them have made it off the pages of best selling novels and became the cornerstone of a film franchise. Out of them all one stands at the apex of success, a British spy named Bond, James Bond. In 1953 he burst on the scene as the central character in a series of novels and short stories written by author Ian Fleming. The first of the canonical Bond movies, ‘Dr. No’, was released and received more than modest critical and box office success. It is now some forty seven years later and after two dozen movies the franchise is stronger than ever and shows no signs of ever slowing down. James Bond was the epitome of the secret intelligence agent. He has been in the employ of Her Majesty’s secret service and has been saving the world from one evil overload after another since before most of his fans were even born. Most of the films, and all considered canon by the die hard fans, were produced by EON Productions and United Artists under the guidance of Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman and later by Broccoli’s daughter. They owned the production rights to the source novels and the characters but due to a loophole in the contracts one film not owned by EON achieved fame; ‘Never Say Never’. In 1983 this film gave something to the fans that they craved for a long time that was considered lost with the EON productions. Over the years there have been many actors who took on this role but none have nailed the part the way Sean Connery did. He was the first of the feature film Bonds and many fans consider him the best of the lot. Although Connery appeared in only five of the 22 EON films between 1962 and 1967 he defined the character and his influence on the part is still a major part of the Bond magic. When he left the franchise Connery stated that he would never revisit the character again but that would change in 1983. The legal rights to the forth Connery Bond flick, ‘Thunderball’ were in dispute opening the door for a non EON remake. The result was ‘Never Say Never Again’, a little nod to Connery’s statement.
The return of Sean Connery to the role was staggering news at the time. He is not only a fantastic actor but as the quintessential James Bond and the fans was delighted. Now most times a remake is a sad thing; only a sheer echo of the original but with this film this was not the case. I grew up with Bond flicks and ‘Thunderball’ was always one of my favorites. When I sat down in the theater all those years ago to see this film for the first time I had trepidations about how good it could be. All of those doubts vanished within minutes. This was not only one of the best Bond films it was a great movie on its own merits. The screenplay was done by Lorenzo Semple Jr. Before this he had a long career that included one of the best non-Bond spy flicks around ‘Day of the Condor’. He remained true to the basic plot of ‘Thunderball’ but added a necessary twist. According to the story here Bond had retired from the spy business but a global threat forces him out of retirement. This added the extra dimension of an older spy tying to have one last hurrah in a field dominated by those much younger. Until this time the vast majority of espionage movies were based on younger spies or if an older character was used the plot would be more on the psychological aspects of the job. Here was an older action hero coming back to fight to save the world. Connery demonstrated beyond any doubts that he was still the master of playing James Bond; this was the role he was born to command.
In returning to the early days of Bond this film also moved away from many of the elements we have come to expect from these movies. At the time Connery left the role the gadgets were becoming all important to the movies. Many fans of the novels didn’t like this direction since the literary Bond was a man who survived by his wits not the technology of his weapons master ‘Q’. This film brought back that ‘think on his feet’ Bond. There was still plenty of action remaining but it is more in line with a realistic spy. This movie also departed from the camp elements of the character that was brought in by Roger Moore during in tenure in the role. This was a more serious approach to the character targeted to an older audience.
Like many directors Irvin Kershner got his start on television. His trademark is a darker vision of film although there is usually a lot of action to keep the story moving forward. Among his most notable films are movies like ‘The Eyes of Laura Mars’, ‘Robo Cop 2’ and ‘Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.’ Kershner did keep some of the expected Bond aspects with this film. You can not have a Bond movie without two things; Bond girls and an arch-nemesis. You get some of the best in both here. Playing the sister out for revenge, Domino Petachi is Kim Basinger in one of the better roles of her career. She is joined as Bond girl by the sultry Barbara Carrera as Fatima Blush. Opposing Bond and out to control the world is Maximilian Largo (Klaus Maria Brandauer) who is really in the employ of evil genius extraordinaire Ernst Stavro Blofeld Max Von Sydow). He brought a delicious sense of evil to this role that is possible second only to Goldfinger.
Once again Bond has to stop Largo fromm using two stolen nuclear bombs that are part of a global blackmail scheme. There is the climatic underwater battle that may not be as well choreographed as the original but still delivers the required fun and excitement. Unlike other remakes you don’t sit there constantly comparing this version to the original. There are natural similarities of course but this movie is able to stand up on its own.
The movie has never looked or sounded better than with this Blu-ray presentation. The color palette with the 1080p video is striking. The differentiation of blue between the sky and ocean is stark and ultra realistic. The audio is in DTS HD and this new lossless sound format shines here. It wraps you in the audio allowing you to hear the smallest details. They have also included a number of enjoyable extras to boot. This is the Bond flick you have to have.