Never Say Never Again (1983) Review

Never Say Never Again (1983) Director: Irvin Kershner

Rating: 2 out of 5.

After George Lazenby declined to return to the role of James Bond following his performance in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Sean Connery returned in Diamonds Are Forever but he proudly stated “never again” would he reprise his signature performance as James Bond. And so the role was given to Roger Moore who appeared in a string of James Bond films throughout the 1970s. However, a lengthy legal battle was in the works ever since Ian Fleming’s publication of Thunderball, Warner Bros was set to release a non-official loose adaptation of Thunderball at the same time as EON/Roger Moore’s Octopussy. However, Warner Bros still had another trick up their sleeves when they managed to acquire Sean Connery for the knock-off after a string of cinematic flops in his own career and so the amusing title was selected Never Say Never Again. Both Bond films were naturally in competition with one another at the box office, and in the end both were successful but Octopussy won the day. Never Say Never Again featured a remarkable cast of Sean Connery, Rowan Atkinson, Kim Basinger, and others while it was directed by The Empire Strikes Back director Irvin Kershner.

Sometimes these old 007 films are just so bad they are fun. The plot is a strange reformulation for the plot of Thunderball with Sean Connery now 52 (though still younger than Roger Moore). Connery clearly lost some weight for the film but he plays the role with a certain degree of ironic detachment and there is almost nothing at stake in the film. The theme song by Michelle Legrand for this film is bizarre and just downright terrible. It concerns the disappearance of two nuclear warheads by SPECTRE under the leadership of Blofeld (before he is amusingly and theoretically killed off by EON in the next canonical Bond film, For Your Eyes Only). As in Thunderball the main nemesis of Bond is Largo (Klaus Maria Brandauer) even though he is not an interesting villain like the eyepatch-donning Largo from Thunderball. Everything about this strange adaptation is inferior to the original Thunderball. There is an oddball slapstick car chase wherein a woman tosses a snake onto a man’s lap, Bond battles Largo over a mostly boring video game (very much a product of the 1980s) which causes physical pain, and Bond even rides a horse over a cliff at the close. In the end, Bond saves the day by defusing a bomb underwater even though most of the plot makes little sense and takes us to exotic locales for no particular reason. While perhaps not as bad as Diamonds Are Forever, this is still another cringe-inducing installment (thankfully it is not an official James Bond film).

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