Sunday, March 17, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #12: For Your Eyes Only

There came a period in Roger Moore’s career when his time as Bond started to fade. When did it all begin? Some say it started with Moonraker, others say it started with Octopussy, but I say it started right in the middle with For Your Eyes Only. This was the first film directed by longtime editor of the franchise John Glen, who had never directed a film before, but was interested in taking the franchise in new directions. By new directions, I mean a complete demonstration of why he was so unqualified to be given the reigns for this project in the first place. Not that the story gave him anything to actually work with.

For one example, I could tell just by how it begins that something was wrong. It shows Bond visiting the grave of his dead wife Teresa. Good on you, EON. You are, in fact, showing how Bond was affected by On Her Majesty’s Secret Service… A FULL TWELVE YEARS AFTER THE FACT! Then he gets into this helicopter. The pilot is killed, and it turns out the chopper is being controlled by someone else. Bond takes back control of the chopper, and disposes of the man, who looks a lot like… Blofeld. Oh, come on. THAT DOESN’T EVEN MAKE SENSE! Are you intent on losing me before you even get going, movie? And guess what? After that opening, it’s never addressed again. THEN WHY WAS IT EVEN NECESSARY TO SHOW ALL THAT?!

Okay, after that mess of a starter, the rest of the plot is just as clunky and misguided. Bond is called in to investigate the case of a missing control panel that can activate ballistic missiles if it ends up in the wrong hands. Along the way, he teams up with a woman who also wants to find the device for her parents, who had been murdered searching for it. And the rest of the movie’s plotline, I won’t even bother. I could barely keep up with it.

So, yeah, this is just such a terrible idea. By the time the movie’s Cliffside climax had begun, I’d already checked the clock five times. I was so bored. The movie is too long, too messy, and too badly structured to merit a watch. The characters are all flat, even by Bond standards, and the humor misses far more than it hits. I’d heard that Glen had wanted this to be a gritty, more realistic take on James Bond than the previous Moore films had done. If this is a gritty take on James Bond, then Casino Royale is freaking Schindler’s List!

Roger Moore had been doing well in his previous Bond films, but much like Sean Connery, his same old tricks had worn very thin. This is the first Moore film where I find myself asking, “Why should I care?” As for the Bond girl, her gorgeous looks don’t make up for her lack of commitment. The villains, I can’t remember any one of them. The rest of the side cast, don’t care. The stunts and the action scenes in this movie, don’t care. Although, it is worth noting that the film looks lovely.

Heck, even the music is ultimately unmemorable. The title song by Sheena Easton may sound pretty, but its structure and lack of memorable lyrics make it one of the weaker Bond songs, and it’s matched up with one of the oddest title sequences in the franchise. That’s not as bad as the orchestral score, which was written by Bill Conti, of all people. How am I supposed to enjoy a James Bond film when I keep expecting to see Rocky run up a flight of stairs?

It was a major let down, and a new low point for the series. I may have hated Diamonds Are Forever, but this took the bar down so low. It was a weak, feeble attempt at getting back to the tone of the Connery films, and to add insult to injury, it even managed to ruin some of the great staples in the series. It didn’t look good for Moore, but this was only the beginning of the horridness that was to come.

*1/2 / *****

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