Friday, March 8, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #4: Thunderball

Goldfinger had been such a success in its original release that everyone and their dog went to see it. It literally kept theater chains open 24/7, made the Bond series the cream of the crop, and the film even won an Oscar, one of only three Bond films to do so. The creators were on top of the world. Their next follow up had some serious potential. With just the right amount of hard work, this could even best Goldfinger. What could possibly go wr-OH, COME ON! You had to return to the SPECTRE storyline?!

Yep. Turns out Thunderball isn’t the anticipated follow up it should be, serving as more of a disappointment to its predecessor.

Sean Connery returns to play James Bond for the fourth time, sent on a mission to the Bahamas. He’s searching for two atomic bombs held ransom by SPECTRE, who are demanding a large payment in diamonds, or else a major city will be wiped off the face of the planet. With the help of the CIA’s Felix Leiter, and new Bond girl Domino Vitali, Bond attempts to take down SPECTRE’s number two, Emilio Largo.

I give kudos to this movie for attempting to try something different with this series. A lot of focus is spent on underwater sequences, which toy with us in their suspense. However, trying something different for this film is both a blessing, and a curse. Some of the differences are creative and thrilling, while other times it’s jumbled and weak. There are some really great set pieces, but not so great ones as well.

And, of course, I have to address the elephant in the room. I’ve never cared for the SPECTRE storyline. I think the baddies are BORING. Coming off of the last movie with Auric Goldfinger, I can’t be the only one disappointed by this. I guess Largo is not as bad as Dr. No or Rosa Klebb, and he does give it some bounce, but that may be more to thank for the eye patch, or the fact that he has pet killer sharks. As for the rest of the cast, I think the talent is hit or miss here and there.

But, this movie still has some good qualities to it. Connery’s good, if a bit redundant. The Bond girls here are good. The title song performed by Tom Jones is incredible, and some of the early visual effects shots in this movie still hold up very well. That jetpack bit is super good. In the end, it just fails to become what it could have been, and should have been.

***1/2 / *****

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