License to Review #13: Octopussy (1983)

James Bond will return to cinemas this November with his twenty-fifth adventure, No Time to Die. In preparation, David Alkhed will take a look at all the previous entries in the franchise and see which ones are deserving of praise (shaken) and which ones aren’t (stirred).

Before you embark on reading this review of Octopussy, you should be made aware of the fact that this will probably be a rather short review for the very simple reason that I don’t have much to say about it. In fact, I can’t really come up with more to add in this intro as I feel like I would just repeat myself throughout this review, so I’m just gonna dive into it and hopefully I will explain to you my feelings about Octopussy.

After a fellow double 00 agent is found dead on the Eastern Block side of Berlin, James Bond is sent to investigate the killing, and the meaning behind the agents mysterious Fabergé egg. This leads him to investigate Afghan prince Kamal Khan in India. And this leads him to an associate of his, the titular Octopussy, and the plot of a rogue Soviet general to start a nuclear war between the West and the East.

The best way to describe Octopussy is “middle-of-the-road.” Despite featuring some top moments of the franchise (and some of the worst ones too) none of them really rise to the occasion to make Octopussy much of an interesting or notable entry in the franchise. It isn’t bad in that it doesn’t know what it wants to be. I know one criticism many people (but not me) had with For Your Eyes Only was a sense of messy tone and not knowing if it wanted to be serious or tongue-in-cheek. Well Octopussy has none of those issues, and is silly from the first to the very last frame. On that note I must say that’s one of the films’ plusses, that it knows what it is and seems to be content with that and having fun, although it did lead me to sometimes wonder whether or not I was simply watching a Naked Gun movie in disguise as a Bond movie.

I would say Octopussy sorta functions like Moore’s equivalent to You Only Live Twice in that the film is in ways overwhelmed and defined by its own silliness, which isn’t necessarily a problem especially for a Moore-era Bond film, but there were times where I was yawning and just went “no, really? C’mon!” For instance, Bond’s crocodile submarine, his driving on the railway tracks and his appearance as a clown towards the end are almost going too far in that direction for my taste. But again, I wasn’t complaining when Bond was chased through Udaipur, nor at Octopussy’s theatrical hideout. I enjoyed those bits, and I especially enjoyed when Q was brought out to the field for the first time for active service. I mean heck, anytime Desmond Llewelyn’s Q is on screen I’m always smiling.

I frankly don’t have much more to say. Like I mentioned before, it is a pretty mid-tier Bond film, without being bad or without a certain entertainment value. It’s tonally consistent, Moore is fun, some of the lines and puns land, I liked the theme song and I enjoyed Louis Jordan’s performance as Khan and Steven Berkoff’s performance as the Soviet general Orlov. So overall, whilst far from being my favorite in the franchise, it’s a mostly enjoyable ride for a casual movie night. So Octopussy is mildly stirred, but just mildly.

James Bond would ordinarily return in A View to a Kill, the last Bond entry with Roger Moore, but old Sean decided to have another crack at the francise, so sadly he gave us Never Say Never Again. Anyways coming soon or whatever.


Published by davidalkhed

Co-creator, critic and columnist for A Fistful of Film.

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