License to Review – Special Edition: Never Say Never Again (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).

After Diamonds Are Forever, Sean Connery reportedly said “never again” to the idea of playing the suave British MI6 agent in another film, hence giving us Roger Moore for a solid 12 year run, which gave us both some good and some bad. Yet despite a downward trend in Connery’s official entries, I always liked him as Bond. But after Diamonds Are Forever I would’ve been fine never seeing Connery in the role again. And so he himself thought for most of the 1970s and until the early 1980s. When producer Kevin McClory was mounting yet another adaptation of Thunderball (for complicated legal reasons, seriously you’re better off just reading about it on Wikipedia), Connery was asked to help out with the script, which he agreed to but he didn’t think he would actually appear in it. Yet lo and behold, an offer of $8 million later and he was off playing Bond in the non-official entry Never Say Never Again, but we’ll squeeze it in here because why not?

I sort of wish I hadn’t included it, because it’s honestly quite terrible and so far is by far the worst entry in the franchise next to Moonraker. And despite having virtually the same plot as Thunderball, I found it borderline incomprehensible and hard to follow, but that could also be attributed to me being so incredibly disengaged throughout it. Basically SPECTRE is looking to do some wacky shenanigans and Bond must stop them. What else do you need to know really? M yells at Bond, Bond disobeys orders, disappoints Q, sleeps with countless women, destroys government property etc.

Everything about this movie is silly, but not in an entertaining way like Diamonds Are Forever. It’s really quite dull, and manages to make Thunderball look exciting and riveting in comparison. In fact, I’d like to apologize to Thunderball because at least it had some entertaining aspects to it, and one kickass song performed by Tom Jones. This has none of that. I have not seen Klaus Maria Brandauer in anything before this and from what I understand he seems like a decent actor, but he is completely wasted in this, having virtually nothing to do as Largo remains a boring villain. They’re also able to waste the late Max von Sydow, Edward Fox, Kim Basinger and even Rowan Atkinson (who seems to do a put-on accent that’s really distracting) in thankless roles.

Apparently this received quite good reviews upon release, and was praised for portraying an older Bond and for apparently being more emotionally resonant. I don’t know what movie those critics saw because I got none of that. Does it try to depict an older Bond? Only in the first twenty minutes or something then its business as usual for the rest of the movie, and emotionally resonant? What emotions are you talking about? I myself got absolutely nothing out of this movie in terms of emotion or entertainment, and it needed at least the latter in order for me to consider this a good Bond movie, and emotions needed for me to consider it a great Bond movie, but I got none of them. I just found myself bored and disappointed, feeling nothing. Probably a case of a movie not aging gracefully at all.

So yeah, Never Say Never Again is simply terrible, and it’s not a film I ever have any desire to revisit, not even for another Bond marathon. Yet it’s still not worse than Moonraker for me. Moonraker was more disappointing for me, and Never Say Never Again was just kind of what I expected, except worse. To quote Mark Kermode once again, and this pretty much sums up this review nice and succinctly: “I didn’t feel actively angry towards it.” Never Say Never Again is about as stirred as a movie can get, so stay clear from it!

Anyways, next week James Bond will return proper in A View to a Kill. Maybe I’ll be the one going ‘never again’ after witnessing that notorious turkey of a film, but we’ll simply have to wait and see.


Published by davidalkhed

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

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