Saturday, September 15, 2012

Brandon Peters dissects the 007 series part 13: Octopussy.

With Skyfall dropping in theaters in just a couple months, along with the 50th anniversary of the James Bond series, a close friend and fellow film nerd, Brandon Peters, has generously offered to do a comprehensive review of the entire 007 film franchise. Today is the thirteenth entry, with a full review of  Octopussy. I hope you enjoy what is a pretty massive feature leading up the November 9th release of Skyfall. I'll do my best to leave my two-cents out of it, give or take a few items I have up my sleeve (including a possible guest review from my wife as she sings the praises of her favorite 007 film, you won't believe what it is). But just because I'm stepping aside doesn't mean you should. Without further ado...

Director:  John Glen
Starring:  Roger Moore, Maud Adams, Louis Jordan, Desmond Llewelyn, Kristina Wayborn
Rated PG

You must be joking! 007 on an island populated exclusively by women? We won't see him till dawn!

Kills: 10 + unknown amount in a hangar explosion
Bond Girls:  Octopussy, Magda
Car:  Bond steals an Alfa Romeo GTV6
Locales:  India, West Germany
Odd Villain Trait: Gobinda, a big strong muscle man who wears a turban
Song:  “All Time High” performed by Rita Coolidge

Octopussy marks a complete step in the opposite direction of its predecessor.  Gone is the gritty reality and in comes the goofball.  On paper, Octopussy could have been a notable achievement in the series.  In execution, Octopussy is an effort fueling the Roger Moore era as a laughing stock or embarrassment in the series.  Soviet General Orlov, exhiled Afghan prince Kamal Khan and jewel smuggler Octopussy are running a series of Faberge Egg purchases and swapping them with fakes.  Somehow this winds up in Orlov and Khan plotting to set off a nuclear warhead at a US Air Base in West Germany during a circus, making it look like the US did it themselves.  James Bond is on the job, per usual, filling in for 009 who is killed after recovering one of the fake eggs from the circus.

This is the type of James Bond I was afraid the entire Roger Moore era was going to consist of.  The film as a whole is completely ridiculous in its execution.  The plot is pretty confusing and doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense.  James Bond’s presentation is a complete embarrassment.  The man villain, I guess, last villain standing, stinks.  This is a long cry from For Your Eyes Only and even something as extreme as Moonraker.  Roger Moore finally fills the expectations I was waiting 5 films for here.  He doesn’t appear to be taking the whole film seriously.  His quips (a strength of Moore’s) feel like scripted quips.  Bond himself has plenty of silly moments.  In one scene he dresses like a gorilla, in another a clown.  Dressing like a clown is almost a perfect analogy for how Bond comes off in this film.  There’s another scene where Bond is cornered by a tiger, to which he tells it to sit…and it works.  During the same chase, Bond grabs a vine and not only swings like Tarzan, but screams like him too.  Yes, it’s this movie goes to these lengths.  It even breaks the fourth wall, in which Bond’s contact make acquaintance with him by playing THE JAMES BOND THEME!

We’ve talked about the borrowing from other genres multiple times here.  I couldn’t help but feel a lot of this was an answer to Raiders of the Lost Ark.  The scenery, the action, the search for these treasures/artifacts definitely felt ripped from it.  Oddly enough, though it came a year later, there’s a lot of Temple of Doom familiarity here as well.  Especially the scene when Khan eats the sheep’s head.  Also, was he named Khan due to the popular Star Trek character from the year before?  Octopussy features plenty of action scenes.  But, they’re handled so carelessly there’s nothing to write home about.  There’re stupid details like crowd reactions keeping from the enjoyment.   We even get a camal’s reaction.  All the guys Bond is running from/fighting are over the type stereotypes from any sort of children’s tales.  Racially, this can definitely come across as the Indian version of You Only Live Twice.  There’s also a lot of going too far with believability that just comes off as offensive.  And a big one comes in the final showdown on the plane.  It’s almost insulting when you’ve been watching for over two hours and are treated to it for your finale.

The trios of villains given to us are lame.  Orlov is just your stereotypical Soviet baddy.  Khan looks like a complete Dr. No clone and his performance is rather groanworthy.  Octopussy is a villain in this whole, whether she’s involved with the bomb or not, but is allowed to go free at the end?  I really didn’t understand this.  She WAS a part of this whole scheme, but because she likes 007’s Quantum of Penis, she’s scott-free at the end.  Maud Adams does deliver a much better performance this time.  Good thing, too, she’s had nine years to practice.  On paper, Octopussy should have been known for its 40 minute chase to stop the bomb at the end.  The idea of this sounds fantastic.  In the end, and following the film leading up to it, it’s just poorly executed and you just don’t care.  Had a better movie come prior to the point, it might be cool.  But with the overall dopey feel of Octopussy, it just feels excessive and like too much at this point.

To continue the running theme of “lame”, let’s talk about the theme song.  For one, this didn’t feel like a title Bond song at all.  It felt like a rejected theme for an 80’s television series.  Like a rejected theme for the show Moonlighting.  Its just kinda lazy sounding and nothing really sticks out.  The opening sequence isn’t too bad.  It’s kinda fun.  It revolves around Bond in a mini airplane dodging a heat seeking missile.  It’s the weakest of the Moore “stunt” openers, but still fun.  But in a way, it’s a bit of foreshadowing of what’s to come in the movie.

Octopussy is regarded in 007 fan circles generally as favorably mediocre to middle of the pack in terms of where it stands.  I cannot see where people are getting this.  This one is really bad.  This is the one film giving the entire Roger Moore era a bad rap.  Man with the Golden Gun was boring, but it didn’t flat out stupefy the series.  This one is never mentioned (aside from Bond dressing as a clown) when discussing the series.  It should be.  Roger Moore was ready to retire from Bond after For Your Eyes Only, but was begged back due to wanting to keep familiarity with these series in competing for Never Say Never Again.  It shows that he just doesn’t give a rip at this point.  His performance is just that stereotypical Roger Moore that people seem to think about when thinking back on the series.  Scott Mendelson once told me “I couldn’t tell you six things about Octopussy”.  He’s right.  And maybe that’s why its never looked back on negatively, people instantly want to wipe their brains of it following their viewing. 

Brandon Peters will OFFICIALLY return in From a View to a Kill (but we’ll get rid of that pesky “From”).

Brandon Peters will UNOFFICIALLY return in Never Say Never Again.

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