Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Never Say Never Again (1983) | Story

Plot Summary

A new M has mothballed the Double-O section, but reinstates it and Bond when SPECTRE steals a couple of nukes.


Since Kevin McClory had the rights to Thunderball and SPECTRE, he made his own movie and convinced Sean Connery to return and play Bond. The title comes from Connery's promise to "never again" play the character, but he didn't like Cubby Broccoli and couldn't pass up the opportunity to ruffle those feathers.

How Is the Book Different?

Never Say Never Again sticks closely to its source material for legal reasons. McClory only had the rights to this one story. But he was able to mess around with details like locations, how particular events go down, and even characters' motivations and personalities.

Moment That's Most Like Fleming

One thing that NSNA keeps straight from the novel is M's sending Bond to Shrublands because M's a health nut. In the book, it's just a fad that M's latched onto, but we don't know NSNA's M well enough to know if that's it or if he's always this way. From the way he acts the rest of the time, you get the feeling that he's just got a big ol' stick up his butt.

Moment That's Least Like Fleming

Bond playing video games. You could argue that it's merely an update of Bond's general passion for gaming and I'd let you have it. It feels cynically contemporary to me, but that might say more about me than about the movie.

Cold Open

There's not really a cold open in NSNA. The credits start right away, but the scene they're running over sort of serves the same function as a teaser in the official series. It's a short adventure in which Bond infiltrates a jungle base, rescues a girl, and is betrayed and apparently murdered by her. It's easy to imagine this running without credits up until the point where Bond is stabbed. Then after the credits, they could open with the reveal that it was all a training exercise.

I'm not saying they should have done it that way though. I certainly see the rationale for not getting too close to the way Eon was doing things. All I'm saying is that it's easy to pull this scene out and compare it to the Eon teasers. But doing that, it doesn't stand up super well. It's nice to see Connery back in action, but there are no stunts or even really a story. It's a standard, '80s action movie sequence. Even so, it's still better acted than the Diamonds Are Forever teaser and more exciting than the From Russia with Love one, so it's gonna crack the Top Ten for now.

Top 10 Cold Opens

1. The Spy Who Loved Me
2. Moonraker
3. Thunderball
4. On Her Majesty's Secret Service
5. Goldfinger
6. The Man with the Golden Gun
7. For Your Eyes Only
8. Octopussy
9. Never Say Never Again
10. From Russia With Love

Movie Series Continuity

You wouldn't think there'd be any movie continuity in a film so separated from the official series, but NSNA builds in and refers to its own continuity and it's interesting how it potentially intersects with the Eon films. M is obviously not the same man whom Bond is used to working for. Bond mentions that since the new M took over, he's "had little use for the Double-Os." In fact, Bond's been stuck in a teaching gig and the training exercises are just to measure his fitness.

What's interesting to me is that Octopussy, released the same year, also introduces a new M (or at least a new actor, but I think of him as a whole different character). With the death of Sir Miles Messervy sometime after For Your Eyes Only, we've got two different scenarios that explore the results of two possible replacements. Octopussy's new M has a different temperament from his predecessor, but the same regard for MI6's traditional methods. The NSNA M feels very differently and only reactivates the Double-O section to deal with the new SPECTRE crisis.

It's also curious that when M starts talking about Bond's health, Bond anticipates that M's sending him to Shrublands. Bond's either heard of colleagues being sent there or has been sent there himself. The latter possibility raised a question for me about whether or not Thunderball happened in this timeline, but I shot that down quickly. It's madness to think that SPECTRE's pulled this exact scheme before and no one even mentions it.

A couple of other things leak in from the official series, though one of them is probably just pulling from the novels. That's the reappearance of Bond's Bentley, last seen in the movies in From Russia with Love. It's a different color than that one, but it's also a different color from the gunmetal gray car in the books. I love Bond's line about how it's "still in pretty good shape." He's obviously not just talking about the car. I wish the script would have left that subtle though instead of having Bond repeat the comment seconds later in explicit reference to himself.

The other thing NSNA has in common with the Eon films is Bond's notoriety. When Fatima Blush catches sight of him at Shrublands, she immediately identifies him as 007.

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