Thunderball

ThunderballSynopsis: The thrills never let up as James Bond dives into this riveting adventure filled with explosive confrontations and amazing underwater action! Sean Connery brings his characteristic style, humor and magnetism to Agent 007 as he travels to Nassau to track down a villainous criminal who is threatening to plunge the world into a nuclear holocaust.

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Welcome to The Critical Eye’s ‘Mission Briefing Version’ commentaries of the James Bond movies.

Via thirteen key categories, over the course of the next few months we will rate and/or comment on each picture in brief. These MBV blurbs will also sometimes feature guest commentators, Bond fans and non-fans alike, thus offering a variety of perspectives on this iconic series.

We hope that you will enjoy TCE’s unique take on the world of 007.

Thunderball

Date of viewing: March 14, 2013

ThunderballOpening credits
The Thorn: 7.25 – Maurice Binder returned for ‘Thunderball’s credit sequence – his first since ‘Dr. No’. You can see that he’s trying to emulate the sexiness of Robert Brownjohn’s work, but it feels ill-fitting: what he offered up are shots of water with superimposed silhouettes of women swimming by. It’s a bit rudimentary and is only vaguely interesting if one likes the female form. Or synchronized swimming.
As for the pre-credit Bond meets ‘La Cage aux folles’ sequence, I like all of it a great deal except for Bond’s escape by jetpack. As cool as it must have been at the time, it looks kind of dorky (ex: he takes the time to put a safety helmet on, and the rear-screen projections are terribly unconvincing). And of course they had to find a way sneak the DBV in there somewhere!
The Horrible Dr. B: 10 – The mans that walks in front of the barrel is still not Sean Connery, but at least the actor doesn’t jump when shooting. The opening credits feature the classic silhouettes of naked ladies swimming in slowmo over a psychedelic background. It’s simple and it works perfectly.
The Dude: 7 – As ambiguous as it is for some, the theme song didn’t succeed in distracting me from the silhouettes of remarkably untalented swimmers doggy-paddling underwater, with harpoons.
***
ThunderballStory
The Thorn: 7.5 – I love that it starts with Bond recuperating – not on a mission. It will eventually tie into the plot, which is even better, but for the first part he’s on leave; the mission briefing is much later in the movie, once everything has been put in place by SPECTRE. Um. except the bombs. Speaking of bombs, what happens to the nuclear warhead after the Disco Volante crashes and explodes? Shouldn’t there be some fall-out from that?
The Horrible Dr. B: 10 – In the first part of the story, we see Spectre running a clever and complex plan that puts the world in crisis. The second part is about Bond’s investigation, infiltration and ultimate foiling of Spectre’s plan. There’s a good balance between Specter and Bond activities. It’s interesting to see how in the first part, because of his curiosity and ever vigilance, Bond gets a vital clue which he skillfully investigate in the second part.
The Dude: 6 – Purely from a personal standpoint, I felt as though I could have accomplished Specter’s plan more successfully… Why menace the C.I.A. with a weapon that isn’t even ready? Oh, AND tell them what you’ll attack BEFORE even being there, AND give them just enough time to foil the plan. NO.
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ThunderballBanter
The Thorn: 7.0 – The exchanges and one-liners were frequently bland, and most certainly not clever. However, while I was rarely impressed, and laughed only once or twice, I was never appalled by how bad it was either. It was decent enough – and mostly innocuous. To paraphrase 007 himself: You got the point. It’s just that the delivery could be like a brick through a plate-glass window.
The Horrible Dr. B: 10 – There is plenty of banter, innuendos and verbal attacks with Q, villains, and allies. There’s less cheese than usual. However the funniest moments of the movie are non-verbal: for examples, on two occasions, Bond takes risky liberties while working, namely putting flowers on Bouvar, and stealing a grape in Lippe’s room.
The Dude: 8 – …
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ThunderballVillains
The Thorn: 7.5 – The villains aren’t nearly as otherworldly as in previous Bond films, but they’re not entirely boring either. Personally, I find Largo sufficiently intelligent and menacing to be credible, Vargas is appropriately creepy and dangerous (even though he doesn’t look it at first glance) to be the main henchman, and Volpe is obviously demented enough to be a threat. And, of course, who could forget in inimitable presence of Blofeld – even if it’s just a cameo!
The Horrible Dr. B: 10 – We get to discover a little bit more about the Spectre organization: a meeting at the beginning of the movie gives us concrete examples of their activities, their dimension and worldwide reach (and impact) they have. Largo, and his minions, are decently intelligent and have carefully created a complex and risky plan, but ingenious and profitable.
The Dude: 9 – You don’t really get more badass than an eye patch. Terrible depth perception- but badass.
***
ThunderballBond Girls
The Thorn: 7.75 – I can’t explain it, but despite their natural gifts, most of the key women look tired, world-weary: Domino (who could give Kim Kardashian a run for her money) has lines under her eyes, Fiona Volpe is alluring but no longer fresh-faced, and Patricia Fearing is sexy but obviously not as relaxed as her spa’s patrons (not that 007 is helping!). The only one who still has all her youthful charm and poise is Paula, who is less glamourous than the others but much more vibrant. Yum.
The Horrible Dr. B: 5 – Domino is cute but not the best of actress and has a vacant personality. Fiona has some courage and leadership but is not attractive; however she delivers a delicious speech at Bond (see best moment). Unfortunately, we dont see enough of Paula to appreciate her. Of all the women in the movie the most alluring is definitely the French-Asian agent that assist Bond at the beginning of the movie; I would go on a mission with her anytime.
The Dude: 8.5 – I had no idea that “Huggies” made diapers AND lingerie. Victoria Secret just lost a lot of business.
***
ThunderballGadgets
The Thorn: 7.25 – Well, here’s where quantity wins over quality: Bond gets a jetpack (and crummy helmet!), Geiger counters (in watch and camera format – a major improvement over the ‘Dr. No’ model), a tape recorder concealed in a book (it would be even cooler if it came with a book-on-tape of said book: it would be a talking book), a radioactive homing pill (stomach cancer didn’t exist in the ’60s!), and air supply mouthpiece (Mr. Bond, Batman’s lawyer is on the phone!), and a clumsy “kitchen sink” underwater jetpack. Frankly, the only gadget of his that I would want is his mink glove, which had Patricia purrrrrrring wildly. Heck, anything that could make a woman meow is worth getting!
The Horrible Dr. B: 10 – Gadgets galore! Both Bond and the villains are well equipped; Bonds has the usual compact and small devices, and villains have mostly vehicles. They are all fine and useful except for Bond’s jet-pack; it was obviously forced into the movie to impress spectators. It has no role in the movie.
The Dude: 7 – The undeniable practicality of the mink glove is trumped only by outrageously well-placed jetpack.
***
ThunderballVehicles
The Thorn: 8.0 – Well, there’s a short burst from the Aston Martin DBV, of ‘Goldfinger’ fame. Then there’s the Disco Volante, a sleek-looking boat that turns into a hydrofoil. And there’s a short, but explosive, sequence featuring a motorcycle with rocket launchers in it. It’s an improvement over the other films, even if it’s nothing particularly jaw-droppingly awesome. But, thankfully, none of them become invisible or turn into Transformers, knowhatimean?
The Horrible Dr. B: 9 – My favorite vehicle is the cool sub used by the villains to transport the bombs; it looks good and shoots real harpoons (not just there for show). The movie uses footage of real plane this time (improvement over past movies), except for the lame improbable landing of the jet plane over water. I’m not a super fan of the rocket launching bike (and the way it is disposed???) and the splitting boat; the operation looks cool but it’s hard to believe that it’s the same boat with the trap doors underneath.
The Dude: 7 – I want a defensive garden-hose installed in my car’s exhaust. No wait… TWO.
***
ThunderballLocales
The Thorn: 8.5 – Most of the film takes place in the Bahamas (in Nassau, in particular) and it looks spectacular; it’s without a doubt the most exotic-looking Bond film thus far. I also loved the short bit in Paris, and enjoyed the whole time that Bond was at the spa, even though that all took place indoors. But, basically, you have to be bananas about the Bahamas to dig ‘Thunderball’.
The Horrible Dr. B: 5 – Bahamas, whatever.
The Dude: 7.5 – Next time, if you see 9-12 bad guys paddling around underwater with harpoons and a bomb, don’t send 9-12 good guys with harpoons to go paddle around with them. A fishing net will save everybody a long and useless slow-moving pool scene… Sorry, “fight scene”.
***
ThunderballStunts
The Thorn: 8.5 – Well, although some of the water-logged fisticuffs is lame, the underwater melee sequence wins it for the massiveness of the endeavour and the skill with which it was performed and choreographed – it’s all under water, after all. And then there are the many scenes working with sharks, which likely required skill. And the exploding car sequence, which the stuntman barely escaped. It all seems effortless, and to me that’s what gives it high marks.
On the flip side, some bits were pathetic, with Bond knocking people out far too easily (ex: in the clinic) and with villains sticking their hands through windows or curtains to shoot or stab their targets – not that they could see their targets that way. Also, the editing is a bit annoying because a lot of the action is sped up to make it look more kinetic. I’ve seen worse, but it’s not realistic-looking.
Anyway, these issues pale in comparison to the knock out stunt work.
The Horrible Dr. B: 10 – Stunning underwater work. The movie has tons of underwater footage involving huge battles and sharks; it must have been quite a challenge to film, choreograph and direct.
The Dude: 5.5 – That’s what you get when you go to discount spas, with coupons you found at the back of the local paper- machines that can, and potentially will kill you.
***
ThunderballSoundtrack
The Thorn: 8.0 – This one’s a bit hard to define. While the soundtrack album is one of the best of the series, John Barry wasn’t done scoring the film until the last minute due to last minute changes – so the finished film’s score isn’t always spectacular, in particular due to poor mixing in some areas (ex: during the underwater melee). I loved the many passing references to “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”, what was originally supposed to be the theme song – they’re lovely. As for Tom Jones’ rendition of “Thunderball”? It’s a megaclassic.
The Horrible Dr. B: 10 – The movie uses a small amount of tracks, however they cleverly use the same theme under different styles to fit the scene context: for example, at the Kiss Kiss club (nice inside joke by the way), a familiar theme is played as a mambo.
Opening song: In Goldfinger, the opening song was about the villain. In this movie, “Thunderball” refers to the name of the mission. The song describes a man but does not reveal his identity; is it Largo? I believe that the song describes Bond. However not a nice and noble image one would expect. It is worth your time to closely listen to the lyrics and judge for yourself. See Best and Worst Moment.
The Dude: 10 – …
***
ThunderballBest Bond moment
The Thorn: Again, no one scene takes it. But here are my favourites, in no particular order: The mission briefing in the ballroom with all the 00 agents – it’s brief but memorable in that there’s a monumental quality to any incident that brings them all of them together. The card match between Bond and Largo – I love how Bond confidently controls the game. Bond’s lunch with Largo, especially the skeet shooting repartee. And, of course, the massive underwater fight sequence between the CIA and Largo’s henchmen, which is unforgettable and likely the first of its kind.
The Horrible Dr. B: The definitive best moment of the movie is the critique that Fiona spits at Bond when their charade is over: she critiques his virility, inflated ego and unrealistic godly charms.
The Dude: “That looks rather difficult”- BAM- “Oh, I guess not.”. Skeet Shooting with Largo.
***
ThunderballWorst Bond moment
The Thorn: The spinal traction machine sequence. Really? They actually have a KILL setting on a therapeutic device? WTF? I can just see the sales pitch from the product development team to the marketing department: “Well, we could sell this to clinics around the world, and make a fortune, but if sales drop we could also sell it to the Spanish Inquisition. Or SPECTRE.”
The Horrible Dr. B: The definitive worst moment is when Bond blackmails his physiotherapist for sex. This scene and the rape of Pussy Galore in Goldfinger demonstrate an unattractive dark side of Bond. It seems that while on a mission the man is very courageous, intelligent, resourceful and tenacious, however, outside of a mission, he abuses his talents for personal gains and turns into a jerk.
After discovering the dark side of Bond, I had the following internal debate: is it right to impose your way onto somebody else if you know that it will be beneficial to both party? In other words, is it right for Bond to force a woman to have sex with him since she will madly fall in love with him and be forever grateful? Actually, I think his power of seduction is so strong that he could force himself on anyone, men, women, aliens, animals of any age, any race, anywhere, anytime, and they would all be grateful. Is it right? The answer is NO! Forcing your ways onto others is evil. So, you may ask, is Bond a villain? Yes, he’s both a hero and a villain. In this movie, we see two organizations (Spectre and Great Britain Secret Intelligence Service) fighting for their own selfish interest (profit and security of its citizen). Bond could easily be working for any of these organization, it’s simply a question of loyalty. Think about it.
The Dude: “I think we could figure out some method of payment…” Ummm… RAPE?!
***
ThunderballOverall impression
The Thorn: 7.5 – ‘Thunderball’ is THE 007 movie, in the sense that this is when the Bond formula is finally in full swing. It’s a double-edged sword, though, because it eschews substance and realism for thrills and gimmicks – so it’s hard to take it seriously. Furthermore, Connery seems to have lost much of his sparkle by then; he mostly seems tired, worn, not the suave Bond we’d expect.’Thunderball’ is a good, but veritably imperfect film, and it excites me less and less as time goes on. Honestly, I think I’m all Thunderball-ed out. But Never Say Never Again.
(As a side-note, this is the film to watch if you want to enjoy ‘Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery’)
The Horrible Dr. B: 9 – As expected, in this movie, we see James Bond, the man with the thunder balls, quickly solve an important crisis with his uniquely ballsy style.
The most impressive part of the movie is actually the set and prop design by Ken Adam. Not only does the film feature grandiose and intricate sets (ex: Spectre and Secret service meeting rooms), but even secondary sets like the hotel rooms are eye-candies. Adam is also responsible for designing all the great underwater vehicles.
Another important part of the movie is the impressive amount of underwater work that was done.
The weakest parts of the movie are in the editing and use of some special effects; notably, the huge underwater fight at the end is badly edited: the movie has all the right content for an exciting and massive fight, but the fight feels too long and a bit repetitive. I believe that with some minor tweaks the whole scene could have been much better.
The Dude: 7.7 – Despite its structural flaws, it doesn’t collapse, simply because of the final, fast-forwarded, boat fight scene; where they all take turns steering the boat in circles, between punches. That, and maybe a few other minor details.

James Bond will be back ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’

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2 responses to “Thunderball

  1. Pingback: Goldfinger | thecriticaleye·

  2. Pingback: The Happy Hooker Goes to Hollywood | thecriticaleye·

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