You Only Live Twice

You Only Live TwiceSynopsis: A disaster in space pushes humankind toward World War II, and only James Bond can prevent it in this magnificent, pull-out-all-the stops movie spectacular. Sean Connery returns as Agent 007, who travels to Japan to stop the evil SPECTRE organization and its diabolical leader, Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Donald Pleasence), from investigating global warfare from his massive headquarters in an inactive volcano.

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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.

You Only Live Twice

Date  of viewing: March 28, 2013

YOLT
Opening credits

The Thorn: 6.5 – Maurice Binder has clearly started to refine his credit sequences technique here, but this one looks positively shabby, cheap and dated. It’ll get better, for sure. Thankfully. As for the pre-credit sequence, it simply doesn’t make sense (Spaceships can’t sneak up on each other! And who is Bond’s death staged for, given that there’s no one around to see it?), but we don’t fully grasp how utterly ridiculous it is until the plot is later revealed.

The Horrible Dr. B:  5 – Forgetful

The Dude: 4 – I went into “YOLT” a little biased by others’ opinions, but the opening sequence solidified my preconception; the general vibe of the Nancy Sinatra track is right for the first 30 seconds, but just drags on without change for about 4 minutes… Quite the opposite of the film actually. Despite the somewhat interesting effects (dated now, but surely stunning at the time), the silhouettes of Japanese women doing Japanese things, and the panoramic scenes of islands and volcanoes, don’t make up for the most important part- The useless and overcomplicated killing Bond; why go through the actual acting of killing him, if the only proof was the newspaper? But that is just the beginning of nonsensical actions carried through by almost every character and animal throughout YOLT…

You Only Blurb Twice: 10 – The “Gobbling spaceship” spaceship is AWESOME!!! Gobbledygook!

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YOLT
Story

The Thorn: 5.5 – I have to give it points for ambition, but you have to admit that snatching spacecrafts right in space in order to build tension between the US and the USSR is a ridiculous concept. The way that SPECTRE goes about it is even more ridiculous  (ex: It would be easier and cheaper to shoot down the crafts) – and clearly impossible to pull off. Still, it’s an extension of Dr. No’s scheme, so it demonstrates that SPECTRE has had a plan all along. Now if only MI6 could get their act together and not just depend on Bond’s unbelievable luck to get the job done…

The Horrible Dr. B: 0 – Spectre is trying to trigger war between US and Russia by impeding in their space race during the cold war era. The idea is not bad, but the implementation of the idea wasn’t taken seriously. See Overall impressions.

The Dude: 10 – It makes no sense, but as I’ve come to expect a certain standard storyline from Bond films, this one certainly doesn’t disappoint- Many different venues loosely tie in to the story: the agency sends Bond to find out who is eating the American and Russian spaceships- And no, it isn’t Galactus. They send him undercover into a small Japanese fishing village, posing as a demented old Spock wannabe, to find out what is happening in the mountains. And then so much stuff happens!

You Only Blurb Twice: 10 – James Bond goes to Japan!!! Japan is awesome! He’s surrounded by Japanese people!!! Japanese people are awesome! James Bond becomes Japanese!! Becoming Japanese is awesome!!!

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YOLT
Banter

The Thorn: 6.5 – The quips and retorts are pretty bland, but they’re mostly not noxious – although the innuendos were hardly subtle. The most clever one is how Roal Dahl (YOLT’S screenwriter, if you can imagine that) managed to integrate the film’s title into an exchange between Bond and Blofeld.

The Horrible Dr. B: 10 – Good amount of innuendos between Bond and villains. This time, the man with the thunderballs is less of a jerk than the previous two movies; probably because this mission keeps him too busy.

The Dude: 2 –  Much less than in “Thunderball”, there are very few memorable moments where we feel that Bond is playing along in a classic calm & collected way- no jokes, and certainly no puns or one-liners… Oh wait, that’s not true; there’s the “Bon apetit.” Line when he throws Hulk Hogan into the piranha pond in Dr. Evil Blowfish’s lair. Oof, that was a good moment- gets at least two points.

You Only Blurb Twice: 10 – “Do you expect me to live?” “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you die… twice!!!”

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YOLT
Villains

The Thorn: 7 – I love Blofeld, and wish he’d return to the series, but his portrayal here is by Donald Pleasance – who is more cartoonish than menacing (especially since ‘Austin Powers’). Plus which he will always be Dr. Loomis to me. The rest of the henchmen are relatively mundane characters, the worst of which being Helga Brandt, who totally loses it just as she has Bond in her grasp. Of note: The Rock’s grandfather plays a henchman in an especially memorable one-on-one smackdown with Bond.

The Horrible Dr. B: 5 – We finally discover the face of Blofeld, the mastermind at the head of Spectre. The look chosen for the character, bald and slightly scared face, is now iconic. Unfortunately, the mysterious legend is badly represented in this movie. Not only does he lacks intelligence but he shrieks for no reason!

The Dude: 10 – Certainly no eyepatches this time, so I’m gonna dock a few marks, but the SPECTRE mastermind is called Blowfish (with seemingly unlimited funds, he doesn’t spend a few bucks on a legal name change?) What really did it for me was Hulk Hogan and the Rock’s granddaddy beating up Bond… Those two each get 4 points, and I’ll give 1 to Blowfish’s cat, and another to his wicked cool face scar (still not an eyepatch, but it’ll do).

You Only Blurb Twice: 10 – Dr. Evil is awesome!!! Evil Dr. Loomis is even MORE awesome!!! (He’d only be more awesome if he turned Japanese)

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YOLT
Bond Girls

The Thorn: 6 – Aki and Kissy Suzuki are relatively cute, but they lack the glamour, sexiness and/or personality that are typical of Bond girls – a real shame. Meanwhile, Helga Brandt purports to be glamourous, but ends up looking something like a tired drag queen – or an artificial-looking Fiona Volpe.

The Horrible Dr. B: 5 – Aki, the Japanese agent, is cute and impressive by her level of independence and initiative. Such traits are not common in Asian women. Moneypenny is simply gorgeous in her Marine uniform: roarrr!

The Dude: 7 – This is one aspect of the film was very much lacking- All the girls are what we’d call “marriage material” (and I suppose there was a wedding so it’s alright), but certainly no drop-dead stunners. I was expecting that with Bond’s caliber of seduction, he would at least manage to get a Geisha or something. Bond is losing his mojo… Real disappointed on this one (but at least he doesn’t rape anyone in this one! That deserves a few points…)

You Only Blurb Twice: 10 – Bond gets to kiss kiss bang bang three women, and only two die. AWESOME!!! Thank goodness it wasn’t the other way around, ’cause one of them would have to die… twice!!!

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YOLT
Gadgets

The Thorn: 4 – Rocket-powered bullets (because bullets aren’t fast enough already!), suction-cup kneepads (to play Spider-man with), rocket cigarettes (that look like doobies!), a safe-cracking device (conveniently in pocket when needed), a giant magnet (for capturing enemy vehicles), an x-ray desk (to give health advice to your guests) . It’s quantity over quality; it all amounts to corny doodads that only kids could be impressed with. Meh.

The Horrible Dr. B: 10 – Gadgets galore! I’m sure you’ll find something that will fancy you, and probably some that you’ll find lame. Guns that fire rocket-powered bullets: genius!

The Dude: 8 – Let’s see… Suction cap kneepads, rocket-powered bullets, cigarette rockets… Oh and the Nellie- In this one, bond is not poorly equipped; it’s just the way he uses (or rather wastes) his gear that disappoints 1) Out of all the people he could have shot with his cigarette, he takes out a henchman! 2) Bullets already go pretty fast, you’re not adding anything to them by making them rocket-powered. 3) Suction pads- great choice, but did they really have to look as big and inelegant as toilet plungers? The Nellie’s construction scene was pretty cool I have to admit… Meh, no Mink glove, but the cigarettes more than make up for that.

You Only Blurb Twice: 10 – Bond’s gadgets are awesome because I can play with them when I take my bathtub, along with my G.I. Joes and my rubber ducky. I can’t wait to show my mommy my little rocket cigarette!!! (Which is awesome, b-t-w.)

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YOLT
Vehicles

The Thorn: 7.5 – I guess THE major vehicle in this movie is Bond’s autogyro, Little Nellie, which had equivalent gadgets to the Aston Martin’s – except no ejector seat and rotating plates (probably a good thing). I still like it, even if Connery looks like a tool riding it with a helmet and crocodile shirt. Then there’s the helicopter with the magnet (stupid), Tiger’s personal subway (cool) and SPECTRE’s “gobbling” rocket (original but poorly designed).

The Horrible Dr. B: 10 – My favorite is Little Nelly. Its a small portable helicopter. In the context of the movie, it is a bit lame since there is no way this vehicle would stand a chance in a fight. However I am amazed by some of the ingenious machines and devices that they actually built for the series. I want a Little Nelly!

The Dude: 6 – The Nellie… And that tube that leads Bond into a chair. But that building sequence reminded me of Lego, and the tube looked like fun- 8

You Only Blurb Twice: 10 – Little Nellie can do ANYTHING! (which is awesome) I asked my mommy for a Swiss Army helicopter just like James Bond’s and she told me to write a letter to Santa Claus. She said that he might have run out of Little Nellies, but I might get a Swiss Army knife instead. I hope there’s a flame-thrower in it.

***

YOLT
Locales

The Thorn: 8 – Most of the film takes place in Japan, and the filmmakers really took the time to spotlight it. It gives ‘YOLT’ an exotic allure no other Bond film has. As for the sets, the most notable one is Ken Adams’ design for the volcano base (which is impressive until you try to figure out how SPECTRE discreetly built this thing). One of my favourite parts of that base is the ridiculous but menacing piranha pool (complete with collapsible bridge). They’re super high maintenance, but it’s the perfect intimidation tool.

The Horrible Dr. B: 10 – The story starts in Hong Kong, but mainly takes place in Japan. The movie offers plenty of very nice aerial shots of various Japanese locations (including a great shot of an Osaka castle). We witness an unrecognizable young 67’s Tokyo, part of a real Sumo wrestling match, and peek at life in a small fishing village.

The Dude: 9 – A sleeping Volcano- I wonder how that’s gonna end.

You Only Blurb Twice: 10 – Japan has places where people watch fat men in bikini bottoms wrestle for their lunch. Fat men are funny, especially when they show their naughty bits to everyone before charging into each other. That scene would only be more awesome if they had wrestled in Jell-o. Or the piranha pool. For a large hero sandwich.

***

YOLT
Stunts

The Thorn: 8 – Just coordinating that final melee must have been a lot of work, and it’s done remarkably well – aside from the obvious trampolines (to launch people during explosions) and the endless stream of “ninjas” (who all looked half-@$$ed, as though their moms put together home-made Halloween costumes with sweatsuits and ski masks. They look like sock puppets!). The fight between Bond and The Rock’s grandfather is pretty kick-@$$, but then Bond’s roof-top escape from dozens of waiting henchmen was particularly lame (cancelling that other one out).

The Horrible Dr. B: 10 – Stunts galore! Are they all really needed? Probably not.

The Dude: 7 – I loved the scene where all the ninjas are getting mowed down in Blowfish’s lair- See, no matter how long you train to be stealthy, the urge to run into battle screaming has not gone, since the days when Gandalf led the armies of Rohan down that hill that one time.

You Only Blurb Twice: 10 – When I grow up, I want to do judo flips from the top of a building onto stacks of crates… twice!!! And not break my back… once. Weeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!

***

YOLT
Soundtrack

The Thorn: 8 – One of the better John Barry score, even though it isn’t as classic as ‘Goldfinger’ and ‘Thunderball’; it includes eastern flavours and has a lusciousness that truly makes it stand out. Nancy Sinatra’s theme song is, despite her limited ability, very catchy and one of the best of the series.

The Horrible Dr. B: 5 – It must be ok but I dont remember much of it.

The Dude: 10 – Bow-chicka-wow-wow- Bond music still the same and groovin’ on into the 70’s.

You Only Blurb Twice: 10 – Dum dee dum dum dum dum dum, dum dee dum dum dum dum, dah-daaaah, dah dah daaaaah, dah daaah, duh dah daaaaah!!! The James Bond Theme is awesome!!!

***

YOLT
Best Bond Moment

The Thorn: Honestly, I can’t think of even one. Bond does nothing but let himself get carried along by the tide in this one; there’s no moment that made me want to be 007, that truly thrilled me, that I thought was really clever… no sparks, nothing. Everything is marred by an ineptitude that totally spoils any fun to be had – even the Little Nellie sequence was marred by poor editing.But there’s one bit that I’ll never forget, that had me squealing with delight: Towards the end, when Blofeld’s about to leave the control room, we can see his cat trying to escape his grasp, all googly-eyed, madly scrambling to get away while Blofeld clutches him, pinning it in his arms. It’s so funny! I can’t believe that it was their best take, but that’s typical of this movie! At the very least, they could have gotten a feline double for that scene!

The Horrible Dr. B: First best moment: The helicopter equipped with a giant magnet to capture and throw the bad guys into the sea: don’t mess with Japanese agents. Second best moment: the priceless facial expression of Blofeld’s cat when the control room get breached.

The Dude: That cat will kill me. Amazing moment.

You Only Blurb Twice: Where does one begin? Every moment in ‘You Only Live Twice’ is a Best Bond Moment!!! James Bond becomes a REAL Japanese!!! Tiger sends a helicopter with a giant magnet to take the bad guys away and drop them into the sea!!! Bond fights off dozens of guys at once – while running on a football field-sized roof!!! Bond gets out of being tortured to death by making Helga fall in love with him telepathetically!!! And when Evil Dr. Loomis is about to kill Bond, but Tiger throws a shuriken at him. Awesome, awesome, AWESOME!!! And that’s just for starters!

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YOLT
Worst Bond Moment

The Thorn: Sheesh… where does one begin? How can one break down one big faux pas into a series of small faux pas and pick just one of them? Would it be Bond’s transformation into a Japanese fisherman (one that looks like a cross between Quasimodo and Mr.  Spock)? Would it be the use of a giant magnet attached to a chopper to carry off the bad guys’ car and dumping it in the sea (instead of, I don’t know, blowing up their tires)? Could it be the lame rooftop fist fight that defies all credibility? Might it be Bond’s seduction of Helga, which is so random that it’s inexplicable? Or the fact that, instead of killing Bond, while dead in his sights, Blofeld has Bond accompany him to his ride -which is mere meters away- and THEN decides to kill him. But fails!!! And so on and so on and so on…

The Horrible Dr. B: Bad moments galore! Unfortunately the movie is infested by stupid ideas and bad execution: Examples: The fake erupting volcano, the “transformation” of Bond into a Japanese man (who ends up looking more like a Vulcan), Blofeld’s “choice” of executing Bond in the main room where the fight is raging on, etc… See Overall impressions.

The Dude: Most of the film… The fact that the cat scene is the best says a lot.

You Only Blurb Twice: The part where Bond dies at the beginning was traumatic. I was so sure that the rest of the movie would be spent looking for a new Bond, kind of like in 1967’s ‘Casino Royale’. Or for Inspector Clouseau in ‘The Curse of the Pink Panther’. I mean, what would a James Bond movie be without James Bond? OK, Connery?!

***

YOLT
Overall
The Thorn: 4.5 – I remember being wide-eyed watching this film as a kid: every moment was filled with tension and/or wonderment. Now, many many years later, it looks pathetic, like a b-movie made on a big budget. Making matters worse is that Sean Connery is completely out of shape by this point, more Plllsbury Doughboy than Playboy Extraordinaire, and clearly going through the motions. At best, it’s a fabulous movie to watch with a few witty friends, but it’s too sloppy and stupid to warrant as many raves as it does in some quarters. I would probably rate it lower if I saw it for the first time now, but I guess the child in me gives it a couple of nostalgia points.

The Horrible Dr. B: 6 – This movie, which didn’t aged very well, was obviously devised to impress with tons of big, bold and cool moments. Unfortunately they went for quantity over quality: the movie is simply a non-stop series of mindless, over-the-top, logic defying scenes filled with action, stunts, gadgets, and visual effects. Some of these effects are impressive and well done, but many of them are painfully ugly and amateurish. Other aspects of the movie, like story, acting, and editing, went out the window and have been neglected. This movie was too big and ambitious, and unfortunately its many weaknesses tarnish its strengths.If you want to enjoy the movie, you have to watch it with your inner child, filling the gaps and weaknesses with your imagination and innocence; if you let your grown-up side wake up, you’ll be disappointed You have to feel the movie, and not try to understand it.

The Dude: 6 – At the end of the day, I suppose there are enough explosions, car chases, fights to keep you distracted from the lack of story, but malgré the eating spaceships scenes, this isn’t worth it. Don’t go see it folks.

You Only Blurb Twice: 10 – ‘You Only Live Twice’ is the only way to live! If you haven’t seen it, then your life is soulless, a shell, a rubbish bin. See ‘You Only Live Twice’!!! Now!! And Twice!!! Preferably with Japanese friends. And if you don’t have any friends, turn Japanese – you won’t regret it. In fact, you’ll likely be pretty darned AWESOME!!! Just like this movie. Which is called ‘You Only Live Twice’!

James Bond will be backOn Her Majesty’s Secret Service

One response to “You Only Live Twice

  1. Pingback: Thunderball | thecriticaleye·

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