Light Bondage: “For Your Eyes Only”

Bond, James Bond. For fifty years that has been the cinematic calling card of one of films most enduring heroes. Sure, Bond was born in books, but it was through film that he became a household name and one of the movies’ most enduring legends. He is a character so archetypal that he is bigger than the half dozen men who have played him across nearly two dozen films, and that kind of longevity is both unheard of and a little bit magical.

Light Bondage is my attempt to rewatch the series and try to recapture some of what made these movies worthwhile. I might not always succeed (I’m looking at you, Roger Moore!) but in this biweekly series of articles we’re going to take a ride through the time capsule of the last half century with the world’s most famous spy/action star.

For Your Eyes Only (1981)

I love these wide painted-art posters, I wish that was a thing movies still did.

I’m going to get a little reductive here: this movie is all the notable parts of Thunderball and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service but somehow done worse than either. And considering how I feel about Thunderball, that’s saying a lot.

There’s a plot here but it hardly matters: a British spy ship sinks with a computer the Russians want, and it’s a race to see who gets it first. This mostly involves Bond showing up to places and making a scene before going to another place to repeat the process. The formula has, at this point, become so rote I have a hard time remembering what exactly separates this movie from the last few. I’d feel bad, but then I remember that for people following along you’re all probably as sick of this mid-period Bond as I am, so I’ll try not to dwell on the specifics and instead talk about the things that crossed my mind watching the movie.

This is Roger Moore’s fifth outing as Bond, and it’s obvious from the beginning that there’s some sort of attempt to move away from the childishness of Moonraker into something a little more nuanced. The movie opens with him visiting the grave of his wife (which would be touching, I suppose, if it hadn’t mostly been forgotten than he even had a wife) and then quickly manages to dispatch Blofeld, long-standing archnemesis, once and for all in a pretty anonymous helicopter action scene before the opening credits.

Hey, look, someone actually remembered! Too bad it’s used to hammer home a dumb message.

The rest of the movie is taken up with Bond talking a lot about revenge and how dangerous it is (more on that later) while stumbling around doing the same shit he always does. I’ve been unkind to Moore through most of his run as Bond, but it’s obvious at this point the material is just as much to blame, unwilling to commit to being anything outside of a simple profitable runtime formula that gets this movies churned out and butts in the seats. Moore isn’t a great Bond, but I think even a great actor would have a hard time making these movies work.

A lot of it is the changing roles of heroes in movies by this time. Blockbusters were a thing now, and movies were starting to skew younger, and the original Bondian womanizing seems vestigal at this point. I found myself thinking of Connery, not my favorite Bond by a long-shot, but certainly able to play a sort of restrained passion. He seemed predatory, at times, and while that has social quibbles it was at least a character trait, him lounging about and kissing ladies and being shirtless through much of his original five film run. Moore manages to turn Bond into something of a fuddy duddy, always dressed in turtlenecks to hide Moore’s developing old man wattle and mostly looking too old for the women who the scripts still dictate fall for him over and over.

It’s not like older men can’t be attractive, or that can’t be sold as some sort of sexy romance angle based around that. But aging action stars were handled differently then than they were now. Cruise looks good in MI:4, and believably is both rugged in the action bits and attractive enough to pull off the seduction bits, and he’s pushing 50. Moore, not that much older, manages to just look more bundled up, more heavily made up, and more regularly replaced by stuntmen in the action scenes he has. It just makes him look a bit silly, this nigh-grandfatherly sweater wearing older man going around shooting people and rock climbing and getting in weird ski races.

This girl spends most of her time in the movie trying to get into Bond’s pants. Also, she’s supposed to be 15. No, seriously, I’M NOT JOKING.

But at this point the movies are pretty unapologetic that they’re going after a younger audience. Otherwise I think they would try to hide their reuse of sequences and ideas more. It had been over a decade since On Her Majesty’s Secret Service had come out, and thus they trotted out almost every bit of the long, amazing ski-chase scene to be repeated in this movie, made sillier by a lack of the really impactful stuff and much more restrained direction, with an overuse of quick cuts to hide the lack of the original sequence’s scope. It ends up making what is kind of the movie’s only big action scene feel horribly reheated, spoiled by being left around and reused past the point when it was fit for consumption.

Which is kind of how I feel about Bond in general, at this point. I know the movies pick up again, but it’s kind of amazing they kept going. I suppose this was the world before home video really took off, and seeing the same stories presented to you with a few years in between probably played a lot better than it does these days when we have literally the entire history of visual entertainment at our fingertips. And they made money, which I guess is kind of the only metric that these kinds of movies are usually held to.

It’s still frankly amazing that we have Bond movies still in production, and that people still care about this franchise, when you look at how these stories were being presented in this period. I know my intro talks a lot about the cinematic legacy of film’s most enduring character and all that, but these movies are shit and they don’t represent a thing worth saving. This truly is the dark period of this project.

The Theme Song/Opening Title:
Sheena Easton sings, and I guess performs, the meandering title track to this movie. She’s on screen during the otherwise now-stock opening, which is fine, I certainly don’t mind seeing people who aren’t naked shadows on these. The problem is the song, which continues in the fine tradition of terrible ballads nobody would ever actually want to listen to. I don’t know who thought these would be a great idea, they aren’t interesting or exciting in any way, so … I don’t know. Maybe skip this video? It’s honestly a bit of a waste of time.

Most Ridiculous Gadget:
I’m pretty sure this gadget-light movie didn’t have any, I’m writing this the morning after watching the movie and I can’t remember a single exciting piece of equipment used in the entire movie. I suppose there was Blofeld’s remote control helicopter? Not that great. This award instead goes to Q, who shows up near the end of the movie as Bond’s contact, wearing a ridiculous fake beard when he goes undercover as a priest Bond meets in a confessional booth.

Bond Girl Award for Most Thankless Role:
Carole Bouquet as Melina Havelock, the daughter of marine biologists killed for what they knew about the MacGuffin this story revolves around. I’ll admit some bias here: while Bond female leads have always been cast for an eye to beauty, this is the first woman they’ve had that’s really fallen into what I’d call ‘my type’, so I was plenty happy every time she came on the screen. She spends most of the movie being angry and vengeful, another sorely lacking female archetype in these movies, shooting plenty of people with a crossbow. She’s pretty great.

The most gorgeous Bond girl as determined by me!

However, because I was generally willing to give her a pass, the fact that she looks about 25 and Bond looks about 60 makes most of the relationship stuff between them kind of gross. Especially given Bond’s ridiculous tone in most of his interactions with her, which I guess brings us to…

Best Bondickery:
Bond spends most of his time interacting with the lovely Melina Havelock chiding her on her desire to get revenge. Just to be clear, this is revenge on the men who killed her parents in front of her. Bond manages to get revenge on people who manage to mess up his suit, and we have whole heroes predicated on the vengeful reactions to parental murder, but apparently no, she isn’t allowed. I’m not sure it’s a sexism thing, per se, and more a ‘we should put some message in this movie’ thing. The problem is, the message is stupid when your hero obviously doesn’t follow it and the one time it blew up in his face notwithstanding his lifestyle choices have basically served him just fine.

You have no right, 007. It’s a license to kill, not a license to be a hypocrite.

JAMES BOND will return in OCTOPUSSY

Advertisements

About M

Artist, ne'er do well, militant queer.
This entry was posted in light bondage and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Light Bondage: “For Your Eyes Only”

  1. coribald says:

    “JAMES BOND will return in OCTOPUSSY”

    That’s a shame.

  2. justin says:

    “The problem is, the message is stupid when your hero obviously doesn’t follow it”
    it wasnt a sexism thing, i think it was simply a message from bond to her that she shouldnt waste her life on vengeance, he can do it not cus hes a man but cus its his fucking job

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s