Tag Archives: Desmond Llewelyn

You Only Live Twice (1967) Review

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You Only Live Twice

Time: 117 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] 
Cast:
Sean Connery as James Bond
Akiko Wakabayashi as Aki
Mie Hama as Kissy Suzuki
Tetsurō Tamba as Tiger Tanaka
Teru Shimada as Mr. Osato
Karin Dor as Helga Brandt/No. 11
Donald Pleasence as Ernst Stavro Blofeld
Bernard Lee as M
Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny
Desmond Llewelyn as Q
Director: Lewis Gilbert

An American space capsule supposedly gets abducted by a Russian spaceship. However, as James Bond discovers that SPECTRE is responsible for it, he embarks on a mission to unearth the motive behind it.

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I didn’t know how they would hold up today, but I found myself pleasantly surprised with the Sean Connery era. However with the fourth movie Thunderball, I was rather disappointed and found it okay at best. I wasn’t sure about how the next movie You Only Live Twice would fare. Having seen it, I would not call it a good movie; it is really silly and I would not place it as the better half of James Bond, but I got a lot of enjoyment out of it.

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This script (co-written by Roald Dahl of all people) is undeniably silly. Goldfinger and Thunderball leaned into the silliness and camp, but YOLT takes it steps further. It is one of the goofier James Bond movies for sure, and was by far the goofiest at that point in the series. You can definitely tell the early signs of the series moving towards the Roger Moore era. YOLT is less of a political spy thriller and more of a silly action adventure; While this won’t work for everyone and might get too crazy for some in the second half, I found it entertaining in the wackiness and absurdity, even if it borders on self-parody. It helped that You Only Live Twice is self aware, it doesn’t play it straight faced by any means. The tone feels lighter, rather than having a serious spy plot with out of place humour. It also benefits from tight pacing and a lot of creative and ambitious moments within. Out of the Bond movies, the Austin Powers movies definitely took the most from You Only Live Twice, and it kind of makes sense when watching it.

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Although I thoroughly enjoyed You Only Live Twice, it is far from being problem free. Despite its enjoyable silliness, the story really is lacking, especially when compared to some of the previous Bond movies. There are certainly sequences and parts that are memorable, but I can’t say that the movie is memorable on the whole. Finally getting to it, You Only Live Twice is very problematic, in fact it’s probably one of the most problematic of the Bond movies and that’s saying something. There are some very weird undercurrents with its racial and gender policies. Despite being considerably less rapey here compared to Bond’s appearance in Thunderball, there really is an air of misogyny and sexism throughout that is prevalent. Then there’s the very weird racial politics. It’s pretty clear that the producers were fascinated with Japanese culture in this instalment, and wanted to make the most out of the setting, and with that came with all the stereotypes including ninjas, sumo wrestling, and Japanese-face. There’s no nice way of putting it, Bond does yellowface, which strangely makes him look more like a Vulcan than actually Asian. It is by far one of the most embarrassing moments of James Bond, and again that’s saying something.

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While Sean Connery is enjoyable to watch as James Bond as usual, compared to many of the previous films his work isn’t all that special here. He seemed a little bored and worn down, and it makes total sense that another actor played Bond after this movie. Still, he has his moments. Some of the returning Bond actors are good, like Lois Maxwell as Moneypenny, Desmond Llewelyn as Q, and Bernard Lee as M, and some of the other main supporting actors in the film are decent too. However the highlight for me is Ernst Stravo Blofeld, the main villain and the recurring antagonist for Bond as the head of SPECTRE. From his first appearance in From Russia with Love, the leader of the criminal organisation has had his face obscured, now we finally get to see the man, and the payoff was strong. Now I wouldn’t call Blofeld one of the all-time best villains by any means, I wouldn’t even say he’s the best Bond villain, however I do really like him. Part of it has to do with Donald Pleasence’s wonderful performance, who is riding a fine line. He is perfectly over the top and cartoonish (fitting for a character who has an evil lair in a volcano with a piranha pool death trap), yet still menacing. He is a memorable character, and you can definitely see why tat Dr Evil from Austin Powers was based specifically off this version of Blofeld. In some ways he is underutilised in the movie, you only see him in the final act. But I don’t think he would’ve been as effective otherwise.

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Lewis Gilbert directs You Only Live Twice, it is the first of three Bond movies he would make. It definitely loses the grounded aspects from the past movies to focus more on the action, and considering the absurd plot, it was worth it. The action set pieces are pretty good, there are some large scale sequences, including a mini helicopter chase and an elaborate set piece at Blofeld’s rocket base. The setting of Japan was a good change for a James Bond movie, on a visual level at least. There are some great locations and environments, and the film definitely takes advantage of them. It’s quite visually impressive, helped by the amazing set design. The look of the volcano lair in particular is immaculate and impressive, ranking among the best production designs for the Bond movies. The visual effects can be very uneven, but then again, it’s a 60s Bond movie, so that’s to be expected. Finally, John Barry’s musical score is typically great.

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You Only Live Twice is not exactly one of the most beloved of the James Bond movies. The plot isn’t the best, it’s a bit too silly for its own good at points, and it is undeniably problematic with its racial and gender politics. However, I still found it to be very entertaining. I enjoyed it more than Thunderball at least, especially with how over the top and absurd it is, and there are some enjoyable set pieces. I would probably place it as being mid-tier Bond, but nonetheless fun to watch.

The World is Not Enough (1999) Review

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The World is Not Enough

Time: 128 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Low level violence
Cast:
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond
Sophie Marceau as Elektra King
Robert Carlyle as Victor “Renard” Zokas
Denise Richards as Dr. Christmas Jones
Robbie Coltrane as Valentin Zukovsky
Desmond Llewelyn as Q
Judi Dench as M
Director: Michael Apted

James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is entrusted with the responsibility of protecting the daughter of an oil tycoon. While on his mission, he learns about an even more dangerous plot.

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Continuing my rewatches of the James Bond movies, I now move onto The World is Not Enough, one of the latter Pierce Brosnan films. Despite it being one of the more recent Bond films, I only remember some aspects like the characters and certain moments. I did notice that a lot of people didn’t really like it, so I was curious as to how I’d feel about it. As it turns out, I am now one of the people who does like it, however its probably the most frustrating Brosnan Bond film. It comes so close to greatness but it really misses out on that.

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The World is Not Enough starts off pretty good with a solid (if strangely overlong) opening. It did have me in the first half despite some stumbles, with an intriguing plot and characters. I’d say its nearly great, with lots of potential and especially with the character of Elektra King (Sophie Marceau). It also looked like an emotional journey for Bond, so I was liking where it was going. However, it eventually loses momentum. By the time it gets to the second half, I started to lose track about what was happening with the plot. Even after the movie ended, I found it to be quickly forgettable. This movie is still packed with some pretty good stuff with some twists and turns of its own, and I appreciate some of the directions they went in. However it does feel like a story with wasted potential, and resolves its plotlines and characters in unsatisfying or generic ways. It even feels a little formulaic, ultimately the big MacGuffin of this film is another nuclear weapon. Despite attempts at grounding itself and attempting to go for a darker story, the film still feels over the top silly, and as a result it does feel very tonally inconsistent. This is the movie where one of the villains has a bullet lodged in his brain and as a result he is impervious to pain. It also did feel like there were an increase of jokes and innuendos over even Tomorrow Never Dies and GoldenEye, they don’t really hit at all and feel more distracting than in those movies.

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This might be Pierce Brosnan’s best performance as Bond given this is the most emotional that his version of the character has gotten. There are tons of emotional moments for Brosnan to act out. I also feel like this is the closest that Brosnan’s Bond has come to being fully realised as a character, which is a shame because his character still has issues in this film. In this movie he keeps delivering goofy one liners, and I feel like Brosnan wasn’t able to go all the way with his portrayal. Sophie Marceau as Elektra King was the most interesting character in the movie. I won’t get into her character for those who don’t know about her part in the story, but she was quite good and shared an interesting dynamic with Brosnan’s Bond. I just wished that they went further with her character and was utilised a lot better. Judi Dench gets to have a lot more screentime as M compared to the past two Brosnan Bond films, I liked that she actually plays a notable part in the plot. Robert Carlyle plays a Bond villain role quite well however I did wish there was more to him. He is said to be dangerous and while he has something of a presence, he doesn’t really feel like a threat. So he’s not that memorable overall. Denise Richards has been widely criticized for her performance in The World is Not Enough, so I didn’t want to rag on her even more since a lot of people had already been down on her acting. Unfortunately, I have to say that the criticism is understandable. She really seems out of place in this movie, and although it would be too far to say she brings the movie down (the movie has enough problems without her), she is very distracting whenever she’s on screen. Her role is to be a nuclear physicist, deliver exposition dumps, and to have something of a romance with Bond, and she isn’t convincing at any of those. On top of that, her character’s name is Christmas Jones, and of course that’s only so that Bond can deliver a really bad one-liner at the end of the film. This performance and character is one of the only unambiguously bad things in this movie, but isn’t the source of all of its problems.

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The World is Not Enough is directed by Michael Apted and his work is mostly good here. There are some fun set pieces, though they seem to oscillate between being genuinely good to absolutely ludicrous. Also they aren’t really as memorable as the other Brosnan Bond action. It doesn’t help that Bond never really feels like he’s in danger, Tomorrow Never Dies had this issue too. David Arnold returns as composer from Tomorrow Never Dies and again does a good job here.

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I find myself in the minority of people who actually quite enjoyed The World is Not Enough but there are definitely some issues holding it back. It does feel very conflicted, it tries to have the more darker and emotional aspects, but it also tries to have the one liners and jokes that are out of place. It’s probably the most disappointing of Brosnan’s run as Bond because there are some great ideas that had potential to make for one of the best Bond films ever. What we are left with however is a decent enough yet forgettable action flick with a mix of great and terrible aspects. With all that being said, if you’ve watched some of the other Bond movies, I do think it is worth a look. It still has some very good parts to it.