It was believed that the world would never get enough of Sean Connery as James Bond. “It’s an epic series,” they said. “The evolution of Bond can never fail,” they said.
Unfortunately they, whoever “they” are, didn’t believe that too much of a good thing could be bad. This is what became of the fourth film installment of 007 films, Thunderball.
There are plenty of things that are great about this movie. For one, we see just how huge SPECTRE is, and helped inspire the Austin Powers series. Another amazing aspect of the film was the underwater war between SPECTRE agents and what seem to be US frogmen. I don’t know if such a battle had ever been attempted for so long in another film, but I like to think that James Bond did it first. We are also treated to more devices and quips by Q, sharks (because everyone loves sharks), half-naked agents, and even a villain that wears an eye-patch. Eye-patches are high on the stereotypes for evil villains, beaten only by pointy, black moustaches and beards.
The problem with Thunderball is that there is just too much in the film. You have SPECTRE agents killing SPECTRE agents, assumed identities, atomic weapons, NATO, parades, CIA agents, sharks, para-divers, etc. Everything except the SCUBA diving (which gets old by the time we see the climactic battle) has the feeling of a short glimpse rather than an activity that really gets the movie going. It takes 7/8s of the film for Bond to succeed in his mission, finding out where the bombs are. It just doesn’t keep the plot moving like other Bond films. Luckily, the film was remade later in Sean Connery’s one-shot return.
Master Evil Plan:
The size of the criminal enterprise SPECTRE is finally realized as Number 2, the eye-patch wearing Largo, holds the world ransom for £100 million in diamonds by threatening to detonate ATO atomic bombs in major cities.
Randomly Awesome 007 Moments:
1) Number 1 of SPECTRE electrocutes Number 9, which later inspired Will Farrell’s “I’m very badly burned” bit.
2) SPECTRE agent Fiona Volpe blows up a car with a missile-launching motorcycle.
3) Bond gets shot in the leg, proving that he isn’t Mr. Perfect.
4) Felix Leiter shoots a shark. I don’t know why, but it’s so random that it’s amazing. And the actor that plays Felix, Rick Van Nutter (really), looks like Gary Busey, which makes it even more insane and awesome.
5) Bond and Domino have sex underwater in SCUBA gear. Now that’s a bucket-list item if I ever heard of one.
6) An underwater war between SPECTRE agents and US frogmen.
Randomly Horrible 007 Moments:
1) Bond introduces the jet-pack to the world, and how ridiculous someone can look wearing it.
2) Flight-training using live atomic bombs? GTFO.
3) A shark just so happens to come swimming by the downed jet in the sea after SPECTRE agents have nabbed the atomic bombs and covered up the aircraft. OMG JUST IN TIME!
Randomly Awesome Quotes:
1) Fiona Volpe: “I forgot your ego, Mr. Bond. James Bond, the one where he has to make love to a woman, and she starts to hear heavenly choirs singing. She repents, and turns to the side of right and virtue…but not this one!”
2) Q: “Try to be a little less than your frivolous self, 007.”
-Women James Bond sleeps with: 3 (Patricia Fearing, Fiona Volpe, Domino Derval)
-Bond Kills: 4 (plus countless SPECTRE frogmen)
-Bond friends killed: 1 (Paula Caplan)
-Bond assassination attempts:
1 by spine-stretching machine manipulation
5 by guns
1 high-speed shootout on the road
1 by underwater spear-gun
2 by under-water knifing
2 by under-water hand grenades
1 by pool closure followed by a release of sharks
I give this film 3 out of 5 Bonds. If it wasn’t for the underwater fight at the end, I’d drop it to 2 or 2.5.