Friday, 27 July 2012

22/06/2012: Thunderball [1965]

Thunderball is James Bonds fourth cinematic outing, and considering they were at that point rolling out yearly, it is impressive that the quality continues to if anything, only increase. While it may not be my favourite, Thunderball is one of the most enjoyed and is very well done. Bond has been fully formed as the character Connery portrayed him as, the charming, witty and deadly secret agent serving on her majesty’s secret service.

For many movie series, the fourth movie is usually almost insignificant. If somehow the series has pushed past being just a trilogy, it usually means that the third and fourth have become terribly cheap attempts to cash in on the success of the original. It is rare for a series to push past four movies, and even rarer for them not to have gone completely downhill by that point. The James Bond series however, as we know now, had just found it’s legs and was starting to walk by Thunderball. With the 23rd James Bond movie coming out this fall, the series has, dare I say it, gone farther than any other.  But back in 1965, James Bond was still something fresh and exciting in the world of movies.

I must say, I am a big fan of the old Bond movies, and the Sean Connery era is probably my favourite. While most movie series start out strong and get weaker as they continue, James Bond started strong and just continued to get stronger. With three increasingly better movies behind it, by the time it came to make Thunderball, the entire mold had been hammered out. 007 was fully developed as was the rest of James Bond’s world and everything that would be standard in a Bond movie. That is why, when you watch Thunderball, I feel that it encapsulates almost everything that is James Bond perfectly.
Please tell me this never actually existed.
Thunderball doesn’t have to bring to many new ideas to the table. It take the well established Bond formula and just plugs in the variables. We get all the villains, gadgets, women and action that we would expect. At this point, I think you really can’t mess up this movie. Also, the budget is still increasing with Thunderball’s budget totalling more than the combination of the last three movies and on top of that, Thunderball was the highest selling Bond movie in theaters. One of the most noticeable uses of the ever growing budget is of course, the special effects.

Thunderball is the first James Bond movie to win an Oscar, winning Best Effects, Special Visual Effects in 1966. I must say, Thunderball’s effects are really something. Back in 1965, things weren’t all CGI, and what we would assume to be fake today might not have been then. First off, the jetpack used in the opening sequence was apparently a legitimate jetpack,  provided by the US Air Force. While Connery himself wasn’t in it, it did really hover threw the air. On top of that, the Disco Volante was everything it looked to be. Well at least the two part, hydrofoil concept. The Disco Volante was an actual hydrofoil boat that was fitted with the second cabin as shown in the movie. Although, as anyone watching might have noticed, it would have crashed upon the rocks numerous times during the cabin fight scene. Not all of Bond gadgets are real however, particularly the mini re-breather, which in fact, was just Connery holding his breath.

This is not the speed at which you approach a beach. Nor do you leave just one guy to stop the entire boat. Come on!
It isn't simply just all special effects and gadgets however, Thunderball once again gives us quite the scheme for global domination. SPECTRE agent Largo has stolen two nuclear warheads and in now holding the world at ransom for some large illion amount of British pounds in the form of diamonds. Personally I'm not exactly sure why SPECTRE would have seized two warheads and then only used them to extort money. I'm not exactly sure what their mission statement is, but I thought it was more along the lines of take over the world than it was just to become a bunch of very rich ex-spies. Then again, controlling the world could be a lot of work, although clearly SPECTRE has no problem when it comes to implementing some very creative and complex plans.

Quite possibly my favourite scene.
The other noticeable thing about Thunderball is that it is extremely water oriented, but luckily Bond enjoys watersports however. We see a lot of scuba diving, submarine-ing, boats and the like in the Bahamas. Also, we get a nice amount of Bond girls in bikinis. The end underwater battle is rather remarkable as well, although I personally thought it might have dragged on a bit, and I'm not alone in that thought. However, considering it was 1965, the amount of underwater action of footage is impressive and extremely well done.

Overall, I think it is easily safe to say that Thunderball continued to meet and raise the standard of Bond movies. I think it is very impressive that  the series, with four films already done, has not slipped down in quality at all and continues to be as exciting as ever. I can't remember how many more films have Connery playing Bond, but I do believe his days are soon coming to close. While my memory isn't as clear in the middle of the series, I do think that they manage to keep up with the precedent that the first four Bond films have set, but only a rewatch will tell me for sure, as we await Skyfall, which I still haven't watched the trailer for. Is it spoilery or should I check it out?


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