Is 'For Your Eyes Only' the most boring James Bond film?

edited November 2014 in Bond Movies Posts: 3,784
I gave FYEO a watch the other day and thought I'd share my view, if you guys want to see some other pieces I've written on some of the other Bond flicks head over here: http://thelektordevice.blogspot.co.uk/

The Plan and the Execution:

'For Your Eyes Only' is an example of a Bond film that on paper seems tantalising but in practise is actually somewhat lacking. After the bombastic 'Moonraker' the producers decided to return to earth and make a gritty Cold War thriller in the vein of the early Bond pictures such as 'From Russia With Love'. The other film on producer Albert R. Broccoli's mind was 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service', which despite being one of the least financially successful films in the series had since been gaining much acclaim for it's stripped back and character-driven approach. The ghost of 'On Her Majesty's is immediately evident from the opening shot of 'For Your Eyes Only' as we see Bond place flowers on Tracy's grave, his wife who was brutally murdered in that entry. Furthermore, 'For Your Eyes Only' follows the sixth 007 film's trajectory by hiring a former second-unit director and veteran editor of the series to tackle his directorial debut in the form of John Glen. In regards to the actual story, the last few Bond films had largely ignored Ian Fleming's source material but here there was a effort to incorporate numerous short stories and elements abandoned from previous projects. Everyone's heart seemed to be in the right place with 'For Your Eyes Only', however, the actual execution of the piece is thoroughly lacking.

By tackling a seemingly more real-world and gritty Bond adventure Glen and co. sacrificed much of the fun and excitement typically associated with the Bond pictures. Instead what we get is a film with very little wit and humour, subsequently the picture is somewhat dry and at times rather banal. Bond films typically sweep the audience off their feet and take them along for the ride regardless how obscene or ridiculous the plot or the action may be. The self-serious approach of 'For Your Eyes Only' gives the film something of a chilly feel and only makes the movie harder for the audience to engage with.

This is clear in the actual characterisation of Bond himself, the part was initially written to accommodate a new actor and as a result writers Richard Maibaum and Michael G Wilson had crafted a much colder and more ruthless character. Apparently Lewis Collins had been sought for the role and in some respects would have been a far better fit for the film then Roger Moore. The script does not give Moore his typical array of witticisms and one-liners and in the most part the actor looks uncomfortable throughout the film. I really like Roger Moore's Bond, mainly because he is so different from the rest, in particular I've always enjoyed his slightly tongue-in-cheek take on the character but here the jokes are toned down. Moore comes across as slightly portentous and self-serious and it just doesn't suit the actor at all. In 'For Your Eyes Only' Moore has little charm and mostly sleepwalks his way through the picture. The opening shot of Bond would suggest that we may be getting a more world-weary 007 but another problem is the writers inability to acknowledge Bond's age which is even more ridiculous when considering how useless Moore is in the action sequences. Roger Moore is fatally miscast in this film.

In addition, despite wanting to go down the more 'serious' route the film makes odd tonal choices. For instance we are greeted with a sober image of Bond placing flowers on his dead wife's grave. This image would seemingly be something of a mission statement for the film but only moments later we have a large-scale comic-book-y segment of Bond dropping Blofeld down a chimney which seems more like a hangover from 'Moonraker'. Also, what's up with the terrible ending?!? Why in this more 'serious' film do we have a rather cringeworthy Margaret Thatcher gag? It doesn't make sense. Even though I understand why Bond's Lotus is destroyed the actual joke of him having to drive the crummy Citoren 2CV also seems a little too broad for me. Furthermore, the actual attempts at humour throughout the film are mostly ill-judged such as the awful Bibi Dahl who is less funny and more irritating. I feel the script was just one polish away from really coming together.


The Characters of 'For Your Eyes Only':

The actual plot of the movie is relatively interesting and it's nice to get back to a more Cold War orientated story. The film also has some interesting characters for a change which vary from the typical stock Bond girls/villains that had appeared over the years. However, despite their initial setups their potential is soon squandered. Take Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet) for example, a determined and driven woman seeking revenge for her parent's murder, despite a great introduction she slowly disappears throughout the rest of the film. Instead we are left with the boring and completely unnecessary characters of Bibi and Countess Lisl Von Schlaf, neither of whom contribute anything to the plot or story whatsoever and only serve to distract from Melina's arc.

The same can be said of Kristatos (Julian Glover); in many respects I admire the film for not going down the obvious route of having an overblown megalomanic. Instead we have a more real world villain who lurks in the shadows and the film also has the balls to only reveal Kristatos's true identity rather late in the day. But when we do finally learn his identity, Glover is given very little material and considering he is the main villain of a 'Bond movie' the character is slightly bland and tasteless which further contributes to the film's rather forgettable nature.

In the most part this problem is symptomatic of the whole of 'For Your Eyes Only', which feels rather half-baked in comparison to the other Bond pictures. The film is in desperate need of something to really push it over the edge and distinguish it from any other generic action film, whether it be a large grand-scale sequence or a memorable villain, etc. Instead the film is rather flat and insipid despite it's honourable attempt to strip back the formula.

The directorial debut of John Glen:

I feel I'm doing the film a slight disservice as I did actually really enjoy it, my chief grievance is really how disappointing it is considering the actual promise of it. However, as you would expect considering Glen's background the action and chase sequences are really thrilling and excellently put together. Much of the good-will the film loses in it's saggy middle-section is mostly rectified with the film's exciting third-act. The keel-hauling sequence is pure Bond magic and the climb up St. Cyrils is a perfect example of suspenseful and tense filmmaking. For a first-time director Glen really hits it out of the park in these sections and the film is a very high watermark for all filmmakers attempting to make their debut. Maybe if more emphasis had been placed on the sequences between the action the film may have been a little more inspired.

Another aspect of Glen's direction that deserves praise is his more honest approach to violence. 'For Your Eyes Only' is a surprisingly nasty affair and there are numerous images which feel rather gruesome. This is a nice evolution for the series and shows a much grittier and more brutal side to Bond's world that was clearly in the Fleming books but mostly disregarded in the films.

On the other hand, it would seem that by focussing on the action and violence Glen has produced a rather (for lack of better word) sexless film. Both 'From Russia with Love' and 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' had a romantic, glamorous and exotic tone, however, Glen's film is slightly more prudish in comparison. Bond's relationship with Melina is far from sexual and 007's interest in her is more avuncular then anything else so when they do kiss at the end it's uncomfortable and forced.

Technical Notes:

The overall look of the film is also rather dull and drab. The cinematography is particularly flat and uninspiring and Peter Lamont's sets, despite striving for realism, are pretty shabby and boring (his St. Cyrils hideout is also quite risible). On a slightly more positive note, I came into the film expecting to hate Bill Conti's score but actually have to admit I really enjoyed it and was still humming it after the film had finished. Furthermore, the underwater photography is really fantastic, the images are so crisp and Glen's ability to tell a coherent fight under the sea is very commendable.

In other technical notes, Wilson and Maibum's script is rather impressive and ambitious when you consider how it takes two Fleming stories, 'For Your Eyes Only' and 'Risico', and seamlessly melds them together. In terms of actual performances, it is Topol as Columbo who really shines through. Topol has a spades of charm and injects plenty of charisma into his character (something a lot of the other actors, Moore included, fail to do), I would have loved to haven seen him return in another Bond picture as he was seriously deserving of one.

In summary, FYEO had a lot of potential and despite the project's initial intent it does get somewhat derailed. It's mostly saved by a thrilling and exciting third-act but it's still hard to shake that feeling of disappointment. It's by no means a bad film, but it's hardly a great one. Instead we have a rather dull and forgettable entry which could have been so much more.
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Comments

  • edited November 2014 Posts: 4,532
    What! :-O Hell no! Its one of the best!

    Great action, great locations, great story, Moore's best performance!
  • Posts: 3,296
    No way. The Car chase and the ski chase are two of the most riveting action scenes in the whole franchise. The climax may be slow, but it still is suspensefull.
  • jobo wrote: »
    What! :-O Hell no! Its one of the best!

    Great action, great locations, great story, Moore's best performance!

    Yes,yes and yes!!!
  • ClarkDevlinClarkDevlin Martinis, Girls and Guns
    Posts: 15,423
    In my opinion, it is Moore's finest hour.
  • bondjamesbondjames You were expecting someone else?
    edited November 2014 Posts: 23,883
    I agree with a lot of @Pierce2Daniel's comments. It is quite an unbalanced entry. It tries to combine humour with seriousness and in some parts comes off very strange to me.

    On a positive note, the ski chase is one of the best in the series. The underwater scenes with Melina and Bond tied up as shark bait was very well filmed. I'm neither here nor there about the Citreon scene (I remember being so disappointed in the theatres watching this for the first time because Bond's Lotus was destroyed - I thought we were going to get a TSWLM type chase with the gadgets!). The climb to the mountain top was inventive and very well done.

    Conversely, the underwater scene with the little submarine was horribly done. One of the more boring scenes. The hockey dustup was a joke. The finale on the mountain top was one of the most sleep inducing of the entire series (in contrast to the climb).

    Moore delivered an excellent, toned down performance, although this was the first movie where I thought age was noticeably catching up with him. Maybe it was the seriousness of his character, but he certainly looked pretty old in some scenes, including the first meeting with Ferrara in Cortina. It's terribly apparent on the remastered Blu's.

    Melina had great potential (a newer version of Domino) but I agree she was squandered after a great start. Bibi and the countess were an absolute waste of time and I agree, detracted from Melina, who could have been a much more interesting character with the revenge angle (revisited again with Camille 27 years later in QoS).

    The cinematography was not bad.

    Thatcher was a complete disgrace to the series and should not have been done. I cringe watching that now.

    I found the villains extremely, and I mean extremely boring. Kristatos, Kriegler & Locque made me fall asleep (keep in mind that I loved Drax and Jaws as a kid, so my impressions may have been clouded by this coming after MR and my first impressions, which count, in the theatre).

    I personally did not find Columbo all that endearing. Much preferred Kerim, Mathis or even Zukovsky as characters compared to him.

    I was not and am not really a fan of Bill Conti's score. Of all the 'one off' composers to the series, I find his score the most dated and most unsuitable for Bond (yes, even compared to Michael Kamen & Eric Serra). I think it's brilliant in places (parts of the ski chase, the gunbarrel & the 'Submarine') but very, very dated elsewhere.

    I remember walking out of the theatre as a small kid being quite underwhelmed, and that impression has stayed with me as I've gotten older, although I am much more impressed by its seriousness now. I remember my dad saying outside the theatre that it reminded him of a Saint episode & that Roger Moore played it like he played the Saint. I did not understand what he meant at the time, but having seen Roger Moore's Saint series since, I concur. Moore's portrayal here is much more in line with how he acted in the Saint. In fact, there is a Saint TV movie that has similar plot elements/scenes.

    I much prefererd Moore in OP, and found it a return to form for him. FYEO did not suit his preferred portrayal of Bond and seemed unnatural, so I agree, it would have more suited another actor, which is probably what it was intended for.

    IMO, Moore's finest hour is TSWLM.
  • Pajan005Pajan005 Stockholm, Sweden
    Posts: 432
    For me the most boring one is DAF. FYEO is one of my favorites.
  • bondjamesbondjames You were expecting someone else?
    edited November 2014 Posts: 23,883
    Agreed that DAF is a very boring movie, for Bond..

    Just to clarify, I was comparing FYEO for entertainment value with the other Moore Bonds, where for me it is quite boring (purely on an entertainment level, as opposed to on a critical level). I find OP much more entertaining for example.

    Yes, DAF is very boring for Bond. Agreed on that.
  • DarthDimiDarthDimi Behind you!Moderator
    Posts: 17,604
    FYEO was boring to me when I was 10.
    Now that I'm an adult, I find it anything but boring. The action is actually pretty good and so is the story, the photography and I even like the music.
    Moore is great in this film and lest we forget, those of us born in the early 80s can step into the time capsule that this film is and relive the earliest memories of our lives in terms of music, clothing and more.

    Boring? Absolutely not!
  • Posts: 4,532
    I can understand the argument that the mix between overt humor and seriousness is odd at times. But I can't see how the film could be boring. There is so much going on all the time, both in terms of plot and action. The underwater action is a littlebit drawn out, but that doesn't hamper the film too much.
  • MayDayDiVicenzoMayDayDiVicenzo Here and there
    Posts: 5,039
    One of my favourite Bond films. I think it's far from boring! Action, girls, villains, music etc...all good!
  • bondjamesbondjames You were expecting someone else?
    Posts: 23,883
    I think the original poster is asking whether it's "boring" in relation to other Bond films.

    To clarify, from my perspective, in relation to other Moore Bond films, it's boring from an entertainment persective relative to these other entries, irrespective of its critical quality (which I can debate separately).
  • edited November 2014 Posts: 4,532
    bondjames wrote: »
    I think the original poster is asking whether it's "boring" in relation to other Bond films.

    To clarify, from my perspective, in relation to other Moore Bond films, it's boring from an entertainment persective relative to these other entries, irrespective of its critical quality (which I can debate separately).

    That solely depends on your definition of the word "entertainment". Many would list action and suspense as the most important entertainment factors in Bond, and I can't see how FYEO could be lacking in that regard. If humor is the main criteria, well... even there it comes off pretty good in comparison to other Bond films.
  • HASEROTHASEROT has returned like the tedious inevitability of an unloved season---
    Posts: 4,328
    no... it's got plenty of entertainment throughout the whole film..

    the PTS helicopter bit

    the car chase

    the ski-chase

    the mountain climb during the climax of the film

    all that coupled with an outstanding Bill Conti score make for a fine fine entry - and not boring at all - even compared to the other Bond movies..

    i've gone on before about Glen's visual palette and how drab and generic it seems, but it doesn't hold this film back - even if some scenes look like they were shot for a day time soap opera, and not film..
  • bondjamesbondjames You were expecting someone else?
    edited November 2014 Posts: 23,883
    jobo wrote: »
    bondjames wrote: »
    I think the original poster is asking whether it's "boring" in relation to other Bond films.

    To clarify, from my perspective, in relation to other Moore Bond films, it's boring from an entertainment persective relative to these other entries, irrespective of its critical quality (which I can debate separately).

    That solely depends on your definition of the word "entertainment". Many would list action and suspense as the most important entertainment factors in Bond, and I can't see how FYEO could be lacking in that regard. If humor is the main criteria, well, even there it comes off pretty good in comparison to other Bond films.

    I'm referring mainly to the villains and the action.

    I agree that in some parts the action is pretty good (the ski sequence is brilliant). I found other parts quite tedious though when I watched it recently. Particularly the mountaintop finale (an important part of a Bond film IMO) and the underwater threat bit with Melina (not the shark bait bit but the other part). Even the breakinto Loque's lair with Columbo's team was a bit dull. I was cringing when watching the hockey sequence. I think John Glen was getting his feet wet maybe. He was so much better with the action stuff in LALD, LTK & OP.

    In terms of realistic villains, I think CR, LTK & QoS did it much better (i.e. the entertainment value of the villains was still there to some extent, combined with the realism).

    To each their own I guess. I still think it's a very good Bond film and rank it quite high overall among Moore's entries, but not on relative entertainment quality, on other levels.
  • Posts: 10,863
    Agree with all those who enjoy it, Moore's best performance as 007.
  • SandySandy Somewhere in Europe
    Posts: 4,012
    FYEO is amazing, the finest of Moore's entries. It also has some very exciting action sequences. The only bad things about it is the "Blofeld" at the start (although I must confess I quite like the delicatessen line) and the Thatcher scene at the end.
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CAModerator
    edited November 2014 Posts: 28,739
    FYEO definitely has some boring stretches (and I don't mean lack of action, several of the action scenes are the most tedious in the film), but I would say that they are more than counter-balanced by the shoot out at the warehouse, the dragging over the corral and the mountain climbing bit, as well as some scenes that showcase some good acting and character interplay. There are many thrilling small moments for Bond fans, as well, such as Bond at Tracey's grave and nods to Fleming's books.

    After my most recent Bond-A-Thon I am unreservedly putting TLD up as the most boring Bond film. Not the worst in the series, but the one that has the longest chunks that I would just like to skip over.
  • Posts: 11,337
    Not the most boring but not quite as good as I remembered it either. Bibi is up there for most annoying character in the entire series though.
  • MayDayDiVicenzoMayDayDiVicenzo Here and there
    Posts: 5,039
    Birdleson wrote: »
    After my most recent Bond-A-Thon I am unreservedly putting TLD up as the most boring Bond film.

    Yes, I would agree with this.
  • edited November 2014 Posts: 2,761
    We're all entitled to our opinions. I just happen to disagree with the premise of this thread. FYEO is one of my favorites among Moore's offerings as Bond...but then, I am not a fan of his many "over the top" moments, and quite appreciated the attempt at scaling back the series after the outrageousness of MR. Perhaps FYEO was a disappointment to the children that enjoyed Jaws, but I never really thought of the Bond series as being child's fare anyway.

  • bondjamesbondjames You were expecting someone else?
    Posts: 23,883
    Birdleson wrote: »
    After my most recent Bond-A-Thon I am unreservedly putting TLD up as the most boring Bond film. Not the worst in the series, but the one that has the longest chunks that I would just like to skip over.

    This is surprising. I've always ranked that movie quite high, and remember it quite fondly apart from the lackluster Afghani parts & the finale. I haven't watched it for some time though so will take it in before Christmas and report back on whether my view has changed.
  • MayDayDiVicenzoMayDayDiVicenzo Here and there
    Posts: 5,039
    Don't get me wrong, I love TLD (top ten stuff), but I have to admit that there are some dull stretches in the middle.
  • MurdockMurdock Mr. 2000
    edited November 2014 Posts: 15,925
    DAF, GF and TMWTGG are Boring to me.
  • SuperheroSithSuperheroSith SE London
    Posts: 578
    I never seem to be bored during a Bond film. I don't know why that is.
  • DarthDimiDarthDimi Behind you!Moderator
    Posts: 17,604
    DAF boring? DAF is one of the most amusing films ever made. ;-) I will admit that it took even me a long time to spot the good stuff in a film so flawed but hey, it's high on my list of favourites now. :) The cocktail of comeback-Connery, jazz-Barry, Vegas, Adam's marvellous penthouse and a few other things, swallows down like liquid candy. Is it a 'good' Bond film in the more traditional sense of FRWL, OHMSS, ...? Of course not. DAF is OTT silliness in drag. But it's soooo much fun, just typing these few sentences about it makes me want to watch the film instantaneously.
  • MajorDSmytheMajorDSmythe "Better cold with them on, than dead with them off, I always say."Moderator
    Posts: 11,138
    I used to think it was boring, but over the last few viewings, i've grown to enjoy For Your Eyes Only, and appreciate its attempts to nudge the series back into the realms of the spy thriller.

    And DAF isn't boring, it's just plain awful. The wort offender is Connery, whom is not only sleepwalking through the film, but clearly out of shape for Bond.
  • Goldfinger I find quite a dull film, simply because very little happens IMO
  • chrisisallchrisisall Brosnan Defender Of The Realm
    Posts: 15,989
    Of all the criticisms I can level at Bond movies, 'boring' is not one of them. Even my absolute least favourites are not boring to me. Well, parts of NSNA are, but that's not EON.
  • MooseWithFleasMooseWithFleas Philadelphia
    Posts: 3,013
    well said @chrisisall

    I don't find any of the Bond's boring. NSNA and CR '67 would be the two, and for the obvious reason as you stated of it being non-EON.

    I do think the worst crime you can commit when making a Bond film is being 'forgettable'. While FYEO is not boring for me and I do quite enjoy bits, if I had to put a label of forgettable on a Bond film, this would be one of them along with QoS. They both have exciting and well executed elements, but trying to recall the films is more difficult than others for me.
  • Posts: 11,169
    For me DAF is a strong contender for "most boring Bond film"

    I like FYEO.
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