You Only Live Twice (1967)
"You Only Live Twice" marks the shift of the Bond franchise from remarkably and effortlessly fun/goofy to just plain stupid and offensive. Not all of the movie hits you like a brick, but for some parts you find yourself asking why? Why to so many things: the racist moments, the sexist comments that are in no way disguised behind clever dialogue or even revealing clothing, and the lack of plot...why?
"You Only Live Twice" is trying to relive the glory days of "Dr. No" by essentially recycling the plot of the first two movies.
The movie's opening reveals a territory that the Bond movies have yet to conquer: space. An American space capsule is sitting calmly in the void when a larger vessel comes upon it, opens its metal mouth, and devours the lesser craft with ease...then this spacecraft disappears.
Cut to Bond who gets shut up in a bed, shot full of holes, and pronounced dead.
Cue the main titles. Nancy Sinatra sings the title song here, which is a shame because coming from Tom Jones belting out "Thunderball", her song just seems like elevator music.
When we get dropped back in on the story the United States and Russia are literally about to declare war on each other...just on principle. The US thinks that Russia captured their capsule with the sole aim to control space from military purposes. Russia firmly denies any involvement. But just when things seem to get too heated, the level headed UK steps in to save the day. Patronizingly arrogant, the UK points out that there is no direct evidence that Russia was involved in the commandeering of the vessel. A more logical outcome is that the vessel lies now in Japan...for whatever reason.
War narrowly averted, we are dropped back in as Bond returns from his death to continue teaching bad guysh a leshon. Connery is back in full force as he travels off to Japan to try to find out where the space craft is and who is responsible for its disappearance.
In Japan is a large number of bad decisions, including but not limited to, ninjas, nuclear war threats, the unveiling of Number One, and the Japan-ization of James Bond.
The directing changes hands one more from Terence Young (sad to see him go) to Lewis Gilbert who starts incredibly strong, falling down in the last scenes.
While "You Only Live Twice" promotes the idea of conquering new territories, at least as far as the series goes, it somehow devolves, feeling all shades of formulaic.
In "Dr. No", we were introduced to the car chase, in "From Russia with Love" it was a stupendous water boat chase, in "Goldfinger" Bond gets his Aston-Martin, and in "Thunderball" we get all the underwater scenes. In "You Only Live Twice" we get space and we get a pretty good helicopter assault which delivers as mindless entertainment perfectly. Still we get leftover thoughts that are exaggerated. Bond is in low form here and can barely walk out of building without repeatedly getting saved by the main girl from the film, Kissy (Mie Hama).
Again the idea, introduced in "Goldfinger" that women will eventually get wooed by Bond with a lot of forced kissing is present here again...though it is tamed. Replaced the implied sexual violence is spoken sentences about how men are better than women. The way it fills the screen time and Bond's reaction to the statements prove him to be less of a man—someone should have thought this through a little better.
For the past four movies, I've found the gratuitousness of the movies forgivable...not so, for this movie. I don't know exactly what it was that turned me off of it. It could be the way the film tried too hard to present a different culture, it could be the changing style of the movie, or it could be the fact that there was no real threat. The villain was comical and brought my mind back to Mike Myers, who directly parodied this bad guy in his Austin Powers movies.
Still, this movie isn't a total disaster. It works on a number of levels. The new gadgets are fun to see and some of the action sequences are fairly seamless.
Yet for most of the movie, the plot kind of drags. I've found that the last twenty minutes of Bond movies are really entertaining...here they felt monotonous.
Thish franchishe needsh to move thinghs along quicker nexsht time.
Posted by Micah Jones