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Never Say Never Again(1983)
Sean Connery is back for his final performance as superagent James Bond in this high-velocity action thriller from the director of The Empire Strikes Back. When two atomic warheads are hijacked by the evil SPECTRE organization, Agent 007 is hurled into an explosive, pulse-pounding race to save the world from nuclear terrorists!
For more about Never Say Never Again and the Never Say Never Again Blu-ray release, see Never Say Never Again Blu-ray Review published by Ben Williams on March 24, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Irvin Kershner
Writer: Lorenzo Semple, Jr.
Starring: Sean Connery, Kim Basinger, Max von Sydow, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Barbara Carrera, Bernie Casey
» See full cast & crew
Never Say Never Again Blu-ray Review
Bond? James Bond?
Reviewed by Ben Williams, March 24, 2009
Upon casual inspection, the James Bond films have an indelible link to the Broccoli family and EON productions; one could easily surmise that the legendary family of producers invented the idea of bringing Bond to the silver screen. With a bit more scrutiny, though, history tells a slightly different story. Way back in 1958, Bond author Ian Fleming was in a rut; his repeated attempts to sell his Bond stories as films were met with ambivalence from producers, leaving him convinced that his stories would never make their way to the silver screen. Enter Kevin McClory, a successful filmmaker, screenwriter and a visionary, who brought Fleming a host of new ideas and materials for his Bond character. McClory, working with fellow writer Jack Whittingham, created the concept of SPECTRE and the Blofeld character, while transforming Bond into more of a hero for all mankind, rather than a meager field agent.
As the two men completed their original script, entitled Thunderball, Fleming secretly sent his publishers a copy and was immediately asked to re-write the script as a new Bond novel. When the novel appeared some months later, McClory and Whittingham immediately brought suit against Fleming and were ultimately awarded the rights to all versions of Thunderball, including the novel. McClory and Whittingham licensed their rights to EON productions in 1963, allowing their story to be used for the film version of Thunderball, but retained the material's ownership. Throughout the sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties, McClory waged a series of legal battles with United Artists and their eventual owners, MGM, over their rights to make an independent Bond film; one that fell outside the EON Productions banner and United Artists' control. McClory was finally successful in 1983, when Never Say Never Again, a remake of Thunderball featuring the original Bond, himself, Sean Connery, arrived in theaters to the great dismay of the Broccoli family and MGM. McClory still holds the rights to the Thunderball story to this day, promising that the world will see yet another version of his original idea on the silver screen.
I can't think of any other examples of a remake, filmed twenty years after the original, where the original star returned to play the same role. That's the case in Never Say Never Again, as Connery made his first appearance as James Bond in 12 years for the film. The film's title is an inside joke referencing Connery's own words on the subject; he'd vowed to never play James Bond again. Those familiar with the plot of Thunderball will, doubtlessly, recognize the plot of Never Say Never Again; the two films are based on the same general story and feature most of the same characters and plot points. Bond enthusiasts will recognize several characters and locations going by different names as well, due to copyright issues. Algernon (Alec McCowen) is actually fan-favorite "Q", while a yacht that factors into the film's action is referred to as "The Flying Saucer;" the English translation of the ship known as "Disco Volante" in Thunderball.
Never Say Never Again begins with Bond unsuccessfully taking part in a series of simulated missions for MI6. There's a new "M" (Edward Fox) in town who isn't fond of the "00" branch; he's relegated Bond to assignments as an instructor and has all but disbanded the "00" forces. Bond isn't getting any younger at this point, so he's ordered to clean up his act and to get into better shape by checking into a health spa. There, Bond accidentally uncovers a plot put in motion by SPECTRE, and the organization's ruthless leader Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Max Von Sydow), to steal several nuclear warheads, threaten the world and collect a giant ransom. When the warheads go missing, MI6 panics, reactivates Bond and sends him on a mission to the Caribbean to work his double-0 magic on the situation. Once in the Bahamas, Bond encounters Maximilian Largo (Klaus Maria Brandauer), an agent of SPECTRE who lives on a giant high-tech yacht. Bond will re-team with his old pal, CIA Agent Felix Leiter (Bernie Casey), and Largo's girlfriend Domino (Kim Basinger) to put a stop to their nefarious plans.
For some reason, Never Say Never Again is almost always labeled as an inferior Bond picture. That couldn't be further from the truth; the film does a lot of things right, while being forgivable in what it does wrong. When the film was released in 1983, audiences had been exposed to over a decade of Roger Moore Bond films that were becoming more and more campy and further removed from the origins of the character. Sean Connery's surprising decision to step back into the role was a welcome respite from Moore's take on the character. Connery is clearly enjoying himself in the film, showing his enthusiasm in just about every scene with a wry smile, a spring in his step and the sexist one-liners flowing with ease. His charisma and verve serves as a reminder that this is the man that made the character; Sean Connery is James Bond.
Never Say Never Again features a number of great action sequences, from underwater fights, to motorcycle chases; as well as an unfortunate reliance on some primitive and hokey bluescreen work. Fortunately, the film is so effortless in its direction and story, that none of this is particularly bothersome. Never Say Never Again also benefits from one of the strongest villains in Bond history; Klaus Maria Brandauer turns in a bravura performance as Largo, while managing to stay within the realm of reality and avoiding the megalomaniacal histrionics that often accompany Bond villain performances. He's simply fantastic in the role. Kim Basinger is an acceptable Domino, but comes across as something of a hard sell when compared to Thunderball's Domino, Claudine Auger. Finally, Max Von Sydow is an effectively creepy Blofeld that seems to have a bit more personality than those of the EON Productions films. His addition to the cast, along with that of Mr. Brandauer's, gives Never Say Never Again one of the strongest rosters of villains in the history of the franchise, bar none.
Invariably, the question always arises: Is Never Say Never Again as good as Thunderball? Not really. The story is virtually identical, of course, but Never Say Never Again doesn't have the style of the original. Thunderball was one of the pivotal Bond films and helped to cement many of Bond's signature trademarks. His sense of style, along with his decidedly sexist behavior, was an aspect of Bond's character that has followed him through the decades. It's fresh and almost charming in Thunderball, while already looking dated in Never Say Never Again. Regardless, Never Say Never Again is very entertaining and faithful to Bond as a character. It might not achieve the heights of the Bond films from the sixties, but it sure beats anything from the likes of Roger Moore. Recommended!
Never Say Never Again Blu-ray, Video Quality
Never Say Never Again hasn't ever been given particularly loving treatment on video, in spite of its success at the box office. This Blu-ray release represents the first serious attempt at rectifying this, while still not going far enough to present the film in a manner befitting a Sean Connery Bond film. Presented in 1080p and encoded with AVC Mpeg-4, at the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, Never Say Never Again looks pretty darn good, despite a few glaring issues. The primary problem with the release is print damage; there are a number of scenes where print scratches and dirt become obvious, marring this otherwise excellent presentation. I noticed more issues cropping up during the film's special effects shots, particularly during obvious optical composites. Clearly, Never Say Never Again hasn't been run through the restoration process at Lowry, like EON Productions' films have.
Regardless, the good elements outweigh the bad in Never Say Never Again. Contrast is generally impressive, with rich black levels. Colors are slightly washed-out, but that's probably the nature of the film's early-eighties photography. Detail is moderate, but appropriate given the source material. Grain is slightly inconsistent, with heavier grain appearing in special effects shots where optical printing was used. It's nothing out of the ordinary for a film of the early eighties. Lastly, there aren't any noticeable compression- related issues with Never Say Never Again; the film has been given a high quality encode. While the film doesn't rise to same the video heights as most of the other Bond films, this is still a worthy upgrade from any previous version of the film. Never Say Never Again looks better than ever on Blu-ray. Recommened.
Never Say Never Again Blu-ray, Audio Quality
I was fully expecting Never Say Never Again to be a disappointment in the audio department. Surprisingly, the film has been given a substantial update in its sound mix, thanks to a potent helping of 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio encoding combined with some serious audio remixing. There's a nice since of atmosphere throughout the film that mixes in a number of rear directional effects in action sequences. Dialogue is, for the most part, isolated to the center channel, while the film's somewhat awkward musical score takes root entirely in the front soundstage.
For a movie from the early 1980s, Never Say Never Again will never sound as up-to- date as, say, Quantum of Solace. Not that it necessarily should, for that matter. I was duly impressed with this updated soundtrack's restraint. It would have been easy to remix the track to the point of being ridiculous. Never Say Never Again is recommended.
Never Say Never Again Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Here's what's included:
- Feature Length Audio Commentary with Director Irvin Kershner and James Bond Historian Steven Jay Rubin
- "The Big Gamble"
- "Sean is Back"
- The Girls of Never Say Never Again
- Theatrical Trailer
- Still Photo Gallery
Never Say Never Again isn't exactly loaded with extras, but is notable for the stellar Irvin Kershner & Steven Jay Rubin commentary track. Most film aficionados will recognize Mr. Kersher as the director of The Empire Strikes Back; he's an interesting guy who clearly knows his stuff. Bond historian Steven Jay Rubin adds a welcome historical touch to the commentary and livens up the discussion with bits of trivia and fun facts. "The Big Gamble" is the most worthwhile of the set's three featurettes. It does a fairly decent job of presenting an overview of the legal issues that made the film possible, though die-hard Bond disciples will be left wanting more. Finally, there's a silly theatrical trailer as well as a series of still photos included.
Never Say Never Again Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
While it certainly isn't the best of the Bond films, Never Say Never Again is far from being the worst. In fact, it's a remarkably entertaining diversion in the Bond universe that manages to entertain while showcasing Sean Connery's final take on the legendary spy he helped create. Bond fans will love the film's tongue-in-cheek manner and will get a kick out of seeing a slightly older Connery in an unexpected return to the role that made him famous. This Blu-ray release of Never Say Never Again is clearly the finest presentation of the film that has ever graced home screens, though an unfortunate amount of print damage does detract slightly from the experience. The film's audio presentation is generally impressive, if restrained; supplements are, however, lacking in depth. Ultimately, Never Say Never Again is a strange footnote in cinema history that manages to be genuinely enjoyable, while showcasing a number exceptional performances. Never Say Never Again is recommened.
Never Say Never Again: Other Editions
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Never Say Never Again Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Today on Blu-ray - March 24th - March 24, 2009
While arguably one of the most popular film series in history, some fans felt that the James Bond films had recently drifted too far from the series' explosive beginings under the helm of Sean Connery. But when 'Casino Royale' was released with fast-rising ...
• Never Say Never Again Added to Bond Release List - January 20, 2009
MGM Home Entertainment in conjunction with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment have announced that they will bring 'Never Say Never Again' to Blu-ray on March 24th, day-and-date with the DVD re-release. Technical specs have yet to be announced at this time, but ...
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