Octopussy (1983)


Untitled-1Octopussy is a confusing movie. It is cut into two separate stories and then tries to make itself believe that they are interconnected, when really, they are not. It also tries to trick us into thinking it has a natural flow of events, and that its characters and action scenes are worth something, but really, they are not. It also does its best to make Roger Moore appear much younger than he actually is (he was 55 at the time of shooting). Again, it does not.

What does it manage to do then? Not very much, I must say. It is a very grounded movie, in that many things happen for a reason, but the reasons are usually nonsensical and outrageous. For instance, Kamal, the villain, orders his right hand man to climb out onto their plane’s body in mid-air. It’s a ridiculous order, isn’t it? Don’t worry, his reason behind it is even more ridiculous: Bond is holding on to the plane for dear life. How did he get there? Well, earlier, he chases after the plane on horseback, then leaps from the horse onto the plane’s tail, and then the plane takes off, with Bond still on it. Needless to say, Bond and the henchman fight it out on the plane, some hundreds of miles up, going at speeds that should brush them off like flies.

And that’s just one example. Octopussy is loaded with horrendous fight scenes, all of which seem to be happening in another time and in another dimension. What do I mean by this? When Bond is being chased by a gazillion men through the jungles of India, both on elephantback as well as on foot, it doesn’t take him much effort to evade capture. All he has to do is hide behind a tree, or lie flat on the ground, and no one can see him. No one. Out of a gazillion. The men are either blind, or Bond’s camouflage is superb. Or he’s just running around in a different dimension.

Like I said, the plot is confused. On the one hand, a mad Soviet general wants to start a war and dominate the world. On the other, fake jewelry is being smuggled and distributed by an all-female crime syndicate, headed by Octopussy (Maud Adams), so named because that’s what her father used to call her. She also runs a traveling circus as a way to conceal her shipments. Somehow, and in some way, all these parts are trying to work together. The Soviet general, Orlov (Steven Berkoff), is in cahoots with Octopussy and her right hand man, Prince Kamal (Louis Jourdan). Orlov wants to use the circus to transport a bomb, and Kamal wants to use Orlov to make money. I think. Nothing is ever clearly defined. Then, throw Bond into the mix and you’ve got yourself a party, where no one knows anybody but pretends to.

The Bond movies have fallen back on routine again. By now, they have become part of a production line; listing their trademarks and structure is like counting from one to two. There’s the opening pre-credit sequence, which is usually unrelated to the rest of the movie. Then it’s the nipple-heavy credit sequence, which is fast becoming dreary and out of date. Next, the villain does something that alerts MI6 (usually this involves stealing a submarine, or something like it). Bond is called in by M, and he always knows vital information about the task at hand (the Faberge eggs, the ATAC device, etc). He is sent off to do some recon, where he will stumble upon a hot woman who may or may not want to kill him. Of course, she will sleep with him first. Then he will meet the villain, and the villain will want him dead. After surviving a series of car chases and hand-to-hand fights, he will rendezvous with Q in some hidden laboratory that’s always filled with geeks in lab coats looking busy, developing gadgets that are so task-specific they can’t exist anywhere else. Gadgets and lady in hand, Bond will devise a plan to overthrow the bad guy and come out on top (pun intended).

See how easy that is? That is the formula that every Bond movie since Goldfinger has adopted. The frame is the same; the parts are moving. The sad thing is: The parts are insignificant. I suppose watching the movies at the time of their release (every one, two, or however many years) would have made a difference, but watching them almost back to back — as I am doing — really outlines their lack of originality. They have become boring, repetitive, and senile. They forget that they are duplicates. Doesn’t matter. One more to go before Dalton takes over. And then I hope something new comes around.

Best Moment | Nope.

Worst Moment | Many of the fight scenes are laughable (especially the one where Octopussy’s circus troupe storms the palace). But Bond sneaking up on Octopussy’s palace in a fake crocodile, and him swinging from vines — complete with Tarzan howl — have to be among the worst moments of the franchise. Oh yes, him dressed up as a clown is pretty bad too.


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