Thunderball ★★½

AKA the one that's like 80% underwater scenes

Making my way through the Bond films at a very slow pace (I've seen all the modern ones from the '90s on upon their release dates, and a couple of the older ones I watched as a kid, but last year I started with first-time viewings of "Dr. No", then "From Russia with Love" and am progressing onward to fill in the gaps), I'm relieved to be more in-the-know about what each film is all about, but I'm not getting much nourishment out of the exercise otherwise. Bond has just never been that appealing to me; my fondness for action films goes back to my earliest days, and I love me some unpretentious big-budget entertainment, but even considering how outlandish and cartoony Bond movies can get, they always end up dragging me along like dry, procedural formalities. They look great with their exotic locales and variety of exciting set pieces, but you could say the same thing about pirate movies, and those are also strangely, unbearably boring time and again.

I've thawed out a bit in later years - I'm the one guy who liked "Die Another Day", and I've had a good time with all of Daniel Craig's adventures so far, though I definitely wouldn't call "Skyfall" a great film like so many have. But so far in my chronological tour, I've had mixed, 2.5-star reactions to both "Dr. No" and the acclaimed "From Russia with Love". There's neat things about them, but they're so long and predictable and a bit starchy. "Goldfinger" was good, clearly an improvement on the first two, but it didn't really blow me away either and isn't it supposed to the best one of all?

"Thunderball" falls back in line with the other ones, registering as slightly better than average but not altogether good. I had a hard time forcing myself to stay seated and paying attention during all the arbitrary plotting. The villains don't even try to be colorful. Bond does what he always does, no surprises there. This might be Connery at his apex of handsomeness, in 1965, so that's something if you're into it. The girls are cute. Q and Felix and M and Moneypenny are all there, how about that. I found it mildly intriguing that Blofeld was merely hinted at, shown from the waist down stroking that cat like Dr. Claw. They tease him like Marvel has done with Thanos in "The Avengers" and "Guardians", 50 years earlier. I used to think the old Bond movies were total stand-alones, that "Quantum of Solace" was the first time they carried a storyline over into the next one, but there's a fair helping of continuity coursing through each of these Connery episodes.

There's also a reliance on fast motion, which I'm not sure how to feel about - it points out how feeble the shots would have been on their own, like I guess neither the director could capture livelier footage nor could the editor cut together a more kinetic package, so they went with Benny Hill mania. On the other hand, at least they were trying SOMETHING to make the movie snap s'more. Effort acknowledged, fellas. I might have preferred watching the entire movie in fast motion, actually. Oh wait that's basically Michael Bay, isn't it? I take that back.

Kinda impressive was the underwater scuba battle royale at the end -it's not that fun to watch per se, but I don't think I've ever seen so many people swimming around fighting in a movie before. There's a dozen or so good guys and bad guys down there beating each other up. It's a unique sight.

On the opposite end, I can't believe that early scene where Bond straps himself into a massage table/exercise machine thing for some relaxation, then inevitably gets in danger when someone turns the machine up too high and he starts jerking around like crazy. Bond sees the guy do it and yells "hey, come back here", then when it gets out of control, starts screaming "help! hey! help me!" like, forgive me for saying so, a little bitch. If this were a Roger Moore or even Pierce Brosnan outing, I wouldn't think twice about this, since they both projected some vulnerability (or maybe it was just their lighter senses of humor), but can you imagine Daniel Craig getting stuck in a jam and yelping "help me!" over and over? No way. And I wouldn't expect it from Connery either, since he presents himself so unflappably. But man he's such a wimp in this moment, it made me laugh. Are you a spy or a damsel in distress? And he doesn't even escape using his spy training and survival skills - he basically passes out and is rescued by a woman who works there. Maybe that's a theme here - there are a couple times, including at the very end (spoilers) when a lady lends him a hand or straight out saves the day. Is this the covertly feminist Bond movie? Not really, he still treats them all like disposable conquests.

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