Published Oct 30, 2012Octopussy, the provocatively titled thirteenth addition to the Bond franchise is a bit of a miscalculated contradiction of sorts, having the serious tone of early Connery 007 missions mixed with oafish tongue-in-cheek humour and puerile crudeness. The result is a bit of a mess, even though the pre-credit action sequence where a plane flies out of the back of a horse trailer showed some playful, grandiose promise.
In premise, the standard Cold War, world domination conspiracy grounded this effort in familiar territory, featuring Bond trailing a jewel smuggling ring, which starts with the theft of a Faberge egg in India and leads to an East German circus where a Soviet General is planning a nuclear attack on NATO. In between this broad plot is the titular Octopussy (Maud Adams, who was previously killed in The Man with the Golden Gun), a woman that leads a cult of conveniently attractive girls that aid in smuggling jewels as well as a circus troupe.
Despite grossing more than the non-Eon produced Bond film, Never Say Never Again, which came out later the same year and featured Sean Connery, Octopussy is considered by most to be the inferior film. In part, this has to do with a floundering plot that holds little interest in itself, but the bigger issue is that of tone and execution.
Even though this spy thriller focused on traditional elements of the franchise—hand-to-hand combat and utilizing wits more so than gadgetry—there are far too many camp references pulling the audience away from the conflict. Early on, the Bond theme is played by Vijay to signify MI6 alliance, breaking the fourth wall, which sadly proves to be a lesser offense than having Roger Moore swing around like Tarzan and dress up like a clown.
Still, the train climbing stunt sequence impressed, as did the propulsive editing and composition through some of the action sequences, which is, in part, why audiences gravitate to the Bond films in the first place. While certainly not a shining example of the series, it isn't complete tripe.
Octopussy screens as part of the Shaken, not Stirred: Bond on Film retrospective at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Screening initially at 3pm on November 10th, 2012, it will return to the Lightbox in December for additional big screen viewing opportunities. (MGM)