Oh dear. I used to love this movie growing up. I used to think it was one of my favorites. Boy, does it not hold up! I couldn’t believe how cheesy this one was. Not that there aren’t quite a few things I still love about it, but overall? This is the first Bond that feels quite dated. All the space stuff just looks... well, not good. I’m usually quite okay with outdated and cheesy special effects. I tend to think of the intent, not how it was actually filmed. But this time... I couldn’t escape the bad space effects. Or the fact that when Blofeld’s base blows up it somehow causes the volcano that housed it to erupt. Spare me.
Besides that, I found I have a lot of issues with this one, the primary issue being the lack of a good bad guy. Oh, I love Blofeld in general, but he doesn’t do anything in this movie. He sits around, he gives orders, he escapes... There’s just no meat there. Too bad because I’m quite fond of Donald Pleasance, but the script does him no favors. And the rest of the bad guys are either anonymous assassins, or Osato, who is so not threatening and isn’t funny, either. And none of them can get the job done. Helga is a Fiona wannabe who lacks Fiona’s cold efficiency. I personally wouldn’t trust Helga to get anything done. Blofeld seems to think the same thing, as he sends her to her death in a pool full of piranha. This film’s plot runs a bit amuck with a series of chases that don’t really do anything to advance the plot. They're there more as cool, look-what-we-can-do moments, rather than doing anything to move the plot forward. The plot about stealing American and Russian manned spacecrafts to start a war between them doesn't particularly grab me.
Things I do like. Tanaka and Aki. I love both characters immensely. I love Tanaka’s private train, the ninja training camp, how they deal with cars full of bad guys chasing the good guys, etc. I love the Japanese setting in general.
And I love the gigantic volcano crater set. Holy smoke that set is huge. And very cool. In the beginning, when Blofeld’s spaceship captures the first space capsule, bad effects or not, it has always freaked me out how the astronaut floating around outside dies when his air hose is cut. Gads.
Favorite parts: Bond running along the roof by the docks, fighting off bad guys, while the camera pulls way back to circle and show the whole scene. That’s one of my favorite moments out of all of the James Bond movies put together. Little Nellie. Bond getting dumped down the floor slide by Aki. The pre-credits scene where Bond is “killed.” A submarine!
Theme song: one of my favorites
Credit sequence: okay. I had forgotten about the hot lava/volcano background. Kind of cool.
Bond girl: I adore Aki. Her death really hurts. Kissy never makes much impression on me, other than the fact that Bond trusts her to get from the volcano base back to Tanaka – swimming a pretty large distance to do so. Go Kissy!
Bad guys: Meh. Blofeld doesn’t have enough to do, the rest are lacking in menace or serious threat
Overall personal rating: 3 out of 5 stars (which is higher than it deserves. I'm giving it an extra point for sentimental value and the fact John Barry's score is so fantastic. A good score always elevates even a bad movie)