IT'S THE ONE WHERE
Once again James Bond is called into action when the world is threatened by the evil geniuses from SPECTRE. This time the organisation has acquired two nuclear bombs and issued an ultimatum to NATO: Pay £100 million, or else... Muhahahah (I added the last part).
Bond heads to the Bahamas following a hunch, and inadvertently stumbles over the whole plot. In the pre-credit sequence Bond uses a jet pack to escape, and there's a whole lot of underwater shenanigans along the way. Of course Bond flirts with Moneypenny, the secretary, he nails every broad with a pulse, including his physiotherapist, innocent, scuba diving, island girl Domino, and evil henchwoman Fiona Volpe. Though, he takes no pleasure in that last one, he'll have you know.
THE SECRET PLOT TO RULE THE WORLD AWARD GOES TO...
SPECTRE agent Emilio Largo aka. No. 2, who's in charge of the whole operation. He's assisted by a hot redhead with giant breasts, a guy who has undergone plastic surgery to replace an important NATO person, and a bunch of more or less capable henchmen.
Even from the opening sequence it's obvious that somebody turned up the volume on the James Bond universe. If nothing else, this film moves at a brisk pace, and it's certainly never boring, but it's not too coherent either.
The story sounds simple, "Bond must find stolen nukes", but for some reason Thunderball is kind of a mess. There's too much running around aimlessly, checking up on hunches. The story is too elaborate and very disjointed, many things are kept secret, either from us, or the characters. And speaking of characters, there are also too many and they are often badly introduced.
I must once again direct your attention to Austin Powers. In those films there's a character called Basil Exposition. Guess what he does... That's right, he provides exposition. He pops up every now and then with new information for our hero, while reminding us what the next course of action should be. We kind of need that in Thunderball. Here's why that doesn't happen: OUR HERO HAS NO CLUE WHAT'S GOING ON! Bond follows all the right clues - we know this, because WE know what's going on - but he's got NO idea what he doing! He just follows his hunches and relies on blind luck once again, as he stumbles over one important piece of information after another. Even 1,5 hours into the film, he still doesn't know what's going on! Bond needs a clear mission - a specific goal. Let's be honest, he's not the guy you send out to do some subtle "checking up on things". You send him out when you want someone killed or screwed. That's what he does.
And apropos that... Yeah, I get it, Bond is a nice looking man, but he's not THAT nice looking, and when he opens his mouth he's often a bit of a douche. So why would women drop their pants at the first sight of him? Especially considering how unpleasantly he often behaves. This time he blackmails a women to have sex with him, so she can keep her job, and he jumps on the nasty evil henchwoman without flinching, moments after discovering a close friend has been killed. You could argue that Bond's womanizing ways are merely a product of their time, but unless women didn't develop self-respect before the '70s, I don't buy it at all.
At least the film does alright for itself in terms of action sequences. There's a lot of underwater stuff, and the centerpiece of the plot - stealing the nukes underwater - is quite well done. There's also a big underwater action showdown towards the end - a fight between two teams of scuba divers. If you know how difficult underwater shooting is, you can appreciate it for that fact, but honestly it's quite impossible to tell what's going on. Some orange guys are fighting some black guys, or something, but it looks really good!
Alright, I'm about ready for some serious bad guys now, because this whole SPECTRE thing is not working for me. An evil leader, who calls everybody by a number, and has a button so he can easily get rid of incompetent henchmen, while stroking a cat...? That's Austin Powers bad guy Doctor Evil! You can't go back from that. I know Austin Powers came 30 years AFTER this film, but that series has retroactively destroyed any chance that this James Bond villain could ever be taken seriously.
Before we wrap this up, let's check how Bond embarrasses himself this time around. Well, in this movie Bond is almost killed by a massage machine that looks like some kind of ancient self-pleasuring device. Rather unflattering. You know, between Bond's incompetence and his womanizing, I'm starting to root for the bad guys. That can't be good.