Why Diamonds Are Forever Is One of the Worst Bond Movies - VRGyani News and Media

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Friday, August 6, 2021

Why Diamonds Are Forever Is One of the Worst Bond Movies

In the Internet age, movie fans have more opportunity than ever to voice their grievances. While many highly anticipated films generate “fan backlash,” some franchises completely changed directions after an outcry of outspoken fan complaints. Accommodating them is often a detriment to the narrative direction. A film as bold and inventive as The Last Jedi received a safe, dull follow up in The Rise of Skywalker after a vocal group of fans bombarded Lucasfilm with criticism. However, angry fans causing a franchise to course correct didn’t only just emerge thanks to social media.

1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was the first EON-produced James Bond film that didn’t star Sean Connery, with Australian actor George Lazenby stepping into the role of 007. The lead actor swap wasn’t the only thing that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service changed up from the standard formula. Compared to the cheeky, action-packed style of the early films, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was a contemplative, tragic romance that presented a more conflicted protagonist. The personal tragedy Bond suffers during the film’s closing scene was the first time Bond truly felt like a human being, and not just the epitome of male fantasy that Connery had embodied.

The vulnerable depiction didn’t go over well with many viewers who’d grown accustomed to the charisma of Connery. Critics didn’t like seeing their favorite super spy grounded in reality, and criticized Lazenby’s performance; Gene Siskel even remarked that Lazenby was “less of a man.” Although Lazenby had publicly stated that he didn’t intend to continue with the role, Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli realized that he needed to reverse the entire tone of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Fans just wanted more of the same, and the next Bond film Diamonds Are Forever saw Connery return to do just that.

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The return to formula resulted in one of the dullest installments in the series, and fifty years after its release Diamonds Are Forever is still a jarring example of a franchise running scared. It was back-to-basics Bond, who once again is called in to prevent SPECTRE from launching a nuclear weapon and faces off against his frequent nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld. The action sequences are frequent and without any real stakes (Bond even drives a moon rover at one point), and of course the intimate romance of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was dropped in favor of letting Connery seduce multiple younger women.

The threat of nuclear warheads gone missing had real stakes in the fourth Connery film Thunderball, as Bond had never previously been on a mission where the entire planet was at stake. The Bond series had slowly heightened the scale of the threat with each Connery film, and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service chose to scale back and isolate Bond’s adventure to one icy fortress. By immediately launching back into a space-bound laser weapon, Diamonds Are Forever shattered any sense of danger.

Diamonds Are Forever doesn’t even work to emulate what made the early Connery films good. Each film prior had introduced a new environment and developed setpieces specific to that location; in Dr. No it was an island, in From Russia With Love it was a train, in Goldfinger it was a gold depository, and in Thunderball it was a naval cruiser. Diamonds Are Forever doesn’t do anything distinguishable with its Las Vegas setting; the casino-hotel and SPECTRE submarine aren’t any different from the card games and evil lairs the series had seen before. In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service the polar setting introduced new iconography (Bond goes on a ski chase!), but in Diamonds Are Forever all you can say is that it's a Bond film set in Vegas.

Bringing back Connery also disrupted the narrative progression of the series. His first five films aren’t as serialized as the Daniel Craig films, but they slowly hinted at the rise of SPECTRE and culminated in a showdown in You Only Live Twice. It was a natural way for Connery to exit; Bond’s primary nemesis had been eliminated, and a new story could develop moving forward with a fresh actor in the role. It trivialized the effectiveness of the closing chapter; imagine if Hugh Jackman had followed Logan with a cheap cameo in Dark Phoenix.

Connery’s return to the series isn’t addressed as a plot point, and while it's not a necessity for Bond films to bridge the gap between installments, it's helpful to address the continuity in a film that relies so heavily on nostalgia for the earlier films. Lazenby famously remarks “this never happened to the other fella!” in the opening of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. When Pierce Brosnan took over the role in Goldeneye after the series had been on a six year hiatus, M refers to him as a “relic of the Cold War” and very clearly establishes a new continuity moving forward. Diamonds Are Forever simply steps into a new adventure without acknowledging that the franchise had changed.

Lazily letting Connery slide into the role feels more glaring because Diamonds Are Forever doesn’t have a new take. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was exciting because Bond was in real danger, questioning his duty and considering leaving MI6 in order to settle down; conversely, when Roger Moore stepped into the role with Live and Let Die, the wackier elements were refreshing and allowed Moore to develop a unique interpretation. Connery would actually return to the role one final time in 1983 for the non-EON production Never Say Never Again, and while it’s a flawed film, it highlights Bond’s advanced age and the challenges of trying to replicate his earlier days. In comparison, the cheekiness of Bond distracting the main villain by getting him to monologue feels closer to what Austin Powers would go on to parody.

By supposedly “giving the audience what they want,” Diamonds Are Forever is wholly unmemorable. There are certainly bad Bond movies, but Diamonds are Forever doesn’t contain anything as embarrassing as the zero-gravity lunar seduction in Moonraker, Christopher Walken’s ejector blimp in A View to a Kill, or the bizarre invisible car from Die Another Day. The only thing that Diamonds Are Forever is really remembered for is its introduction of the only gay characters in the series, the villainous henchmen Wint and Kidd who are exaggeratedly flamboyant. On retrospection, their caricature-esque depiction is fairly offensive, and an example of the series showing its age in a way that’s not fun.

While Diamonds Are Forever outgrossed its predecessor and seemed to appease vocal critics, it's the truly inventive Bond films that leave a lasting legacy. Filmmakers including Steven Soderbergh and Christopher Nolan have cited On Her Majesty’s Secret Service as an influence on their work, and Diamonds Are Forever tends to fall towards the bottom of franchise rankings. Unfortunately foreshadowing much of today’s discourse regarding fan entitlement, the “playing it safe” of Diamonds Are Forever showed how damaging catering to detractors can be.

KEEP READING: How to Watch the James Bond Movies in Order (Chronologically and by Release Date)



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