Franchise Expansion (Or Implosion): ‘For Your Eyes Only’
by Ben Martin
Franchise Expansion (or Implosion) is a column that looks at franchises that have new installments or releases forthcoming. In looking at a franchise, each entry in a franchise will be given a review and then be examined as part of the bigger franchise. (i.e., Was this sequel a worthy expansion of this franchise or was it an implosion of sorts?)
Very seldom does one character define a subgenre. But that is precisely what James Bond 007 has done with spy/espionage fiction. Since making his film debut in 1962, Bond has appeared in over 20 movies. Moreover, the character has only been portrayed by a mere six actors (officially, anyway). Now that the 25th (official) Bond installment, No Time to Die, is finally slated for release on November 25th, I think now is a better time than any to look back at 007’s dossier. I’ll be examining the James Bond franchise to see how these pictures evolved over the decades with each new leading actor. Today’s mission: For Your Eyes Only (1981)!
The 1980s was an exciting time for film. It was a decade that kept overblown but fun Action and Horror movies at the top of the box-office charts. All the while ushering in the new sub-genres along the way: Action-Comedies, Buddy Cop flicks, Teen Sex Comedies, and Slashers, among a few others, became mainstays during this decade. So how would the James Bond franchise enter into the 80s and adapt them?
For a moment, there was uncertainty regarding Roger Moore continued presence as 007 in this new decade. While the previous entry, Moonraker (1979), was a huge financial success, it was an absolute disaster with critics. This outcome rightfully led EON Productions to the conclusion that in addition to retaining Moore, they needed to once again bring the franchise back to its more severe roots as established by Ian Fleming’s novels. After all, Moonraker had jumped the shark with Jaws (Richard Keel) in-tow. United Artists was also keen to get Bond back on the big screen. The studio desperately needed a hit after the expensive box-office bomb that was Heaven’s Gate (1980). (A bloated but very good Western for those interested.)
To bring some gravitas the franchise, producers Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson (who also served as co-screenwriter), along with series veteran writer Richard Maibaum decided to take a different approach with For Your Eyes Only. As such, it became the first film in the franchise to be based on two of Fleming’s short stories concerning 007 — “Risico” and “For Your Eyes Only” — both of which were published in a collection of Bond short stories entitled For Your Eyes Only: Five Secret Occasions in the Life of James Bond, published in 1960. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) director Peter Hunt was offered the opportunity to return in order to ground the series, as well as provide a bit of closure to that film’s storyline. However, he declined as he was already helming Death Hunt (1981). Thus, EON Productions rewarded On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), and Moonraker editor John Glen by promoting him to director for this entry. More than anyone else involved in the production, it was now Glen’s responsibility to steer this series’ ship back in the right direction.
Of course, excising the silly from this series did not mean that the movie in review would not rely on tropes that its predecessors established. For Your Eyes Only once again finds James Bond 007 (Moore) on a mission involving yet another vessel. This time around, it’s a sunken British Naval ship containing an encrypted communications device dubbed A.T.A.C. This aptly named device would give its respective user the ability to control nuclear submarines! Therefore, Bond must find the A.T.A.C. before it falls into the wrong hands. As if matters weren’t heavy enough for 007, he also gets pulled into tracking down the hitman responsible for the deaths of the parents of his latest love interest, Melina Havelock (Carol Bouquet).
Despite involving a remote-controlled helicopter, the cold opening of this 12th installment lets us know that we’re in for a more serious outing. For Your Eyes Only does this by giving us a tie back to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Ernst Stavro Blofeld. However, he could not be referred to by name due to Kevin McClory winning the lawsuit over Thunderball (1965). I truly appreciated them wrapping-up this plotline (even in a somewhat unofficial capacity) as I’m frankly tired of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. at this point. In any event, this opening pulls me right in and sets the first half of the movie off with a bang.
Choosing Glen to helm this picture was an excellent decision. Along with the rest of the cast and crew, the director crafts a solid, more traditional James Bond adventure full of exciting set pieces. As opposed to the majority of Moore’s entries, For Your Eyes Only does not leech off of the popular sub-genres of the day in a lackluster fashion. Such a movement back in a traditional direction seems to be just what our leading man needs. Moore is back at his best in this flick, bringing full life and enthusiasm to the fore with Bond once again. Beyond that, his chemistry with the captivating Carol Bouquet is tangible. This is doubly impressive considering all of Bouquet’s dialogue is dubbed in every version of the film except its French release.
It’s in the second-half that I run into a wall with this movie. For me, the narrative runs out of steam. Except for the film’s climax, I feel the majority of the third act is terribly paced; running on for an eternity. Even still, despite this molasses-like pace, I find For Your Eyes Only to be a Franchise Expansion for a couple of reasons. It earnestly grounds the series once again, and in doing so, gives Moore a chance to shine in a more serious light. Something that cannot be said of the similar attempt made by The Spy Who Loved Me a few years prior.
For Your Eyes Only is Available on Home Video.
James Bond Will Return For Another Installment of Franchise Expansion or Implosion with Octopussy (1983)!
007’s Newest Mission, No Time to Die, Will Be in Theaters on November 25th!
Read About Bond’s Past Franchise Endeavors-
From Russia with Love:
You Only Live Twice:
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service:
Diamonds Are Forever:
Live and Let Die:
The Man with The Golden Gun:
The Spy Who Loved Me: