[Losing My Virginity articles are reviews written by someone who still hasn’t seen an incredibly popular movie after all these years. LMV reviews are interesting in that they can offer the perspective of a person who’s untainted by the cloud of commonness that surrounded a famous film of the past, and also show how well it has stood the test of time.]
I have never seen a James Bond movie before now. Well, completely anyway. I’ve seen bits and pieces of Dr. No,I know of Goldeneye because of that too-cool-for-school Nintendo 64 game, and I know that James Bond has supervillains because of that one episode of The Simpsons. My point is, I’ve managed to not see any of the fifty (FIFTY!) years worth of Bond films for some reason or another. This brings us to The Spy Who Loved Me.
Since this was my first foray into the Bondverse, I had no idea where to start. Should I have gone recent and just watch the Craig films, or should I start at the beginning with Connery? Matt suggested I started at TSWLM since Moore’s absurdity is a nice way of easing into the Bond behemoth. And he was absolutely right.
The Spy Who Loved Me is a delicious burrito. Its meaty insides have a compelling Bond and dangerously cheesy lines and sequences, all while wrapped in a tortilla of pure wacky fun.
InThe Spy Who Loved Me,James Bond (Roger Moore) is sent to investigate a string of British submarine disappearances. Joining him on his mission is Russian agent Major Anya Amasova, otherwise referred to as Agent XXX (Barbara Bach) because several Russian submarines have disappeared as well. The two agents need to find a way to work together, but also need to fulfill the needs of both of their governments. To make matters worse, Karl Stromberg (Curt Jurgens), an international supervillain/cool aquarium owner is plotting to use those submarines to do some bad things.
From the get go, the film establishes both Bond as a happenin’ guy. In one of the coolest, yet oddest scenes I’ve ever seen, Bond finds himself in a ski chase where he uses one of the skis to shoot someone before plunging from the cliff in a wonderfully silent way. This is mainly what I meant by dangerously cheesy moments. While the ending of ski chase is great, the rest of the sequence is a little goofy. It doesn’t help that the set up beforehand established Bond as a sort of a goofy individual. Before the ski chase, Bond is in bed with a woman. When she begs him to stay he states that England needs him. While that line of dialogue was supposed to come off as suave or manly, it sort of was a joke. After watching the rest of the film though, that tone of goofy/badass turns out to be beneficial instead of a detriment to Moore’s Bond.
While TSWLMhas several humorous subtleties such as the slight innuendo in the dialogue, there are plenty of situations which are dealt with a very heavy hand. There’s a scene in the middle of the film where Bond is chasing down Jaws (a giant henchman with metal teeth) in front of a Sphinx. The set up beforehand had an awkward lighting technique accompanied even more awkward music. While that scene might have been meant to inspire tension or terror at Jaws’s highlighted frame, it came off as overwhelming and out of place. Speaking of overwhelming, the action scenes (namely Bond’s hand to hand fights) tend to feel clunky and go on for too long. Moore looks uncomfortable during each fight, and it translates to making de-evolving Bond into less of badass than the film attempts to portray him as.
Thankfully, that awkwardness doesn’t last long. When Bond isn’t in a direct confrontation he shines. Moore somehow is able to seamlessly transition from goofy looking to suave. James Bond meets several women throughout the course of the film, and each of them throw themselves at him (sadly including Amasova later on). At first their wanton seduction feels unwarranted because Bond’s clunky action scenes, but when Moore speaks his smooth one liners, their Bond lovin’ state seems reasonable. Then again, the gorgeous women are an understandable stable of the Bond series, but luckily each woman gets something to do. One woman, besides Amasova, is particularly interesting. One of Stromberg’s henchman is exploited for eye candy…until she gets to do something really badass during the car chase scene (that I won’t spoil here) and her playful nature (as well as her exploitative role) is played for laughs.
Stromberg is a also deliciously evil villain, but isn’t that compelling. While Jurgens’s delivery is suitably dark, his motivation falls in line with the overtly humorous tone of the film. However, I am willing to forgive that because he lives in a Legion of Doom-esque underwater base and can destroy things with a touch of a button. That metal mouth henchman I mentioned earlier? He’s also excitingly dangerous, but his method of attack (painfully slow biting of the neck) is laughably avoidable.
My biggest disappointment with the film though isn’t its heavy handedness or it’s awkwardly fighting Bond, it was the handling of Barbara Bach’s Agent XXX. Agent XXX (which sounds like a pun code name, and TSWLM is full of puns), turns out to be a woman (given away in a very interesting opener) and while I’m sure this is a big deal for the franchise (I’m assuming they’re called “Bond Girls” for a reason) I really enjoyed the nonchalant way the reveal happened. I was excited at the thought of a strong female character standing alongside Bond (who can be viewed as a symbol of manly manliness) as an equal. It’s like it’s not that important that she was a woman. She’s was an agent first, and woman second. However it soon became clear that a strong Amasova would not be fully realized. Her initial appeal doesn’t stick around too long as she eventually needs Bond’s guidance and strength throughout the film. It’s almost as if she forgets she’s a badass also.
All in all, I don’t regret watching The Spy Who Loved Me. I may not have enjoyed the de-evolution of Amasova, but found myself enjoying Bond’s overt (almost to the point of misogyny) masculinity as it was mostly played for laughs. In fact, the entire film was played for laughs. After watching Moore awkwardly manhandle some guys and then spout a one liner afterwards, seeing Jaws fix his tie every time he recovers from near death, and seeing Stromberg’s giant Legion of Doom home base, I realized that the film is best taken on a surface level.
I shouldn’t try and look deeper into it, because there’s nothing really there. It’s just goofy being goofy, suave being suave, and genuine wacky fun being genuine wacky fun. At the very least, The Spy Who Loved Me has me interested in the rest of the Bond mythology now.