It's a James Bond PG. I swear, James Bond movies got away with murder (that's what the license to kill is for!) when it came to getting PG ratings. There's straight up brief nudity in this one. I watched these movies over and over and over as a kid and I never noticed nudity. There's a full on chest exposure during on of Bond's sex scenes. (It's weird that I watched these movies as a kid, the more I think about it.) Also, Bond murders a man in a wheelchair and executes someone by shoving his teetering vehicle off a cliff. Admittedly, both of these guys were very bad people, but it's straight up murder in those cases. It's a Bond movie. Sex and violence are the norm. PG.
DIRECTOR: John Glen
Is it weird that I'm getting used to isolation? I actually played a video game yesterday. (I forced myself to take time to myself and the world didn't fall apart. I would like to thank my wife for video game time.) When they announced that they were making another James Bond movie, No Time to Die, I thought it would inspire me to binge the rest of the Bond movies again. I was a huge Bond fan as a kid. I have them borderline memorized. I don't know what it was about those movies that made me return to the well over and over again. I watched Moonraker and found myself way more bored than normal. I then stopped and forgot about the Bond plan altogether. When I saw trailers for No Time to Die, I thought it was too late to continue the franchise. After all, I don't want to JUST be watching Bond movies. This isn't like the MCU movies where I knocked them all out before Infinity War. This is a lot of repetition and I wanted to look at them fresh.
The thing about For Your Eyes Only is that I've never really cared for it. I don't know what it is about the movie. (Well, I kind of do now, because I'm forcing myself to write about it.) A lot of people like For Your Eyes Only,. While there are silly elements to the movie, it might be the most straightforward Bond movie in the Roger Moore era. Roger Moore always defined his Bond through its absurdity. I don't mean that in a bad way. A lot of people are dismissive of the Roger Moore era of Bond. I think it's fine. If anything, it defined that Bond is not just one thing. The only thing that the different eras have in common is wanton violence and misogyny. I can't say that I'm proud that I enjoy these movies. But I also kind of get them at the same time. But For Your Eyes Only read like it was wildly embarrassed about the content that Moore was producing. Roger Moore's era was wantonly silly, never more so than Moonraker. Moonraker set this dangerous precedent that kind of led to For Your Eyes Only trying to be closer to the Sean Connery films. Moonraker is almost a parody of a movie. It can claim that it was an homage to all of the great science fiction that was coming out in the surrounding years, including Star Wars, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Instead of worrying about making a good Bond movie, they wanted to capitalize on what culture was talking about. As a shift from that subjectively-could-be-considered-a-mistake (because I don't actually hate Moonraker), the franchise knee-jerked into the polar opposite. For a Roger Moore movie, it is a really grounded film.
But Moore kind of relished in a bit of silliness. It's not like For Your Eyes Only is an overtly serious film. It just is the most serious of the Moore era. Maybe you could plug his final film A View to a Kill into that slot, but that was also more of the element of times-a-changin'. Bond's biggest problem had always been that the stories were getting stale. I'm never actually sure that we'll always have another Bond movie on the horizon. After Timothy Dalton, there was definitely this shift from classic Bond to nu-Bond. I always consider Timothy Dalton's Bond to be the Paul McGann for Doctor Who. I'm never quite sure whether or not to consider him to be part of the classic era or the new era. I mentally am putting Maurice Binder's time on the opening credits as the breaking point between classic and Nu-Bond. However, nowadays, I'm expecting Bond to retire for the long haul. It's always exciting news that they will be making another James Bond movie. Yeah, the movies make money, but the era doesn't exactly welcome the approach of a new entry in this franchise because of its backwards ways. The movies now have to be pretty good and somewhat original because there's no guarantee that these movies will keep on going. For Your Eyes Only really stresses that the spectre (pun intended) of cancellation wasn't really an issue because the stories tend to be the exact same thing over and over again.
The ATAC unit is really never the threat in this one. If Hitchcock could label the ATAC, it is the fundamental Macguffin. We never really get to see the ATAC in action. It's so nondescript that we find out that basically it does the exact same thing that Bond uses to defeat Stromberg in The Spy Who Loved Me. It's like the movie didn't even attempt to make a compelling story. Instead, it focused to an abnormal level on the coolness of the setting. Originally, I was going to say that I don't think that there was a Bond movie that was so obsessed with its culture than For Your Eyes Only and its setting of Greece. But then again, I also completely forgot about You Only Live Twice, which is so locked in Japan that it actually gets pretty racist about the whole thing. There are a lot of movies that are married to their settings, but For Your Eyes Only really embraces cultural norms and expectations more than some of the other films do. (Again, You Only Live Twice...) Melina Havelock as the Greek woman seeking revenge actually straight up name drops a reference to being Elektra. The movie establishes everything we need to know about her character from this moment. It creates an interesting dynamic for Bond. If anything is really successful for the movie, it's the idea that Melina Havelock is perhaps a better Agent XXX than what was seen in The Spy Who Loved Me. Because she is an independent agent who is able to handle herself, she gives the character some agency.
But that also being said, everything is kind of wishy washy. There was this licensed 24 video game for PS2. In that, the cops come after Jack Bauer. The way that the game was programmed, the cop cars were always instructed to take the shortest possible route to get Jack Bauer. What ended up happening was that the cop cars would take a B-line right into Bauer and crash into everything along the way. It's absolute chaos to the point where it's silly. Melina Havelock is kind of that. While I love the idea for her character, a woman with a crossbow completely hell-bent on revenge, her motivation is really under-thought. We don't really get any nuance with her character because her only goal is to get revenge...until it isn't her goal for some reason. There's this great line that I keep quoting from For Your Eyes Only that the movie itself is quoting, "Before setting out on revenge, dig two graves." It's such a cool establishment of what the movie is going to be about. But the movie is pulling itself in every direction and the entire concept of revenge consuming someone is really relegated to the back of the story. Melina is driven by revenge. But instead of baby steps to developing a sense of empathy, it's very much a light switch that ultimately doesn't really matter. Melina doesn't kill Kristatos because she really has a strong change of heart (which could be argued in that split second that she did), but because someone else killed him first. Yeah, Bond's prophesy is fulfilled, but more incidentally than anything poetically.
On a closing note, it's kind of cringey / the-worst-form-of-adorable to watch Bond try to be progressive. There's this really weird subplot with Bibi, implied to be a high school figure skater prepping for the Olympics. Bond clearly acknowledges that there is an inappropriateness to this being a sexual relation, which thumbs up. But also, Bibi is sexualized at the same time. Bond, to get what he needs, flirts with Bibi instead of shutting that down. I know that this is the first time that Bond has distanced himself from a heterosexual relation, but I don't know if the filmmakers really knew what side of the line to put Bond on. He teases her for her age, but also makes winky-faces at her, implying that her sexuality is healthy. It's really uncomfortable and I don't really know if it is sending the message that it intends to say.
Yeah, I enjoyed For Your Eyes Only more than I thought I would, considering that I never really cared for it. The story is borderline non-existent and they really wanted to create another Red Grant character, but there's something at least slightly interesting with some of the characterizations and stunt sequences. OH, EXCEPT FOR THE "I'll buy you a delicatessen! In stainless steel!" What was that about?
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.