You Only Live Twice

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

An American spacecraft is hijacked from orbit by an unidentified spacecraft. The US suspect it to be the Soviets, but the British suspect Japanese involvement since the spacecraft landed in the Sea of Japan. To investigate, MI6 operative, James Bond, agent 007, is sent to Tokyo, after faking his own death.

Upon his arrival, Bond is contacted by Aki, assistant to the Japanese secret service leader Tiger Tanaka. Aki introduces Bond to local MI6 operative, Dikko Henderson. Henderson claims to have critical evidence about the rogue craft but is killed before he can elaborate. Bond chases and kills the assailant, disguises himself and gets in the getaway car, which takes him to Osato Chemicals. Once there, Bond subdues the driver and breaks into the office safe of president Mr. Osato. After stealing documents, Bond is chased out by armed security, eventually being picked up by Aki, who flees to a secluded subway station. Bond chases her, but falls down a trap door leading to Tanaka’s office. The stolen documents are examined and found to include a photograph of the cargo ship Ning-Po with a microdot message saying the tourist who took the photo was killed as a security precaution.

Bond goes to Osato Chemicals to meet Mr. Osato himself, masquerading as a potential new buyer. Osato humours Bond but, after their meeting, orders his secretary, Helga Brandt, to have him killed. Outside the building, assassins open fire on Bond before Aki rescues him. The assassins are disposed of via a helicopter with a magnetic grab. Bond and Aki continue driving to Kobe, where the Ning-Po is docked. After being discovered by more SPECTRE henchmen, they give chase but Bond eludes them until Aki gets away; Bond, though, is captured. He wakes, tied up in Helga Brandt’s cabin on the Ning-Po. She interrogates Bond, who bribes his way out of imprisonment. Brandt then flies Bond to Tokyo, but, en route, she sets off a flare in the plane and bails out. Bond manages to land the crashing plane and escapes. Bond then investigates the company’s dock facilities and discovers that the ship was delivering elements for rocket fuel. Bond and Tanaka learn that the true mastermind behind this is Ernst Stavro Blofeld and SPECTRE. Blofeld seems to forgive Brandt for her failure, but as she leaves, he activates a collapsing section of walkway under her, dropping her into a pool of piranha. Blofeld demands that Mr. Osato kills Bond.

After finding out where the Ning-Po unloaded, Bond investigates the area by a heavily armed autogyro, Little Nellie. Near a volcano, Bond is attacked by helicopters, which he defeats, confirming his suspicions that SPECTRE’s base is nearby. A Soviet spacecraft is then captured by SPECTRE, heightening tensions between Russia and the US. Bond prepares to conduct a closer investigation of the island by training with Tanaka’s ninjas, during which an attempted assassination on Bond kills Aki. Bond is disguised and stages a marriage to Tanaka’s student, Kissy Suzuki.

Acting on a lead from Suzuki, the pair sets out on reconnaissance to the cave—investigating the cave and the volcano above it. Establishing that the mouth of the volcano is a disguised hatch to a secret rocket base, Bond slips in through the crater door, while Kissy returns to alert Tanaka. Bond locates and frees the captured astronauts and, with their help, steals a spacesuit in attempt to infiltrate the SPECTRE spacecraft “Bird One”. Before he can enter the craft, Blofeld notices Bond, and he is detained while Bird One is launched.

Bird One closes in on the American space capsule and US forces prepare to launch a nuclear attack on the USSR. Meanwhile, the Japanese Secret Service ninjas climb the mountain to attempt to enter through the upper hatch, but are spotted by the base’s security and fired upon. Bond tricks Blofeld and manages to create a diversion that allows him to open the hatch, letting in the ninjas. During the battle, the control room is evacuated and Osato is killed by Blofeld. Bond escapes and fights his way to the control room via Blofeld’s office, where he defeats Blofeld’s bodyguard, Hans, dropping him into the pool of piranha. Bond activates the spacecraft’s self-destruct before it reaches the American craft and the Americans stand down their weapons.

Blofeld activates the base’s self-destruct system and escapes. Bond, Kissy, Tanaka, and the surviving ninjas escape through the cave tunnel before it explodes, and are rescued by submarine

REVIEW:

Widely regarded as one of the top Bond films, You Only Live Twice may actually be better known as the basis for many of the tropes used in the Austin Powers films, specifically Dr. Evil and his hollowed out volcano hideout. As entertaining as those films are, one must wonder do they stack up to the original?

What is this about?

After American and Soviet spaceships disappear, the two countries trade blame for the incidents — and as the nations edge toward war, James Bond is tasked with getting to the bottom of another international mystery.

What did I like?

Setting. The past Bond films seem to have taken 007 to more exotic settings, so for him to take jot to the Orient (which is still exotic, just not vacation porn) was something I seemed to appreciate. Not to mention this sets the stage for all kinds of things like ninjas, Asian poisons, etc.

Blofeld. The character which may best be known as the basis for Dr. Evil, is actually quite evil in his own right. We don’t meet him until around the halfway mark, but boy, was it worth the wait. Complete with his pet cat that he is constantly petting. Blofeld is a cold-hearted killer who won’t hesitate to kill for failure, and, if I’m remembering correctly, he is the first Bond villain to live to torture 007 another day.

Big sets. As I progress through the Bond films, it is obvious that more and more money is being spent on the set pieces. For instance, the aforementioned volcano in the first film would have looked like a cheap paper mache creation, but instead, while it still looks cheap, the quality is much improved.

What didn’t I like?

Tired. Sean Connery has been Bond for…I believe this is his 4th go-round, and it is starting to show. He doesn’t seem to be phoning it in, but it does seem like he’s just tired of it all and ready to move on to something else. Can you really blame the guy, though? I guess it was best to let him go when they did, perhaps they should have done it earlier, because he was struggling keep his Bond magic going. Also, there is the matter of when they turned him Japanese…it wasn’t even close. A bowl cut bad wig will not make Sean Connery look Asian, I’m sorry to say.

Pacing. Usually, I complain that a film starts off slow, only to speed up in the final act. This film follows suit, but it veers off and seems to slow down at the end. Yes, it does have a non-stop, action-packed finale, but the uneven pacing just didn’t sit right with me, especially as the previous films seems to have at least done a decent job with it.

Girls, girls, girls. Maybe it was just me, but it seemed as if the “Bond girls” were a bit forgotten in this film. That is to say they didn’t play as big of a factor as they have before and were pretty much reduced to eye candy, as opposed to cunning assassins and various other professions that they have enjoyed. Someone mentioned that this may have something to do the Asian culture, which is a possibility, but I’m not sure.

You Only Live Twice should have been more entertaining that it turned out to be, but as it is, this film did not live up to the lofty standards set forth by its predecessors. With that said, I don’t want to give the impression that I didn’t like it. There are plenty of moments of entertainment to be had. I guess I just expected more and didn’t get it. Do I recommend this? Yes, it is still a quality Bond flick, so give it a shot!

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

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