After For Your Eyes Only reinvigorated Bond with compelling action, interesting characters and tight suspense, Octopussy is the terrible sigh after a diligent effort. Like Roger Moore in his aging days, it’s a tiring film, with all the charm, wit and vigor taken out of the franchise. The one-liners are bad, the action scenes lack punch and the plot is about as convoluted and uninteresting as they come.
Up to this point, Octopussy is the least interesting Bond film. Not bad enough to be cheesy or notorious but certainly not good enough to be entertaining. Instead, it refuses to quit being such a weary and tiresome affair. The biggest problem is that for the longest time there are no stakes. Bond is hunting down lead after lead towards some conspiracy he doesn’t understand.
This does make him a bit more of a sleuth and detective, except this ambiguous shroud of evil is never fully pulled back. Yes, he learns the nefarious plans of evildoers, but the film never quite constructs a logic that makes sense of the odd plan they initially laid out. And, once again, Bond misses the obvious clue as where to start searching, making the film an obtuse build to get Bond to the scene of the initial incident.
Even after thing it over, there’s not a coherent way to describe the events of Octopussy in anything other than a scene by scene basis. The connections are flimsy, at best, and the transitions from locale to locale make little sense. If Bond has little idea what’s going on, the audience is even deeper in the darkness, left wondering who the real baddie is and what that person’s motivation is.
To the credit of the filmmakers, there are some good action scenes. One of the best is a race through the tight city street in India which has a brief reprieve on foot. Here, Bond faces off against some baddies while in the middle of a street circus, grabbing items and using the environment to take down foes. It’s tainted by some terrible one-liners, but it’s a creative set-piece that shows Bond wins by thinking quick on his feet.
Yes, the stunts are impressive, but it’s always clear when the film cuts away to a studio where Moore is behind some bad rear projection acting out a punch or faking a fall. The cuts and images are often jarring and take the action from conceptually interesting to trite and poorly produced fights and chases.
Equally weary is the leering camera that goes out of its way to check out the Bond babes. It’s nothing new to the series, but here it feels particularly tasteless as Bond becomes a peeping tom to bathing beauties and uses a spy camera to get a cleavage shot of one of Q’s (Desmond Llewelyn) female technicians. It’s brash, tasteless and downright sexist at times.
These moments show how joyless this Bond experience is. There’s little tact, taste or sizzle behind this film. There’s nothing interesting, new or exciting. The plot is a thin excuse for set-pieces in exotic locales and Moore is at his least charming. Octopussy isn’t the worst Bond movie, but it’s the least enjoyable to watch.