‘Octopussy’ Review: The Tit-ular Ass-ass-in

Posted in The Screening Room by - January 15, 2016

When I first mentioned to one of my friends that Kulture Shocked was planning to do an entire month of James Bond films, I remember that, amidst the pure joy at the idea, he gave me one piece of advice: “Some of them might not be good movies, but there’s no such thing as a bad Bond movie.” At first I thought it was just some idle fanboyism, from a man who had spent the better part of the last year watching one flick a week before the Spectre release. I thought for sure there had to be at least on entry in the series that just didn’t hold up. Either way, I knew that 1983’s Octopussy would be the one by which his words would sink or swim.

Well, I’m here to tell you that my friend may just be on to something: because this movie, as dumb and as weak as it may be, is still a fun outing with 007.

Octopussy sees Roger Moore in his penultimate adventure as the legendary James Bond, this time following the trail of a mysterious jewel thief whose alias informs our very strange title (not least of all because it is the only Bond film to be named after a female villain). From the busy streets of India to the divided city of Berlin, the master spy finds himself roped into a story of true double-crossing intrigue.

It’s hard to really quantify Octopussy¸ since it has a plot that feels thinner than Diamonds Are Forever, yet somehow still manages to have enough twists that I have to tip-toe around a minefield of spoilers in reviewing this movie from over three decades ago. Perhaps the most interesting way to examine this film is to line it up against our first entry this month, From Russia with Love. Where the early entry from Connery stuck to a very grounded style with some wacky subterfuge sprinkled in, Octopussy goes the whole nine yards in the other direction, giving Bond an assortment of outlandish tools and ridiculous set piece moments. Early 007 flicks also seemed to skirt around the political issues of the time, letting SPECTRE be the terrorist stand-in for any villain of the day, but now the bad guys are openly Russian with plans to conquer the whole of Europe. Top this all off with a shift towards a more comical leading man, and you can really feel the contrast built between the years.

That’s not to say that any of these are bad changes. It’s nice to have a Bond who trades a little bit of smoldering sex appeal for a lighter wit and a bit more childishness. The budget for the action is certainly higher, and this more free-wheeling approach lets the movie take more liberties with the stakes set against our hero. Hell, if nothing else, you get an Indian assassin who uses a buzz saw on a rope like a yo-yo, and that’s simply priceless.

Yet as the humor ramps up, so do some of the lingering issues with the series as a whole. Bond’s “childishness” isn’t just his wit – there’s one really awkward scene where he diverts from learning about the new tools from Q to using a camera to zoom in on a girl’s cleavage. If this was Van Wilder, I might give it a pass, but it really pulls the rug out from any class still attached to the character. Of course we can’t overlook the issues raised by the eponymous villainess, Octopussy. I don’t care how many times her henchmen say it with a straight face, or that they try to play it off as her dad’s nickname (heck, just uttering the words “he used to call me his little Octopussy” is just shudder-inducing on its own), it’s still just hyper-sexualized nonsense, no matter how you try to shine that turd. Once you add in a very yonic bed in which she seduces Bond, there really is no going back.

Still, as awkward and occasionally limp as this movie may be, Octopussy is still a truly enjoyable film. Sure, there’s no crazy moon rover chase this time, but there’s enough other wacky fun and witty writing to indulge in, and what bits of troubling subtext may linger aren’t enough to stop this movie from just being a fun little romp. A dip in the series, perhaps, but definitely not a failure.

Final Verdict: Watch It

This post was written by
He is a Nebraska native and UNL Honors alum with an ever-relevant degree in English. When he isn’t working his day job or writing for Kulture Shocked, Ben spends his time as an independent game designer, seeking to publish his first board game. You can also find him modeling for art classes around Lincoln or online as Dlark17 on most major gaming platforms.
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