Sunday, May 4, 2014

Book vs. Films: "For Your Eyes Only"

This is a bit of a bit of a departure from the first seven entries in this series, because For Your Eyes Only is not a Bond novel, but rather a collection of short stories.

The five stories included therein were made into four films, with varying success and faithfulness to the source.
Here's the breakdown:

From a View to a Kill: Nice, tidy little story where Bond investigates the murder of a signal dispatch rider in France. It's a fairly simple tale, and one where Bond is saved in the end by the woman he's been flirting with throughout.  All in all, nothing particularly special.  It does contain the types of things you'd never see in a Bond film -- for example, Bond sitting dressed in camouflage in a tree all night just to try and catch the killer returning to the scene of the crime.

Bond also rides the same dispatch route (with an empty mail bag) in order to try and lure the murderer to come after him.  It's a very cool scene.  Unfortunately nothing remotely like it was included in the film.  Actually nothing in the film could be described as a "cool scene".
The film in fact has only one tie to the story: its title A View to a Kill.  It's a terrible movie that even an extremely psychopathic Christopher Walken and a Duran Duran title track couldn't save.

For Your Eyes Only: A fairly straightforward story where Bond is sent by M to kill some unpleasant men who are hiding in America.  They murdered some old friends of M's in Jamaica, but for a variety of reasons are above the law now.  Bond agrees to go and do this as a personal favor, but when he gets there the daughter of the murdered couple is also on-site to accomplish the same task.  They team up, and Bond actually plays second fiddle to her bow-and-arrow slaying of the main boss.  It's a nice little story, satisfying but not particularly compelling.
The story is more or less adapted as-is for the film, albeit reduced to a single moment in a much larger caper.  As such, the simplicity of the story is largely lost in the much grander moments of the film.  More on that below.
One thing to note: if I'm not mistaken, the scene towards the end where Bond and Melina are dragged along a reef behind a boat is lifted almost exactly from the novel Thunderball. I'm curious now if the film version of Thunderball includes the same scene.  It seems odd they would reuse it.  We'll find out in the next blog entry.  According to Wikipedia, the producers lifted elements from three other Bond novels to stitch this plot together, and it shows.  It's sort of a James Bond sample platter.  You have to hand it to Sheena Easton, and curse her name to the sky above.  It's been a week since I watched it and that infuriatingly catchy theme song refuses to get out of my skull.

Quantum of Solace: Quite an odd departure, here.  This is in fact not a Bond story at all.  Bond is having an after-dinner conversation with the Governor of the Bahamas, and the man tells him the story a local couple that started out fairy tale perfect, and ended in a rather ruthless and messy divorce.  The explanation of the name, quantum of solace, is pretty neat. It refers to the theory the Governor has that a couple can remain together through anything as long as there is a minimum level of common decency, a quantum of solace, afforded each.  Once either stops holding that for their partner, the relationship will die.  Bond is not involved in this story at all, he simply hears it told, which is an interesting literary mechanism.
As the film shares only the title, I'll not even attempt to compare them.  It's funny how this film is considered bad by so many, sandwiched between the great Casino Royale (which I loved) and Skyfall (which I didn't care for, but seems to be popular among fans).  The thing is, compared to most of the earlier films, even this weak entry into the Daniel Craig era is practically a masterpiece.  If anything it says a lot about how far we've come in the cinematic arts.  The pace, the production quality, plus the lack of shtick that plagues earlier Bond films, all make for a much more enjoyable experience.  It has nothing to do with the short story of course, but then in this case that makes sense since the story had nothing to do with Bond.  The title is cool, though, and I'm glad they used it.

Risico: This story chronicles Bond going after an Italian drug smuggler only to find that the informant who originally put him onto the trail is the one smuggling drugs.  The man Bond is after ends up helping Bond track down the original informant.
It's told more or less exactly as written during the second half of the film For Your Eyes Only, and this disjointed use of two unrelated short stories contributes a lot to the film's rather vague plot.  In fact, near the end of the movie when Bond and Melina descend in a submarine to find a crashed ship I was finally reminded what the hell their goal was the whole time.  In the space of just 90 minutes I'd already forgotten the opening setup.  In a weird way it reminded me of playing Dungeons and Dragons where, after weeks of Friday night games that led us from adventure to adventure, we'd suddenly come to the awkward moment when nobody save the DM could remember what the hell we were supposed to be doing.  If this movie suffers from anything, it's the lack of occasional reminder as to what Bond's mission is.  I will admit I was perhaps confused because the grander mission in the film's plot was not the same as either of the short stories. Still...
The movie did have some great scenes. In particular the climb up to the mountaintop base was well filmed and very tense. It also had some amazing groaners, chief among them the "chat" Bond has with Margaret Thatcher at the end, during which I wanted to hide behind my pillow out of embarrassment for all involved.  Oh, and holy crap did the music suck!
One last thing on this: Roger Moore was quoted as saying that Quantum of Solace (the film) was good but the cuts were too vague, the story too hard to follow.  He should know, I guess, given that's the main problem that plagues most (if not all) of his Bond films.  No fault of Moore's, mind you, but I found it interesting that he would remark on this of all things.

The Hildebrand Rarity:  Bond is in the Seychelles, with a week to kill before his boat arrives to take him back to civilization (ahhh, travel in 1959!). He ends up going along on a wealthy man's expedition to find a rare fish (where the title comes from).  You'd think Bond would stumble into some much larger evil plot, but no, this really is just a short story that involves an abusive husband who gets his due in rather spectacular fashion, with Bond in the middle of the argument but plays almost zero part in the resolution.
Some aspects of this story were woven into the 1989 film License to Kill, the second and last entry of the unpopular Timothy Dalton era. I guess they thought the title wasn't bad-ass enough?  The film is forgettable, and the elements borrowed from this story were minor.

What did we learn from all this?  Well, the main thing in my mind is that the movie producers were definitely scraping the bottom of the barrel when they started using these stories as the basis for Bond movies.  Not that there's anything wrong with the stories per say, but none on their own provide enough material to adapt as is.  They must have been either culturally (in the sense that fans demanded it) or legally bound to use Fleming-penned material in the Bond movies.  In the case of Quantum of Solace, which came out after there'd been a handful of non-Fleming Bond films released, it seems they simply liked the title. I can't think of any other literary property so completely tapped for adaptation that such a bottom trawling occurred. Anyone?

Next up, Thunderball... the novel, the film, and the second attempt at the film, Never Say Never Again.


Steve Finnell said...


The five points of Calvinism should be expressed as unconditional damnation.

The premise of Calvinism that men have no free-will and that men can only be saved if God predetermines each person for salvation.

Calvinism teaches that men are saved by unconditional election.

The antithesis of unconditional election is unconditional damnation.


1. Total Depravity: Man is totally depraved so he cannot choose or desire God.

If total depravity is true, then unless men are unconditional elected for salvation, they are unconditionally damned to hell for all eternity.

2. Unconditional Election: God unconditionally elects those whom He has predetermined to save.

If unconditional election is true, then conversely all others areunconditionally damned, lost outside of Christ.

3. Limited Atonement: Jesus died only for those who have been unconditionally elected for salvation.

If limited atonement is a Biblical fact, then all who are not unconditionally elected for salvation will die in their sins because they will face unconditional damnation.

4. Irresistible Grace: When God calls the elect for salvation, they cannot resist.

Those who are not called by irresistible grace will beunconditionally damned and will spend eternity in the lake of fire.

5. Perseverance of the Saints: Once you have been unconditionally elected for salvation you can never be lost. Once saved always saved.

If God did not unconditionally give you the faith so you could believe and be saved, and you have no free-will to believe or reject Jesus; then you are unconditionally damned. You are once damned always damned.

God does not unconditionally save anyone nor is anyoneUNCONDITIONALLY DAMNED.

THERE ARE NO POINTS OF CALVINISM THAT ARE SUPPORTED BY SCRIPTURE. [Read the whole New Testament and understand God's plan for mankind]


Anh Phan said...
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