A few weeks ago, in advance of my trip to New Orleans, I took it upon myself to re-watch Live and Let Die, the eighth movie of my problematic fave series, James Bond. I was hoping to get some sort of meta out of it, or at least be able to explain why this franchise is still a fave at all, but no. Instead, I only managed to provide a snarky, feminist recap, because the plot rather spoke for itself.
Now, I have no trip to Khao Phing Kan planned, but I still decided to watch the next Bond in the franchise, The Man with the Golden Gun. This one had to have more merit than the blacksploitation crap-fest that marked Roger Moore’s debut, right?
Uh. No. In fact, maybe just because the racism was so distracting in that movie, I felt the sexism wasn’t *so* bad, but here…holy macaroni. Again, the plot really does speak for itself better than any finely tuned analysis could. So sit back, relax, and enjoy this James Bond classic.
I feel like I should have brushed up on my Bond history before this, but for what seems like a change of pace to me, the pre-title sequence does not include James Bond at all.
No, instead we’re taking to a nice, sandy island where a dude and a girl are sunbathing while a little person in a suit brings a tray full of bottles (and later a small tray containing just Tabasco sauce?). I’ll just start calling him “Nick Nack” now, but I feel it necessary to point out since throughout the movie we’re treated to many jokes about “the midget.” Not to mention how “Nick Nack” is hardly free of any ableism. Oh the 70s.
Anyway, what’s REALLY important is that the dude sunbathing has a third nipple. There’s a close-up and dramatic music and everything.
^Shouldn’t props be able to do a little bit better here?
He’s also Christopher Lee, but I suppose I can call him “Scaramanga.” The woman, played by Maud Adams (no clue what her character name was tbh. Miss Andrews?), seems to be miffed that she isn’t getting his attention so she begins to dry off his feetsies and legs for him. I have a feeling this movie and I will get along!
A random dude shows up, and Nick Nack greets him by suspiciously saying “right this way.” Then this guy just blindly follows him into a room, where Nick Nack gives him a wad of cash. Nick Nack leaves, and the guy pulls out a gun from a little handbag, cocks it, and giggles to himself for a good minute.
Maud Adams stretches and we get more dramatic music.
Anyway, turns out Nick Nack fooled the rando guy, as we see him activate some sort of control panel, which transforms the very ordinary room rando guy was waiting in into some kind of game room.
I think the audience can infer from this that he intends to kill Scaramanga? Who, speaking of, wanders into the game room himself in search of his golden gun, which Nick Nack has hidden behind all the moving mirrors. We’re then treated to a good five minutes of these two men who we don’t know, wander around in a room we don’t understand, for reasons that we were never given, while Nick Nack taunts both of them over a microphone.
In the end, the rando guy clearly fell asleep during his kinematics lesson, because Scaramanga traveling down a straight slope befuddles him. Also Scaramanga picks up his gun and kills him. Then Nick Nack takes the money back. Why did this money exist at all? It really didn’t have to…
Oh, also, Scaramanga has a realistic wax dummy of James Bond in the middle of this room. He shoots off four of his fingers even, despite clearly having to have paid someone a lot of money to make it. How did he even order it? Did he have a photo of a SECRET AGENT on stash? Why Bond? Why not 006?
No time to worry, here’s the title sequence! Featuring sledge-hammery guns = penises imagery and dancers who may have had too much coffee before shooting.
The next scene is Bond getting called into M’s office where he’s asked what he knows about Scaramanga. Apparently everything. Including “he has a third nipple” and is “possibly Cuban.” Okay, pause. Why is a secret agent taking the time to learn everything about random hired assassins that have had nothing to do with his cases so far, and who the hell was this MI6 briefer who was able to nail the guy’s secondary sex organs, but only puts his Cuban heritage at “possibly”?
But whatever, the reason M is asking is that they were sent a golden bullet with “007” carved into it, which is apparently what Scaramanga does for his targets. Who would pay a million dollars a hit for a moron who warns his victims ahead of time?
Bond quips that he doesn’t know who would want to kill him, but M says, and I quote, “jealous husbands, outraged chefs, humiliated tailors. The list is endless.” Yes, Mr. Head of MI6; your man is clearly the mark of a humiliated tailor with a cool million to spare. I feel so good about you leading Great Britain’s secret intelligence agency. I also feel great about an organization that can ID a guy through fingerprints, but has no clue what he looks like.
I guess they all find this very threatening though because they decide to bench Bond. “But I wanted to work on the energy crisis!” he complains. Bet that won’t magically tie into this plotline!
Oh, and apparently this possibly Cuban, faceless assassin that everyone knows has a third nipple also offed 002 a while back, and no one bothered to follow-up on it. So Bond decides he should, because if he is able to find Scaramanga and kill him first, then he’s going to be allowed to work on the energy crisis again! He’s very committed to environmentalism! He has a schmool-proof lead too: 002 had a belly dancing girlfriend in Beirut.
Lucky for Bond, this girlfriend is still in Beirut, this time belly dancing with the bullet that killed 002 in her bellybutton. It’s her “lucky charm” and junk. Why she took it upon herself to obstruct justice for the metal that caused her boyfriend’s death is beyond me, but okay. Do you, belly dancer.
Bond goes backstage after her rocking show, where she proudly admits to stealing the bullet from the crime scene before she says “let’s forget the past!” and starts making out with Bond. I guess she has a type. He then gets the great idea to suck the bullet out of her navel with his mouth, but oh no! Random unarmed henchmen break in and smack him, causing him to swallow it instead!
They then proceed to try and beat him up, while belly dancer girlfriend shrieks about how they’re knocking over her perfume bottles. Bond defends himself with hairspray. Oh, also, WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE? She doesn’t seem like she knows. We as the audience certainly don’t know.
Whatever, Bond needs to exit through the window because more random henchmen are coming for him. As he’s climbing out, belly dancer girlfriend cries out “I’ve lost my charm!”
“Not from where I’m standing.”
Like a good agent, Bond goes and barfs up the bullet and gets it to Q-branch. Q and some scientist decide to look at it, whole (without taking a cross-section), through a light optical microscope, and are somehow able to determine that the nickel content is “obviously too low” to be from India. I’m quite certain there were SEMs and TEMs in the 70s. I’m also quite certain that the bullet they’re looking at is nowhere near 4.2mm (it’s at least double in width), but whatever. Then the rando scientist and Q deduce that there’s only one custom weapons manufacturer who could have made something so precise. Or rather, they just randomly start shouting “Lazar” at each other, until Bond asks what that is. He’s the “chap who made the bullet.” Lives in Macau.
So Bond pops over to the then Portuguese-controlled Macau (where was Q even? Did he meet Bond in Lebanon? Did Bond fly back to the UK?) where he proceeds to question a family trying to eat their noodles. Lazar pops out from behind a curtain and asks him to stop. Bond introduces himself, and Lazar says “your reputation precedes you.” So is he the absolute worst SECRET AGENT in the world, or just top 5?
Anyway, Lazar shows Bond some of his custom guns, like the one made for a dude with three fingers who still needed to hunt (aim is an inch too low for someone with five fingers cause of the balance). Bond asks if he’s ever designed ammunition with gold, and Lazar confirms he’s done it for a client. Then when Bond name-drops Scaramanga, Lazar gets oddly offended and says his client relationship is strictly confidential. Maybe don’t volunteer special contracts?
Bond decides to threaten him by pointing the three-finger rifle at the guy’s crotch unless he talks. Apparently this has never happened before, despite him working in a gunshop, keeping loading guns around, and selling to unsavory clients. Lazar folds and tells Bond that he’s never met Scaramanga, but he has an order he just completed for immediate delivery. That’s nifty. He’s supposed to drop them off at a casino and get paid.
Rather than like, bug the pack of bullets (disguised as a pack of cigarettes), Bond follows Lazar to a casino where he sees Maud Adams collect them through a not-at-all secure system.
Then he follows her onto a boat that goes in Hong Kong harbor (I guess that’s where they are now ¯\_(シ)_/¯), where we hear a tour guide or something clumsily exposit about the half-sunken ship “Queen Elizabeth.”
They get to the mainland, where Bond hops into a Taxi and tells the driver to follow the Rolls Royce that Maud Adams climbs into. However, he is cut off by the most empowered female character in the history of film, Mary Goodnight.
It’s clear she’s assigned to his detail, apparently because she’s had a two-year posting to Staff Intelligence in Hong Kong. And she at least knew the Rolls belonged to the Peninsula Hotel, so yay? Bond basically pats her cheek and promises they can have dinner later, but first he has a little “official business to attend to.” Goodnight immediately gets jealous because the “official business” is Maud Adams.
“Goodnight, would I do that to you after two years?”
“Yes, you bloody well would!”
Are they like…together?
Anyway, this hotel staff sucks, because all Bond had to do was order a bottle of champagne and they grant him access, even letting him go in by himself because “it’s a surprise.” Also, Bond’s idea of surveillance is to barge into this room, go to the bathroom where Maud Adams is showering, and stand with a fucking smirk on his face because he can see blurry boobs through the glass.
She spots him and clearly thinks he’s some creeper, so she opens the stall, points a gun at him (that she was showering with), and demands a towel. She marches him out and goes to call hotel security for some reason, but Bond manages to disarm her, flip her onto the bed, and pin her arm behind her back. He threatens to break it unless she tells him where the bullets go. She too folds almost immediately, confirming that she takes them to Scaramanga. She says she doesn’t work for him but that “he’s, um… I’m his…” while seeming very uncomfortable. Bond goes, “so he’s a lover too.” “Only before he kills,” Maud Adams confirms, sounding incredibly dismayed.
Pause. It’s very important to establish now that Maud Adams is basically trapped in this relationship that she hates. We get more details later that only further this, but it definitely doesn’t get less uncomfortable. In fact, she kind of reminds me of Myranda for Game of Thrones, in that scene which clearly established her as an abuse victim with no recourse. The Man with the Golden Gun’s narrative at least seems to recognize Maud Adams’s victimization, but it kind of makes their use of her incredibly problematic. It also makes me wish that she were the main character here.
But no, it’s Bond, who proceeds to manhandle her until she tells him that Scaramanga is going to be at the Bottoms Up club, and that he has a third nipple. Let’s focus on that some more. Then Bond tells her to deliver the bullets to Scaramanga and pretend that nothing happened. She asks why he’d trust her, and he points out that if he hears about this exchange, Scaramanga won’t trust her either. Because reasons.
So, yes, Bond uses her own victimization and fear of her abuser against her. Fun!
Outside the strip club, Bond gives Nick Nack an ableist lookover, while in one of the buildings nearby, Maud Adams is in bed with Scaramanga looking horribly uncomfortable. Then she looks outright upset when he tries to use his gun as a fun, phallic object to rub on her.
I’m quite certain this is rape. We learn later that the only reason she’s still with him is because she’s scared he’s going to kill her, and it’s quite clear that she’s in distress. Why is this happening on our screens at all??
Anyway, inside the strip club there’s two dudes talking. One walks outside, and Scaramanga shoots him, though it looks like he was going to shoot Bond for a second. Bond drops to the ground after hearing the shot while Nick Nack walks over for a closer look at the body. Then the police arrive. The Other Dude from the strip club runs out and arrests Bond, flashing some badge. He puts Bond in a car and we’re treated to, I shit you not, five minutes of tense driving music. Next they go on a boat for five minutes of tense boating music.
Bond makes a great escape by throwing a lifebuoy at one of the guards on the boats and then hopping onto the half-sunk Queen Elizabeth (ohhhhhh. That’s why we were given the exposition). However, a friendly British voice comes over a speaker and directs Bond inside, where he’s taken to M. We learn the dude who arrested him is Lieutenant Hip, who also works for MI6. Why didn’t Hip say anything to Bond once they were in the car? Why wasn’t Bond told about the MI6 contact in Hong Kong? ¯\_(シ)_/¯. Their composer must have just been really proud of that tense music, I guess.
Bond tells M that “Scaramanga doesn’t have a contract on me because he had a clear shot and didn’t take it.” However, it turns out the dude he did have a contract on was the “missing solar-energy expert: Gibson.” Oh yes, that energy crisis Bond wanted to work on! Good thing Bond somehow managed to ID the body in-between falling to the pavement and getting arrested.
Apparently M and this rando Professor are only in Hong Kong because of Gibson, who Hip was making contact with. M is really mad at Bond for like, existing, for some reason. I guess because Hip had to take his eyes off of Gibson’s body. Um…shouldn’t that have still been the priority? Bond could have gotten arrested and it probably would have been fine.
We learn from Hip that Gibson wanted to set-up another meeting in Bangkok to hammer out immunity details (idk, just roll with it, but sad for M to book that trip prematurely), because he maybe works for “Hai Fat” of “Hai Fat Enterprises.” And he was going to be bargaining with his invented a solar cell called “the solex agitator” which is 95% efficient. Just to put that in context, at the moment, the world record for efficiency is 46%, achieved in 2014. This is “science” worthy of a Marvel film.
“If he developed a solar cell that efficient, he solved the energy crisis.”
Yeah, no shit. Also didn’t they all know this before the meeting? What did they think they wanted with him exactly?
Then M decides to start randomly listing other energy sources and their flaws, in case we didn’t understand why a 95% efficient solar cell is a good thing. Meanwhile, the professor is all like “this is so exciting! Where is the solex agitator?” That’s when Hip has to sadly reveal that Gibson had put it in his pocket at the bar, but after he was shot, it was missing.
Yup. An energy expert invented a 95% efficient solar cell, and decided it was a great idea to put it in his pocket at a strip club.
M yells and Bond and Hip for dunking this up somehow, because they should have magically known that the dude was going to get shot. Bond then suggests that Hai Fat was clearly the one who hired Scaramanga, because he can afford a million dollars. But…didn’t Gibson…work for him? Bond also goes on to assume that Hai Fat never met Scaramanga personally because *reasons*. So he formulates this great plan to have Q produce a fake nipple that he can stick on himself, and then he’ll go to Hai Fat’s place and pretend to be Scaramanga. Maybe there were other reasons Bond had been taken off the energy crisis case?
Oh. And Bond needs to take Goodnight with him, because “After tonight’s debacle, an efficient liaison officer won’t come amiss.” That’s Goodnight for you!
Anyway, Bond and Hip warp to Bangkok and go to the outskirts of Hai Fat’s mansion, where Bond scales the wall and strolls over to a pool with a naked chick in it. She invites him to take a dip with her…good thing, because he needs to pop that third nipple out. His plan kinda hinged on it. What if there hadn’t been a pool?
Despite Hai Fat’s mansion crawling with guards, Hai Fat himself is the first one to spot Bond creeping on this swimmer and yells at him, until Bond turns around and we get more dramatic nipple music.
Hai Fat address Bond as “Mr. Scaramanga” and then is all like “we promised not to meet!” Oh and remarks on how great third nipples are.
“Some cults consider it a sign of invulnerability and great sexual prowess.”
Bond then takes this opportunity not to poke around about the solex, but to name-drop himself and brag about what a badass he is. He wants to persuade Hai Fat to fund a hit on “Bond.” Um…what is this accomplishing, exactly? He knows he’s not Scaramanga’s target, and MI6’s only interest in Hai Fat is that he may have stolen a 95% efficient solar cell. And what are they even hoping to accomplish, btw? What is this mission? “You don’t get to steal that, only we get to”?
Hai Fat kind of blows off Bond’s bizarre suggestion, but invites “Scaramanga” back for dinner at 9. Once outside, Bond, still in view of the guards, pulls off his fake nipple and tells Hip “he must have found me quite titillating.” Theory: a writer thought of that line and the only reason Scaramanga’s nipple exists was so that they could incorporate it.
Anyway, Bond’s brill plan may have kind of worked, because we see Hai Fat talking to the real Scaramanga, who he’s totally met, and he now wants Bond dead.
Before getting ready for dinner, Bond promises Goodnight that he’ll come home and fuck her, because “a midnight snack might be just the thing.” She tells him she’ll have chilled wine waiting, and he’s like “keep everything else warm heh heh.” However, then she gets angry when Hip picks Bond up in a car, because there’s two obviously underaged girls in the backseat. Goodnight, honey, the mere fact that you think Bond would be willing to commit statutory rape is a wee bit of a red flag.
Turns out the girls are Hip’s nieces, and he offered to “give them a lift” after dropping off the SECRET AGENT to his meeting with a very powerful and dangerous dude.
At Hai Fat’s, his creepy statues have turned into creepy cosplayers, and two now-alive sumo wrestlers try to kill Bond. Did I not mention the creepy statues before? Whoops. Bond defeats one with a massive wedgie, but Nick Nack, dressed up as the devil or something, knocks him out with a trident. He’s about to kill him when Hai Fat bursts out complaining of the mess that would leave. Just “take him to school.” Wait…didn’t he hire Scaramanga to kill him? Was Scaramanga taking a vacation day and wanted Nick Nack to handle this case? What the fuck is happening?
What is happening is that Bond is taken to a martial arts school, where students fucking kill each other in what looks like a normal practice. That makes sense, and is only mildly playing into offensive stereotypes (after Live and Let Die’s “Great Black Consortium” my meter might be broken). This also has to be the dumbest possible way anyone could conceive of to dispose a SECRET AGENT. Like clearly this guy would have martial skills. Here’s an idea: the winner of the swordfight gets to fucking kill Bond. With his sword.
I guess that wouldn’t be honorable, so instead they have a rando challenge Bond to unarmed sparring. Speaking of not honorable, Bond kicks him out cold when he bowed to him. That pisses off the school administration, so they order the dude in black to face bond next. He’s a popular kid, because everyone keeps shouting “Chula! Chula!” However, proving the point that this is the worst possible means of disposing of Bond, he holds his own in the fight, and when he gets a chance, dives out a window without knowing how far the fall was.
And on the other side, just pulling up (wow what timing!), is Hip, nieces still in tow. Were they driving around with him all night looking for Bond? Does he always take family members on government missions?
Bond shakes himself off, and Hip explains that they knew where he was because “Hai Fat owns this place.” He also is a billionaire running a successful company, I’m pretty sure that list isn’t short. The other school students finally realize that Bond jumped out a fucking window, so a group of the ones who are clearly not the trained masters pour out of the building and encircle Bond, Hip, and the nieces. Bond tells the girls to “stand back,” but they ignore him, jump forward, and begin to start kicking everyone’s ass.
Apparently Hip’s brother [in law?] runs a karate school. Anyway, then the school administration of this school (aka the capable fighters) realize they should fucking do something about what’s happening, so they jump out of the building to give chase. Hip starts the car and begins to drive, yelling and Bond and nieces to get in, but Bond’s chivalry demands that he shuts the car door for the girls. Hip speeds off after he hears the noise, leaving Bond behind.
Moral of the story: chivalry kills.
However, Bond runs about 3 steps and is suddenly right by a bunch of boats. He hops in one and starts the motor, which he pulls out of the water to threaten the school administration with, while saying, and I quote, “What you might call a Mexican screw-up, gentlemen!” Um.
And so begins another thrilling boat-chase scene, because we totally didn’t have our fill of that in Live and Let Die. You know what else we didn’t have our fill of in that film? Sheriff JW Pepper. He’s back, with his comical racism, and now, a comically racist wife! Why is this racist dude from rural Louisiana opting to vacation in Bangkok? That’s anyone’s guess.
Part of this boat-chase includes a little kid who is trying to sell a wooden elephant to tourists on the river. He jumps out of the loaded tour boat (holding JW and wife) after they all refuse to buy it, and hops into Bond’s boat, which slowed to a stop after a few minutes of use. He asks for a decreasing number of bahts in exchange for it, until Bond says “Sonny I’ll give you 20,000 bahts if you can make this heap go any faster.” The little boy flips a switch that does just that. “I’m afraid I’ll have to owe you,” Bond responds, shoving the kid overboard.
Then the focus pivots to JW for some unknown reason, as he is clearly amused with the school administrators failing to catch up with Bond. Because racism. In fact, he even has a new, fun racist term for us all:
“If you got your little pointy heads out of them pajamas, you wouldn’t be late for work!”
And yes, “pointy heads” is a phrase he continues to use throughout this film.
Back at Hai Fat’s, he’s really annoyed about Bond’s escape. So annoyed, that he thinks he has to “lie low” so as not to “jeopardise a project in which I’ve invested half my fortune.” Okay, wait, he funded Gibson? Then why did he kill Gibson for the solex? And if he hadn’t randomly decided that he needed to off a 00-agent, then there’d be no issues? What if he had succeeded in killing Bond? Does he think MI6 wouldn’t have found out?
Either way, he decides to take the solex out of his safe while telling Scaramanga how it’s worth billions. Then he fucking gives it to the guy, because who wouldn’t trust a hired assassin with the key to a renewable future, and tells him “Return it to the plant and don’t leave there without my permission.” Why didn’t he just like…put it there in the first place? Had Gibson stolen it? But he was the one who wanted to meet in Bangkok because he works for Hai Fat, so it’s not like he was trying to avoid him. So…what even is happening?
Then Hai Fat also decides it’s a great idea to start insulting Scaramanga, who he apparently hired as a junior partner?? Scaramanga, solex in hand, assembles his golden gun out of what looks like office supplies and kills Hai Fat. Yeah, dude I might have in that situation. Apparently Hai Fat’s guards are Dornish, because they give no shits that their boss was just shot, even when Scaramanga basically tells them “I killed him and am in charge now.”
Bond, meanwhile, is wining and dining Goodnight with a label called “Phuyuck.” They take a sip and are both disgusted, but Bond says “I approve.”
“Oh, not the wine. Your frock.”
He then goes on to compliment it for being “tight in the right places.” She seems really charmed, especially when he flat out propositions her, but apparently Goodnight once heard of something called “self-respect” and decides to try it out.
Bond blames it on the Phuyuck, but don’t worry, literally less than 10-seconds later, we cut to Bond in his hotel room, where Goodnight turns up going “My hard-to-get act didn’t last very long, did it?” Dude, he propositioned you. What did you think “hard-to-get” was going to accomplish? Then we’re treated to more feminism.
“What made you change your mind?”
They lie down on the bed and are about to get freaky when someone comes in the door. Bond, the SECRET AGENT, decides that Goodnight should hide under the covers.
Turns out, it’s Maud Adams, and now the tables have turned with her being the one to exploit incompetent hotel staffers. “I didn’t recognize you with your clothes on,” Bond says as a greeting, reminding us all of the time he uncomfortably harassed her. They go to sit down on the bed, and Bond tells her that the obviously human-shaped lump is three pillows.
She doesn’t seem to give a shit. She’s busy trying to warn Bond that he’s in danger now because he’s one of Scaramanga’s contracts. Maud Adams then reveals that she hates him and thinks he’s a monster, but is literally terrified for her life so she can’t leave him. She says she needs 007 (I guess we can assume she didn’t know it was him earlier), and that she was the one who sent the bullet to him so that he’d kill Scaramanga. Apparently her abusive dickhead boyfriend is always talking about Bond, and that’s why she thinks he’s the only person who could kill him. Why does a random assassin know about a British 00-Agent? ¯\_(シ)_/¯. His reputation really does precede him.
But whatever, this is the only recourse she sees herself as having, and the lengths she went to and risks she took to bring that about are rather compelling. Maud Adams finally says, “I want him dead. Name your price, anything, I’ll pay it.” Then she throws in the offer of sex too, though she says it with this chilling dispassion that there’s…there’s no way Bond would take her up on this, right? She’s literally trying to escape an abusive relationship where she’s trapped and raped. Like…he knows better, yeah?
Fuck this film. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, but Maud Adams goes to the bathroom to take off some clothes for this charming quid pro quo arrangement, and Bond uses that opportunity to stuff Goodnight into the closet. She looks miffed, but settles down to sleep among the clothing.
Anyway, before schtupping Maud Adams, Bond tells her that she needs to get him the solex agitator, and then he’ll kill Scaramanga for her. She agrees, because it’s not like she has any damn choice. But like, the British government is allowed to just steal someone’s intellectual property? Wasn’t this developed in Hai Fat Enterprises? Which Scaramanga now owns? I’m just not sure this mission makes any sense…
But before we can ponder those pressing questions, we’re treated to a tense scene of Maud Adams returning to Scaramanga, who seems very suspicious of her. She tells him she went to see a double feature.
Back at Bond’s, he opens the door to the closet where Goodnight is while smoking a cigar and joking about the line of duty. She says she’s going to resign in the morning, but he tells her “your turn will come, I promise.” Bond then tells Goodnight about the quid pro quo deal that he struck, and even she seems horrified. However, it’s for the the wrong reasons; she’s just upset because she’s jealous.
Apparently Maud Adams agreed to steal the solex and meet with Bond at a sporting event, because that’s the next scene we get. Bond sits down next to her at a boxing arena, while Goodnight and Hip watch him and communicate on walkie-talkies. Oh and Hip is disguised as a peanut vendor. Maybe he and Goodnight should go for it?
Sadly for all of us, Maud Adams is actually dead. Psyche! She has a bullet wound in her heart, but was still propped upright in her seat. Which raises more than a few questions to mind, like…why did Scaramanga let her steal the solex and let her get this far? Just to see who she was meeting? Why didn’t he wait til after the meeting to kill her because then maybe he’d find out more information?
Anyway, Nick Nack is in the row behind Bond and Corpse Adams, so as Bond begins looking through her purse for the solex, he pulls a gun on him. Scaramanga sits down on Bond’s other side and says that he already checked, and the solex is not there. Apparently he didn’t realize that she might have just like…fucking dropped it on the ground, because it’s literally right under their seats. Which Bond spots. He subtly puts his shoe on it and drags it towards him while Scaramanga exposits about how growing up, his only friend was an elephant.
No really, I have no clue what this story was. Through his love of animals he discovered his love of killing? Bond totally should have asked if Scaramanga was definitively Cuban or not…ya know, flesh out that file. Instead, he orders a bag of peanuts from Hip, and very smoothly passes him the solex agitator. Hip runs out and hands the thing right over to Goodnight, telling her that she’s to keep it and can’t lose it. He has to go help Bond because “there’s a midget with a gun on him.” He also tells Goodnight to call the police.
Meanwhile, Scaramanga tells Bond, “Personally, l have nothing against you, so let’s hope our paths never cross again.” Dude, you’re like, his biggest fan. This is all you wanted out of your interaction? To tell him your elephant story? Apparently so, because he gets up and leaves. Nick Nack leaves too, which takes Bond a minute to realize, before he gets up himself. For some reason, Nick Nack and Scaramanga went in two different directions; Goodnight spots the former. Remembering Hip’s warning, she decides to follow him as he gets into a car. Then she very badly and unsubtly goes to plant a tracker.
Scaramanga walks by just in time to see this, and just tosses her into the trunk all casually. Oh yeah, and the solex agitator is in her purse. However, Scaramanga had no way of knowing this, so had she not inserted herself halfway into his car, was he just going to leave town? Nick Nack certainly seemed to think they were going somewhere. Like, he seriously almost left the key to a clean energy future lying on the floor at a boxing match?
Bond and Hip realize they need to follow that car (Hip is still walkie-ing with Goodnight), but she also has the keys in her purse. “Women,” Bond says. Then he runs to a car dealership and hops into a car, where none other than JW is waiting for a test-drive. WHY IS HE TEST DRIVING CARS IN BANGKOK? Did he like…move there?
He recognizes Bond from their Live and Let Die fun-times, which even Bond is not happy about:
So then we’re treated to yet another car chase, only this one includes JW shouting things out the window such as “pull your cars over, you little brown pointy-heads!” Did this character test well with target audiences or something?? Why is he here???
Somehow Bond and Scaramanga’s car get separated by a narrow river, so Bond drives his car over a rickety ramp while a comical looping sound-effect plays. Though it actually is vaguely funny when Roger Moore tries to imitate the guy just before it. Still, what a serious movie.
But stunts or not, Scaramanga beats them to this little run-down garage, where he proceeds to attach wings to his car, turning it into an airplane. Of course.
Bond tries to break in while this is happening, but the helpful police Goodnight called pull their guns on Bond to stop him. All this gets interrupted by Scaramanga’s car-plane taking off and everyone staring in amazement.
Goodnight, meanwhile, pries her way out of the trunk, only to discover that she’s 30,000 feet in the air, so she just pops back inside. Oh that reminds me, Scaramanga pushed her in when she was clearly bugging it…he didn’t bother to like, remove that? And again, he had no way of knowing the solex was in her handbag, so his plan was to fly away without it? Or did he only fly away because he figured Goodnight was some sort of bargaining chip? Did he even have a reason to assume Goodnight was connected with Bond? Was this just random abduction?
Some indeterminate amount of time later, we go to some kind of MI6 building, where M is appropriately pissed about all of this. He yells at Bond and Hip until some helpful MI6 workers come over with a map that says “CHINA” in giant letters. They point to some island where they picked up Goodnight’s signal. Oh and since it’s the 70s, this means “Red Chinese waters.” Bond suggests straying “inadvertently into them” by flying under their radar screen. And since the PM would never approve, Bond points out that “officially, you won’t know a thing about it, sir” to M.
Wait…why? What? Because he’s pretending he’s just joy-cruising and stumbles over the border? Is any of this legal?
This entire conversation seems moot because literally the next scene is Bond flying a plane while Chinese forces spot him. They call Scaramanga and ask if he wants them to take action (why are they protecting Scaramanga’s island????) and he tells them no, Bond’s expected, and that he won’t be leaving. Then Roger Moore treats us to some quality “I just landed an airplane” acting:
Anyway, Nick Nack greets Bond with a bottle of champagne, which Scaramanga uncorks via bullet. He at least lampshades this by calling it a “vulgar display,” but he couldn’t help it. He’s also genuinely excited to see Bond. See, this is the Scaramanga I would have expected to have shown up at the boxing match. The fanboy Scaramanga. That wax dummy couldn’t have been cheap!
Apparently he wants to bond with Bond over their “solitary” career choice because they have “so much in common.” What, mutual rape victims?
Speaking of, Bond remembers that maybe he should ask about his coworker who Scaramanga kidnapped.
“By the way, where’s Goodnight?”
“She can’t leave, so she does as she pleases.”
Don’t even bother worrying about those implications!
Scaramanga proceeds to take his new bff on a tour of his home, which is all solar-powered, fueled by the solex agitator. How did he power his home before, exactly? And again, if he hadn’t shoved Goodnight in the trunk then how would any of this be working?
It’s a really thorough tour, too. They go to the “electricity storage room” where there’s GIANT open vats of liquid helium that are cooling “superconductivity coils” (this is not how solar power is generated at all), and then go up to where the solex is housed so that Scaramanga can show him a solar-powered laser…it’s a great time!
All the while, he’s telling Bond his evhul plan: to sell the solex rights to the highest bidder. Bond seems morally outraged, but isn’t this just the free market?? Like, Scaramanga took over Hai Fat Enterprises, which was the company Gibson was working for when he made this, and I’m sure they have the rights. Is the British government seriously just sending agents to steal this? Not to mention, Scaramanga seems really proud of his clean energy; you could easily read this as an environmental advocate who happens to be a very good shot.
Oh, also, I should note that the solex works when its panel pops out of a “mushroom shaped rock” and catches the sun. Why it ever collapses or how anyone considers this “mushroom shaped” is beyond me, but…
Anyway, once Bond and Scaramanga finish trying to wow each other with their very specific scientific knowledge (did you know solar lasers are at least 3500℉? Cause Bond did. Why are two non-Americans using Fahrenheit exactly?), they go to have a nice lunch. Goodnight pops out wearing nothing but a bikini, which Scaramanga says was his doing. Rather than show any concern over her potential mistreatment or rape (he knows Maud Adams thought of him as a “monster” so it’s not like it’s a weird connection to make), Bond quips about how she’s “overdressed.”
Nick Nack decided to serve sautéed mushrooms (how filling), which allows Goodnight to drop some incredibly obvious and at this point, unhelpful, hints about the solex.
Yes Goodnight, I think he’s aware that Scaramanga found the key to a renewable future in your handbag at this point.
Scaramanga then proposes a random toast
to King Tommen because he and Bond are so similar, other than salary. Bond gets offended because he kills “for duty” and only kills killers. Sure, tell yourself that, guy. You’ve never made a mistake in this department. Somehow this entire conversation escalates and they agree to duel each other to the death! Bond will get his PPK with 6 bullets, and Scaramanga will use his golden gun with 1.
Though credit where credit is due. Scaramanga at least admits he could have easily shot Bond down, but he’s always wanted this duel because it will be an “indisputable masterpiece.” For him, this is an artform, killing 007 the SECRET AGENT whose reputation proceeds him. Which yes, is a bit thin, but at least it makes more sense then why Hai Fat stopped Nick Nack from killing Bond on the spot.
Oh, and speaking of Nick Nack, Bond insists on finishing the lunch he so kindly prepared for them.
So they head outside and stand back to back with their guns raised, while Nick Nack goes over the rules. Rules that apparently include a provision for him administering a “coup de grâce” if necessary (that doesn’t defeat the purpose?). He counts to twenty as Bond and Scaramanga walk away from each other, and when the count is reached and Bond whips around, his opponent is already gone.
Then Nick Nack pops up and tells Bond “if you kill him, all this will be mine.” So Bond decides to follow him. Nick Nack directs him through the door to the game room, before running back to his control panel and revving things up again.
I’m not sure what the hot fuck Scaramanga was bothering to do this whole time, since unlike in the opening sequence, he didn’t need to find his gun. But whatever, we’re instead treated to Bond falling for the same traps as the last moop, before he feels his way around mirrors to the edge of the room (it’s apparently a raised stage), which he proceeds to climb down, putting him out of bounds. This also puts him out of view of Nick Nack’s camera, though he loses his gun in the process so…it’s a wash I’d say.
Still, somehow, this gave Bond the time to locate the wax dummy of himself, who was conveniently given a LOADED gun (Scaramanga likes attention to detail?), drag it away, put on its shirt and jacket, and assume the EXACT SAME POSE without either Scaramanga or Nick Nack noticing. And Scaramanga was only like, 10 feet away from this the entire time, because we see him pass it:
And I’m sure Scaramanga’s game room has a very specific aesthetic, but did the guy really not consider how this might confuse him a bit when he was dueling against the ACTUAL JAMES BOND?
Oh well. Bond shoots him in the heart, and gg. How climactic. Does this mean he runs Hai Fat Enterprises now?
By the way, while all this was going on, there was an epic subplot where the dude who sits and monitors the big vats of liquid helium decides to creep on Goodnight. Like really, he keeps giving her shifty looks and then beckons her to follow him whenever he goes somewhere. She eventually “lays him out cold” by knocking him over the head with something metal, and he falls right into the open vat of the helium.
This, of course, immediately leads to an alarm going off and the panel flashing red buttons, because these vats needed to be held at “absolute zero.” Goddamn it, Goodnight, way to muck up this operation that somehow managed to overcome the third law of thermodynamics! Not to mention the set-up that can produce solar energy without the use of photovoltaic cells or steam-turned turbines. Fuck 95% efficiency—this is the real science!
Or maybe not. It’s a highly unstable system because the dude’s body heat is enough to ruin that ~absolute zero~ they totally managed to achieve, which in turn means…explosions. Like, the whole place is going to blow up now. Don’t question it.
Bond finds Goodnight and scolds her when he learns what she did, saying they have exactly five minutes before his body temperature raises the helium “above zero.” Do you mean above ✧✧absolute zero✧✧? Sorry. This does not get less stupid. Even if this was somehow achieved, it would have taken a hell of a lot less than five minutes to disrupt that. Plus the idea it would take a whole five minutes for a body submerged in temperatures like that to give off all its body heat? That thing would be cooled in that time-frame.
No really, don’t question it. Bond and Goodnight race up to where the solex is housed so that they can remove it from its housing before the entire place blows up. Unfortunately, while Bond is working on freeing it, Goodnight’s ass endangers them.
Yup. Her butt hits a button that causes the solar panel to pop out of the “mushroom shaped rock,” which in turn makes that laser beam light again, nearly killing Bond. He yells at her to hit the very clearly labeled “manual override switch,” but she’s too stoopid with her womanly brain to comprehend what he’s saying.
So he speaks to her very slowly to get her to understand.
“Now listen carefully. There’s a console up there. Now, there must be a scanner interlock button on it. Push it!”
“Computer interlock,” she answers, “ls that it?”
A conveniently timed cloud passes by while Goodnight fails to press the clearly labeled button, which stops the laser. Bond praises her on being a “good girl,” and continues his work to free the solex. He gets it in the nick of time before the cloud passes, making this entire sequence just a tad pointless.
But before you can accuse this movie of sexism, Goodnight knows where Scaramanga’s sex boat is! Feminism! They run to it as the entire island explodes.
I guess Goodnight got over her being-stuffed-in-the-closet anger, as well as any potential abuse, because the next scene is them getting ready to pork. However, unfortunately for them, Nick Nack snuck on-board the boat and springs down on them with a knife. Whether this is because he had loyalty to Scaramanga or because Bond blew up his dream home is anyone’s guess.
After a fight where Nick Nack throws countless wine bottles at Bond, who smashes them mid-air with part of a chair (scattering glass everywhere), Bond removes a suitcase from the closet and traps Nick Nack inside. I think we’re supposed to find this funny?
He carries him above deck, and when he comes back, Goodnight has magically cleaned up the thousands of glass shards already. She expresses her disgust at the idea that Bond dumped Nick Nack overboard, but don’t worry, we find out later that he just strung him up in the crow’s nest.
Then they get back to having sex, but they’re interrupted when Bond gets a phone-call from his boss. Which he proceeds to ignore. So he can have the sex.
Yup, that’s it.
The only saving grace of this film is the potential to fanfic from Maud Adam’s point-of-view. And even there, canon-divergent fanfic is strongly recommended, please. Otherwise, this is a movie that is practically defined by its misogyny and cheap attempts to tap into the success of Bruce Lee films. Maud Adams and Christopher Lee deserved better. Good thing they both found it, right?
Images courtesy of United Artists
‘Deadpool 2’ Plays With Us and Itself
Deadpool 2 is a thoroughly violent, raucous, hilarious meta heartfelt meditation on trauma and family. A giddy middle finger to the self-serious offerings from the Warner Brothers/DC movies. It’s also a glorious raspberry to the convoluted and lazy scriptwriting of Marvel’s latest Avengers movie. More importantly, it shows both studios how it’s done.
For all it’s irreverence and wacky fourth wall breaking, Deadpool 2 has a structure it stringently adheres to. By ‘structure’ I mean that it takes its time setting up and exploring characters and situations while still maintaining a sort of breathless nihilistic glee. It has time travel, but there are rules and consequences. Deadpool may have regenerative powers, but that doesn’t mean he is indestructible.
Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) as Deadpool is meant to be a sort of satiric caricature. He’s a comic book character who knows he’s a comic book character. The madman who knows more than anyone just how mad he is. The first Deadpool got a lot of mileage out of playing with this notion. At times Deadpool felt like a looney tunes cartoon on acid with Barry Manilow as the soundtrack.
Deadpool 2 leans into this sensibility while also showing the character is actually quite fertile for growth. Unlike his counterparts, Deadpool spends his time not helping people so much as murdering bad people who have hired him to murder other bad people. Any heroics that happen to be achieved are purely accidental and probably in the vein of Wade’s self-interest.
At least until Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), Wades vulgar cynical soul mate is gunned down in their apartment. Vengeance bound, Wade quickly runs her killer down and doles out his own particular brand of justice. Distraught and morose Wade attempts suicide in a way that feels utterly cartoonish but wholly organic to Deadpool.
Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) arrives to put Wade back together again, literally. Deadpool 2 zigzags through genres and tropes, but it never feels as if it just merely checking off boxes. With each zig and zag, we find our expectations thwarted.
Reynolds is so perfect as Wade Wilson that it’s less acting and more laconic conjuring. The Deadpool mask covers his face entirely yet somehow we can feel the manic toothy grin all but strain against the red blood soaked fabric. The comedic timing is pristine, but it never comes at the expense of the pathos of Wade Wilson.
What is sometimes forgotten is that without his powers Wade Wilson is just a man dying of cancer. David Leitch brutally reminds us when Wade is forced to wear a collar that inhibits his regenerative capabilities. Stripped of his suit and his ability to heal he is instead just a man constantly on the edge of death. Remarkably though, Wade never ceases to be Wade. Though riddled with cancer and self-pity the humor and allergy to authority are never gone.
Colossus and his protege, the epically named, Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) drag Wade kicking and screaming to Xavier’s Home for the Gifted. Deadpool is an anarchic cyclone of murder and chaos. Predictably he bristles at Colossus rules and orders of how things are done.
A petulant Wade stomps around the mansion, his only source of joy is Yukio (Shiori Kutsuna), Negasonic’s girlfriend. Yukio and Negasonic are rarely, if ever, not in the same frame holding hands. A couple so cute and perfect even Wade is forced to smile and cheerlead the two.
Part of Wade’s X-Men training has him showing up to help a young boy Russell (Julian Dennison). It’s here Deadpool 2 begins to hint at something deeper. A young mutant with the ability to shoot fire from his fists seems hell-bent on destroying everything in his path. As a trainee, Wade is thrown into the situation to try and talk the kid down. Because all Wade does is talk he’s able to discover the boy is being abused. His anger is valid and the destruction merely a cry for help.
Deadpool 2 has stakes. The stakes aren’t the end of the world or galaxy threatening, thank God. Rhett Reese, Ryan Reynolds, and Paul Wernick’s script instead focus on something the superhero movies with a couple of notable exceptions have ignored or forgotten. What does it mean to be a hero?
By design, Deadpool is not meant to be part of a team. Yet Wade desperately wants a family. He and Vanessa were working to have a child before she was brutally gunned down. Much of Wade’s anguish is the loss of the dream of having a family. All corny and melodramatic which is why it’s so brilliant that Deadpool 2 pulls it off not just well but brilliantly.
Cable (Josh Brolin) a bounty hunter of sorts from the future arrives to hunt down Russell. Wade may be crazy, but even he’s baffled as to why anyone would want to kill a kid. Yet, Wade also can’t keep his mouth shut and alienates Russell when he needed Wade the most.
Brolin does quiet, wordless brooding in his sleep. Likewise, Cable is a part that fits Brolin like a glove. He struts across the screen with a swagger capped by a smoldering grimace. Charismatic as all hell, Brolin somehow manages to get us to root for him and against him, often within the same scene.
Unlike Avengers: Infinity War, Deadpool 2 slams rules and exceptions on time travel. Its a plot device but not one without consequences. Not only does this raise the stakes but it also draws boundaries around what, when, and where the characters must go to further the plot. The writers are forced to deal with issues both narrative and emotionally as opposed to leaving them dangling or hand wave them away.
What’s more Deadpool 2 has the audacity to switch bad guys in midstream. The evolution of the character arcs of Russell and Cable and how they relate to Wade borderlines on a sort of loony sad poetry. Death surrounds Wade, even as he tries to assemble a team of experts and mutants.
Along the way, Wade meets Domino (Zazie Beetz), whose power is luck, and the plot begins to fall neatly into place. Beetz is a ray of effortless sunshine. She gives Domino a flower child, easy going demeanor who’s not afraid to get her hands bloody.
The culmination of all this time traveling, random death, and wisecracking monologues is Wade’s realization that his actions and words have consequences. Bad guys are sometimes good people, and monsters often look like everyone else.
Leitch paces Deadpool 2 as if it were a manic breeze. He packs the frames with action in the foreground and background. Much like his other movies John Wick and Atomic Blonde he allows us to see the punch and the kicks land. The fights are a ballet of haphazardness. Most superhero fights are like a dance. But when your character is the Tasmanian Devil personified you’re forced to dance the Macera to a Mahler composition played on a flaming tuba with kazoo accompaniments.
Leitch’s biggest accomplishment is following the simple creed of “Let Deadpool be Deadpool,” and all that may entail. Deadpool 2 is a deeply felt violently hilarious melodrama about loss and loneliness. The heavy stuff works not just because the filmmakers know how to balance the tones, though they do.
It works because the script has slyly laid the groundwork. But it also works because it allows us to not just spend time with Domino, Wade, Cable, Russell, Negasonic, Yukio, and Colossus. But because it allows us to understand why they are the way they are.
Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox
The Happytime Murders Looks to Murder Your Childhood
Following the deaths of the stars of former show The Happytime Gang, two detectives (one human and one puppet) try to solve the murders. Have you ever imagined what Who Framed Roger Rabbit? would be like if it tried to be as crude and immature as humanly possible? Well, that’s what The Happytime Murders looks like. I sure hope the actual movie isn’t as bad as this trailer was.
I suppose the concept could work. Take the idea of humans and Muppets living side by side, make it visually gritty, don’t take yourself too seriously, and really sell the idea of this world’s existence. This trailer seems to do literally the exact opposite of that. I couldn’t watch this without feeling like Happytime Murders just wants to use Muppets to be as shocking as possible in hopes of cheap laughs. Nothing about this trailer made me feel like they tried to make a real world out of this movie at all. I really hope I’m wrong. Hopefully, I am.
If I am wrong, then this trailer was a huge failure. All it did was make me hate the very idea of this movie. I’m not sure I’ve ever rolled my eyes as much as I did during the ejaculation joke at the end. And then they doubled down and did it again. I guess some people will take this less seriously than I do, and that’s fine. No judgment here. After all, humor can be very subjective.
The Happytime Murders hits theaters on August 17. If it’s as bad as it looks here, and Melissa McCarthy somehow makes it work, then maybe consider her for some awards. And if I’m wrong about how bad the movie looks here, then I will happily eat crow about it.
Images Courtesy of STX Films
The Top 5 Best Portrayals of Sherlock Holmes in Film or Television
Due to scheduling conflicts, Thad and I were unable to record our episode of Beneath the Screen of the Ultra-Critics. We will return in two weeks with an episode about the Hays Code. This time both our voices will be audible, so it doesn’t sound like one long Andy Kauffman style prank.
This week though Thad and I decided, in light of Elementary being renewed for another season, to rank our favorite Sherlock Holmes in film and television. We had one caveat; the character has to actually be Sherlock Holmes. What this means is characters like Dr. Gregory Hous (Hugh Laurie) who are clearly inspired by Holmes are not eligible. Nor is Justin Playfair (George C. Scott) on the list because he only believes he is Sherlock Holmes and that doesn’t count either. Sadly, this means Basil of Baker Street (Barrie Ingham) is nowhere to be found but rest assured he is, in fact, one of the great fictional detectives.
Once again, we blithely court controversy by daring to rank the portrayals of a fictional detective over a hundred and thirty years old. We fully acknowledge that this is list is the only one of its kind in existence. Which makes our decisions all the more final and inarguable.
5. Basil Rathbone
Sherlock Holmes’s iconic deerstalker hat came not from Doyle, so much as from the illustrations that accompanied the Holmes stories in The Strand. Likewise, the image of Holmes we conjure up in our brain when we think of the Baker Street occupant is more than likely Basil Rathbone’s. Remarkable since, even though Rathbone played Holmes for seven years, few people today have seen or heard of him.
Yet, all prior depictions have been more or less been modeled after his gaunt granite thin-lipped demeanor. The sly sardonic smile and steepled fingers practically thrive in the public conscious when we think about the great detective. Rathbone’s performance is lodged in our collective psyche. Holmes is an archetype, and early actors played him as such.
Rathbone’s performance lacks any real complexity, but then again the scripts weren’t calling for it. They called for a simmering and brooding Holmes with acidic quips and sharp denunciations and that’s what Rathbone gave us. More than any physical attribute, it’s how he walked at the clipped pace and held himself on the edges of the frames. When Rathbone played Holmes, it was less a character and more a calm and collected wraith.
4. Robert Downey, Jr.
Far from the first American to play Sherlock Holmes, Downey brought his singular energy and presence to the role. Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes pay little heed to Doyle’s original source material. But through it, all Downey gives us delightfully fun and impish Holmes.
Arguably Downey’s Holmes is the least mature on the list. Ritchie’s characters tend to be the types found on the floors of local bars near closing time. The contrast between Doyle’s staunch upper-class tendencies and Ritchie’s deeply embedded working-class humor leads to a weird adventure yarn more suited for a Doc Savage book than a Sherlock Holmes story.
Downey pulls it off. His Watson (Jude Law) hews much more to the stuffy tweed wearing visage of his origins. Mixed with Downey’s street brawler Holmes though the two make the whole thing feel like an idea Shane Black had but never got around to working out. Downey’s performance seems to hint at the Holmes imagined by Doyle more than any other before or since. Less a faithful hew to the performances before him, Downey’s Holmes was a punk rock rebel.
3. Sir Ian McKellen
Of all the movies about Sherlock Holmes, I find none of them as haunting and beautiful as Bill Condon Mr. Holmes. Less a faithful adaptation of the source material and more of a meditation on Holmes himself. Mr. Holmes none the less is a moving story about the great detective nearing the end of his life.
Sir Ian McKellen plays Holmes stripped of his pretenses. His determined gait and calculated movements now replaced with shaky hands and a walking stick less for show and more for necessity. Filled with regret and longing for the choices he’s made McKellen’s Holmes is a tragic melodramatic figure. Old age and dementia are raving the once great mind.
Condon plays with us as he intertwines the memory of Holmes and our expectations of Holmes laced with Holmes disapproval of the public’s perception of him. Staying with a widow and a young boy he finds himself enjoying their company. When the boy lashes out at his mother, Holmes demands he apologizes.
“Go after her. You must apologize for saying things that were meant to hurt. You were cruel. If you don’t apologize, you will regret it.” The boys scoff at the old man. “People always say that.” “Because it’s true.” Holmes snaps. When the boy asks if Holmes regrets anything, “So. Much.” McKellen’s Holmes is a man who realizes his loneliness is of his own doing.
2. Jonny Lee Miller
Elementary is far and away the most complex and adult modern adaptation of Sherlock Holmes. The picture of Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) with Watson (Lucy Liu) is apt. Unlike almost every other adaptation Watson is viewed as an equal part of the Holmes narrative. What we get is not just a Holmes story but a Holmes story about his relationship with another person who challenges and supports him at the same time.
He’s a fully functional adult who’s struggling with addiction. Holmes forthright struggle with addiction humanizes him in a way most other portrayals fail. Earlier Holmes either downplay Holmes drug abuse, such as Steven Moffat’s Sherlock. Or flat out ignore it. By addressing it and understanding that addiction is a lifelong progress, Elementary forces Sherlock to evolve not just as a character but as a human being.
Miller brings a wounded and confused anxiety to his Holmes. People are more than puzzles to him—they represent possibilities. He trains Watson because she shows an intellectual aptitude and a moral fortitude to what Holmes believes to be a higher calling, a private detective. His Holmes understands intelligence is something that is both inherent and taught. Miller’s Holmes is often the smartest person in the room but rarely is he the only smart person present.
1. Jeremy Brett
Of all the Holmes on this list, none of them capture the mercurial enigma that is Jeremy Brett’s, Sherlock Holmes. His Holmes bubbles with glee and excitement underneath his quivering jaw. Cool and calm under fire but un-hesitant to leap to the floor crawling at the floorboards to reveal a hiding spot. Brett fumes with a manic energy that brings an entirely fresh and singular vision of Holmes.
Far from the stiff upper lit Londoner, Brett’s Holmes has a twinkle in his eye. A hunger for the rages within his breast as he shares with Watson how he had figured all out. Yet, much like Miller’s Sherlock, Brett also has a great humanity within him. The Case of the Blue Carbuncle, in particular, shows him scouring the London streets on Christmas Eve to help out a local policeman who’s come to him for help.
The Case of the Six Napoleons reveals to us the complex sensitive and egotistical side of the great man. Inspector Lestrade compliments Holmes on his deductive work. “We’re not jealous of you, you know? No sir, we’re proud of you.” Brett’s cool demeanor cracks as he receives validation from a source he respects very much. Brett’s Sherlock is quite simply a marvel of restraint with sudden outbursts of great emotion. Rarely has the great man ever been portrayed with such passion, glee, and deep sympathetic humanity.