MR is frequently cited as one of the most poorly-reviewed and least favorite films among hardcore Bond fans. I get the criticisms:
- the humor
- flat leading lady
- making Jaws a good guy in the end
- product placement; marginalization of Bond's character
- not to mention basically remaking TSWLM
That said, it has more than its share of good points, IMO:
While incredibly similar to TSWLM, both the villain's motivation and methodology are much more clearly defined. Stromberg's motives for creating "a new and beautiful world beneath the sea" are, forgive the pun, murky, as we don't know what kind of world he hopes to establish, what he dislikes about the world as it is, what would be superior about his world, etc. In fact, we really don't know much about him at all. Drax, on the other hand, is a space-age Hitler obsessed with physical perfection. He has more telling idiosyncrasies:
- controlling his Dobermans with the click of his fingers
- mixing with the cream of society (even down to playing bridge with Britain's Minister of Defense)
- being literate and cultured enough to play Chopin on a grand piano
-- as well as more memorable and often wittier dialogue, and benefits from the precise and controlled performance of Michael Lonsdale, making for one of the best villains in the series, IMO.
Ken Adam's work on Bond was finally recognized with an Oscar nomination for TSWLM. His work on MR was no slouch, either, and MR is perhaps the greatest Bond film of all time specifically in terms of its visual style:
- the French chateau in the California desert
- the MR building complex
- the Venini glass factory, museum, and secret lab
- the Brazilian ruins, MR control room, launch pad, subterranean base etc.
- and ultimately the space station itself
Finally, while not every action sequence holds up, the fight in the glass museum and the boat chase up the Amazoco still do. The boat chase, in particular, avoids overstaying its welcome (unlike the boat chases in the two Moore / Guy Hamilton collaborations).
There are also little things to commend it
- the grouse shooting scene
- the scene where Bond drags M and the Minister of Defense into Drax's Venice lab only to discover the room not only redecorated but its dimensions completely changed
- the carnival scene where Jaws's attempted killing of Manuela is interrupted by a conga line
- the score
Personally, I have a much easier time getting excited about watching this one than some of Moore's other Bonds, such as:
- LALD, which has Bondian elements in spades but the action sequences fall flat and the pacing bores
- OP, which is far cornier & tackier than MR yet doesn't seem to be as criticized for it, has a plot that's murky & all over the map, one of the weaker main villains (Kamal Khan)
- AVTAK, with its pedestrian locales and GF-retread plot
And I'd still put it higher than Brosnan's latter two (TWINE with its soap opera dialogue & DAD going even more sci-fi ridiculousness than MR) and Craig's QOS (which sacrificed cohesive action sequences for Bourne imitation and characterization for a shorter running time).
Anyway, these are my thoughts on what is still one of my favorite Bond movies to pop in the DVD player on a Friday night. Eager to hear your thoughts.