Really though, the story is merely a stage for Bond to do his tricks, pretty ladies to sit around in bikinis and a nifty theme song. This time the theme song is sang/shouted by male equivalent of Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones. It ticks the necessary boxes of being loud and not making much sense (Bond is compared to Thunderball but this is just the name of the mission) so I quite enjoyed it.
Claudine Auger is a bit dull as Bond girl Domino Derval, although she gets to wear nice clothes, which is all a Bond girl really gets to do in this era. There is however a villainous Bond girl, Fiona Volpe (played by Luciana Paluzzi) - an agent of villainous organisation SPECTRE, led by Blofeld and his white cat. She can hold her own and her wardrobe left me wondering whether I’d be able to carry off a white playsuit. In the early Bond films, being a Bond girl is still a good fantasy without the nightmare of being fodder for Roger Moore’s Bond.
As for Bond’s tricks, Sean Connery is still up to the job. Somehow Connery manages to get away with the alpha male behaviour in a way that the other Bond actors don’t, such as when he seduces his physiotherapist in the opening scene as he undergoes a health check-up. It’s ridiculous and yet Bond is charming enough to achieve such a feat.
The main set-piece is the underwater fighting, which makes a change from running around a megalomaniac’s lair with a gun. It’s entertaining enough but the trouble is that this should make a good film great rather than trying to inject some excitement into an unmemorable story. Whilst story is secondary (hence the appalingness of Skyfall), there ought to be at least something driving the film, not merely the promise of women/stunts/kills/humour. I haven’t read the original source material (a screenplay Bond creator Ian Fleming co-wrote with two other writers, then turned into a novel) but seeing as the filmmakers never slavishly adapted the novels, they could have created a stronger story.
Thunderball feels like the point when the filmmakers realised that James Bond was not simply a character but an icon who had to live up to his status. Whilst that might make for some nice lines, it makes for a less than gripping film- although bafflingly Skyfall and Thunderball are the highest grossing Bond films, so maybe a Bond fan will be less bothered by this.