Thursday, October 5, 1972

Dr. No

This is the very first James Bond movie; the one that set the standard for all the rest. And that's about the only great thing about it.

The first hour of the film is essentially made up of Bond doing detective work, trying to find out why an MI6 agent and his secretary were killed in Jamaica. Once Bond narrows down the culprit to the mysterious Dr. No, the rest of the film takes place on Dr. No's island, where all manner of dangers await.

The second half is pretty entertaining, for the most part. It's where all the action is, really. It's not particularly stellar, but it's fine. The first half, however, is excruciatingly boring.

While I can appreciate the idea of Bond basically playing detective for the first half, it just seems entirely too low-key, slow-paced, and honestly boring. Maybe it's the fact that the lighting and color palette stay almost identical for 90% of the scenes, or maybe it's the fact that there's way too much extra footage that needed to be cut, but something about the way the movie's shot and edited just seems monotonous.

It occurs to me that the vast majority of the movie's plot is made up of stuff that would be glossed over entirely in a modern Bond film. They probably would have just skipped straight to MI6 saying "There's this doctor guy doing evil things on that island. Bond, you go check it out." Thus, in modern terms, only the last half of the movie is actually important. And really, aside from Bond's introduction, there isn't a single thing that's important to the plot (or any of the characters) in the first hour that couldn't be skipped over just to get straight to the island.

Normally the reasoning people bring up is "well, it was the sixties, everything was like that," but plenty of other films and TV series from that era can actively hold my interest. Heck, watching Doctor Who's "An Unearthly Child," which was made in black and white on a budget of a paper clip and two rolls of toilet paper, totally captivated me the entire way through.

For me, at least, Dr. No just doesn't hold up as an entertaining movie. It's not bad, it's just... there. I enjoyed watching it, but more in the sense of being able to go "ah, so that's where that came from." For the most part, I came away from it informed, not entertained.
I'd give it a 5 out of 10 in a modern scale, though if historical significance is a factor and production values are "adjusted for inflation," I might give it a 6 or 7.