Shaken... Not Stir Fried: 007 Does Asia

by Will Raus, Jan 10, 2004 | Destinations: Japan / China / Korea, N / India / New Delhi / Tokyo / Beijing / Pyongyang

You Only Live Twice: Bond prevents SPECTRE from starting a war between the U.S. and Russia...
Octopussy: Bond tracks down a Russian general and prevents him from conquering all of Europe...
Tomorrow Never Dies: Bond stops a maniacal newsman from starting a war...
Die Another Day: Bond prevents a Korean colonel from taking control of all of Korea.

These are the plots of the only four of the twenty MGM James Bond movies that take place in Asia. Given that in the twentieth century, the world of espionage and war was largely focused on Russia and Eastern Europe, it is understandable that most of the movies of this genre would occur in those places. But in these four films, it just goes to show that when Double O Seven does Asia, he does it with style.

You Only Live Twice

You Only Live Twice was the first Bond movie to take place in Asia, and the last one starring Sean Connery. It is also the only Bond film that takes place exclusively in Asia. You Only Live Twice is not only entertaining, the exotic Japanese setting is a cultural showcase. Bond's first encounter with Aki, his Japanese co-conspirator, takes place at a sumo basho, followed soon thereafter with an incident at a Japanese-style hotel, complete with shoji screens and tatami floors. Later, Bond takes refuge at a Japanese country estate, and visits a martial arts dojo. The premise of You Only Live Twice is very also very inventive, based on the idea that one could capture spacecraft by engulfing them with a larger spacecraft. Very cool. Although this particular Bond film features no high-tech "Bond car," it offers the next best thing: a "Bond helicopter." In true Bond style, Q shows up with three suitcases, and before ten minutes are up, their contents are transformed into a helicopter with enough armament to defend itself against a fleet of enemy aircraft and a flock of evil henchmen. However, for all its intrigue and cultural charm, the film had one major flaw: Bond trying to pass himself off as Japanese. It is highly unlikely that a hairy Scottish hulk like Sean Connery could fool anyone into thinking that he was Japanese with nothing more than a little hair dye and pancake makeup. But they tried... to no avail. Bond still looks as British as ever. Nevertheless, he makes it work somehow, and the final assault by the ninja warriors on the volcanic SPECTRE stronghold is a fast-paced conclusion to a thoroughly enjoyable film.

Bond Actor: Sean Connery, in his last role as Bond. Not very convincing, and a little ridiculous even, disguised as a poor Japanese fisherman, but dashing and debonair as ever in his portrayal of the infamous 007.

Bond Girl: You Only Live Twice featured a brace of beauties: Aki, the cool yet demure Asian MI6 operative played by Akiko Wakabayashi, and Kissy Suzuki, the local front for Bond's disguise as the poor fisherman, played by Mie Hama. Throughout most of the movie, Aki is front and center as the Bond Girl, but it's Kissy Suzuki who sails off into the sunset in the arms of James Bond.

Bond Villain: Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the diabolical head of SPECTRE, played by Donald Pleasance. This recurring Bond arch-nemesis is a high-tech puppet master, continually plotting behind the scenes to cause global catastrophe. He put James Bond through his paces in Thunderball, Diamonds are Forever, and For Your Eyes Only as well. Incidentally, Ernst Stavro Blofeld is also the archetype for the Dr. Evil character in the all the Austin Powers films.

The Evil Lair: Since Japan is a volcanic island, the volcano crater space base is the perfect setting for Blofeld's headquarters. Camouflaged as a lake that formed in the crater of a volcanic peak, the 'lake' is actually a metal shell painted to resemble the surface of the water, and acts as a gigantic hatch that opens up to reveal a massive spacecraft launch site.


Octopussy is a fun and interesting Bond movie starring Roger Moore. Set in India, Octopussy is an action-packed adventure film, in which Bond must thwart the Russian General Orlov in his plot to convince NATO to force the U.S. to disarm its nuclear weapons. To finance his scheme, Orlov employs the services of Kamal, an exiled Indian prince who forges Russian art treasures, and transports them to auction by way of the temptress smuggler Octopussy. Amid its weighty plot, Octopussy has its lighter moments. Early in the film, during a high-stakes backgammon game against the villain Kamal, Moore uses his opponent's rigged dice to beat him at his own game. Soon thereafter, in an excellent car chase scene, Moore uses his wit and cleverness to escape his assassins by scattering near-worthless currency out the window of his taxi, jamming the street behind him with scrabbling pedestrians, and making his exit through a fake advertising panel. And one can't help but chuckle when Moore infiltrates Octopussy's island retreat in a submarine disguised as an alligator, from which Bond emerges in full tuxedo. The grand finale says it all, with Moore dressed as a circus clown to gain entry backstage at Octopussy's tent show, where he must defuse a powerful nuclear weapon.

Bond Actor: Roger Moore in his sixth role as the debonair 007. More flirtatious than Sean Connery's Bond and more witty than Pierce Brosnan's Bond, Roger Moore brings a droll humor to the role without detracting from thrill of the action or the gravity of his mission to track down a Russian general and prevent him from conquering all of Europe.

Bond Girl: Octopussy, played by Maud Adams. This exotic and enigmatic Bond Girl leaves Roger Moore and the audience wondering whom she would help or hinder. Bond must play it safe around her until he decides whether she is an ally or an enemy.

Bond Villain: Octopussy has two villains: Kamal-Khan, an exiled Indian prince and art forger, played by Louis Jordan, and Steven Berkoff as the insane Russian General Orlov, hell-bent on stirring up trouble between the U.S. and Europe as he sits by poised to swoop in and take control. Kamal, the menacing prince, with eyes that pierce the soul, and Orlov, the plotting madman, make a fine pair of sinister adversaries.

The Evil Lair: Kamal's opulent palace appears inviting on the outside, but within its deceptive walls, the fortress grows increasingly foreboding and medieval with each descending level.

Tomorrow Never Dies

Tomorrow Never Dies is a good Bond movie, starring Pierce Brosnan as 007. Its plot concept is that whoever controls the media controls the mind. Based on this premise, the villain, media mogul Eliot Carver, places cameras and reporters at key locations and then masterminds catastrophic world events so that his broadcast network is the first place to turn for breaking news. A prior romantic involvement between Bond and Carver's voluptuous wife Paris Carver, played by Teri Hatcher, provides the story with an added element of tension and drama. And although the movie lacks the humor of other Bond films, its action sequences are fast-paced and exciting. The scene in which 007 and Bond Girl Wai Lin, a Chinese operative, flee Carver's henchmen lickety-split through the streets of Beijing on motorcycle while handcuffed together is one of the best chase scenes in any Bond movie. The explosive finale brings the film to a climactic and satisfying conclusion. And as a footnote: One of the most appealing aspects of Tomorrow Never Dies is the theme song, performed by Sheryl Crow.

Bond Actor: Pierce Brosnan, in his second portrayal of James Bond, comes off not so much as the suave secret agent, but more of a Ken doll with a kung fu grip. And although it may not have been the best portrayal of 007, it was probably Brosnan's best Bond film to date

Bond Girl: Wai Lin, played by Michelle Yeoh, of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" fame. Wai Lin is less the "helpless victim" and more the "tough girl" who is perfectly capable of taking care of herself.

Bond Villain: Eliot Carver, played by Jonathan Pryce is a plotting villain, who schemes to instigate another World War for his own greedy purposes. His aim is to create an international conflict in which his cameras and reporters would be first on the scene, thereby making his broadcast network the first place to turn to for news. He created news so that he could cover it. His goal therefore was not so much world domination, but media domination.

The Evil Lair: Carver's Stealthship, a floating missile launch/media broadcast station. His plan is to ignite a military conflict between Chinese and American forces, and then launch a nuclear missile at Beijing, for which American forces would be blamed, and ultimately a world war would erupt. Meanwhile, Carver, at the center of it all, would have the first photographs, the first footage, the first story on the war.

Die Another Day

Die Another Day, the most recent Bond film, is as well the most recent Bond adventure to take place in Asia. Its premise is a little far-fetched, but still fun nonetheless. Colonel Moon, a rogue Korean commander and son of General Moon, a decorated military hero, secretly amasses an army with purchased weaponry, with the intention of crossing the demilitarized zone and invading South Korea. Without revealing too much of the plot, suffice it to say that Bond is captured while attempting to infiltrate Moon's base of operations in the guise of an arms dealer, and is captured. He is later traded for a Korean spy named Zao, one of the most stylish and memorable characters in any Bond film ever made. Zao's face is studded with diamonds as a result of an explosion in an arms deal gone awry. Once freed by MI6, he returns to work as the right-hand operative of the story's main villain, Gilbert Graves, a megalomanical diamond magnate with a secret identity. As always, the trip to Q Branch was enjoyable, involving a trip down memory lane, which includes all the gadgets from bygone Bonds, with the return of the jetpack from Thunderball, the boots with the retractable blade (how high-tech), as well as some new toys, such as a ring that, when activated, can break any type of glass. The Bond car is a modified Aston-Martin Vanquish, code-named "Vanish," for its ability to camouflage itself from the naked eye by reflecting the appearance of the background behind it. Very cool special effects. And in keeping with the 'memory lane' theme, the Bond Girl, Jinx, played by Halle Berry, first emerges from the sea, a la Venus on the Half Shell, in a bright orange bikini conspicuously reminiscent of the one worn by Ursula Andress as Honey Rider in the very first Bond movie, Dr. No. The action sequences are a non-stop thrill ride, and the film's icy finale is a gripping nail-biter with Jinx trapped in Gilbert Graves' frozen fortress as it melts away into the arctic tundra from whence it came.

Bond Actor: Pierce Brosnan, in his fourth Bond film, is as dashing and debonair as ever, but still plays it as cool as a cucumber.

Bond Girl: Die Another Day has not one, but two Bond Girls, a good one and an evil one. The evil one, aptly named Miranda Frost, played by Rosamund Pike, is a cold-hearted ice queen and traitorous MI6 agent, who works for the villain, Gilbert Graves. The good Bond Girl, Jinx, an American operative played by Halle Berry, has an acerbic tongue and an edgy, 'hands-off' demeanor that keeps Bond at arm's length until the, ahem, inevitable final scene. 'Nuff said?

Bond Villain: Gilbert Graves is a megalomaniacal madman, convincingly played by Toby Stevens. Not much can be said of his character without revealing key elements of the plot that should remain undisclosed until one see the film.

The Evil Lair: Gilbert Graves' Ice Palace, located in (where else) Iceland. This magical yet sinister stronghold serves as a dual headquarters for Graves to operate his diamond empire while plotting international espionage and mayhem.

Shaken... Not Stir-Fried

You Only Live Twice, Octopussy, Tomorrow Never Dies and Die Another Day, the only four Bond movies that took place in Asia, are some of the very best in the seemingly never-ending 007 series. Each of them is unique and entertaining in its own way, and not only do they showcase the Asian continent, these four films show that, whether in Asia or on any other continent, Bond kicks butt and always gets the girl.

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