Plot Quality: Octopussy has a decent plot. Bond is sent to investigate a stolen Fabergé egg, found by 008, who gets killed in the process. This leads Bond to Kamal Khan, a low-rent smuggler and dealer in stolen art. Bond follows him to India, where he learns that Khan works for a woman named Octopussy, who runs an Amazon cult and circus. Khan and Octopussy are dealing with a Russian General named Orlov, who steals artwork from the Kremlin and replaces it with fakes. This leads Bond to Germany, where Octopussy’s circus will travel from East to West Germany and then perform on an American airbase. Unbeknownst to her, Khan has agreed to smuggle an atomic bomb onto the American airbase for Orlov and detonate it to turn public opinion against the presence of the Americans and their missiles. Bond saves the day and he and Octopussy chase Khan back to India. You can turn the film off at that point.
Beyond that, there’s not much more to say, and that’s kind of the problem. There’s little to love or hate about this film. It’s not a bad film, but little of it is memorable. It’s Bond at his blandest.
Bond Quality: 1981’s For Your Eyes Only brought Bond out of the lousy era of fantasy Bond that had beset the series in the 1970s, but it exposed one big flaw: Roger himself. Although he did well, it was clear that Moore was too old and too effete to play Bond. Octopussy feels like an attempt to make Moore seem more physical and more commanding. Too a large degree it worked as this is the most physical Moore has ever been. . . but that’s not saying a lot as he still lets women do his fighting. Unfortunately though, by this point, Moore has begun to feel like a parody of himself; he’s too stiff, too formal, and his one-liners are tiresome.
Villain Quality: The film starts with Octopussy as the apparent villain, but she’s just a jewel smuggler. The real villain here is Kamal Khan (Louis Jourdan), who is an exiled Afghan prince who shacks up with Octopussy, with an assist from alternate villain General Orlov (Steven Berkoff).
There are some issues with this, like the existence of American ICBMs which could do the job just as well as the short-range missiles, the French and British nuclear arsenals, and the fact that this would be seen as a first strike by the Russians and would lead to war in minutes. But these things don’t bother you during the film as they are explained away. That makes his scheme a good one. It’s devious. It’s BIG. It seems like it would achieve his goal. And it’s topical. He also plays the villain well, bringing just enough crazy to the role while staying normal enough to believe that he could make it to his present rank and yet come to decide to do this. Unfortunately, he’s not the focus of the film... he’s just the focus of the best part of the film.
All in all, this was a Bond film and it felt like a Bond film. It had all the elements. It was exciting at points. This film has decent re-watchability. It has a decent plot, a good villain, an acceptable Bond girl, and Moore was acceptable to the task even if he was a bit old and effete. That’s why this film isn’t lower. It’s not higher though because it’s just not that interesting. Octopussy’s character was ill-defined and the things she should have done were given to Magda and Khan to do. Khan is poorly defined and cartoonish. And the real climax, the bomb being defused, comes twenty minutes before the ending. That’s why this film is No. 0016 of 0023.