Moore Wants to Seymour
When it comes to "Live and Let Die" the good news is that they learnt from the mistakes they made when George Lazenby took on the role, they allowed Roger Moore to put his own mark on James Bond rather than have him trying to be Sean Connery. The bad news, well with the exception of some great action scenes the actual storyline to "Live and Let Die" is not great and feels drawn out to the point that when the credits eventually roll there is a sense of relief. The storyline is not the only issue as sadly the few female characters are not strong enough and as bad guys go, well Kananga / Mr. Big isn't that frightening nor are his heavies. But you get a sense that with "Live and Let Die" they were trying to be different, the villain wasn't after world domination and there are more gadgets to play with not just for Bond but also the bad guys.
When three British agents are murdered James Bond (Roger Moore - The Cannonball Run) is sent to New York to investigate and immediately becomes aware of Mr. Big (Yaphet Kotto - The Thomas Crown Affair) when someone tries to kill him on the way to meet Felix (David Hedison) who is monitoring the actions of Caribbean politician Dr. Kananga. One thing leads to another as James Bond follows Mr. Big to his Caribbean home where he meets Solitaire (Jane Seymour - Wedding Crashers), Mr. Big's tarot reading woman as well as various henchman all of whom try and stop Bond from not only getting his hands on Solitaire but also discovering what Mr. Big is up to and the connection with Kananga.
One of the best things about "Live and Let Die" is the theme tune, it is powerful, quick and iconic, it is such a shame that the actual movie doesn't do McCartney's great song justice. I say it doesn't do it justice because to be honest the storyline to "Live and Let Die" feels mundane, not just because we have James going after a bad guy, sleeping with some women, escaping danger and so on but because it basically revolves around a drug empire. It has twists as you would expect and everything is not straight forwards when it comes to who is who, or at least for James and Felix who don't know what we do. But it just feels like Bond goes after bad guy and gets him, seen it before just with different bad guys and different gadgets.
I suppose part of the trouble with "Live and Let Die" is that it has an uneven tone with moments of realism trying to intertwine with fantasy but ending up feeling very wrong. By that I mean we have a great scene where James is trapped on a small patch of ground surrounded by hungry crocodiles, how does Britain's top agent evade death, well in cartoon style by using the crocodiles like stepping stones. It may be a great stunt but it is also such outrageous tosh it ends up making the movie corny. And it is a shame as there is some great action especially the boat chase scenes which may go on to long but are genuinely exciting.
But whilst the storyline to "Live and Let Die" did little to entertain there is one good thing and that is Roger Moore was allowed to play James Bond differently to Sean Connery. From the clothes being more casual, a change of drink and a whole more relaxed easy going attitude, whether you like Moore's version is another matter but at least he doesn't try to copy Connery. Now to be honest Roger Moore has never been my favourite Bond but I do like his performance in "Live and Let Die" purely because the campness which dominated the later movies has yet to manifest itself, oh there is certainly some cheesiness especially when it comes to chatting up women but at least he seems like a spy.
Sadly the rest of the cast is not so good and whilst it is impossible to forget Geoffrey Holder as the painted faced Baron Samedi the rest of the cast just don't work. In fairness Yaphet Kotto could have made a good bad guy, he has presence and attitude, shame then that his character of Kananga / Mr. Big is so flat. And then there is Jane Seymour as Solitaire and there is no denying that Seymour is beautiful but her character seems so weak and timid that there is no spark of chemistry between her and Bond and as the main woman that Bond hooks up with you expect more sexiness.
What this all boils down to is that "Live and Let Die" has a lot wrong with it from a rather dull storyline, feeling drawn out and that certain action scenes are beyond being cheesy. But it is still entertaining and thankfully Roger Moore gets to make his own mark on the iconic character and in his first outing as Britain's top spy does a reasonable job.