....and I always used to hold up Thunderball as my favorite. But I didn't like it as well this time around. So far on this viewing, the one that has *really* stuck out at me as having all the pieces in place, was From Russia With Love.
Personally, I've never been a fan of Thunderball. I've tried again and again to like it, but it has never clicked with me.
Dr No, From Russia With Love, and Goldfinger are all fantastic (FRWL especially), and You Only Live Twice is a bit sillier, but still fun.
The pacing and editing just feel very mechanical for the most part. In the first three films, scenes play out in a way where you don't really think about the editing. In Thunderball, there are a lot of scenes where it feels like they had a checklist of things they needed to get through, and just rushed through them to get through some exposition/plot development and get on to the next thing. A lot of the dialog delivery feels like they taped a rehearsal, with the actors rushing through their lines, and just reading instead of acting, to make sure they had their dialog down. In half of the scenes (including a lot of shorter ones that almost felt like afterthoughts), the edit will almost cut off a character's dialog as it transitions to the next scene.
The theft of the nuclear missiles is far too drawn out (I'm willing to acknowledge that it was probably more interesting to watch back in 1965). That whole sequence could have been about half as long without losing anything. The whole bit with Bond at the health clinic goes on far too long as well. None of it is as amusing or thrilling as it was probably supposed to be. The underwater 'action' sequences are dull rather than exciting, and just drag and drag. Again, I get that it was a new idea in 1965, but it's just sleep inducing to sit through now (and again, I greatly enjoyed Connery's first three Bond films). Other action sequences, including the final confrontation with Largo, are completely ruined by the terrible looking sped up film. It drains any tension or energy right out of the sequence.
They introduce a ton of characters, and then proceed to develop almost none of them. At all. The henchmen have names and... well, that's about it really. Extremely forgettable. Fiona Volpe is the only villain in the film who is at all interesting. Connery also seems a lot less engaged in the role.
Anyway, just my two cents on it. Again, Connery's first three are classics, and still enjoyable to watch today. It's just a shame that there were so many missteps with Thunderball.