Bond is given 48 hours after a British ship is seemingly bombed by Chinese planes to stop media baron Elliot Carver from starting World War III in order to gain exclusive broadcasting rights in China.
Bond, James Bond:
Pierce Brosnan returns for his second of four films, and I still really like him in this role. He fits the character well. He looks impeccable in a tux, which is the main costume that the character has to wear, so if you look believably suave in one, it goes a long way. You also get a small bit of beaten and dirty Bond during the last action sequence, which is a look that I kind of like in this franchise. Knowing that Bond can be weakened and tired and beaten makes it a lot more interesting to watch him go up against the villains.
Brosnan also just looks like he is having fun as this character. This is most readily apparent during the scene when he is driving his remote control car from the backseat of the car. After his tires blow, they inflate themselves, and he just kind of giggles to himself, and it’s just a joy to watch Bond be outright elated by the toys he gets to mess with while being a super spy. It’s not something we got a lot of in the late Connery films, and fun isn’t the word I would use to describe Dalton’s brief stay (Moore oozed fun) so anytime I get to see Bond enjoying being Bond, it endears me to the character in a very significant way.
That’s not to say that Brosnan is perfect. He still gets a bit acty when it comes to expressing pain. He really leans into grimaces in a distracting way, and if it fit the rest of his character that would be fine, but he is actually quite cool and collected, so the strained faces don’t quite track. On a different negative note, after seeing a recently murdered ex-girlfriend, he kind of buries his face and lips into her corpse’s neck in a creepy way. I’ll touch a bit more on their relationship below, but even if their chemistry had been better, the moment does not come off as sweet and loving, but instead as kind of awkward. That one is less on Brosnan’s part, and more a writing/directing thing. But it isn’t ideal, either way.
Sheryl Crow takes the reins on the title song for this movie and I straight up do not care for it. You can hear Crow trying to be real sexy and seductive in her vocals, but that just isn’t what I think of when I think of Sheryl Crow, which makes the verses of the song a little difficult to deal with. Then, on the refrain, Crow is clearly struggling to hit the notes that she has, and that strain does not make it a particularly easy song to listen to. The lyrics are not particularly interesting either, starting with “Darling, I’m killed/I’m in a puddle on the floor/Waiting for you to return.” Again, this line could work if the singer sounded like she was in love, or was trying to seduce James. Neither is present here. Also, that line is just straight up garbage, so I don’t know if anyone could have made it work.
The fact that this wasn’t the first choice for the song either makes it all the worse. The first song got pushed to the end credits, and, appropriately enough, I’ve pushed it to one of the last sections of this write-up, so you can know the pain of having to wait to hear a vastly superior song.
Jonathan Pryce takes over the antagonistic duties of this film, and boy does he have fun. Everything about his performance is exquisitely over-the-top, even to the point that when he types, it feels excessive. Everything about his performance oozes a character who thinks the most of himself, and it’s really great. And, I know that in my Octopussy write-up, I critiqued one of the villains for being scene-chewy, but that felt less self-aware. Pryce knows that he’s chewing the scenery, and it really makes the overall performance that much more palatable.
The character is named Elliot Carver, who is the head of a major news organization. His plan is basically to get the highest ratings by being the first person to report on major news, because, secretly, he has caused the major news. He and his henchpeople sink a British ship and make it look like the Chinese did it, so he could report on the rising unrest between the two nations. He also claims to have caused Mad Cow Disease, and suggests he has had a hand in other high profile events (most of them fictionalized). It’s kind of a goofy plan, mostly because I feel like people would eventually get suspicious of it, but the plan also fits Pryce’s performance, so I’ll kind of accept it.
The one thing I wasn’t fond of, and this is just something with Bond villain’s in general, is that they really lean into making them garbage people by adding racist or sexist qualities, and that’s present here. After Wei Lin, a member of the Chinese version of MI6 gets frustrated and tries to attack him, he ends up mimicking her fight moves while making intensely racist sounds. It’s entirely unnecessary, and it’s just lazy character work to make us hate a character who is already hateable because he’s willing to kill people to ge ratings. You don’t need to add racism. He’s garbage enough. A small strike against a character I otherwise enjoyed.
Falling in line with Anya Amasova and Pam Bouvier, the female lead of this film is an agent of a competing spy agency, this time Chinese agent Wai Lin, played by Michelle Yeoh. This character is pretty amazing. She’s strong and can really hold her own in a fight, but other than being “foreign spy who works with James” she doesn’t really get a whole lot to do. She follows the same arc as Amasova, but we spend less time with her, so their relationship doesn’t work quite as well (although they really don’t have much of a physical relationship, which is appreciated). Even if she doesn’t get the most to do, what she does do is seriously manhandle some bad guys, which I will always appreciate getting to see. I honestly think she handles the villains more impressively than Bond does in this movie, which really might be a first.
The other major character is connected to both James and Carver. Paris Carver, played by Teri Hatcher, is essentially Elliot’s trophy wife and an ex-fling of James. That’s all she ever really is in this movie: a romantic connection to a male. Hatcher is fine, I suppose, but she and Brosnan only get a couple of scenes to try to sell to us that these two characters had a significant enough romantic entanglement that James left her because he feared she was getting too close. I understand the number of scenes they get to sell it aren’t particularly numerous, but they don’t do enough to sell it even in those moments. The other disappointment I think is more on Hatcher’s performance, and that’s in her last scene. As she is leaving James, she gives him information about how to get into Elliot’s secret compound, and tells him how important it is that he listen. I think, as written, the scene could play that she knows that Elliot is probably going to kill her, and wants to do what she can to stop him. Hatcher’s performance does not give that unfortunately. She’s not the worst female character in the franchise (there are a couple female leads who are world’s worse) but with what she is given, she had an opportunity to do some really interesting stuff, but all of it falls flat. Here’s a gif of her slapping, James though.
The primary henchperson in this movie is Stamper, played by Gotz Otto. He isn’t particularly impressive, he’s just kind of blandly Aryan looking and wants to be able to torture people by going after their chakras. He outlives his boss, that’s neat. There just isn’t a whole lot to say about this dude.
A secondary henchperson is “techno-terrorist” Gupta, played by magician Ricky Jay. I specifically mentioned that he is a magician because it is woefully obvious that he is not an actor (although he would later go on to appear in the much more appropriate The Prestige). He doesn’t really do any kind of magic in this movie, which would make his casting make a little bit more sense, but instead it’s just a very bad performance, that doesn’t even feel particularly stunt-casty, just because it’s not a particularly famous name (although it is possible he was more famous when this came out in 1997).
Joe Don Baker returns as CIA Agent Jack Wade, and although he doesn’t really add anything to his character or performance from GoldenEye, he’s still a lot of fun in this character. He’s just so goofy, and such a broad stroke caricature of an American, that it kind of works, and Baker is clearly having the time of his life. Also, he still calls James “Jimbo” which I have to believe annoys the hell out of the British spy, and I’m in full support of it.
The MI6 trio are all back to a kind of level of barely existing in this one, which works for some of the characters better than the other. Judi Dench doesn’t get a big monologue in this movie, but she does get to respond to some old British dude telling her she doesn’t have the balls necessary for the job by saying “the advantage is I don’t have to think with them all the time,” and then just kind of side eyes the guy. I love her so much. Desmond Llewelyn is just in one scene in this, his penultimate film, and he’s inexplicably disguised as an Avis rental car agent. It’s a weird disguise, mostly because it really isn’t much of a disguise. But it does bring back the return of the weirdly tense relationship between James and Q, which is my favorite relationship between the two MI6 employees.
Finally, Samantha Bond returns as Moneypenny, and she’s mostly just there to make innuendos at James. I don’t know. After Maxwell got a nice couple of scenes in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and I realized what Moneypenny could be, to watch her become an innuendo machine again, and have that basically continue with Bliss and now Samantha Bond, is a really bummer. The other major MI6 employees get stuff to do. Why rob Moneypenny of that?
The main gadget here is a remote control car that Q gives James. It’s pretty loaded up with weapons, and the fact that James is able to drive a full car just by guiding his finger along a track pad is pretty excellent, and leads to one of the more exciting (if a bit overlong) action sequences in the film (and the one that gets to show Brosnan having his most fun). The hole-fixing and self-inflating tires, as well as the several levels of rockets really make this car a stand out in a series that is somewhat famous for cars. The last we see of the car makes it all the more memorable (more on that later).
Most segments of this movie work for me. I like all the characters on at least some superficial level, even Bond, who I tend to have a pretty intense love-hate relationship with, works well here. But the action sequences tend to go on a little long, just for the sake of having a long action scene (the remote control action sequence and the motorcycle sequence go on for way longer than they have any right to, and just feel repetitive.) And just like the entirety of Carver’s plan makes me think people would be instantly suspicious of him. It’s a real weird thing that they’re able to cover this that quickly.
Miscellaneous Spy Business:
-I’m always concerned when James has to be the voice of reason. He’s the one who has to explain that some of the weapons at the Terrorist Arms Bazaar (that is the first setting of this movie, which, sure) might be nuclear.
-His call name on that mission is White Knight. Take that however you choose.
-The fact that Bond ejects a guy in the back of his plane, causing him to fly up into another plane, blowing that one up, is just so excellent. Both of Brosnan’s have really excellent cold opens, which is a part of the films that I have admittedly been a little bit disappointed with overall in the series.
-This is the song that should have been in the opening credits (including being put over the opening credits because the internet is wonderful). The lyrics tell the story of the movie in a big way and it is big. Huge mistake going with Crow’s.
-This movie opened the same weekend as Titanic which I find hysterical for some reason.
-So Carver’s whole news organization is called “Tomorrow” because it is “Tomorrow’s News Today” but that is all just so suspicious that I feel like surely someone would question it.
-So James gets his remote control car from Q while the latter is disguised as an Avis agent. So when Bond crashes the car through a multi-level garage and has it crash into an Avis store, I laughed really hard. Probably the hardest I’ve ever laughed at a point when the movie wanted me to laugh.
-At one point, Wade tells James “The US has no interest in World War III. Unless we start it.” *Laughs uncomfortably, pulls collar back from neck, sweats*
-When James goes into Wei Lin’s lab, he just keeps messing with gadgets, any one of which could easily murder him. I don’t know why he isn’t more careful.
-After a long action sequence, the first thing we see is a baby’s butt. Which. I don’t know why that happened.
I like this movie way more than I thought I did (sorry Matt Gourley of the James Bonding Podcast). It feels like a very good, solid Bond film, even if it doesn’t do anything particularly special or challenging within that realm. The action sequences do really start to wear on me, which is unfortunate, but everything else around those works well enough for me (with the exception of Bond and Paris’s relationship) that I’m able to deal with action that probably could have ended a few scenes earlier. I’ll give this 008.5/0010. These ratings are meaningless.
TJ At The Movies Will Return With: The World is Not Enough
References Tomorrow Never Dies Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tomorrow_Never_Dies "Tomorrow Never Dies" Lyrics https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/sherylcrow/tomorrowneverdies.html Photo Credits Cover Photo https://i.ytimg.com/vi/E_ek282zu1E/maxresdefault.jpg Brosnan http://www.crosat.us/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/60162__Tomorrow-Never-Dies-Banner.jpg "Tomorrow Never Dies" Video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDe1xi4tGUAhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDe1xi4tGUA Carver https://glenonfilm.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/tomorrow-never-dies-villain.jpg Wai Lin https://i.ytimg.com/vi/2VrONsVIYI0/maxresdefault.jpg Paris Carver Slapping James https://thumbs.gfycat.com/ImpishShadowyGerenuk-size_restricted.gif Stamper http://bondfanevents.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/stamper-tomorrow-never-dies.png K.D. Lang Opening Credits https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zIbOL8SSCY