Bonding with Bond, Day 20: Tomorrow Never Dies

One intrepid RT editor is watching all of the James Bond films in order.

by | November 9, 2008 | Comments

Brosnan returns as 007 in Tomorrow Never Dies and blows up a lot of stuff. At least, that’s what I remember the most.

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) 58%


I found Pierce Brosnan enjoyable as James Bond, and thought GoldenEye was pretty good. I made a comment yesterday about how I noticed every first film from each of the actors to portray 007 has been of a higher caliber, and it makes sense. If you’re going to introduce a new actor, you want to present him in as palatable a way as possible, with a tighter script, exciting stunts, impressive set pieces, and pretty women. I felt that Tomorrow Never Dies was a decent follow-up to GoldenEye, and I came to another realization of mine about the Bond films as a whole.

Specifically, I realized that what prevented me from enjoying some of the older Bond films — and what simultaneously entertained me — was the fact that the production quality of those films was a bit dated. If you’re going to make a grand spy thriller with larger-than-life scenarios and characters, you need to have the budget and the technology to make it look real. While I’m sure the special effects were convincing for audiences at the time, as someone who’s watching them now for the first time, I found that they were just passable, if not hilariously obvious. Now that the Bond films have entered the 1990s and beyond, I’m starting to see a more impressive quality in them, and it’s helping me to forgive some of the other faults.

The biggest bone I had to pick with Tomorrow Never Dies was the sinister premise at the heart of the story. A media mogul (Jonathan Pryce as Elliot Carver) is willing to risk nuclear war between two world superpowers, just so that he can obtain “exclusive broadcasting rights in China for the next 100 years?” Come on, now. That’s absurd, even by Bond standards. Sure, one could argue that this simply proves how insane Carver is, but that would be kind of a copout. I think it’s more accurate to say that after 18 movies based on the same formula, the idea people were just running out of ideas.

Having said that, I thought the action scenes were well done, even thrilling at some points, and I think that’s very important for any movie that thrives on its action. Bond is as destructive as ever, and the police never seem to be around when baddies are committing such atrocities as flying a helicopter, blades angled to the ground, through a crowded pedestrian thoroughfare. Similarly, when Bond essentially breaks into Carver’s headquarters and starts blasting away at the employees there, we conveniently forget that he’s the one trespassing, and every time a scientist or paper pusher hits the floor, we cheer. But to his credit, Bond really kicks some tail, and that’s really all we want to see anyway.

Refreshingly, the women are again more than mere eye candy or reasons for Bond to flex his romantic muscle (no pun intended). I suppose that’s arguable when it comes to Teri Hatcher’s Paris Carver, but her relationship with Bond is convincing enough for me. The more impressive one is Michelle Yeoh who, like Anya Amasova in The Spy Who Loved Me, holds her own just as well as Bond does. She’s got her own gadgets, her own hi-tech hideout, her own arsenal, and her own set of combat moves to rival him. She makes a nice partner for Bond, and it would be neat to see her as a recurring collaborator for him, much like Felix Leiter. I’m fairly certain that doesn’t happen, but I think it would have worked.

As for the villain, I like Jonathan Pryce but I didn’t like him in this role. It’s difficult for me to see him as a villain in the first place, but I think he suffered even more from the ridiculous premise. It’s hard for me to take him seriously when he’s menacingly wringing his hands about tricking England and China into destroying each other so he can… get ratings. His henchman, Stamper, is a beast, like a genetically manufactured superman. But he doesn’t do much aside from the ordinary henchman duties, so he’s not particularly fun to watch.

Overall, I thought Tomorrow Never Dies was okay. The best thing about the movie was its action sequences, which were all very spectacular and well constructed. The acting was by-the-books, as were the story and the villains, so there weren’t any surprises, bad or good. Brosnan is definitely less cheeky than Roger Moore, but he retains some of the charm of Connery, and just a smidge of Dalton’s ruthlessness. Back when this came out, I probably would have gotten excited about it, enjoyed it in the theater, and promptly forgotten about it soon after.

Favorite line: “Pump her for information.” — M says this to Bond about Paris Carver. Nuff said.

Favorite moment: Michelle Yeoh is captured by Stamper and brought before Carver. When she attempts to strike out at him, Carver does his best kung fu impersonation, which goes on for a couple seconds too long, and then spits out, “How pathetic.” Yes, indeed, how pathetic.

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