After revitalizing the brand with the sensational GoldenEye, Pierce Brosnan returns for his second installment as James Bond in the underwhelming Tomorrow Never Dies.
While there’s a lot I do enjoy about the film, Tomorrow ultimately lets Brosnan down with a weak Bond villain agenda, action scenes increasingly stretching credibility and barely there chemistry with the Bond Babes.
There’s no epic quest for world domination, revenge scheme or even an extortion plot. The villain, Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce), simply wants to be the preeminent force of news coverage to get big-time ratings.
It’s such an underachieving plan especially since his satellite network web and hacker henchman Henry Gupta (Ricky Jay) lay the groundwork for Britain and China to go to war just from screwing with radar locations.
Had Carver been a SPECTRE agent or inciting a war for pretty much anything other than ratings and stock options, the plot and his threat would intensify. As is, this seems like the kind of middling mission that M (Judi Dench) should call in 005, not her top agent.
While Carver is one of the lamer Bond villains, Pryce gets into the role and does a decent job of making Carver a despicable, uncaring foe that would be better off dead. Carver’s legacy isn’t aided by his henchmen.
Gotz Otto plays the standard, towering blonde No. 1 lackey, but he’s so nondescript that Vincent Schiavelli’s (Batman Returns) brief cameo as hitman Dr. Kauffman is far more memorable.
Screenwriter Bruce Feirstein flies solo without his GoldenEye scripting partner Jeffrey Caine and the change in tone is noticeable. Feristein’s script sends Bond back into Roger Moore territory with rapid fire puns that get to the point they almost need a laugh track.
Adding to the unneeded gimmicky aspect of the film, Q (Desmond Llewelyn) fortifies Bond’s arsenal with a slew of gadgets placing more focus on the new toys than Bond himself.
Brosnan pulls it off though because he’s the Teflon Bond of the series, somehow managing to be above whatever jokey dialogue or ridiculous situation his 007 is placed.
Aiding Bond in this outing is his Chinese counterpart Wai Lin. Under Michelle Yeoh’s capable hands and feet, Wai Lin earns a well-deserved distinction of one of the best Bond (Action) Babes.
It’s not often Bond is paired with a female just as skilled a fighter making for a great action dynamic of two elite combatants teaming up. I know the formula calls for Bond to hook up with each Bond Babe, but this was maybe the one instance in the series where the closing hookup just didn’t feel right. Wai Lin was a more unique character and deserved better than Bond conquest status for the obligatory final scene.
That’s also problematic with the other Bond Babe, Paris Carver (Terri Hatcher). Feirstein takes a fresh approach with the Paris/Bond pairing as they had a history. It’s safe to imagine Bond has many adventures we haven’t seen and it’s just as likely he’d hooked up with a love interest there only to ditch her when M came calling for the next mission.
Exploring what happens when Bond rekindles an old flame had potential, but Feirstein instead just makes Paris a throwaway character weirdly dispatched to get information on Bond, but instead climbing back into his arms and bed.
Continuing the trend with GoldenEye, the body count significantly increases as the series steers more to violent mayhem and less on the deadly world of espionage.
Director Roger Spottiswoode is less interested in keeping Bond a suave, efficient secret agent and more a destruction causing wrecking ball. Reportedly 197 characters were killed, which would still eclipse the combined death toll of the previous Bond films.
Spottiswoode handles the action coherently even if Bond seems to put himself in more precarious situations than necessary like that crazy skyscraper jump and helicopter standoff. With such a weak adversary it’s hard to blame 007 for challenging himself.
Sheryl Crow’s theme is one of those quietly stellar Bond anthems paired with one of my favorite opening sequences.
Tomorrow is a Bond film ahead of its time. This is a film that features a megalomaniac fully intent on making sure his face is on every news and entertainment channel. When Bond uses his phone as a remote control for his car, I was left wondering if that’s going to be on the new iOS or the 2018 edition.
It’s just too bad the adventure and opponent is so beneath Bond that it never manages to feel like the stakes truly matter. Brosnan gives it his best and with Yeoh, he’s got a capable dance partner, but this 007 edition felt like a retread story that was already old news.
Buy “Tomorrow Never Dies” from Lyles Movie Files affiliate Amazon.com here:Tomorrow Never Dies [Blu-ray + DHD]