Posts Tagged ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’

I nearly always remember the first time I saw a film: not just the when, but also the where – not just whether it was on TV, DVD or VHS, or at the cinema, but also in which house or theatre. Not just which multiplex, either – I can usually take a pretty good stab at recalling which actual screen I watched it on. Sometimes, of course, I have better justification for this borderline-freakish ability than others.

 Coming out of Tomorrow Never Dies in 1997, for instance, I was in the company of a good friend who I’ve since lost touch with (he has one of those annoyingly common names which makes him almost impossible to locate on Facebook). I don’t think he’d actually seen a Bond movie on the big screen before, and as we emerged into the car park his expression was one of slightly boggled amusement. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘those people certainly aren’t afraid to stick to a formula, are they?’

By this, of course, he means that Tomorrow Never Dies is a movie which feels no compulsion whatsoever to innovate or push the boundaries of the Bond formula in any way. Indeed, it never resembles anything else. The story is a low-key combo of Bond Plots No 1 & 2, with media mogul Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce) intent on using stolen satellite gadgetry to foment a war between China and the UK. His actual reason for this is to secure the satellite TV rights for the region, which is an exceptionally silly motivation for causing a major war, even for a Bond villain. As a result the film skates over the whys and concentrates much more on the whos, hows, wheres, and what withs. As you would expect, British intelligence sends in their top man to stop him (once he’s finished knocking off his language teacher), and the rest is…

Well, it’s almost exactly what you’d expect, with director Roger Spottiswoode clearly revelling in the possibilities of a modern Bond film with a $110 million budget. The action sequences are lavish and relentless, with the film bounding from fight to car chase to stunt with only the minimum necessary exposition and character development allowed to interrupt the flow.

The problem with this, of course, is that you end up with a film with a very thin story and characters. To some extent this isn’t a problem, as Pierce Brosnan always opts to play Bond as an icon rather than an actual person, but the grace notes of humanity he attempts to bring to him in this film seem a little perfunctory. The fact that everyone in this film seems to communicate solely via double entendres or snappy one-liners gets wearing well before the end.

(Additional, marginal annoyances include the rather bland theme song, especially given that David Arnold and k.d. lang’s much superior offering has been bumped to the closing credits. They also forget or overlook the fact that Bond studied Oriental languages at university in the name of a weak joke.)

I think it may be worthwhile to compare Tomorrow Never Dies (Brosnan’s second film, following a massively successful debut directed by Martin Campbell) with Quantum of Solace (Daniel Craig’s second, also following a Campbell-helmed debut). What’s interesting is that Quantum seems almost ashamed to be a Bond film, including only the barest minimum of the series staples, but giving serious attention to character and credibility. Tomorrow, on the other hand, does its absolute utmost to tick every Bond box, credibility be damned. Neither of them is a very good film, I would say, but Tomorrow Never Dies is a considerably better Bond film and a lot more entertaining. The people at Eon might want to bear that in mind as work on Bond 23 gets underway.

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