Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Brandon Peters dissects the 007 series part 19: The World Is Not Enough.

With Skyfall dropping in theaters in just a over a month, along with the 50th anniversary of the James Bond series, a close friend and fellow film nerd, Brandon Peters, has generously offered to do a comprehensive review of the entire 007 film franchise. Today is the nineteenth entry, with a full review of one of the most underrated entries, The World Is Not Enough. I hope you enjoy what is a pretty massive feature leading up the November 9th release of Skyfall. I'll do my best to leave my two-cents out of it. But just because I'm stepping aside doesn't mean you should. Without further ado...

The World Is Not Enough
Director:  Michael Apted
Starring:  Pierce Brosnan, Sophie Marceau, Robert Carlyle, Judi Dench, Robbie Coltrane, Denise Richards
Rated PG-13

Remember 007, shadows always remain in front or behind... never on top.

Kills: 25
Bond Girls:  Elektra King, Christmas Jones, Dr. Molly Warmflash
Cars:  BMW Z8
Locales:  Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Istanbul
Odd Villain Trait:  Renard has a bullet in his head, taking away his body’s senses, it will eventually kill him as it slowly travels through his brain, making him already dead.  Also there is Bullion who has a gold set of chompers.
Song:  “The World Is Not Enough” performed by Garbage

Okay, skipping an introduction paragraph and shooting right past the brief synopsis, let’s just get to THE biggest sticking point of this movie right away.  Denise Richards stinks.  And she lays a big egg in this film.  I’m fully aware of that.  Not only is her performance lame, but she’s brings zero accountability to her role as a nuclear scientist.  I don’t think she is the worst Bond girl of all time (minor spoiler, I prefer this kind of crap Bond girl to what we’re going to get in the next film), but she definitely earns a place in the top 5-10 worst.  Just because she sucks does not mean this film does.  I think a lot of the ill regard to The World Is Not Enough revolves around people’s memory of this character.  She doesn't show up until an hour in, and a better costumed and more skilled performer might have people looking back more fondly on this film.  And yes, her character has no business (maybe because Richards isn't good) being involved in many scenes, but I argue this is far from the first time this has happened.  For me, and after seeing pretty face after pretty face “attempt” to act in earlier films during my marathon, I’m able to shrug it off and enjoy the film being provided.

The World Is Not Enough is also notable for having the longest pre-credits sequence of the series.  This was a post production decision.  In an earlier cut of the film, the title sequence was to appear after Bond escaped through the window.  The powers-that-be felt that the subsequent action sequence was gutsy or exciting enough to launch the movie, so they let the film carry on until after the boat chase.  And what an exciting boat chase it is.  I rather enjoy this chase against a sexy, awesomely costumed, nameless female assassin.  It links with a larger story, but also holds as a little mini adventure.  The film also wants to show us that Bond is susceptible to injury as he damages his shoulder at the climax of the chase.  This is the first we've seen a film allow us to see an injured, not 100% Bond since Thunderball.

With his injury seems to bring about a soft spot for vulnerability as Bond sees in the Bond girl, Elektra King.  While no big relationship happens between the two, its obvious from the moment Bond sees her hostage video, that he is taken with her.  It only makes her revelation as the villain sting even when he figures it out.  This shows even more character progression with the Brosnan Bond as this mission brings he and M even closer.  This takes their relationship to the point where the report that Connery or Moore’s Bond had with M has taken its time and become earned. 

M is personally involved in the story for once and this one drives home.  She loses a good friend, has his daughter turn on her and to top it off, has a terrorist come at her for revenge for a failed assassination.  Because of this adventure and her hand and vulnerability showing, as well as a shared betrayal with Bond, it opens her up to him and gets them both on the same page and deeper level of trust.  Had Brosnan done a few more, maybe this could have been taken to some more ultimate level, but the producers seemed to thrive on slowly building Pierce Brosnan and Judi Dench’s relationship on screen film-to-film.

Our villain Renard has been complained in the past as boring.  I really don’t think so.  He’s got a damn cool trait to carry along.  When I first saw the movie, I was more than excited to discover his character as he fit the description of a classic Bond villain but done with some thought and originality.  He doesn’t go over the top and waits in the shadows, but he’s just fine and more than serviceable to the film and plot.  Elektra compliments it well as the Bond girl in the “what if the Bond girl was the big bad” scenario that a movie like Octopussy failed to go for.  Marceau can turn on the charm and pity and switch it to evil really well.  She also meets a cool demise as Bond shoots her in cold blood (no, Scott, it doesn't bother me that she taunts him about it before he does it).

Aside from a ski chase (ding ding, #6), most of the action feels authentic and genuine for the series.  We've had boat chases before, but this one definitely stands on its own.  The film features plenty of shoot outs with some being rather exciting.  I’m thinking of the one at the caviar factory as rather exciting.  It’s got a lot of obstacles and things blowing up and just works really well.  The final battle in the submarine between Renard and Bond isn't much, but is serviceable and doesn't last very long (6-7 minutes).

One big thing I’ll always remember from The World Is Not Enough is the theater’s reaction to the final line spoken by James Bond before credits.  “I thought Christmas only comes once a year.” resulted in one of the loudest groan/laughs I've ever experienced in the theater.  And it kinda has you leaving a good movie with a bad taste in your mouth.  You know what? I’m sure that’s what they were going for.  I’m sure it was a joke that got shoe-horned into a character name and line into this film.  So, I pose to you, readers, who wins the most groan-worthy contest?  Moonraker’s “I believe he’s attempting re-entry” or The World Is Not Enough’s “I thought Christmas only comes once a year.”  Make your argument in the comments below.

Desmond Llewelyn bows out as Q in this film.  The actor decided to retire.  This marks the last of the original canon to appear in a film.  Llewelyn’s era went 36 years and appearing in 17 films.  We are introduced to his replacement R (makes me wonder, who are N, O and P?), seemingly a parodied look at Q.  If Llewelyn plays his rather smug and straight, Cleese brings the cartoonish and jokey approach.  Rather bizarrely, Llewelyn died shortly after filming this, not of old age, but in a car accident.  So he really meant it when he said it was his last one.

Personally, I rather like this entry.  I think it’s a little step up from the previous one and offers some fresh ideas while keeping to the series tropes.  I like Brosnan’s Bond’s progression in making him a more three-dimensional character (as well as his supporting cast).  The villains may not be strongest individually, but they succeed as a duo.  I know it's cool nowadays to dog on the Brosnan era.  If you look at some people’s assessment, you’d think things were in the shitter and Bond was going out of style fast. They couldn't be farther from the truth.  People were buying what his Bond was selling.  And at the time, these three were of the best action films in their respective years.  The World Is Not Enough became the highest grossing Bond film of all time in 1999 (only to be topped by the following, so people were still coming in droves).  Tomorrow Never Dies didn't top Goldeneye, but it wasn't far off and who knows where it would have gone had it not opened alongside Titanic.  At the time of their respective releases, nobody was complaining about or mocking these films.  And as the 007 films are a product of their time, I think as long as they aren't too far out of touch or offensive (Goldfinger rape scene), they should be judged as they were in their place and time.  I think a lot of 007 “experts” that keep popping up this year need to keep this in mind.

Christopher Nolan seems to like The World Is Not Enough just as I do, as it appears the beat-for-beat basis for The Dark Knight Rises plot.  Tell me you can’t swap Bond, Elektra, Renard and Christmas Jones with Batman, Talia, Bane and Catwoman.  Oh yeah, and underground nukes.  Can’t forget the nukes!

Brandon Peters will return in DIE ANOTHER DAY

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