Saturday, October 6, 2012

Brandon Peters dissects the 007 series part 18: Tomorrow Never Dies.

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 eighteenth entry, with a full review of  Tomorrow Never Dies. 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...

Tomorrow Never Dies
Director:  Roger Spottiswoode (of Terror Train fame!)
Starring:  Pierce Brosnan, Michelle Yeoh, Jonathan Pryce, Teri Hatcher, Judi Dench
Rated PG-13

When you remove Mr. Bond’s heart, there should be just enough time for him to watch it stop beating.
                        ~Elliot Carver

Kills:  25 (estimate)
Girls:  Paris Carver, Wai Lin
Car:  BMW 7 Series, Bond’s casual ride is still the Aston Martin
Locales:  Russia, Hamburg, China
Odd Villain Trait:  Stamper, another Red Grant but trained in Chakra torture
Song:  “Tomorrow Never Dies” performed by Sheryl Crow
Other notable song:  “Surrender” performed by kd Lang

GoldenEye’s follow up film, Tomorrow Never Dies, was a studio rush job in trying to cash in the restored success of the 007 series.  The production seemed to be a mess, starting off with an incomplete script.  It’s surprising as none of that seems to translate to the final product.  It’s not the best of the series, but seems to float on the better side of the middle ground like For Your Eyes Only.  Tomorrow Never Dies features media mogul Elliot Carver trying to start WWIII between China and the UK.  He has a stealth ship in which he initially uses to sink a British battleship.  James Bond is sent in to investigate Carver, looking to gather information from his ex-flame and wife of Carver, Paris.  Bond also stumbles upon a Chinese agent, Wai Lin who is also investigating Carver.  The two team up to uncover and stop Carver.

This is a much different approach to Bond than the previous entry.  I don’t know if it had anything to do with Martin Campbell not returning.  He was offered, but passed, citing that he didn’t want to do 2 Bond movies in a row.  There were some complaints that GoldenEye wasn’t as slick and gadget driven as past 007 features.  So this film ups that department.  Bond is in a tuxedo or suit for a lot of the film and many high tech, fun gadgets are infused into the plot.  Bond also throws out the quips at a rapid pace.   All this is done while attempting to maintain the same integrity of the prior film.  Tomorrow Never Dies lifts from the Lewis Gilbert template of the “how to” approach to James Bond and feels very close to a modernized retelling of The Spy Who Loved Me.  Believe it or not, for the youngins reading this, this was something the people of the 90s were asking for.  Cinema going audiences were wanting to the less espionage-driven, big, boisterous, over the top action that was a commonplace in the Roger Moore era.  The 90s blockbusters were full of fun over the top spectacles that once you sit down to nit pick, sound like the some of the worst movies ever.  Tomorrow Never Dies is better than most of those, I must add.

The film’s villain, Elliot Carver, is the last of his type.  His scheme is rather ludicrous, but is a more 90s version of a Hugo Drax or Carl Stromberg.  He’s a villain that is physically not matched for Bond, but has other means and henchmen to take care of that.  Jonathan Pryce absolutely devours the role and delivers his dialogue beautifully.  The quote I used at the top of the article I have loved mainly because of his delivery, since the trailer first debuted.  Teri Hatcher’s Paris Carver brings yet another interesting dynamic to Brosnan’s Bond character.  An old flame he left from the past because she got too close (or that’s what James tells her).  In an earlier article, I stated that a more interesting turn would have been to make this character Sylvia Trench, but this is fine.  I’m sure not many people remember her too well anyway.  Her death scene in the film (featuring the late, always great, character actor Vincent Schiavelli) is one of the best scenes in the entire series.  Bond is actually shown to be truly devastated by the loss for once.  This film, while not of the best, does have some great material in it.

Michelle Yeoh’s Wai Lin also classes up the film a bit.  This character was very popular upon the time of release and after that she was almost brought back for Die Another Day.  Luckily for her, it didn’t happen.  This is a very fun character of the Agent XXX/Goodhead mold, but much more able to handle herself in a fight.  Having seen her in a few martial arts films, I feel they could have had a bit more fun displaying her skills.  Its great to see in the first two Brosnan films that the females used are absolutely relevant and well rounded characters who help to drive and enhance the story being told.  Sadly, this right here, is the end of that success.  The opening credits are pretty good as well.  They fit the film’s theme and do not at all look like a retread of the previous film.  I am also very high on Sheryl Crow’s theme song.  I find it to be criminally underrated amongst the internet rankings of the songs.  Maybe time will eventually be kind to this one.  K d Lang has an alternate version that plays during the credits.  It sounds as if its trying to be a Shirley Bassey tune, and its good, I just think Crow’s original song is the kind of “original take” or “freshness’ the series should go for sometimes.

Tomorrow Never Dies was the only Brosnan Bond film and the only 007 film in the last six to not open at #1 at the box office.  The film’s legacy is probably stronger as a trivia night answer because of who it lost to.  Opening up the same weekend as Titanic, Tomorrow Never Dies fell just $3 million short of the #1 spot.  I remember, this being in the heyday of my extreme 007 fanboy era, I was disappointed and pissed.  However the film amassed less than GoldenEye worldwide ($333 million vs $350 million), but managed to make some good money (with $126 million vs Goldeneye's $106 million, it was the series's biggest domestic earner).  I was initially not looking too forward to this one going into this retrospective.  While I’m not completely swayed around on it, I do think it’s much better than I gave it credit.  The villain’s whole plan is a bit painfully bad, but not unlike that of a 70s Bond nemesis.  Its highs are very good.  But at times it can drag and has some staleness to it.  Like I said before, it is a very “in the middle” Bond film.  If you’re into the Lewis Gilbert era of Bond, this is definitely for you.

Brandon Peters will return in The World Is Not Enough (only once this year, though)

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1 comment:

farsaq said...

Personally I've always preferred this Bond movies over the rest simply because Michelle Yeoh is not entirely helpless like the other Bond women and also, because her sex appeal is down played; can't a Bond girl ever be a beauty who can kick ass without baring it all!


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