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BOND#18: the Media Goes Berserk Tomorrow
PIERCE BROSNAN as James Bond 007 in TOMORROW NEVER DIES
JONATHAN PRYCE as Carver * MICHELLE YEOH * TERI HATCHER as Paris
JOE DON BAKER as Jack Wade * RICKY JAY * GOTZ OTTO * VINCENT SCHIAVELLI as Dr.Kaufman
DESMOND LLEWELYN as Q * SAMANTHA BOND as Moneypenny * and JUDI DENCH as M
Directed by ROGER SPOTTISWOODE
MASTER PLAN: trick Britain and China into a war, gaining exclusive broadcasting rights to the whole mess. The teaser is a little too cute, rather than impressive. The title song, by Sheryl Crow, has a moaning quality to it, but grows on you. Brosnan's 2nd Bonder has a slightly more flippant tone compared to the previous one, Goldeneye, which was fairly serious throughout, and creates an uneasy impression of falling back to the worst Roger Moore Bonders, where he (Bond) was smirking in half the movie. Thankfully, it doesn't get as bad in this one and Brosnan is actually more relaxed in the role, but the villainous plot is something out of a mediocre comic book.
If you think about it for more than a few seconds, the main villain's motives make no sense: he, Carver (Pryce), is patterned on real life media moguls such as Rupert Murdoch and previous super-wealthy megalomaniacs such as Zorin (A View to a Kill) and Goldfinger, whom he resembles most in spirit. He's already very rich and, as demonstrated in an early comic book-style scene of media manipulation, already has his grubby fingers on most of the controls that rule the world. So, he already has the power and the underhanded schemes he employs before his master plan in this film would probably have never gained the attention of entities like MI6 and Bond. Why start this crazy fracas?
He really has very little to gain besides a little extra dough (I guess) even if completely successful in this new scheme. Maybe he had some fixation on China, where he plans to gain exclusive broadcasting rights. Or, maybe, as Bond says outloud at one point, he's simply mad. The actor, Pryce, certainly plays him as an over-the-top bonkers geek, as if he gazed at too many numbers one day and snapped. He spends his time creating headlines rather than reporting them, printing the news before everyone else and gleefully clicking his personal console as reports of disasters & scandals reach his throbbing ears. He's a walking cautionary tale of channeled information distributed in a deranged manner to the unsuspecting masses - but it's presented as so much dark farce, it's hard to take him too seriously by the time Bond decides to permanently end his career aspirations.
Bond teams up with a Chinese agent (Yeoh) in this one and she's pretty much the best thing about this picture. Yeoh plays this straight, with no quirky mannerisms, and her martial arts scenes are expectedly energetic. Former TV Lois Lane and future Desperate Housewife Hatcher fares less well in a brief role as the villain's wife and former Bond flame. She's a competent TV actress here, no more. Bond's usual allies (M, Moneypenny, Q, CIA liaison Jack Wade) are all back, though in briefer roles. Bond does get a new automobile (a BMW 750-it's no Aston Martin, but apparently its windows can take sledgehammer hits), which he puts through quite a few paces, mostly in a big parking garage, though he spends most of his time hunched down in the back seat, operating it via remote control - it's different yet a bit too cutesy.
The mission takes him to Hamburg, Germany, where there's a tense scene of him getting beaten up before turning the tables and then Saigon, where, after an exciting escape down the side of a building, there's a lengthy motorcycle chase. It ends up on some 'stealth' boat in the middle of an ocean, where the villain spends way too much time bragging about his incredible plan. There's yet another tall blonde Aryan henchman to deal with (see also For Your Eyes Only, The Living Daylights and going all the way back to From Russia With Love). Despite the overly flamboyant villain, this is not a very memorable Bonder; you remember the motorcycle stunt over the helicopter, but not much else.
On a recent viewing, I was struck by how emotional this Bond gets when he loses an ally - say, a female one - it's too emotional for my taste, since... if he gets this way each time this bad thing happens, he wouldn't last long in this game (Connery had figured that out - he would go on after a shrug). On the other end of the scale, Bond's confrontation scene with 'the doctor' henchman comes across as a parody of the usual spy stuff. Overall, this uneven tone plagues much of this Bonder. Also, curiously, the song by KD Lang at the end credits is better than the singing over the beginning ones. Bond would return in The World is Not Enough.
BoG's Bond Scores: Bond:8 Villain:6 Femme Fatales:8 Henchmen:7 CIA:6 Fights:7 Stunts/Chases:8 Gadgets:7 Auto:8 Locations:7 Pace:7 overall:7
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