Sense of Wonder: Looking Back on Bond's New Beginning

With QUANTUM OF SOLACE opening on Friday, I thought it would be fun to take a nostalgic trip back to 2004, when we were first learning that a new actor would be selected to replace Pierce Brosnan as James Bond. I was not writing for Cinefantastique at that time: I had recently started a new online magazine, Hollywood Gothique, a sort of local entertainment guide that focuses on genre movies and events. I was inspired to write about the Bond situation because I felt I had an insight into what the producers were planning to do with the character, which would explain why they were replacing Brosnan. As far as I know, I was the first to predict (accurately, as it turned out) that CASINO ROYALE would be a reboot that would reintroduce the character to audiences in much the same way as BATMAN BEGINS. Here is the article, originally titled “Bond Begins Again.”

If you’re interested in the exploits of 007, then you probably already know that Sony Corporation, the which already owns Columbia Pictures and TriStar Studios, recently purchased Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the studio behind the long-running James Bond franchise. MGM had been in trouble for over a decade: the company changed ownership several times, sold off the rights to many of their classic films (like THE WIZARD OF OZ), and in general could not achieve the level of success that would restore them to their former glory. Considering all this, it’s clear that the one jewel in their crown, the asset that would make them attractive to Sony, was the superhero secret agent, whose last four films, all starring Pierce Brosnan, earned over $100-million each in the U.S. alone.
Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times ran an article about the sale, titled “Sony to Find ‘007’ Heirs Have a License to Kill.” The gist of the piece is that the new studio is eager to put their imprint on the franchise, but producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli have the contractual clout to handle the films as they see fit, including casting the character, developing scripts, and hiring directors.
Claudia Eller’s article makes some interesting points. For example, Sony supposedly hopes to expand the appeal of the Bond character, aiming to match the blockbuster success of their recent Spider-Man films. How they expect to do this is not clear; apparently it has something to do with moving the character away from “explosions, careening Aston Martins, and buxom models”—that is, moving Bond away from everything that makes the franchise the international success it has been for decades. Thank goodness Wilson and Broccoli are there to prevent this kind of foolish tampering.
That’s not to say that the franchise doesn’t need some help. The Bond films fell into a routine sort of formula years ago, and they only rarely break out from it. Part of the problem is that they’re a factory product, assembled piece by piece by hired guns who are only allowed to put so much creativity into each new product. Maybe it’s time to hire a real specialist and turn him loose—someone like John Woo, who could bring a really distinctive visual style to the familiar action clichés.
Although the article is informative, it does raise some unanswered questions regarding the future direction of the Bond films—which apparently are about to undergo a substantial facelift. Although producers Broccoli and Wilson may resist some of Sony’s ideas, they are interested in updating the franchise in their own way. To reach today’s younger audiences, they want to drop 51-year-odl Pierce Brosnan in favor of a younger actor, preferably in his late 20s or early 30s.
It seems odd that the producers would cast Brosnan aside after investing so much time and effort establishing him in the role. After Roger Moore’s last, tired effort, 1985’s A VIEW TO A KILL, and the two Dalton films that followed, many viewers were ready to write off the character. A six-year hiatus and the casting of Brosnan helped generate renewed interest when GOLDENEYE was released in 1995, turning the film into a major hit. Although none of the Brosnan films have been up to par with the best of Bond, all have been worth seeing, and some have even shown hints of potential greatness to come. It’s sad to let him go before he fully achieved his goal, which in his own words was “taking the belt” away from Sean Connery, the first (and many feel still the best) actor to play the role in feature films.
“Connery`s got the belt; I want the belt. It’s as simple as that,” Brosnan told me during a press junket for one of the Bond films. “The whole bloody thing’s a game. You go in knowing that there’s only one man in the ring. There’s that analogy, which is kind of dramatic and makes for good copy, but there’s also just one’s own self esteem and respect for the character, respect for the millions of people who loved the character. Doing GOLDENEYE was huge. The tension was there from Day One when I put the phone down after my agents said, ‘You’ve got the job,’ right through to finishing the press junket. And Connery was the Man: he was Bond; he was the one I grew up on. You have this kind of thing of wanting to take the belt, but you also have to find your own path with it and not get too blind-sided by the competition and someone else’s performance.”
As odd as the departure of Brosnan is, odder still is the choice of material for the next film. Although production has been pushed back to allow time to work out all the details of the Sony acquisition, producers Broccoli and Wilson have, according to the Times article, chosen to base the next film on Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, which has been previously been adapted for the both the big and the small screen—but never as a part of the “official” James Bond film series. The rights to the book were not available when Harry Saltzman and Albert Broccoli (father of Barbara and step-father of Michael Wilson) started making their movies. The book had already been made into a one-hour teleplay, starring Barry Nelson. Then in 1967, Charles K. Feldman produced an adaptation of the book that was basically a campy spoof of the Broccoli Bond films, starring Peter Sellers, David Niven, Orson Welles, and Woody Allen, among many, many others.
Bond fans have long believed (rightfully so) that Casino Royale deserved a better big-screen treatment. The problem with turning the book into a film, however, is that the novel’s take on Bond is extremely outdated. In his first appearance, Bond is a burned out Cold War era spy who is starting to doubt that his license to kill is achieving anything worthwhile. In traditional dramatic fashion, the plot confronts him with some unspeakably vile, nearly inhuman Communist agents. With the evil of his enemy so clearly defined, Bond concludes, understandably, that he is doing the world some good by opposing them. As good as the book is, its action is low-key compared to that of the films, and it clearly would take some work to update the plot for a contemporary audience. Fleming fans may cheer that Bond’s debut appearance is finally getting a serious big-screen treatment, but how to make the story work for an audience expecting a fast-paced action adventure is anybody’s guess.
Michael Wilson seemed well aware of the potential problems in adapting the book. When I raised the question during an interview a few years ago, he told me:
“Well, Casino Royale is an interesting property. It happens to be the first book. It sets Bond up, in a way. But if you look at the structure of it, the first half is about the caper, and the second have is a love story where Bond ends up being betrayed by the woman. He kind of shuts down. It explains a lot about him, because up to this point he’d only done a couple of missions and they weren’t very complex. In that sense, it might be thought of as a coming of age story. So just shooting it as the novel is probably not what people would expect from a Bond film. It wouldn’t have all the elements that people like to see.”
Wilson’s take on the novel perhaps explains the decision to hire a younger actor. The idea seems to be to “set Bond up” as if he were an all-new character who has only done “a couple of missions” and “comes of age” during the story. Past experience has shown that audiences will accept a new Bond, but the Hollywood device of casting a younger actor as a new version of a familiar character is becoming tired. The Bond franchise already did it once before, replacing the aging Roger Moore with Timothy Dalton in 1987’s THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS. More recently, Ben Affleck took over from Harrison Ford as Tom Clancy’s CIA analyst Jack Ryan in THE SUM OF ALL FEARS, a film that failed to scale the box office heights of its predecessors. And director Christopher Nolan’s upcoming BATMAN BEGINS takes a similar approach, presenting Bruce Wayne’ costumed crimefighter (Christian Bale) as if there never had been any previous Batman films.
Whether or not Nolan can re-ignite the Caped Crusader’s on-screen career, at least BATMAN BEGINS is a no-lose proposition: since Joel Schumacher ran the series into the ground with BATMAN AND ROBIN, there is no where to go but up. But the wisdom of replacing Brosnan is harder to gauge, because there is more to lose. The actor hasn’t been around long enough to wear out his welcome as Bond; if anything, he seemed to be hitting his stride as his advancing age helped him grow into the part, leaving the super-smooth Remington Steele television image behind. With Brosnan’s box office appeal in the role still strong, a more mature Bond might have been one way to let the character grow without risking any radical changes. Instead, it seems that we will be given an all-new version, aimed at audiences who enjoy watching young superheroes (like Spider-Man’s Peter Parker) learning to ropes and making mistakes while on the job.
Maybe they can title the new 007 flick BOND BEGINS AGAIN. It has a certain ring to it.

“Bond Begins Again” copyright 2004 Steve Biodorwski

Cybersufing: 007 On-Set Car Attack?

In 007 On-Set Car Attack, The Mirror.co.uk reports that Carlos Lopez drove a 4×4 at Daniel Craig on the set of the new Bond film. The mayor of Seirra Gorda, where A QUANTUM OF SOLACE is being filmed, Lopez was supposedly angry that his town was being used to portray neighboring Bolivia.
The story sounds a bit too goofy to believed. For one thing, we’re told that the incident took place on-set, we’re not told how Lopez got his car onto the set, Presumably, the article meant “on location.” One suspects that, at the very least, the details are being fudged to make it sound more dramatic than it is.

Bond 22 is underway

daniel_craig_4.jpgBond is back in action! The new film is titled QUANTUM OF SOLACE.

The 22nd James Bond film, Quantum of Solace, has begun production at Pinewood Studio’s near London and picks up just one hour from where Casino Royale left off.
The movie continues to star ‘blonde Bond’ Daniel Craig as 007 and despite initial doubts about his appointment, Casino Royale went on to be the most successful film in the Bond series.
‘It is a terribly appealing character and you want to know about him and it’s wonderful to be apart of this,’ said actress Judi Dench at the film’s official title launch.

Bond in Tweed

goldencompasscraig.jpgSMH.Com.Au has an interview with Daniel Craig regarding THE GOLDEN COMPASS.

“I’ve read the books four times,” Craig says proudly. “I read Tolkien when I was a child. I like good fantasy novels and Philip Pullman is a fantastic writer. I don’t think he set out to write these as children’s stories but that’s how they became and as in all great children’s stories they transcend that label.
“As with Tolkien, there’s something in them beyond the fantasy of witches and elves. They just provide a backdrop for a story about real human emotions.”
There are […] traces of Bond in [Craig’s] character and he notes how Pullman “strongly endorsed” additional action scenes featuring his adventurer’s journey to the Arctic region that do not appear in the book.

The actor also talks about his role as James Bond, which he will reprise soon in a follow-up to CASINO ROYAL.

Lois Maxwell – Bond's Miss Moneypenny – dies

Lois Maxwell with Sean Connery in an early Bond filmLois Maxwell, known to millions of fans for playing Miss Moneypenny in the James Bond films, died in a hospital in Australia on Saturday. She was 80.
Maxwell was one of those busy British thespians who goes from role to role, earning a living without ever becoming a star. Her appearances as the secretary of M division, who has a not-so-secret crush on James Bond, brought her greater visibility, although she was usually on screen for only a minute or two, just long enough to trade a few witticisms.
Still, Maxwell deserves her place in film history: she played Moneypenny in 1961’s DR. NO, the first big-screen Bond adventure, and went on to reprise the role in all the subsequent films until 1085’s A VIEW TO A KILL – a total of 14 in all, making her the performer with the longest unbroken string of appearances in the series.
Maxwell also had roles LOLITA (1962) and THE HAUNTING (1963); the latter is one of the best haunted house horror movies ever made. After 1985, she more or less retired from the screen, starting a publishing company in Canada and eventually moving to Australia.
For a detaled obituary, click here.

Dr. No (1962) – Film Review

[EDITOR’S NOTE: DR. NO is being released on DVD again today, so we thought we would take this opportunity to post a review of the film.] This is the first feature film based on Ian Fleming’s fictional super-spy James Bond. (A an adaptation of CASINO ROYALE, starring Barry Nelson, had previously been made for television.) Fairly radical for its time, the film introduces most but not all of the elements that would become familiar elements of the franchise (exotic locations, beautiful women, brutal action scenes, maniacal villains). Seen today, the film retains the grim, adult tone that was in place before the series turned more toward self-parody. However, it also lacks the lavish production values viewers would later come to expect, leading to the occasional embarrassing moment. (For example, during a car chase, the perspective on the back projection special effects shots is wildly off, magnifying the size of the pursuing car so that the fakery is completely revealed.) Read More

Bond 22 news

CommanderBond.Net reports that preliminary background photography (not involving principal cast) has taken place in Siena, and Madrid, Spain. Also, stunt coordinator Dan bradley, who choreographed fight scenes for THE BOURNE SUPREMACY and THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM, will perform similar services for the new 007 outing, advancing the hard-edged action seen in 2006’s CASINO ROYALE.
So far the crew for the film includes director Marc Forster, writers Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Paul Haggis, and production designer Dennis Gassner. The target release date is November 7, 2008.

Casino Royale (2006) – Film & DVD Review

Whether or not this is the Bond film the world was waiting for, it definitely is the film that Bond fans were waiting for: a tense, gripping thriller mercifully free of the baggage of the previous Bond flicks, CASINO ROYALE takes the essentials of Ian Fleming’s novel and updates them for the 21st century, seamlessly adding the requisite big screen action set pieces in the process.
The lame one-liners and jokey tone have been jettisoned, freeing the film from the moribund formula and allowing it to stand on its own, not as the umpteenth entry in a franchise. Or, to put it bluntly, this time out the filmmakers tried to make a good film, not just a fun 007 outing, with credibility laced throughout the characters and the storyline.
And they had the nerve to do it without falling back on the crutches that held them up before and compromised previous attempts at making a more mature Bond. This is the movie they should have made when they brought Timothy Dalton on board, but Daniel Craig fills the tuxedo very nicely; in fact, he is damn near perfect, capturing the grim, lethal quality of Fleming’s literary creation. He’s a younger, untried Bond, finding his way in his new 00-status, and he makes you believe in the character as a human being, not a walking icon.


The result may not be for everyone’s taste. The script retains the nasty torture sequence, with Bond strapped naked to a chair with the seat cut out, so that the villain Le Chiffre (a wonderfully convincing Mads Mikkelsen, leaping to the top of Bond’s best adversaries) can whack his testicles repeatedly with a heavy, knotted rope. There’s a fairly grim denouement, somewhat akin to ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE. And Bond learns to deliver his trademark quips and his famous self-introduction “Bond – James Bond”) toward the end.
Beyond that, the film is not perfect. Some of the editing seems jumbled. At one point, Bond cleans up in his hotel room’s lavatory after a nearly fatal poisoning, goes to play poker downstairs, then returns to the hotel room to find his female partner Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) slumped in the shower, fully clothed and freaked out from all the action. Has she been there for hours while he was playing? And why didn’t he notice her when he was in the bathroom before?
Also, there’s at least one dangling thread: several times, the camera emphasizes a breath inhaler used by Le Chiffre, and at one point Bond inserts a tiny metal a tracking unit inside it. The “pay-off” is that Bond can track Le Chifree’s movements. But Bond already knows Le Chiffre is in the Casino Royale hotel, playing a high-stakes poker game to retrieve money he lost, and we have no idea why 007 would want or need to follow him back to his hotel room. The whole episode seems a contrived way to get Bond nearby when some unsavory characters show up and demand the Le Chiffre return the money he lost, leading to a fight scene apparently intended to liven up the middle section of the film, which consists mostly of the poker showdown between Bond and Le Chiffre.
That said, the movie works almost from start to finish. There have been some critical complaints about the extended coda, but to a discerning viewer this section of the film is handled quite well, the too idyllic tone of the scenes perfectly inducing a sense of anticipation that something awful was going to happen.
The clever screenplay by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Paul Haggis serves up the usual elements but mixes them into a brand new dry martini, shaken – not stirred – to near perfection. Not only is Bond carefully characterized (an arrogant, cold-hearted man whose mistakes cost him dearly); there is also some really sparkling dialogue for his leading ladies (especially Vesper Lynd), who emerge more as human beings than boy-toy fantasy figures. (Think of Tracy Bond in ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE.)
Director Martin Campbell handles the action with gritty expertise, beginning with a nifty, low-kye prologue in black-and-white that resembles a French noir thriller (imagine if John Pierre Melville had directed a Bond film) before shifting into a colorful, high-octane thriller. The truly amazing thing is that, under Campbell’s direction, CASINO ROYALE provides the requisite over-the-top action without ever losing credibility as a tense, believable thriller. This is no frothy summer flick; it’s lean and mean, even when characters are leaping through the air and scaling buildings like something out of a Hong Kong fantasy film.
The film ends on a clever note, with 007 finally making his trademark declaration of self, “I’m Bond – James Bond,” and the famous Monty Norman theme music blaring out, in its full glory, for the first time during the closing credits. Thus the movie neatly announces itself as a rebirth that will launch a new, invigorated franchise. Now that the character has undergone his “trial by fire” and proved himself in the line of duty, it will will be hard to sustain the dramatic intensity in future installments. But we are eager to see the filmmakers try.

TRIVIA

CASINO ROYALE is the 21st entry in the official James Bond film film franchise, which includes those titles produced by Albert R. Broccoli and his heirs, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli (but not NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN or the previous adaptations of CASINO ROYALE).
The screenplay is based on the first if Ian Fleming’s many novels about British superspy James Bond, whose 007 number indicates his license to kill in the service of the crown. The novel is about Bond’s mission to bring down a mysterious character known as Le Chiffre (“The Cypher”), who handles money for  murderous communist spies. Le Chiffre has been dipping into the till, and he needs to win a substantial amount at the gambling tables before his comrades discover his indiscretion. Bond is sent to beat him at baccarat, which he does successfully (with the help of a fortuitous loan from CIA agent Felix Lighter). In retaliation, Le Chiffre kidnaps and tortures Bond; ironically, the secret agent’s life is saved when a communist assassin shows up and kills Le Chiffre for his financial improprieties. Faced with the immoral savagery of the enemy, Bond (who had been doubting his mission in life) finds a new enthusiasm for his work defending England and the West against the communist menace.
The film updates the action to the post-9/11 world, with Le Chiffre in the service of terrorists rather than communists. CASINO ROYALE also introduces a new actor in the role of Bond, the blonde Daniel Craig. The script jumpstarts the film franchise by treating Bond as a young character who has only recently earned his 007 license.

The novel of CASINO ROYALE was originally adapted for a live, one-hour television drama starring Barry Nelson as “American” agent James Bond. This was long before producer Albert R. Broccoli acquired the film rights to Ian Fleming’s character.

In 1967, a rival producer obtained the rights to the novel and shot a feature film version of CASINO ROYALE starring David Niven as James Bond. Essentially a madcap spoof, this version was shot by several different directors, working with different actors playing variations on James Bond (such as Woody Allen as Bond’s nephew Jimmy), so it’s no surprise that it’s a sloppy collage of mismatched pieces.
In the film, Bond delivers his recipe for a dry martini, which he eventually names after Vesper: three measures Gordon’s gin, one measure Vodka, one-half measure Kina Lillet; shake well with ice, and serve with a long slice of lemon peel. The recipe is taken almost word for word from Fleming’s novel (where Bond specifies that grain vodka is preferable to potato vodka). This creates an anachronism: Kina Lillet, a French Aperitif wine, shortened its name to simply “Lillet” decades ago. Also, there are now two versions of the wine, Rouge and Blanc (the Blanc being closer to the original). Since Bond does not specific which kind of Lillet he wants in his wine, he could easily have gotten something a bit different from what Fleming intended when he created the recipe.

Eva Green, Daniel Craig, Catarino Murino

DVD DETAILS

CASINO ROYALE was originally released to disc in four forms: a two-disc widescreen edition, a two-disc full screen edition, a Blu-Ray edition, and UMD for PSP. Although the Amazon.Com listings for the first two identifies the DVDs as “special editions,” there is no such designation on the actual box art. This is appropriate: although the discs contain a few nice features, they fall somewhat short of being truly “special.”
The widescreen DVD offers the film on Disc One with audio and subtitle options for English, French, and Spanish. The menu divides the film into twenty-eight chapter stops, which are laid out like cards on a gaming table. Unfortunately, you cannot skip directly ahead to the later chapters; you have to step through them in groups of four. Both the video and sound transfer more than do justice to the film, even on a large-screen television.
As is too often the case these days, the disc automatically starts by showing trailers for unrelated coming attractions; fortunately, you can skip through these with the chapter advance button or use the menu button to go immediately to the main menu.
Disc Two also contains the coming attractions trailers, but they are separated as a “bonus feature” and do not play automatically. The actual bonus features consist of “Becoming Bond,” “James Bond for Real,” “Bond Girls Are Forever,” and a music video of Chris Cornell performing the theme song, “You Know My Name.”
“Becoming Bond” takes a look at the creative process behind casting a new actor as 007 and updating the character for the 21st century. It consists mostly of interviews with producers Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, director Martin Campbell, screenwriters Neal Purvis and Rupert Wade and Paul Haggis, and of course Daniel Craig, intercut with some behind-the-scenes footage, promotional clips, and scenes from the film.
Since there is no audio commentary on Disc One, this featurette has to fill in all the background details about making the film. It does an adequate job addressing the negative fan reaction that erupted in response to Craig’s casting. However, it also perpetuates the myth that Ian Fleming’s novel features a young, untested Bond who comes of age during the novel, when in fact the coming-of-age story exists only in the film. Yes, Bond is younger in the CASINO ROYALE novel, but that’s only because it’s the first book; the literary character is at least in his 30s, and there is little if any suggestion that he lacks experience.
“James Bond for Real” examines the film’s attempt to stay true to the tradition of great stunt work in the 007 films, relying on live-action instead of computer-generated imagery. This featurette is a bit slow and bogged down in details until the end when it addresses the world-record-breaking roll of the Aston Martin. The crash is so spectacular in the film that even casual viewers will enjoy learning how it was achieved.
“Bond Girls Are Forever” features actress Maryam D’abo (LICENSE TO KILL) interviewing a bevy of other actress who starred in 007 movies, both before and after her. This feature seems to have been produced not for the DVD but for television (it includes several breaks where commercials can be inserted), and it is easily the high-light of CASINO ROYALE’s second disc. Of course, it is impossible to do complete justice to the topic, and several notable Bond girls are skipped over with barely a mention (most obviously, Diana Rigg’s Tracy Bond, the woman Bond married in ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE). However, there are so many entertaining interviews (Ursusla Andress, Honor Blackman, Maud Adams, Lois Chiles, Carey Lowell, Michelle Yeoh, Halle Berry, and more) that it would be churlish to complain.
One amusing note is the consistent tone struck by many of the actresses: almost everyone insists that her character (unlike the previous girls, who are assumed to be bimbos) was actually a strong woman and a worthy match for Bond. Only Maryam D’abo (who played a cellist) admits to being more or less a helpless damsel in distress.
Finally, the music video portrays singer Chris Cornell (who co-wrote the song with the film’s composer David Arnold) lip-synching and acting out some short vignettes that parallel clips from the film. The impression given is that Cornell is imagining himself as Bond, in pursuit of an enigmatic brunette. The video is a nice showcase for the best Bond theme song in years (one the captures the full-blooded glory of classics like “Goldfinger”), but on the DVD it is almost a tad redundant: the film’s opening credits, under which the song plays, are essentially a music video in and of themselves. Still, this is a good excuse to listen to the song again.

CASINO ROYALE (2006).  Directed by Martin Campbell. Screenplay by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Paul Haggis, based on the novel by Ian Fleming. Cast: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Caterina Murino, Simon Abkanian, Issach De Bankole, Jesper Christensen.

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Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) – Film Review

The James Bond franchise has become the cinematic equivalent of those stadium-rock tours by mega-successful ‘60s bands: they are bigger and more elaborate than ever before, and they make tons of money from eager ticket-buyers; while critics carp about recycling past glories, new fans get to go out and see something they have previously experienced only on home media, and older fans can relive their favorite hits, performed by a new lead singer.
In this case, the “singer” is actually an actor, Pierce Brosnan, and he is not exactly new, having previously appeared in GOLDENEYE. Still, his presence goes a long way toward making a new-sounding song out of the same old notes: the supervillain and his lethal sidekick; the woman whose death fuels Bond’s personal vendetta; the female agent who teams up with 007; the banter with Moneypenny; the action, the gadgets, the one-liners. Desmond Llewelyn’s Q even pops up like a former bandmate who walks on stage for a one-song reunion, much to the joy of long time fans.
The film seldom reaches the pitch of GOLDFINGER, but it does stay on tune, thanks to performers who know how to belt out an old favorite. Brosnan and Teri Hatcher play a marvelous duet as two people whose personal past intersects the current mission, with fatal results. Michelle Yeoh, as Chinese spy Wai Lin, gets to perform only one martial arts aria, but it brings some variety to the action. And Jonathan Pryce plays Elliot Carver as if he were a villain of operatic grandeur and menace.


TOMORROW NEVER DIES even has the ghost of an idea beneath its surface – not to lend thematic depth but to make Bond seem relevant (not a “misogynistic dinosaur,” as he was labeled last time out). The film sets up a nice subplot portraying the conflict between the military, who want to go in with guns glazing, and M (Judi Dench, displaying more force of personality this time), who wants to rely on the subtler methods of 007. The film seems to suggest that in a world where the nuclear stakes could lead to mass destruction, espionage – once viewed as a dirty, underhanded business with none of the noble glory of open, armed combat – is now preferable to full-scale war.
Brosnan tries to combine the best of Sean Connery and Roger Moore in his portrayal. He plays the serious side of the character without his tongue in cheek; he wants you to feel the pain when Bond finds Paris (Hatcher) murdered. Still, he mostly lacks the lethal intensity of Connery, except in one neat scene wherein he grapples with Paris’ assassin. “I’m only a professional doing a job,” pleads Dr. Kaufman (Vincent Shiavelli) as Bond gets the upper hand. “Me too,” seethes Bond as he pulls the trigger, and Brosnan’s delivery tells us that 007, despite his words, indeed does take this quite personally. At the other end of the spectrum, Brosnan cannot resist stepping out of character to be funny upon accidentally triggering one Wai Lin’s lethal gadgets — his startled laughter is the equivalent of Moore’s old double-takes.
Tech credits are solid. The script adds a few decorative notes to the old songs, and director Roger Spottiswoode conducts the action well, but his work is fairly impersonal. The result is a film that, although exciting, never reaches the kinetic intensity of John Woo’s FACE/OFF. Perhaps next time the producers should hire a virtuoso who can compose some new tunes, not just variations on the established themes.

TRIVIA

This film’s title was originally “Tomorrow Never Lies,” which ties in with the plot: Villain Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce) manipulates world events to create sensational headlines for his media empire. Reportedly, a typo turned ‘Lies” to “Dies,” and the filmmakers thought it had a better sound for a Bond title.
TOMORORW NEVER DIES the first Bond film to be completed after the death of Albert R. Broccoli, the producer who (along with partner Harry Saltzman) turned Ian Fleming’s 007 novels into a powerhouse film franchise. The film is dedicated to Broccoli.
TOMORROW NEVER DIES (United Artists, 1997). Directed by Roger Spottiswoode. Screenplay by Bruce Feirstein, based on the character created by Ian Fleming. Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Jonathan Pryce, Michelle Yeoh, Teri Hatcher, Ricky Jay, Gotz Otto, Joe Don Baker, Vincent Schiavelli, Judi Dench, Desmond Llewelyn, Samantha Bond.