Sunday, 3 June 2012

Don't get any ideas Rupert


Brosnan gets a second run out as Bond in 1997's Tomorrow Never Dies and he's comfortable in the role now, maybe a little too comfortable.

Bond via a brainstorming session for The Matrix

Having successfully kick started the franchise with GoldenEye Brosnan now takes an unhealthy step towards Roger Moore territory.  This sees Bond take a step back from the vulnerability coupled with ruthlessness that worked quite well in GoldenEye. It's been replaced by a dangerous case of checklist Bond as if the writers were on autopilot.

Number one on the checklist: a big, bold, stunt driven pre credits sequence. Once you accept that terrorists go shopping at what looks like an outdoor Costco for their guns/bombs/nuclear weapons, the pre credit sequence for Tomorrow Never Dies is pretty damned good.  Bond enters by giving a terrorist lookout a light and knocks him out with a punch and the line 'filthy habit'.  It's now that it clicks that Brosnan's Bond is the first not to smoke (for now). You half expect him to say 'just say no'  Anyway, the Russians have failed to notice a plane armed with nuclear missiles has gone missing and ended up at TerrorCo and now Bond has to escape before Chernobyl looks like a picnic. And escape he does from all those white Eastern European terrorists with their designer stubble. It's as if al Qaeda didn't exist in the 90s.

If it's good enough for Sean, it's good enough for you Pierce

Checklist item number two: an overbearing megalomaniac villain. Step forward Elliott Carver. Jonathan Pryce is forced to ham it up as William Randolph Murdoch as Carver seeks to engineer a war to gain control of a TV contract aided by a poor head henchman and an iPad predecessor that can do EVERYTHING.  The worst part of Carver is his catchphrase of 'delicious' not to mention his karate act.

 I might be wearing my PJs but I can spot a good headline

Carver's plans centre around a stealth ship. A handy bit of kit sailing around with the even handier ability of sinking a Royal Navy ship in Chinese waters only for it's wreckage to end up in Vietnam. Let's also ignore that the technology used to make the stealth ship invisible seemingly means it's radar doesn't work and so Bond and Wai Lin can float right up and knock on the door.

Further to trying to turn Brosnan into Roger Moore for the 21st century we have checklist item number three: a big henchman of limited acting ability. Mr Stamper. The producers missed a trick by not casting Dolph Lundgren as Mr Stamper and so we have an almost pointless character. Just some bleached blond hair running around in a tight T shirt. Don't even get me started on his hero worship of Dr Kaufman.  Even his death at the end is rubbish.

The checklist continues by throwing Bond into far off locations. We end up in China for the first time in a few years, presumably to remind the world that Hong Kong still belonged to the UK. The set pieces bouncing around the Far East are pleasant enough even if they are saturated in BMW product placement.

Brace yourself for the continuation of the checklist. Delving heavily into the Roger Moore book of Bond cliches we have Q developing a remote controlled car. Bond can now drive his BMW with a Sony Ericsson. What's he going to be able to do if he gets his hands on an iPhone?  Having said that Q's appearance is a genuine high point in the film. He's held with such affection we can forgive the crocodile submarines and talking cars.

Tomorrow Never Dies leaves you with the feeling that Brosnan's Bond may have peaked to soon with GoldeEye. This is Bond by rote, lazy and uninspired and it's more than apparent the film suffered from rushed rewrites and no basis in Fleming's stories.  Tomorrow Never Dies is littered with one liners and innuendo, from cunning linguists to celebrity overdoses.  There's a hint of tiredness as the film casts names in minor roles in the same way ailing US TV shows cast bigger and bigger special guest stars before being cancelled and so we see Teri Hatcher getting the gig ahead of a then fairly unknown Monica Bellucci.


 You can see why Brosnan had the hump Monica didn't get the part

Looking back, Pulp should have done the theme song and the producers can count themselves reasonably lucky they were up against Cameron's indulgent Titanic at the box office.  James Cameron's juggernaut proved that at least there was something that was truly terrible in the cinema.

James Bond will return but first he needs a nap to recharge his batteries. The next instalment needs to be made with a considered approach to get the series back on track. Thank God it's not the 20th movie of the series.