The Weekly Bond Countdown: #18 – Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

How do you top Goldeneye?  Unfortunately not with this effort.

What was so good about Goldeneye is that they took Bond seriously for once.  Brosnan looked the part and he had the charm…now all you needed to do was keep feeding him the good material.  Sadly with Tomorrow Never Dies, it unhinges all the good work from Goldeneye and delivered a very average Bond film.

Let’s start with the plot.  Jonathan Pryce is cast as Elliot Carver, a media mogul who wants want every super evil genius wants – world domination.  Well no surprise then.  He manufactures the news so his network becomes the only news channel to broadcast it.  Hmm, sounds vaguely familiar to another media mogul

Now, how do you rank a villain in regards to a Bond film?  Well for me, there is a direct correlation.  If the Bond villain is strong, the film is generally a good one (well most of the time).  So in this respect, Elliot Carver is rather a weak villain.  Characteristically, despite acting tough, he lacks presence to carry off an evil plan.  In fact, he comes off as some spoilt child who is obsessed with playing War Games.  It is the overacting which spoils the film, especially the scene where he mocks Michelle Yoah’s kung fu.  Trust me Carver, if she wasn’t tied up, she would have kicked your ass, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon style.

What the film needed was a quieter villain, someone who could dominate the role and give a sense of power, not just from the lines from the script, but express emotionally that goes beyond the script.

You needed someone like Christopher Walken!

Now…hear me out! Christopher Walken can balance the theatricality of a character whilst maintaining the inner ruthlessness when it came to ulterior motives.  When he played Zorin in A View to a Kill, yes his performance was crazy, but he wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.  He treats his workers like slaves when they are laying dynamite in the mines near Silicon Valley, but then guns them down like rats with his machine gun.  His conscience was very clear when he decides to blow them up to pieces and drown them, just to hide the evidence.  This chilling scene was like watching a mini genocide.  And yet, Pryce’s Carver hides behind henchmen to do his dirty work.  Is that the sign of the times?  Evil villains too lazy to do their own work?  Who knows, but when it came to the final showdown between him and Bond, he was easily disposed off.  Clearly he wasn’t a match.  Jonathan Pryce is a talented actor and if you have seen him in Brazil, you will know it’s one of his finest performances (and my personal favourite).  Overacting the part clearly wasn’t needed.

Teri Hatcher was an awesome casting choice.  Coming straight off her New Adventures of Superman days, she has the classic femme fatale look – beautiful and attractive and had the dry sense of humour that matches Bond.  It’s a true pity that she doesn’t last long.  Her screen time probably totals up to about 20mins.  It is such a waste and while she has gone onto bigger and better things, they could have utilized her a lot more.  All she does is quickly fall for Bond’s charms despite hating how much he left her the last time.

Her character’s death, Paris Carver, always felt mishandled to me.  Bond doesn’t get much time to reflect on her passing, which is a bit of a shame.  He just kisses her dead corpse and that’s it.  For someone who had previous history with, and for someone who gets him, you kinda expected more.  And yet it’s quickly rushed through and Bond moves onto the next obstacle like a blur.  Compare that to Daniel Craig in Casino Royale.  He knows that Vesper betrayed him, and yet does everything in his power to still save her.  When he realizes he can’t bring her back, he longingly hugs her dead body.  The scene is heartbreaking and yet, it is that small moment of reflection makes Bond human and that he is more than just the simple cliché.  If there is one criticism of Brosnan’s Bond, is that after Goldeneye, there was too much spectacle and formula and not enough character development.  What was once acceptable (and good) on first viewing back in the day, Brosnan’s films (with every passing year), simply doesn’t hold up.

Bond gets to play with his new toys like the improbable (and somehow indestructible) remote control BMV car (seriously what happened to the Aston Martin?) and it completely overshadows the personal loss Bond had just suffered only moments ago.

But in the end, Michelle Yoah is probably the real star.  Yes, call me bias, but I’m a sucker for kung fu.  So when this legendary actress stars in a Bond flick – hell yeah!  I wished there was more of her in this film.  Again, they didn’t use her and the only time she shined by herself is when she was surrounded by Chinese agents and hands them each “an ass whooping”.  Bond technically turns up to save the day, but she didn’t really need saving!

The climax of the film feels like an ode to The Spy Who Loved Me.  Yet with this grand, over the top nature, K.D. Lang’s Surrender seems to capture the essence of the film rather than Sheryl Crow’s effort.  Whilst there is nothing wrong with Crow’s Bond song, you can tell the studio preferred her song choice because she was the “bigger name”.  Sheryl Crow got top billing while K.D. Lang got B-side end credits.

In my eyes, K.D. Lang did a “Bond song” whereas Sheryl did a “pop song”.

The Countdown So Far:

Check back next week Wednesday to find out which Bond film comes in at #17.

Author: Kelechi Ehenulo

Creator and writer of Confessions From A Geek Mind. Loves sci-fi and LEGO - couldn't ask for a better combo!

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