Hildebrandt Rarity?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Tomorrow Never Dies

#18Well, here I was searching for a theme for my review of Tomorrow Never Dies, and frequent commenter Jaquandor nails it for me. He describes TND as "a movie I like as an action movie, but not quite as much as a Bond movie."

Well, I guess that wraps it up, so we're done until next week...

OK, not. And while I basically agree with Jaquandor--although don't let me put any words in his mouth--TND is a decent Bond film that should have been a better one. It seems to be caught between two masters, serving both well, but neither as well as it should.

So let's leap straight into the teaser, because I think some of the movie's contradictions are nicely on display there.

We have great set-up: intriguing situation, Bond off screen being sneaky, M staunchly defending her man, lots of shots of Gupta (even though we don't realize this until the second viewing of the movie) to help set up the main plot, the snooty admiral getting his comeuppance...all work very well.

Eat hot lead, bastards!!But the rest of it? Some people accused Bond of "going Rambo" in Licence To Kill, which pretty much means they never actually saw a Rambo movie. But here, the complaint is a little more valid. In the teaser, Bond has virtually no dialogue; there are relatively few stunts, just running around firing machine guns (and bigger guns) and blowing things up; no real gadgets. It all works on its own level--all well filmed, and tense, and exciting. But somehow, it just lacks that James Bond personality, doesn't it? Just a little bit? There's nothing as silly as a seagull hat, or as sweet as the Asgard Jump, or audacious as the Bungee Jump, no panache of the parachute into the wedding or M's airborne office. As I said, all well done...but just a degree or so off from being Bond. Am I right?

Now, this isn't a fatal defect. In fact, the over-the-top Rambo battle sequences aren't something that generally bother me during viewing. It's afterward, upon reflection, that some nagging doubts start to creep into my head. During the movie, I'm carried along, the pacing and the characters and the tension sweeping us so fast towards the conclusion that it's only when we try to recount the set pieces, and we describe that film, that we start to wonder, "Is this Bond?"

It isn't as if this is the first "commando" Bond we've had. The Spy Who Loved Me, for example, had a battle to take Liparus that lasted just as long as the final battle aboard the stealth boat in TND, and consisted of Bond and his freed submariners using machine guns, grenades, and bombs to cripple the ship. But somehow that TSWLM sequence, while considerably more slackly paced and less satisfying, feels more Bond-like than the TND finale.

One of the problems, I think, is the lack of a proper meshing between the two personalities of the movie, the Bond film and the action film. Take these two juxtapositions, for example. After the credits, we see an entire British naval vessel sunk, the sailors viciously murdered. The next scene: Bond in bed with a professor, entirely played for humor. No transition, no cue to the audience that the movie will be shifting tones abruptly enough to cause whiplash. They're both very well-done scenes (hell, Bond's bit is hilarious, and the "don't ask don't tell" is the best line of the entire Brosnan era). But the script and the direction just force them together in a way that is almost too jarring--brave real-world soldiers brutally killed while our hero is indulged in hedonistic pleasure.

Ha ha my girlfriend was just murdered ha haAnother example...Paris is murdered, Bond has the fatal confrontation with Dr. Kaufman, Bond says a tearful goodbye to her body...and two minutes later he's laughing his fool head off and being playful with the BMW/garage chase. Again, both scenes are good, but they clash with each other, and weaken each other: Bond's sorrow for the great lost love of his life dying is weakened by the fact that he spends no time mourning, and the fun of the car chase is made a bit bitter by the memory of such an important death occurring just moments earlier. The audience can't help but think, somewhere in the back of its collective mind, "oh, well, I guess he didn't really care that much about her...look at him smiling and having a good time."

There's a lot of that unbalance in the film: serious, realistic, tragic scenes thrown up next to scenes playing up humor and absurd fantasy. Either one of these approaches is fine, and you can even have both in the same movie, but you've got to deploy great care in how you position the scenes, and how you handle the shifts in tone. TND does a poor job of that, which weakens the film.

A lot of this comes down to the script, which was apparently created by the 1,000 monkeys method. Bruce Fierstein gets the sole writing credit, but things were much more complex behind the scenes. Director Roger Spottiswoode wasn't happy with Fierstein's initial draft, and did some reworking of his own. He then had United Artists fly 7 screenwriters to London for a "brainstorming session," and eventually hired Nicholas Meyer (!) to do the suggested re-writes. Other hands worked on it, too, and then it was given to Fierstein for the final re-write and polish. With so may cooks, it's not surprising that the broth isn't entirely consistent.

And the script fails to develop so much that was promising. Despite the overblown finale, despite the overlong motorcycle chase, despite significant interludes watching military men do their thing, the movie is the first movie to slip under the 2 hour mark since Diamonds Are Forever. Which means that, had they chosen, they could have trimmed some of the bombast and had plenty of time for things like character development and fleshing out odd points in the plot.

So between that, and Spottiswoode (the director of Turner and Hooch!!) seemingly not having a firm vision of what he wanted a James Bond movie to be, TND ends up being a jack of all trades but master of none. Most of the parts are pretty good, but they don't cohere together well, and as a result TND ends up, to a degree, being something less than the sum of its parts.

As for the over reliance on big-ass guns, at the expense of traditional spy craft, a couple of points must be made. First of all, at some point this was something the series would have to deal with. In an era when inner-city youth gangs were armed with automatic weaponry, it was obvious that the types of villains Bond would be coming up against would be much more heavily armed. With Uzis cheap and plentiful, at some point the series had to come to grips with the fact that Bond could no longer be expected to take down dozens of heavily armed assailants when he's armed with a mere Walther (assuming, of course, that the series wanted to be realistic).

That doesn't mean they made the correct choice in this picture, or executed it well. There are ways to script yourself around these issues, at least partially. Casino Royale (2006) showed you can write a down and gritty Bond film without having to resort to huge gun battles. TND, however, shows no such restraint. Sure, Bond's blasting away with big guns in the teaser--that's cool, he wants to create as big a distraction as possible. Sure, 007 and Wai Lin are shooting assault rifles in Carver's Saigon HQ--they're escaping, they've got to use whatever they can take off the guards. Sure, they have to go machine gun crazy in infiltrating the stealth boat--their facing dozens of heavily armed goons. Sure--Bond has to go for the missile launcher...Do you see what they've done? They keep writing themselves into situations where the only sane response is for Bond to be crazy heavily armed. So gradually the movie becomes Delta Force 2 instead of Bond 18. Nobody had the wit or restraint to say, let's try something different here.

I think another of their problems was Goldeneye. There was some pressure from the studio to live up to Goldeneye, if not top it. As I mentioned last week, Goldeneye was pretty heavy on the explosions. But it was also pretty heavy on the character development and introspection. With a much bigger budget than Goldeneye, they felt compelled to try to out-do themselves. But they mostly focused on the "blow 'em up" side of things, which left TND a less-balanced film than its predecessor.

OK, I'm sounding overly negative at this point, and I've got to stop, because there are a lot of great things in the movie. With start with the plot, which may have been a decade ahead of its time. Back in 1997, "GPS" was probably a bit of technobabble to a lot of people...ten years later everyone has 3 or 4 devices using GPS, and the world has become much more dependent upon it. Heck, even by itself, that aspect of the plot--madman subverts GPS for evil purposes--would make a ripping premise for a thriller. And while they make some big mistakes with the science of GPS (see Notes below), they do a good job of explaining how the bad guys are using it, and making it accessible to the audience.

It's the next part of the plan that throws a lot of people. Back in 1997, a common complaint was that having an evil news mogul trying to manipulate the news for his own benefit was just too out there, and if you throw in the fact that he was trying to stage a nuclear war for his own profit, it was decried by some as ridiculous.

This was an odd time, in my opinion, to start complaining about madmen having thin motivations for nuclear war. In You Only Live Twice, S.P.E.C.T.R.E. was quite willing to manipulate the U.S. and Russia into nuclear war for cash (and China for political gain). TSWLM saw a mad billionaire attempt to start a nuclear war just because he didn't like people very much. We've seen people willing to nuke cities for blackmail money (Thunderball), revenge and money (Goldeneye), and to enrich themselves (Goldfinger, A View To A Kill). So when people criticize TND because Elliot Carver is willing to blow up Beijing for "only" exclusive broadcasting rights in China for 99 years, you have to wonder a) how many other Bond movies they've seen and b) if they understand how many trillions of dollars such rights would be worth?

As to the evil media mogul, again, TND was ahead of the curve. This movie debuted a year before Fox News started up in the U.S. I suspect that after a decade of "Fair and Balanced, " Carver's manipulations of news don't seem quite so far-fetched. Not to mention a decade of governments manipulating media to justify wars, and a decade of media/internet companies violating every principle the claim to stand for (agreeing to censorship, turning dissidents over to the government) in order to maintain lucrative business operations in China. No, sadly enough, TND is only a half-step into the future. Far from being "the series' most unbelievable plot," as Steven Jay Rubin put it (really? More unbelievable than a madwoman ready to nuke Istanbul just to increase the value of her not-yet-completed oil pipeline? ), TND has more potential to become reality than any other Bond plot.

One weakness in the plot's development, though, is the complete lack of any Chinese participation, even though the entire plot is about an Anglo-Sino war. Carver's co-conspirator, General Chang, gets 4 seconds of screen time--literally--and not a word of dialogue or motivation. This guy makes General Orlov look like a well-fleshed out character! Other than Wai Lin and a couple of brief shots of a MIG pilot, the movie is bereft of Chinese involvement, which weakens the tension, just a bit. It wouldn't have taken much...some shots of an angry Chinese premier saber-rattling on a TV screen, M talking to her "opposite number" on the phone...hell, even a couple of stock footage shots of Beijing would have helped make the Chinese connection to the big boss's plan. As it is, "China" is just some big, formless bogeyman in this movie, and instead of witnessing two sides hurtling towards war, we just watch one side.

Hannity, or Colmes?Eliot Carver himself is a fairly controversial villain, as fans seems to either love him or hate him. A lot of that comes down to Jonathan Pryce's performance. I'll come straight out--I loved it. But I'll also concede that I can understand where you're coming from if you don't dig him. Pryce has the disadvantage of following a couple of much more "realistic," down to earth villains, and Carver certainly doesn't fit into the Sanchez or Trevelyan mold. Ah, but Elliot Carver is a Bond villain in the classic megalomaniac mold, and Pryce brings him to life perfectly. To hear him say “delicious” is to know subtle yet just nearly over-the-top menace. He's no Stromberg or Drax (thank God!). I think the role required some scenery chewing, and he chewed it well. Pryce plays him as a man who actually believes that all of the news is really all about him. Just watch his speech launching his news network--how magnificently egocentric and vile! His chemistry with Bond is good (sort of...more on that in a minute), and the movie is always more fun when he's on screen. A winning modern performance of an old-school type villain.

However, the script does undercut Pryce a bit, leaving the villain far too underdeveloped. Once again, we're in the shadow of Goldeneye, and Carver can't help but suffer in comparison to the far more fleshed out 006. After Carver's nice little speech about "why" being the key to a good story, the movie ironically neglects to give us ANY "why" to Carver, except "because he's nuts." That's not necessarily bad--Bond films have done that for decades--but Goldeneye left us expecting more. In 1997 we want some background for the character (there were a few lines cut out from M's briefing, but nothing substantial), as to why he is the way he is.

As a result, much of his character--and the plot--in just stenciled in. Bond shows up at his party, makes a couple of "could be harmless, could know too much" remarks, and Carver orders him beaten up? Heavens, why? There was nothing to their original meeting to warrant that. Nothing Bond said indicated he was an actual threat. Given this behavior, how many other people did Carver have roughed up that night? It's as if the writers knew the form such a confrontation had to take, but not the substance--let's have the villain try to kill Bond here...just because that's what is supposed to happen at this point in a Bond movie. Sadly, the whole film is rife with half-formed Carver motivations. He's jealous about his wife? Too bad they never showed us that he had any actual affection for her, any chemistry between the two. Pryce's charm covers a lot of those cracks, but not completely.

Even with a gun to my head, I can't actThe henchmen are a somewhat disappointing lot. This time out, Ricky Jay as Gupta is the techno-wiz, but he's no Boris. The script gives him nothing to do accept say "yes, sir." And even if it did, Ricky Jay is no actor. His wooden delivery gets swamped by Pryce's performance every time, and we're left with a boring technogeek, with nothing for the audience to latch onto. (In fairness, there are a couple of deleted scenes on the DVD that have Gupta throwing around razor sharp playing cards, which makes nice use of his magician skills, but they were pretty silly, and it's just as well they weren't used).

Now on Sprockets is the time we danceGötz Otto. I just like to type that...Götz Otto. Anyway, his Stamper is blond, and imposing, and Germanic. And that's about it. He doesn't really bring anything more to the game than, say, Necros did. When even Stamper's boss mocks him for the poor job he's doing of killing the heroes, you know he's not going into the henchman hall of fame. All imposing presence and talk, little actual action. (I should note that in Raymond Benson's novelization of the film, Stamper was born with a freak medical condition wherein the "pleasure and pain centers" of his brain were reversed, so things that would normally hurt a person actually felt good to him, making him formidable in a fight. I don't know if that was in one of the earlier versions of the script, or if Benson spun it out of whole cloth...but obviously someone was paying attention and partially recycled the idea for Renard in The World Is Not Enough). One more time: Götz Otto.

And the "so much for German efficiency" line is hilarious, so I guess that's in Stamper's favor.

Uncle Stavros??The late Vincent Schiavelli was memorable as Dr. Kaufman, but he only had a couple of minutes of screen time, which is too bad. He had far more personality than any of Carver's other goons, and while his death was well done, it does mean for the last half of the movie we're stuck with the boring Gupta and the unimpressive Stamper. What a waste to have such a fun henchmen, in a matching fun performance, brought on screen, only to have him immediately whisked away...

The movie's plot makes one more crucial, deadly mistake. After all the emotional investment they try to give us with Paris--"I've always wondered how I would feel," "Did I get too close?"--they go and kill her. Which means that, mere moments after the death of the great lost love of his life, they have Bond so completely over her that he practically begs Wai Lin to hop into bed with. Put into Bond terms, you can't kill Tracy Bond halfway through the film and expect audiences to still feel sympathy for the loss if, in the next reel, he's catting around with Ruby Bartlett. It just doesn't work dramatically, it undermines Bond's characterization, and it undoes whatever significance you were trying to give to Paris (not to mention risking that the audience will regard Wai Lin as a "second choice"). When you build Paris up to be THAT big a part of Bond's life, you can't have him acting as if it never happened later in the film.

The funny part is, Paris, as a character, is almost completely unnecessary to the movie. Bond's trying to prevent his country from going to war, so he doesn't need the extra revenge motivation. She's of no real help to his mission--the only info she provides, that there's a secret lab, could just as easily come from somewhere else. She's there as a sacrificial lamb because, once again, the writers felt that that's what was supposed to happen at this point in a Bond movie--someone Bond cares about dies, to spur him on.

(Also, as I mentioned above with Carver, I wish we had seen some reason those two were together...really, there's nothing at all onscreen between Paris and Elliot, and that only serves to make her look somehow like a gold digger who married the first rich guy she could find after Bond left her.)

They're real, and they're SPECTACULAR!Which is not to knock Terry Hatcher at all. She is as sexy as hell, her chemistry with Brosnan sizzles, her love scene with Bond is hot. I like her take on the character--a no nonsense American, practical enough to say "Shut up and take the information I'm giving you, James." It's not Hatcher's fault that the screenplay doesn't give her a lot to do, and throws her away as a prop.

And then there's the Yeoh problem. Remember all the time Goldeneye spent building Natalya's character, before she even met Bond? Contrast that with Wai Lin. Do we know a single thing about her? No. The film just throws her up there--competent Chinese agent, and that's it. No background, no characterization, nada. As a character, she's a complete cipher, which is a shame, because Michelle Yeoh is capable of giving us a lot more than that. But in the shadow of Goldeneye, and even more in the shadow of Paris Carver, Wai Lin is essentially a non-entity as a romantic interest.

My contract says that I have to kiss you, but I won't like itIt's not Yeoh's fault--it's not her doing that TND is structured so that she Bond's rebound love for the movie, and it's not her responsibility that after a scorching love scene between Paris and Bond, we have to wait all the way until the last 5 seconds of the film for a tepid kiss that, frankly, feels tacked on. But she and Pierce do seem to have very little romantic chemistry going for them, and it sure seems as if he's trying harder than she is. She's like Pussy Galore...competent bad-ass, but poor romantic match-up with Bond.

Which is not to dismiss her kick-assed-ness, because she rocks. For some reason, she never quite got the publicity as Babara Bach or Halle Berry as "a new type of Bond girl" just as competent as he is and liberated yadda yadda. But she acquits herself fairly admirably, and is a far better agent than the other two. The scene where she take down 4 goons with 2 bullets is righteous (although pro-tip: if you don't waste all of your bullets shooting up the engine control panel, you wouldn't be in that situation), and a good contrast to some of the rest of the movie's overkill. But she does need to be rescued by Bond twice during the film's final 15 minutes (apparently, the otherwise none-too-effective Stamper is her kryptonite)...and she does set off the alarm in Carver's lab, while Bond had managed to get in and out without doing so. Remember: you can be the most competent female agent in the world, but you're not allowed to outshine James Bond, because it's his movie, dammit!!

Every Bond is contractually bound to appear in Naval uniform oncePierce Brosnan has a tougher assignment this time out, as the screenplay is considerably weaker, and has his character jumping through so many tonal shifts that he must have gotten quite dizzy. He manages to be convincing in whatever the scene is asking him to do, but his performance feels weaker because the script doesn't give him a stable emotional through-line to follow this time around. Even if you like his performance, it's tough to watch him practically panting after Wai Lin the whole second half of the film, with no visible signs of mourning for Paris. There were press reports that Brosnan feuded mightily with Spottiswoode on the set, and I like to think that it was over the emotional inconsistency of what he was being asked to do.

This has been an odd review to write, because as Jaquandor said, there are two levels to judge it on. As an action movie, it's very successful, exciting, fun.

So when I spend so much time picking it apart, I feel that I'm doing the film something of a disservice. And in isolation, it's even a pretty decent Bond movie. It has a lot of things going for it, and given a choice between this and, oh, Live and Let Die, I'm going to watch this one 9 times out of ten.

But I've chosen to accentuate the negative here because we have a textbook example of how what should have been a really, really good Bond movie ends up a merely decent one. An obsession to justify a big budget and to"outdo" last time; no one in charge with the creative vision to look at what they were doing, and see how some parts fit the plan and some parts didn't; a paper doll approach to motivation and plot after we'd been spoiled by Goldeneye, forgetting that the care lavished upon the roles was what made that movie great, not the explosions. It's a clear case of the whole being less than the sum of its parts, because sufficient care wasn't used in assembling those parts.

They forgot to let Bond be Bond.


**Let's talk about the entire GPS premise. On its face, the movie seems to misunderstand the concept. Everything in the film seems as if it's operating under the premise that disrupting one satellite signal will enable you to drive someone off course:

The male satellite quietly approaches the female from behind...But GPS uses a constellation of satellites, from 24 to 32. The GPS receiver takes signals from a minimum of 4 different satellites and triangulates the data...advanced receivers, as the military would use, will take data from every available satellite, for increased accuracy. From almost any point on the Earth, at least 6 satellites are in line of sight, and most of the time 8-10 are in range.

So if Gupta was able to override only one of the satellites, the one bad data point data would likely be rejected as an error, and the Devonshire's system would have used the other 5-9 satellites to calculate it's position. And even if he was able to get one bad signal through, it's unlikely that that one signal could be "wrong" enough to override all of the correct signals from the other satellites, at least to the degree shown in the movie.

But let's say that Gupta has the mathematical chops to use one satellite to move the Devonshire 70 miles off course. Or, let's assume that Carver was able to override several satellites, without our seeing it. That still leaves a big problem: what about everybody else? Every other airplane, ship, and military craft receiving that signal should have also been off course too, right? Using a Carver satellite, like they showed, couldn't possible ruin only the signal received by the Devonshire--it had to disrupt the navigation of everybody using that satellite!! Including the "U.S. Airbase" in the South China Sea that Bond visits later...wouldn't they have noticed they were getting screwed up GPS data? And to get a boat like that 70 miles off course, you likely had to feeding it bad data for several hours. So where's all the late and off course air liners and cruise ships? No accidents caused by this? What about the Chinese MIGs? There should have been dozens or even hundreds of reports of bad navigation, which should have bolstered M's case before Admiral Butthead.

**We're never told how the Americans "lost" the GPS encoder that Gupta buys. Given the security they require to even let Bond look at it, they really owe us more of an explanation than that. I smell a couple of Cletus' coming...(not to mention the fact that the British detected the "mysterious signal" on the GPS frequency while the Americans didn't?? Oy...)

**One last GPS note (I promise): An "exact satellite fix" is fine...but when enemy fighters are buzzing me and insisting I'm off course, maybe, just maybe I poke my head above deck and actually look, you know? Break out a compass? Or a sextant? Just to be on the safe side?

**The theme song is not amongst my favorites. Sheryl Crow's voice is thin and whiny, the melody eminently forgettable. The situation isn't help by the fact that the end theme, sung by k.d. lang and co written by David Arnold, is much, much better in every way. As always, it's telling when the end theme gets used in the actual score, and the main theme is ignored.

**Daniel Kleinman's opening credit sequence is a disappointment after last movie's...it's really just a lot of generic images, that seem to have nothing to do with the movie's plot or themes...nowhere as near as sexy.

Oh, and welcome, David Arnold. Nice to have you aboard. Your score is actually pretty good...but you're no Eric Serra (thank God).

**Best deleted scene EVER: you may have noticed then shot, when Bond is getting the BMW from Q. There's a cage in the background with a big cat. What was up with that?

Why the kitty kat??From the deleted scene on the DVD, we see that earlier Q takes Bond up to the first cargo container, announces "Pay attention, 007, your new car," clicks his thingy, the sides of the crate drop away, and surprise--the cage contains a jaguar, which roars at Bond. Trying to look nonplussed, Bond quickly, quips "A Jaguar?" Q grumbles "Wrong assignment...let's try again, shall we?"

I must be dreamingAside from being a good joke, there's two noteworthy things here. First, it doesn't come across on the screen at all, but Benson's novelization says that this was a deliberate practical joke by Q. Which is pretty rad...you go, Q.

But, secondly...Wrong assignment? This means that Q had another assignment, somewhere in Germany, involving a freaking jaguar. Think about that. I want to know more.

**This movie is all about what the Bond-M relationship should be. Admiral Roebuck doesn't believe Bond would get through to the terrorist "bazaar," and M lays an "I told you so" on him. Her steadfast support ("What's he doing?" "HIS JOB!") is on a par with Bernard Lee's absolute faith in Bond in Thunderball. And we've gone from "sexist misogynist dinosaur" to M ordering Bond to use his sexual wiles on Paris Carver...funny how the media didn't play that one up, eh?

**OK, OK, we get it--smoking is bad.

The Surgeon General says POWThe movie repeats itself, as Bond twice uses the "need a light" gambit to knock out a goon. Really? Twice in the same movie? You already ran out of ideas?

**Another repeater: Bond using a knife to cut off clothing so he can escape the Teutonic blond henchmen in their final battle. Did that in The Living Daylights already, guys.

**On the flip side, there are some good homages. Bond sitting alone in his hotel, drinking Smirnoff while waiting for a killer to show up, nicely echoes Dr. No, for example, without ripping it off.

Good enough for Bond, not good enough for Owen Gleiberman**Speaking of that scene...Owen Gleiberman is still an idjit. I'm just sayin'.

**The motorbike chase is very well done...great stunts, excellent choreography for the two-people-handcuffed-together-on-a-bike bit (OK, there is some clumsily obvious squib use)...but it just goes on a year and a half, doesn't it? Another spot where someone needed to step in and say, "let's make some trims here."

Thailand does fill in quite nicely for Saigon, though.

**Brosnan bash...takes down the goon with an ashtray. Gotta love the casual take down of goons with household items...

Hmmm...no towels, how about an ashtray?**Now wait a minute...Carver's goons used machine gun fire to try and break into the BMW earlier, right? With absolutely no success, right? Then how come, during the chase, both windshields get taken out by those same guns?!?

At least BMW gets their money's worth this time, unlike last movie...a grand car chase, even if spectacularly misplaced within the movie.

**The first 3 Brosnan films all have plot points that rely on the broken up Soviet Empire not being able to hang onto their advanced weaponry...the Goldeneye, the nuclear torpedoes in this movie's teaser, and nuclear warheads and a whole flipping submarine in TWINE. I know Eon shied away from making the Soviets overt bad guys during the Cold War. So what, we're making up for lost time now?!?

**Jack Wade is back, though it's hard to see why. This is not a dig at Joe Don Baker, it's just hard to figure why they thought this movie needed him. I guess the producers thought returning characters gave the audience some sense of continuity.

**Why in the world does Carver's missile have a 5 minute launch countdown?? Does that make any sense? You've somehow overcome the British arming codes, rigged it to fire from your cute little stealth boat...why in the world add a countdown, which we can be pretty sure it didn't have on the Devonshire?

Speaking of which, I usually don't too quibbly over countdowns matching movie time, and Bond films have actually been fairly good in this regard. But that 5 minutes takes about 10 minutes of screen time, the last 2 minutes takes over 4 minutes. C'mon, guys, if you're going to give us a countdown, at least play fair with it!!

**Lots and lots of cool gadgets in Wai Lin's safe house in Saigon...too bad she didn't actually use any of them while she was being attacked!!

**All right...M finally has proof that Carver is behind the plot. Now she has the information to stop the impending war. So what does she do?

She drives it over to wherever that situation room is.

Well, I lost my cell, and...Again...she drives it over.

Oh, sweet lord, maybe M doesn't have the balls for the job. WWIII is minutes away...you don't call, or fax, or email it? You drive it over?!? Why not just put a stamp on it and let the postal carrier bring it over?!? Sheesh...if she gets stuck in traffic, the war starts!!

Bond Score: 3. Professor Inga Bergstrom (the "little Danish"), Paris, and Wai Lin. Cumulative Bond Score: 50!! Congratulations, James!!

And as always:

Thankfully, Jack Wade shall notBe here next week, when I try to get away with comparing a James Bond movie to a Shakespeare play...and no, not the one you think.


  1. I agree with nearly all of your review. I don't think Pryce was a very good villain mainly because he takes the easy way out and his performance is completely over the top. The character had a lot of potential, especially with people like Murdoch as real life parallels. Had Pryce taken the job a bit more seriously it could have been great.

    I like Michelle Yeoh A LOT and certainly wished the movie spent more time with her than Paris Carver. Terry Hatcher while not being bad is 100% out of place in this movie, plus she started the really bad trend of casting popular US actresses in Bond movies (Halle Berry, Denise Richards...). Like you said, once she is killed the movie dumps her completely... what on Earth was the point of putting her here other than giving the Brosnan movies the "personal edge" they require?

    From this point on we have the obligatory horrible scene of Brosnan having "one last moment" with the dead bondgirl by shutting their eyelids or meditating over their dead body... Elektra in TWINE and worst of all Miranda Frost in DAD (even knowing Miranda Frost was in every shape and sound a traitor and a murderer who nowhere in the film's running time had any sort of romantic chemistry with him).

    The movie isn't bad, it's actually a lot of fun, but it does show an early glimpse of everything that will gro wrong from now on with the Brozzie era. Oh, it's a masterpiece compared to TWINE and DAD though.

  2. "I suspect that after a decade of 'Fair and Balanced,' Carver's manipulations of news don't seem quite so far-fetched"

    Yes, not several decades of left-leaning mainstream media -- only evil Fox News, right? Dan Rather's attempt, for instance, to influence a presidential election with forged documents, that doesn't count.

    And street gangs aren't running rampant with automatic weapons. In Mogadishu, maybe.

    I love your site, Snell. Please don't get all partisan-political on us.

  3. "Yes, not several decades of left-leaning mainstream media -- only evil Fox News, right? Dan Rather's attempt, for instance, to influence a presidential election with forged documents, that doesn't count."

    Yes, certainly.

    I won't deny that there has been a left-lean of the mainstream US media for decades, but compared to FOX News' over the top right wing propaganda they were very subtle.

    Can you think of anyone from the left as mean spirited as Laura Ingrahm, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hanity, etc...?

    Perhaps that can be the plot for Bond 23: Bill O'Reilly is the villain with Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter as his evil henchmen. After a failed sexual encounter with Ann Coulter where Bond finds out she is secretly a tranny assasin a-la the PTS of Thunderball, our hero starts getting information from Michelle Malkin. Of course, Michelle starts out in the villains' side then she learns that FOX News has been using her all this time to not appear as racist ad they really are. She then becomes the bondgirl.

  4. Perhaps only PBS viewers will be aware of this but Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer (the insufferable admiral) were sometimes prickly romantic partners in the British series "As Time Goes By" and the film paid homage to this in their verbal sparring match.

  5. "As to the evil media mogul, again, TND was ahead of the curve. This movie debuted a year before Fox News started up in the U.S. I suspect that after a decade of "Fair and Balanced, " Carver's manipulations of news don't seem quite so far-fetched." Right on Snell, way to speak truth to power. I hope that your site doesn't get shut down for your brave stand on FoxNews. Why won't others listen?

    This plot could not have been imagined until Fox came on the air. I mean, even though many people believe that Hearst started the Spanish-American War just to sell papers, that probably shouldn't count because it couldn't be blamed on present day conservatives.

  6. I'm surprised you didn't mention one of my favorite scenes in the franchise: The thugs, about to give Bond a sound beating, inform him he's in a soundproof room. This sets up the nice reversal a moment later where we see Bond proceed take down these thugs using a hilarious array of musical instruments -- but of course, we're seeing this from the other side of the glass, so like the guard sitting there blithely transfixed on the monitor he's watching, we hear nothing.

  7. Your reviews are clarifying a lot of my ambivalence about the Brosnan movies - the movies themselves are VERY inconsistent, particularly in tone, compared to the earlier movies, so it's hard for me to get a handle on how I feel about them.

    I like Carver a lot, but one thing that's never made a lick of sense to me... why the hell is he *on* the stealth ship at the end?

    I guess you could say he wants to be in the thick of things, likes leading from the front, etc. And I could see that from a lot of Bond villains, but Carver, as a media mogul, seems established as almost the opposite of that. I get the feeling he'd much rather watch events unfold from his comfy office, delighting in watching and shaping the world's reaction to the war he started.

  8. I rewatched the teaser a couple times because something really nagged me. Doesn't anyone find it strange that the jets are so structurally weak underneath the pilots seats? When Bond's plane is underneath that of his pursuer, and he's being strangled, he managed to eject a flesh-and-blood body up and through the underside. And that body can apparently set off an explosion even though there shouldn't be anything remotely close to ignitable (i.e. jet fuel) under there. Ugh, the scene just really bothers me!

  9. In fairness, the flesh-and-blood body was wearing a flight helmet, so it wasn't just his noggin busting through the other plane. And--yes, I'm so nerdy I actually looked this up--a Soviet-era ejector shot the ejectee out at 20-22g. Put that much force behind the hard helmet, and it would be like pretty much any high velocity metallic shrapnel that might damage the plane. That, plus shoddy post-Soviet era maintenance (OK, I'm stretching here...)

    As to the explosion, well, um...you're about 35 years too late to complain about things that shouldn't explode exploding in a Bond movie...