My James Bond Retrospective: Tomorrow Never Dies

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After the immensely successful return of James Bond in GoldenEye, the studios immediately began working on its sequel. Bond had roared into the modern era of filmmaking in 1995, and MGM—the distributor of the 007 films—began capitalizing on the resurgence of “Bond-mania.”

James Bond was all over pop culture again, from novels to music to video games. 007 hadn’t seen this much exposure since the 1960s. So, it came as no surprise that another Bond film made its way to the big screen just two years after GoldenEye.

1997_tomorrow-never-diesTomorrow Never Dies premiered at the Odeon Leicester Square on December 9, 1997, and performed admirably at the box office, despite sharing its opening day with James Cameron’s Titanic.

The film opens with Bond assessing a terrorist arms deal in progress somewhere on the Russian border. One of the terrorists, Dr. Henry Gupta, purchases a US GPS encoder. British Admiral Roebuck orders a missile strike on the arms deal before realizing that there are nuclear torpedos attached to a plane in the middle of the site of the arms deal. Bond takes advantage of the chaos and steals the plane. Gupta, meanwhile, escapes with the GPS encoder.

Later, media mogul Elliot Carver—the man for whom Gupta is working—uses the GPS encoder to set the HMS Devonshire off course into Chinese territorial waters. In the middle of the standoff, Carver’s stealth boat attacks both the British and the Chinese, turning the two countries against each other.

Bond is sent to investigate Carver’s possible links to the attacks as tensions between the two countries mount. Over the course of his investigations, Bond encounters Chinese agent Wai Lin, and the two work together to expose Carver and thwart his plans for world domination.

Though not as good a film as GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies is still a successful jaunt into the Bond universe. It’s admittedly a bit campy, and delves into somewhat outrageous circumstances. The plot is fairly standard, and there’s nothing spectacular about the story. It’s basic Bond. Nothing more, nothing less. Frankly, it’s a bit bland, but that doesn’t make it terrible.

What the film lacks in depth of story and character, it more than makes up for in action, stunt work, and special effects. The movie is a spectacle—probably the most visually stunning Bond film to date.

The characters—with the notable exception of Bond himself (and a minor character named Dr. Kauffman)—are pretty stale. Wai Lin, played by Michelle Yeoh, is rather dull for a Bond girl, and there really isn’t much chemistry between her and Bond. Elliot Carver, played by Jonathan Pryce, is a weakly portrayed villain. The character could have been convincing, but Pryce doesn’t really sell him that well.

Brosnan seems more comfortable in this role, and this time around, he seems to be characterizing Bond more similarly to Roger Moore. He’s not half as silly, but it’s clear he wants to take the character in a more humorous direction. In this case, it works pretty well, though I must say that the one liners were a bit too prolific. The screenwriters could have removed a few of them, and he’d still come across as humorously sarcastic.

Tomorrow Never Dies wasn’t a terrible movie, but I found myself a little bored throughout. It didn’t have the edge that GoldenEye had; it seemed to care more about promoting this new Bond “look” than about allowing Brosnan and the story to do their work.

Next up, The World Is Not Enough.

(Click to go back to the list.)

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