My James Bond Retrospective: The World Is Not Enough

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Once again, it wasn’t long before another James Bond film began production. Two directors were initially offered the job of putting the nineteenth Bond film together: Joe Dante and Peter Jackson. Barbara Broccoli changed her mind about Jackson after seeing The Frighteners, and the job was ultimately given to Michael Apted. Jackson later remarked that though he was a longtime fan of the Bond movies, he would likely not get another chance to direct a Bond movie as EON Productions often chose relatively unknown directors, and The Lord of the Rings had rocketed Jackson’s popularity.

This is the first Bond film to not be released by United Artists as its parent company, MGM, had since taken over distribution rights of the Bond franchise. This would also be the final Bond film to feature Desmond Llewelyn as Q. Although Llewelyn was not officially retiring from the role, his character was shown as preparing his replacement, played by John Cleese. Llewelyn died in a car accident shortly after the film’s premiere.

1999_the-world-is-not-enoughThe World Is Not Enough premiered on November 8, 1999, at Mann’s Village Chinese Theater in Los Angeles. It premiered at the Odeon Leicester Square in London on November 22, 1999. It was the third EON Productions Bond film to premiere first outside of England, the first being A View to A Kill, which premiered in San Francisco, and the second being GoldenEye, which premiered in New York City.

The film opens with Bond meeting a Swiss banker in order to retrieve money for Sir Robert King, a British oil tycoon and one of M’s longtime friends. In reality, Bond is there to investigate the murder of an MI6 agent who was killed for the stolen report that King was buying. Bond asks the banker who the murderer was, but the banker’s assistant kills him before he could give Bond the name. Bond escapes with the money.

Back in London, Bond and M find that the money is booby trapped, and King dies in the explosion. Bond travels all around Europe to find out who the insider was that set King up. He discovers that Renard, the terrorist who had kidnapped King’s daughter, Elektra (an event that took place before the start of this story), may be the one behind the assassination. M sends Bond to protect Elektra, but as he continues his investigation, he discovers secrets about the King family that cause loyalties to shift.

The World Is Not Enough has all the parts of a good Bond film. Exotic locales, menacing villains, beautiful women, and that panache that’s characteristic of Bond and his movies. Brosnan definitely looks more relaxed as Bond, and I’m beginning to really see him as the quintessential 007. While this film isn’t nearly as good as 1995’s GoldenEye, it’s a vast improvement over Tomorrow Never Dies, and shows signs that the franchise may be headed in the right direction.

While Denise Richards is less than believable as a nuclear physicist (and her acting isn’t terribly convincing either), she doesn’t overshadow the larger film, and she’s not as stiff as some Bond girls that have come before her.

Robert Carlyle plays the villainous Renard, a terrorist with no apparent motive at first. In the events that led up to the story in the movie, Renard had been shot in the head by Agent 009. The bullet didn’t travel completely through his skull at the time and is currently making its way through his brain, killing off his senses before ultimately killing him. Carlyle is ruthless, but he’s not nearly as intimidating as other Bond villains. This is forgivable, however, given his relationship to one of the other characters in the film.

The real show stealer was Sophie Marceau as Elektra King. Her character was multifaceted and complex, and she has fantastic chemistry with Brosnan’s Bond, even evoking one of the most emotionally charged performances by a Bond actor ever. She does her character justice and presents a new type of Bond girl: one who isn’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with Bond, challenge everything about him, and in almost every way, proves that she is indeed far superior to Agent 007.

I won’t call The World Is Not Enough my favorite Bond film. It’s far from it, in fact. It’s formulaic—painfully so at times. It lacks the uniqueness of a film like GoldenEye and hearkens back to the Roger Moore era a bit too much. While the film does steer clear of camp, it doesn’t hesitate to nod in that direction a bit. It has a good balance of humor and weight, but you can see that humor is beginning to find a more prominent place in Brosnan’s Bond films.

What makes me like this film so much was the way it drew from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in powerfully subtle ways. The film’s style, Bond’s portrayal, and the emotional connection he builds with Elektra King all remind me of the greatness of George Lazenby’s Bond film. While it’s nice to see, there’s nothing about any of it that felt new; rather, much of it felt like a rehash of that film.

Overall, I liked The World Is Not Enough. Honestly though, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it. I remember watching it when I was younger and being somewhat disappointed. But watching it in the context of all the other films helps me to appreciate its value. It really is a good Bond film. It’s just not a great one.

Next up, Die Another Day.

(Click to go back to the list.)

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