IT'S THE ONE WHERE
A British ship in international waters is challenged by two Chinese MIGs, who claim that it's trespassing on their territory. Moments later the ship is sinking and one of the planes have been shot out of the sky. This is the doing of media mogul Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce), who plans to start a war between the two countries, so he can sell newspapers.
James Bond is dispatched to investigate Carver, via his "connection" to Carver's wife (Teri Hatcher), and there he runs into a Chinese operative, Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh), who seems to have her own agenda. Of course Bond finds the time to briefly flirt with Moneypenny, the secretary, he sleeps with his Danish teacher (Yay Danes!) and with Teri Hatcher! He also gets a brand new remote controlled BMW, and a mobile phone with some very impressive features.
THE SECRET PLOT TO RULE THE WORLD AWARD GOES TO...
Mr. Elliot Carver. Though, actually I don't think he deserves an award. His plan is just too stupid. We deserves a better class of bad guys, don't we? This one has even hired a silly blond henchman! Come on, how clichéd can you get? On a more positive note, magician Ricky Jay also shows up, as some sort of electronic weapon gizmo expert. Personally I prefer when he's flinging cards.
So the revived James Bond returns, but can he live up to the expectations following the near perfect GoldenEye? In a word: No.
The biggest problem with Tomorrow Never Dies is the villain. Plain and simple. It's just not believable that a person can be in charge of a giant company and be so obviously insane at the same time. Jonathan Pryce does what he can with the character of Elliot Carver, but it's a lost cause. I mean, how would you manage to keep this so-called plan a secret, when it relies on the collaboration of so many people? And what kind of business model is a world war? Do you honestly believe that more people would buy newspapers in the middle of a nuclear-freakin'-war, than during times of peace?
Was GoldenEye just a flash in the pan? It would seem that way, because even Bond himself is back to the incompetent style of the Connery efforts. Twice he walks into obvious traps. One time the bad guys even call him and tell him it's a trap! And still he proceeds undeterred. Further evidence can be found in the film's unsuccessful attempt to copy the added emotional depth of GoldenEye, by setting up a relationship with Carver's wife. It's a nice idea, but just doesn't ring true.
It's too bad, because there's actually a lot to like here. Pierce Brosnan is on par with his GoldenEye performance, the film looks great, it has the added benefit of digital effects, and the action scenes are generally very competent. The motorcycle chase through downtown Saigon, where Bond is handcuffed to Michelle Yeoh, is inspired. Oddly, tough, the one action scene that couldn't possibly fail - Michelle Yeoh demonstrating her fighting abilities - is very badly choreographed, and poorly shot.
I've grown to like much of Tomorrow Never Dies, despite my initial hate for it. I've come to terms with the fact that it's the worst Bond film since the Roger Moore days. However, nothing can save the film, when the already problematic plot culminates in a noisy, utterly boring showdown onboard Carvers stealth boat. Even if we ignore the fact that this vessel seems to be several sizes larger on the inside than it appears from the outside, the whole finale is still so bloody ridiculous! Nothing more than pointless shooting, explosions, and boring fist fights. When it's all over, you're left with an empty, sinking feeling. A worldwide media empire, the threat of a third world war, and all you give us is a fist fight? Come on...
I will leave you with this conversation I had with a friend shortly after watching the movie for the first time back in 1997. We were pondering the qualities of the film, and he suddenly said:
"James Bond doesn't scream."
"James Bond doesn't scream! When they use the banner to slide down the side of the building he screams like a girl. James Bond doesn't scream."
Think about it. It's true. If they can't get that simple, little fact right, how can they hope to make a whole film that works?