The best thing about this peach cobbler recipe is that your guests will never suspect that instead of peaches, you used…oh, sorry! Didn’t see you come in! Yes, in order to apply my bottomless wisdom in many and varied arenas, I have taken to giving my favorite made-up on the fly, never tested recipes. But that’s a whole other story for another day, mainly due to the FDA’s continuing investigation. In the meantime, let us press on with our next entry in the wonderful frabjous world of James Bond 007!
In 1995, GoldenEye successfully introduced a new Bond into a new decade. Flannel wearing audiences barely had enough time to stop listening to their Dave Matthews Band albums in the midst of their pogs tournaments in order to absorb this 007 fellow. But take to him they did and Pierce Brosnan effectively brought Bond to this new era. A follow-up to GoldenEye was inevitable seeing as how successful it was at the box office. Tomorrow Never Lies was planned and this was later changed to Tomorrow Never Dies when it came out in 1997.
Ah, 1997. Movie audiences couldn’t get enough of seeing people of all social levels freezing to death in the waters of the North Atlantic, or watching amazing levels of corruption in the 1950s Los Angeles police department, or observing people with bad Boston accents solve complex math problems while getting therapy from Mork from Ork, or gathering to watch a self-centered guy with OCD woo a waitress and befriend his gay neighbor, or leer at a bunch of British guys strip to 1970s rock songs. But enough about your Academy Award Best Picture candidates that year!
I knew some people that went to see Titanic at least 7 or 8 times if not more. Given that film’s close to 5 hour runtime, their bladders were made of iron, I tell you! Then again, they might have had no moisture left as they were all cried out after watching direction from a man whose most emotional cinematic moment prior to this was when a robot lowered itself into a vat of molten steel while giving a thumbs up sign.
Hey, I understand, I saw Titanic with a friend of mine. (A male friend of mine and no, nothing happened in any case, if that’s what you’re thinking!) I thought the movie was a rather pedestrian experience and quite dull until the iceberg was hit. I’d be a liar if I didn’t say that I laughed when the guy fell off the back of the ship and smacked his head on the propeller, making that loud “clong” sound as he did so. Oh, and I liked David Warner. That’s about I got from this drowning extravaganza.
Now while others were lining up to see this, I went to go see the newest Bond movie three times in the theater. I saw it once opening weekend, once with a group of friends, and once with a friend of mine who is a girl, and no, nothing happened that time either, if that’s what you’re thinking! Now at the time, I loved this Bond movie and thought it was a terrific addition to the series. But nowadays, I like to think that I’m a touch wiser. And Fletch is still the greatest motion picture in the world.
It turns out that Tomorrow Never Dies had a series of script issues and it was common knowledge that Brosnan wasn’t exactly happy as rewrites were brought in left and right. Slight tweaking is a matter of course with most movies, but writing on the fly because you need to make a release date is never a good plan. It is actually quite remarkable that the movie turned out as well as it did.
Brosnan himself is quite comfortable in the role, playing it with the right amount of action and humor. He even allows for some vulnerability at times. Out of his four Bonds, Pierce is at his most relaxed in this one, which is even more remarkable given the script issues.
After playing a supernatural evil in Something Wicked This Way Comes, portraying a Bond villain came rather easy for Jonathan Pryce. Pryce clearly seems to enjoy the role of Elliot Carver, but sadly the character doesn’t seem to have much depth. Then again this is also a problem with all of the Brosnan Bond movies. The villains just aren’t that terrifically evil or even scary, just annoying after a while. Pryce is a far better actor than we see in the movie. After all, he was Mr. Dark, so I remember being quite excited that he was cast. After viewing this product, he wants to go for more puns than other Bond villains, which gets to be grating after a while. He also namechecks Caesar and Napoleon…like all movie baddies who lack individual character.
In the Bond girl department, we first have Teri Hatcher playing the wife of Jonathan Pryce. She is also a former flame of Bond. I guess the one thing I cannot believe is that Bond would ever get seriously involved with Hatcher. It might be that I just don’t think she’s that great of an actress. Not that being a great actress is essential for starring in this series, but I just want a certain level of disbelief. Hatcher’s lines sound like she’s just acting, not that she’s an actress. Even more bothersome is the fact that the lovely and talented Monica Bellucci auditioned for the role and was…turned…down. Argh. Of course Bellucci did get a second chance, only to then be misused in Spectre. Argh, again.
On the other hand, Michelle Yeoh is quite refreshing as she plays the other female lead. As a Chinese agent, she manages to match Bond the entire time and definitely shows that she knows how to handle herself. Actually, it is quite irritating at the end of the movie when she needs rescuing because she has given nothing but the opposite impression throughout the rest of the movie.
Also along for the ride is Joe Don Baker reprising his role from GoldenEye as Jack Wade, CIA agent. Now I do like Baker as an actor and fortunately his Wade character doesn’t overstay his welcome. Brosnan appears to enjoy playing with Baker as it shows onscreen. If Baker was to be a new Felix Leiter-type, I don’t have a problem with it aside from the fact there is no way Baker could ever go undercover and be an effective field operative. (Plus, did anyone notice how much he looks like a bad guy from The Living Daylights? I know! Weird isn’t it?)
The plot, as almost always with the Brosnan 007s, involves satellites. Yes, satellites. Again. Like Daniel Craig running endlessly, Roger Moore wearing safari suits, or Timothy Dalton being overly serious, Brosnan can’t get through a movie without outer space playing a role via satellites. If Brosnan had made a fifth Bond, perhaps they would have just gone total Moonraker and have him fight terrorists on a space station.
Vincent Schiavelli is actually quite menacing as Dr. Kaufman, a professional assassin who is clearly out of his gourd. His German accent is nothing to speak of, but he might just be the most disturbing sociopathic character to come out in Bond film in a while. It is rather refreshing when Bond perforates him.
Carver’s lead henchman, Stamper, is portrayed by Götz Otto. Otto is better known for playing Hitler’s personal bodyguard in Downfall. Stamper’s nifty henchman quirk, aside from having more strength than an earthbound Kryptonian, is that apparently his pleasure and pain centers are reversed, so if you stab him, it actually brings him ecstasy. This I only know from reading the movie novelization by Raymond Benson. Yes, dear reader, I would pick up the novelizations of the Bond movies in order to get more plot information and flesh out the story. And yes, dear reader, I didn’t date all that much which is why no, nothing happened any time either, if that’s what you’re thinking!
The action sequences are quite good and kudos for having some different vehicles for Bond to play with such as jets and motorcycles. Yes, there is a tricked out Q Branch BMW that cannot be beat, but even that has a different twist with Bond forced to drive it from the backseat, controlling it with his cell phone. In 1997, personal cell phones were akin to having your own Mars colony, so this was exciting!
The music is the first of five Bond scores from composer David Arnold. Arnold definitely makes up for the sonic landscape nonsense that was so prolific in GoldenEye. His scores remind one of the best of John Barry’s work and in fact it was Barry that recommended Arnold. Arnold even wrote a terrific Bond song called “Surrender” performed by k.d. lang. But did the producers go with that one for the opening titles? Nope! They went with a song actually called “Tomorrow Never Dies” performed by Sheryl Crow. This song is a great song to skip and not listen to. No, really, you’ll be glad you did. Also, notice how Crow’s song is not incorporated into the main score, but the themes from “Surrender” are? Hm. That might be a giveaway as to why the score is very good.
The film kind of loses its way after the motorcycle/helicopter chase in Saigon. Not that the action is horrible, as it is always good to see Yeoh kick some evil booty, but it just once again seems rushed. Also Carver’s death is not that satisfying. Perhaps this was because his plan of trying to trick two superpowers into attacking each other just so he can cover it with his news network sounds even dumber after I just typed it. I can’t imagine how bad it is when you read it. I guess the main problem is that we’ve seen this before though in the Bonds. SPECTRE tried it in You Only Live Twice. It was also the plot in The Spy Who Loved Me and even to a certain extent in Octopussy. So it had been done before.
Speaking of having been done before, the location at the end of the movie was filmed in Thailand in and around the same islands that were filmed in The Man with the Golden Gun. A part of me hoped that Brosnan and Yeoh would come across the wreckage of Scaramanga’s home and fight it out with the bad guys there. But this sadly was not to be. Even better would have been getting Christopher Lee to just show up as if Roger’s bullet wasn’t good enough to kill him back in 1974. Oooh, now that’s fan idea for a script rewrite!
Overall, I have fond memories of this entry and perhaps that clouds my judgment a tad. I’ll always remember 1997 when others brought up how sad they were when the ship went down. I’d always reply “Oh it wasn’t that sad! After all, James Bond had to sink the bad guy’s floating headquarters didn’t he?” A confused look on their faces then follows. It worked every time!
As a final point, I just can’t believe that there was such a missed opportunity for a good line in this movie. During a fight in a newspaper printing press area, Bond throws a bad guy into a paper press causing the paper to spit out everywhere smeared with the deceased’s blood all over the newsprint. Bond says, “They’ll print anything these days.” Now this is an okay line, but wouldn’t a better one be “Oh, so that’s what is black and white and red all over.”? C’mon admit it, it is better right?
I also recently realized that you can substitute the word “pie” in all of the Brosnan titles. GoldenPie for instance or Pie Another Day. The World Is Not Enough, Have Some Pie? Of course, there’s Tomorrow Never Pies.
I think I’ve been watching these movies a tad too much recently. Although…The Pie Who Loved Me? Live and Let Pie? No Time to Pie? But once again, I achingly digress.