Well, here we are yet again to stroll into the park of James Bond and enjoy another lovely day. The birds are singing, the sun is shining, the leaves are blowing gently in the breeze. Ahh…oh, sorry! What now? I was miles away. Anyway, thank you to all the wonderful readers as well as those that are learning English for the first time who have taken the time to sort through my natterings over the past few days. We are now in top 5 territory on yet another meaningless list on the webnet. Which Bond will it be today?
After 1989’s Licence To Kill was released, the Bond production team was setting the wheels into motion for another film. This was decided on after they were sure there wouldn’t be another Batman or Indiana Jones film coming out in 1991 to kill them at the box office. However, yet another legal problem came up. The unique spin was that this time it did not involve Kevin McClory! The studio was purchased by another studio and corporations and legal blather and blah blah blah. (Trust me, if it were at least as interesting as the McClory legal stuff, I’d go into it, but this one is rather lackluster.)
In the meantime, Timothy Dalton was patiently waiting in the wings for the producers to get their shinola together. Yet by the time they did, it was 1994 and a full 5 years since Dalton starred as Bond. Dalton peaceably resigned from the role and now it was up for grabs. According to Wikipedia, the bastion of all human knowledge ever recorded on Earth, Mel Gibson and Liam Neeson were both approached to play Bond. Neeson would be an odd choice but this would be 1994 Neeson, so it might have worked. But getting Mad Max/Riggs to play Bond?
Instead they went with the actor that was offered the role back in 1986, but couldn’t do it then because Mary Tyler Moore was a poophead when it came to Remington Steele and her television empire, which resulted in him having to pass on The Living Daylights. But now Pierce Brosnan was definitely available and more importantly he was cheaper than either Gibson or even Neeson.
Brosnan was hailed as a terrific choice as Bond and it is easy to see why. Unlike the trepidation that followed news of Lazenby’s or Dalton’s or Craig’s casting, Pierce was seen as being James Bond incarnate. Pierce also was able to play a line, could do the action convincingly, and was damnably handsome and charming to boot. He seemed like a natural because simply, he was.
To join Brosnan on this new adventure, a new M was cast. Dame Judi Dench was brought in and as she is a woman, it was then decided that she should portray the first female M in the series. Plus the screen tests that had Dench wearing a fake beard and moustache simply weren’t that convincing. Despite this odd facial hair detour, Dench was an admirable choice, eventually starring in eight total Bond movies to date. And I wouldn’t even rule her out from making another appearance despite her character’s death. She’s that good.
On the villain side of the fence, we have former 006/current head of the Janus crime syndicate Alec Trevelyan, as played by Sean Bean. Bean is also a wonderful actor as well. I wouldn’t have minded following the adventures of 006 for a movie or two as well. But yet here in GoldenEye, he really isn’t that intimidating.
Despite knowing all the clichés that make up Bond’s life, even mentioning them aloud, Trevelyan still plays all the clichés of the typical Bond villain. You’d think he’d be smarter in dealing with 007 or at least would be able to anticipate Bond’s moves, but he isn’t and doesn’t, which is maddening at times. I think an actor of Bean’s quality should have been given more menace but I’m just not feeling it here. I feel that there was a lethal chess match between the double-Os that disappointingly never materialized here.
Also along for the ride is Famke Janssen as Xenia Onotopp, Bean’s right hand henchwoman. She is of the Barbara Carrera mold of Bond villainess: very flamboyant, quite sexually provocative, and extremely lethal. Janssen is a nice twist as we haven’t had a female baddie since A View to a Kill and the less said about that instance, the better.
And GoldenEye has a solid supporting cast as well. Joe Don Baker plays Bond’s CIA contact Jack Wade. Presumably as Leiter was maimed in the previous Licence To Kill, he wasn’t going back into the field anytime soon. Baker always puts in a nice performance and clearly enjoyed playing with Pierce. So does Robbie Coltrane as Russian mob boss Zukovsky. He would reprise his role in a later Pierce movie, becoming a bright spot in The World Is Not Enough. Alan Cumming plays a computer programmer that works for Trevelyan. He isn’t really evil-bad either, just rather annoying-bad, which if that was the character then Cumming played it beautifully.
As our good Bond girl, we have Izabella Scorupco playing a Russian computer programmer who witnesses the destruction of her satellite base by the bad guys. She is rather attractive but she also falls into the category of damsel in distress more often than not. She seems to always need 007 to rescue her and frankly showing quick shots of her rapid keystrokes does not a hero make.
The plot revolves around satellite-emitted electromagnetic pulses that destroy anything with an electronic circuit. (Now this is something that should have been the main point of A View To A Kill, but was quickly forgotten back then because…they had a blimp?) Bean’s crime organization wants a Russian satellite that can deliver such a pulse in order to focus it on London, after electronically stealing millions from the banks there. This would mean there would be no way to trace the theft. So yes, as Bond even states in the movie, 006 is no Blofeld or Drax or even Sanchez, he’s just a common thief. The only difference is Bean doesn’t get a great line like Alan Rickman had in Die Hard when the same thing was pointed out to him: “I am an exceptional thief and since I’m moving up to kidnapping, you should be more polite.”
So for the first time in a Brosnan Bond movie we get a satellite weapon. Granted, this makes it rather innovative…for the first one. As we’ve previously read about Pierce’s Bonds, satellites are apparently necessary for his adventures. Like Craig running everywhere, Roger wearing safari suits, Sean darkening his eyebrows, and Dalton not smiling, Brosnan has to have his space based plot points…uh, I mean weapons.
Overall, the movie is a very good Bond debut for Pierce. Unfortunately, he would never get a script as good as GoldenEye for his other Bond movies. This is a pity as I always thought that Brosnan deserved better than the movies he was stuck in. He kind of got a raw deal in that instance. Sure, the films printed money at the box office, but only GoldenEye was a truly solid Bond flick throughout.
Well, not there weren’t some cracks in that solid film. The one huge lingering issue I have with GoldenEye is the music. Now Eric Serra does a wonderful job with his scoring of The Fifth Element. He does. But that kind of scoring just doesn’t work for a Bond movie. The constant electronic noises and sound atmosphere nonsense just sounds like the characters are driving over misplaced manhole covers. You never even really hear the Bond theme save for during the tank chase scene but even that moment involved a different composer’s work and hasty editing at the last minute before release. Thank the stars that David Arnold was brought in after this nonsense.
On the other hand, the title track is quite good. Written by U2’s Bono and the Edge and performed by Tina Turner, it has just the right kind of vibe for a Bond movie. Turner’s vocals elevate the song, giving it a raw power that ranks it quite high in the Bond canon. Of course Bono and the Edge also wrote “Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me” for the goshawful Batman Forever. This tune should have been another Bond theme and was a good song wasted on an overblown, retina-harming Batman movie.
The stunt sequences have some good moments too. The aforementioned tank chase is pretty entertaining as is the opening sequence when Bond bungee jumps down from the top a dam to the chemical weapons facility below. Brosnan comes across as a good action Bond which is a necessity for the series. Anyone who has ever sat through a Roger ski scene knows I speak the truth.
I must also say that GoldenEye had the best trailer for a movie that I can remember. It still sticks with me to this day. Brosnan shoots at words on the screen and then comes forward to the camera saying, “You were expecting someone else?” which then leads into typical trailer fare with Parodi Fair’s cover version of the “James Bond Theme” just being blasted under it. Just incredible. After a six year drought, James Bond was back!
Sorry if I sound the fanboy here, but I still remember just enjoying this movie in the theater back in winter of 1995. I was looking forward to it like no other and my parents knew this. Therefore it must have been a cruel joke that they sent me out to get a soda for them right before the opening. I barely made it back to my seat before the familiar gun barrel opening was done. It’s been 20 years and I still remember that moment. Probably explains why I’m always a nervous wreck before firing up GoldenEye at home: I never know who might want a 64 oz. soda and this possibility fills me with dread.
As a final point, one of the best things to come out from the GoldenEye experience is the terrific video game: GoldenEye for N64. This game is the sole reason I bought a N64 console in the first place. Actually between that game and Perfect Dark, which used the same GoldenEye game engine, I never needed another video game for the N64. Some of my fondest memories of GoldenEye over the years come from the video game and not the movie. I can still remember the dorm GoldenEye tournaments in college that would get fairly intense. Hundreds were killed and proximity mines were a right bastard.
Not as much of a bastard as GoldenEye’s score, but close!