Friday, January 11, 2013

The World Is Not Enough - Close But No Cigar

The World Is Not Enough - 1999

Bond:  Pierce Brosnan
Directed by: Michael Apted
Produced by: Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli 
Theme: "The World Is Not Enough" performed by Garbage

Fun fact: I often confuse the titles "Tomorrow Never Dies" and "The World Is Not Enough" in my head because they both start with T, have the same number of syllables, and are both in iambic meter. "The World Is Not Enough" is in fact the Bond family motto, as 007 jokes in this film (I always thought that was a clever bit of writing). If you listen closely during On Her Majesty's Secret Service you'll hear it referenced in one of the heraldry scenes, which would make it the only Bond film title to be spoken in more than one film if it weren't for the ubiquitous use of the phrase "license to kill".

This is one of the few Bond movies that you should really only watch once. Not because it's terrible. It's actually quite good... the first time you see it. Sure it has its flaws, but it does some unique things with the plot and the villain. Bond has some interesting character development moments, and Judi Dench's talents are used  well in an expanded role for M. Unfortunately a lot of the dramatic tension that runs through the film goes away completely once you know how it ends. So while the first viewing is something of a roller-coaster, the second is more like waiting in line at the exit. It's just sort of boring.

Where Goldeneye had a tank chase, and Tomorrow had the hand-cuffed motorcycle chase, World never has a signature action sequence, unless you count the speed boat chase on the Thames in the pre-title sequence, but being remembered for a pre-title sequence is something of a dubious honor. In fact, the speed boat chase was supposed to be the first thing after the main title, but they moved it in front of the title because otherwise the pre-title sequence was deemed too boring. As a result, the film boasts the longest pre-title sequence in the series at 14 minutes. However, whenever you have a problem with part of your movie being "too boring", you know you've got issues.

Where Tomorrow had two wonderful performances by actress in two complex roles, World has one good performance by an actress in a complex role (Sophie Marceau as Electra King) and Denise Richards as Christmas Jones, who somehow manages to give Lois Chiles a run for her money as the worst performance by an actress in a Bond film. Not only is she terrible, but the part is terrible. After raising the bar on female characters so high in the previous film, they immediately reduced it back to the pretty scientist with a puney name who's only in the film to look good in a wet t-shirt:

Apparently there was some controversy about Sophie Marceau's nipple being briefly visible in her love scene with Bond, which I find funny considering Denise Richards may as well be topless during the entire flooded submarine sequence.

Robert Carlyle is great as Renard, but the reason you're not going to see him on any top 10 Bond villain lists is because the role just isn't that menacing. In fact, he's kind of a sap. Carlyle's talents are wasted in this film, especially considering how good he is at playing bad guys.

World is Desmond Llewelyn's last film as Q. This was not by design, although you would think it given his final scene which plays like a sad farewell. He intended to play the role until he died. Unfortunately for him, two weeks after World opened, at the age of 85, he did just that. Not from old age, mind you, but from a head-on car crash. He had appeared in all but two Eon produced Bond films. (Peter Burton played the role in Dr. No, and Q does not appear in Live and Let Die.) World sets up his successor with John Cleese masterfully playing Q's assistant whom Bond jokingly calls R.

This was definitely the beginning of the end for the Brosnan years. That's easy to say knowing that he only had one movie left, but the real problem was that the world was about to change. Much like Bond had to be reinvented after the fall of the Soviet Union, he'd have to be reinvented again after 9/11.

Personal Rankings: This isn't Brosnan's best, but it's not his worst either, and it does play well initially. 
  1. Goldfinger
  2. From Russia With Love
  3. The Spy Who Loved Me
  4. Live and Let Die
  5. You Only Live Twice
  6. Tomorrow Never Dies
  7. GoldenEye
  8. The Living Daylights
  9. For Your Eyes Only
  10. The World Is Not Enough
  11. Dr. No
  12. Octopussy
  13. Diamonds Are Forever
  14. A View to a Kill
  15. License to Kill
  16. Thunderball
  17. The Man with the Golden Gun
  18. Moonraker

1999 Context

President: Bill Clinton
Queen: Elizabeth II

The Euro is established.
Skyfall director Sam Mendes wins an Oscar for directing American Beauty

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