Pierce Brosnan returns as James Bond in his second 007 film – 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies.
Only two short years have passed since Brosnan reignited the 007 flame in the extremely popular GoldenEye. A followup was inevitable and producers quickly fast-tracked Brosnan’s encore on the heels of the renewed Bond excitement from GoldenEye.
Director Roger Spottiswoode’s entry in the series takes a plot that is literally ripped from the headlines. This time out 007 has to stop a powerful media mogul who is setting his sights on obtaining exclusive global media coverage. Elliott Carver (Jonathan Price) is attempting to start a war between China and the United Kingdom that will result in him dominating worldwide news and making his global empire even bigger and more powerful.
Things get a bit more complicated for Bond when he learns Carver has married his former flame Paris (Teri Hatcher) and they have quite a bit of unresolved business between them. Along for the adventure is Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh), a Chinese agent who teams up with Bond to stop Carver as they desperately try to prevent their countries from going to war for the sake of his twisted plan.
Co-starring Ricky Jay, Gotz Otto, Vincent Schiavelli, Colin Salmon and Geoffrey Palmer along with returning Bond actors Judi Dench, Joe Don Baker, Samantha Bond and Desmond Llewelyn, I take a look at Tomorrow Never Dies.
Another great video. Goldeneye had its flaws, but because the majority of Bond fans and the movie going public were gagging for another Bond film, the film got away with being unscathed.
Tomorrow Never Dies was the film that began to show the cracks in the Brosnan era armour. Plot, character, and pacing went onto be swept aside for OTT action, larger set pieces and unmemorable Bond girls. Tomorrow Never Dies had its fair share of problems during production, but because Goldeneye proved that Bond was still valuable, it was full steam ahead, with the majority of the budget being financed by, as you mentioned, product placement.
Firstly I’m with you in regards to the title song. kd Lang's 'Surrender' is a far superior theme. However what I find more intriguing are some of the songs that were rejected, and there were so many artists trying to get on the Bond bandwagon after the mega success of Goldeneye. I think there is a YouTube video that actually shows us snippets of the songs that were rejected. However one potential song that sticks in my mind is Marc Almond's effort 'Only The Moment'. It is not a great song, but the tune is a pastiche of old Bond themes and is very fun to boot, which Tomorrow Never Dies is. I also like some of the lyrics;
'With guilt on your shoulder
With fear in your heart
You're bedeviled by angels
Belittled by fools'
A perfect reflection on Bond.
Another aspect I really dislike is the sudden change of characterisation. In Goldeneye, M belittled Bond's philandering ways. Here she encourages it, just look at the briefing scene 'Pump her for information'. In fact its dialogue like that may give a sense of fun, but undermine the character. Just look at Moneypenny; "I always knew you were a cunning linguist James". It's pathetic and actually brings the character down.
Tomorrow Never Dies has a lot of flaws; however I can't help but enjoy the film for what it's worth, which is an action spectacle that infuses the barebones story from The Spy Who Loved Me with the then hip Hong Kong action aesthetic. Pacing is never called into question because the film is literally one set piece followed by another, and the set pieces are spectacular and fun. The film is not a Bond classic (its not even in my top ten favourite Bond films) and it always going to have problems competing with the so called legacy of Goldeneye.
The idea of Brosnan playing the image of Bond starts here. In Tomorrow Never Dies, Bond is depicted as a womanising, heavy drinking action man, who loves his gadgets. In fact I think with the overzealous product placement on display in this film is one of the reasons why this has happened. Bond wears Bironi suits, he downs half a bottle of vodka in one sitting (something that is very prominent due to the Smirnoff Red bottle conveniently placed in shot) The product placement goes even further due to their inclusion in the gadgets Bond uses (the Ericsson phone, the BMW car)
However despite the above, I feel I have to give Brosnan his dues, and it is rewarded in spades with the scene between him and Dr. Kaufman. Kaufman is one of the very best villains I’ve ever seen in a Bond film, and it would’ve been great to see more of him. In this scene which is so out of kilter with the rest of the film, we see the hero and the antagonist sitting in a simple room that is more exciting and far more rewarding then all the bombasity on display. It’s here that Brosnan finally plays James Bond. The material is rich with well written dialogue and fantastic tension filled editing. If all of Brosnan’s films had this type of quality on display, he certainly would have been a memorable Bond.
Overall I have to say Tomorrow Never Dies is the difficult follow up, it is a fun and simple film to watch. It’s no classic and it’s filled with flaws, but your forgive due to the spectacle on display.