Bond Hacks Away at Media Mogul
I have a rule of thumb when it comes to the Bond movies when it comes to an actor taking over the iconic role, the first movie is a little shaky but the second movie is much better. And it is a point proven by "Tomorrow Never Dies" as in his second outing as 007 Pierce Brosnan puts his own mark on the character, coming across as more comfortable being the action hero with a quip for every moment of drama. But it is not just Brosnan which makes "Tomorrow Never Dies" a much more entertaining movie as the storyline surrounding Elliot Carver trying to dominate the world's media with his empire is also good, and ironically now 15 years later almost apt. Add all the expected elements from action, Bond girls, more action, quips and even more action and the 18th official Bond movie is a good one.
Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce - Evita), a megalomaniac media mogul is looking for world domination, media world domination and will use any under hand tactic to achieve it. The Chinese are his sticking point, blocking him from his goal and so in order to get around them hatches a plan to start a war between Britain and China. When a British naval warship is sunk in Chinese waters James Bond (Pierce Brosnan - Dante's Peak) is called upon to investigate and use the fact that Carver's wife Paris (Teri Hatcher - Tango & Cash) was a former of lover, with "M" (Judi Dench) encouraging Bond to pump her for information. But with the clock ticking down Bond discovers that he is not the only agent who is snooping around Carver's empire as the Chinese have sent in Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh) to uncover what is happening.
The best thing about "Tomorrow Never Dies" is that in many ways it is an old fashioned storyline brought up to date. By that I mean we have a villain in Elliot Gould, a ruthless man willing of mass murder for his own good, but whilst he is after world domination it is world domination when it comes to media. Maybe with the whole Levinson enquiry going on at the moment this storyline seems better than it is but just the fact we have a real villain, with big henchmen certainly makes this 18th Bond movie feel like a real Bond movie.
Aside from this modern take on an old style Bond villain "Tomorrow Never Dies" actually runs to the same formula that so many of the Bond movies did. That means a bit of excitement as Bond escapes in an opening salvo of drama, the lead into the storyline which here we see a British Naval boat being blown up in Chinese waters. And what follows is Bond going under cover to discover what is going on and why before bringing down the evil empire, which in this case is Elliot Carver's media empire. As I said this Bond movie is no different to the others and builds to a spectacular action packed finale.
But it does get it mostly right, trimming down on some of the excesses which spoilt the previous Bond movie causing "Tomorrow Never Dies" to come in at a much more acceptable 119 minutes. It also switches things up when it comes to Bond girl Wai Lin as she is more of Bond's equal rather than just a beauty who ends up falling for his charms. So we get her kicking butt and having an armoury of gadgets to make a 00 agent jealous. And whilst of course Bond movies are all about the escapism of 007 saving the day and cheating death the tendency to become over the top is toned down so that whilst a little outrageous there is some realism to James exploits.
But it does get some things wrong most notably the casting of Terri Hatcher, or at least her character Paris Carver as here we have a woman who is a former lover of Bond. Now Hatcher looks great especially when it comes to the scene where Bond removes her dress, but the chemistry between Hatcher and Brosnan is zero. Did I get a sense that Bond really loved her or she really loved him, not once and that aspect comes down to Hatcher playing Paris a little too coolly.
Aside from the issue over Terri Hatcher the rest of the casting is good Michelle Yeoh coming across as strong as Wai Lin whilst Jonathan Pryce gives us a good villain in Elliot Carver. The returning faces are also good and whilst Judi Dench doesn't get much to do this time as "M" that sense she really cares for Bond under her cool exterior resurfaces nicely. And as already mentioned Pierce Brosnan most certainly comes across as more comfortable in the role of Bond and whilst the quips he delivers may come across as a little too cheesy he certainly gets the action hero side of things spot on.
What this all boils down to is that "Tomorrow Never Dies" is a good Bond movie, taking the well worn formula as well as an old fashioned theme of a megalomaniac looking for world domination and bringing them up to date. Many of the little issues with the previous Bond movie have also been ironed out and whilst there are still issues in this 18th Bond movie it does get a lot more right than wrong.