Roger Spottiswoode, 1997
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Judi Dench, Jonathan Pryce, Michelle Yeoh, Teri Hatcher
After the decent GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies pretty much sums up the rest of the Brosnan Bond films. Attempts to make the plot and villains contemporary utterly fails and there are basically just an endless string of dull action sequences. We are also plagued with a series of bland, “strong” female characters meant to challenge the series' stereotype of sexy women defenseless before Bond’s prowess.
Bond spies on terrorists selling arms at the Russian border and has to dramatically liberate Soviet nuclear torpedoes to prevent their explosion and the ensuing devastation. He is later sent to Germany to investigate media mogul Eliot Carver, who wants to instigate war between China and the United Kingdom in order to supplant the current Chinese government with one that would give him exclusive media rights. Bond was previously involved with Carver’s wife, Paris, and seduces her again, resulting in her death and Bond’s near assassination. He travels to the South China Sea, where he teams up with Chinese agent Wai Lin to further investigate Carver’s schemes and to locate his stealth ship, armed with missiles and aimed at China.
I have little to say about this dull, disappointing film. This is the first Bond film with a title not taken from or inspired by Ian Fleming and the original story is the main offender. Brosnan is solid throughout his four film run, but if you dislike his Bond, it’s rough going. The normally wonderful Jonathan Pryce is miscast and forced to chew scenery in what surely must be the worst villain in any Bond film. His henchmen are also offensively bad - Götz Otto plays a big, angry, blonde German who is a preposterous cross between Dolph Lundgren and From Russia With Love’s Red Grant. Carver’s assassin-at-arms, Dr. Kaufman, is played by Vincent Schiavelli, whose quirks make what is already an absurd role even worse. Carver’s wife Paris is played by a bland, boring and miscast Teri Hatcher. Allegedly Monica Bellucci screen tested for the role, but insanely was not cast. Whoever made that decision should be drawn and quartered.
I will never have anything bad to say about Michelle Yeoh, who is simply out of place here. Her scenes almost give the impression that we are in a different, better film, but alas. Joe Don Baker is back as the feisty CIA agent from GoldenEye, as are Judi Dench as M, Desmond Llewelyn as Q and the annoying Samantha Bond as Moneypenny. But no amount of solid supporting actors could turn this into a good film. It is simply too formulaic and feels like a tired update of The Spy Who Loved Me. There are some nice action sequences, though I really could have done without the self-driving BMW and the helicopter/motorcycle chase that seems to go on for an hour. Speaking of the BMW, if you thought GoldenEye was bad, there is even more product placement in this film. And please don’t forget that the primary villain wants to start a world war so that he can gain control of the news.
I can’t recommend Tomorrow Never Dies, which takes the cake as my least favorite Bond film of all time. Somehow even Die Another Day manages to be better than this waste of 2+ hours, though only just barely. If you feel compelled to see it (or, like me, you just need to own every Bond film), there are a lot of DVD options. I’m review the 2-disc Ultimate Edition, which is also found in the Ultimate Edition box set volume 4. There are two commentaries, one of from time Bond director Roger Spottiswoode and a second from stunt coordinator and second unit director Vic Armstrong, accompanied by producer Michael Wilson. There are also extended scenes, a documentary and a lot of featurettes. It is also available on Blu-ray, though I don’t understand why that cover was chosen, but I hope whomever is responsible was fired.