December 19, 1997 in Seven

Media A New Villain For Bond

Lawrence Toppman Charlotte Observer
 

Russians are passe. Arabs have too strong a voice of united protest, and they’re too familiar. And the Chinese whoa! No studio wants to offend a nation with an audience of a billion people and a government that controls access to them.

So whose collective butt can James Bond kick these days? Answer: the media’s.

In “Tomorrow Never Dies,” Pierce Brosnan’s second outing as the tuxedoed troubleshooter, agent 007 turns the sights of his Walther PPK on Elliott Carver, a mad mogul who’s a combination of Ted Turner, Bill Gates and Rupert Murdoch (and, at the end, the late and unlamented Robert Maxwell).

Carver, played with aplomb by Jonathan Pryce, represents the future of the Bond market: a billionaire megalomaniac with the ability and amorality to start World War III.

This sort of villain will eventually become a dull dog, especially if his motives are so simple: Carver wants exclusive rights to cable TV in China, plus headlines for his tabloids around the world.

But for now, MGM’s longest-running series is in solid shape. Brosnan has toughened up emotionally for his second outing. He’s been teamed with Asian action star Michelle Yeoh as Chinese agent Wai Lin, and he’s been given a script that provides more fun than the lethargic “GoldenEye.”

Not that “Tomorrow” breaks new ground. It starts with the swirly, babe-bedecked title sequence we all expect, underpinned by a droning and inexplicable theme song. (Sheryl Crow, who wrote it, does her Shirley Bassey “Gold-FIN-gaaaaah” impression.)

Soon we’re watching 007 at a terrorist arms bazaar on the Russian border, where he prevents a missile attack that would detonate a warhead and create a Chernobyl-style disaster. The approving M (urbane Judi Dench) rewards him with another assignment: Investigate the sinking of a British warship off China, from which terrorists have stolen a nuclear bomb.

The terrorists turn out to be Carver’s gang, which is led by an Aryan strongman (always a safe choice for thuggery). As Bond investigates, he comes up against two women: Paris Carver, with whom he had an ill-fated affair before she married the media baron, and Wai Lin, who mistrusts him but eventually agrees to help.

The filmmakers do miss opportunities. A major car chase drags, despite Bond’s new ride: a BMW that can start and drive itself, given instructions on a key pad. Teri Hatcher’s Paris has all the sensual allure of a George Bush monologue in the Rose Garden.

With her sly and knowing grin and lithe athleticism, Yeoh is Bond’s equal - a new idea for the most sexist movie series behind Russ Meyer’s “Supervixens.” But she doesn’t show her stuff until halfway through, and she still has to be rescued by J.B. after whomping half a dozen villains. (Luckily, the finale sets up her potential re-appearance in sequels.)

Watching Yeoh, I thought of the movie’s funniest exchange. Early on, a British admiral scoffs at M’s recommendation that the fleet lie low. “I don’t think you have the balls for this job,” he says.

“That may be true,” she replies. “But that means I don’t have to think with them all the time.” If Bond is going to shake martinis into the 21st century, he should use his brain more and other parts of his anatomy less.

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: “TOMORROW NEVER DIES” Locations: Lyons, Spokane Valley Mall, Coeur d’Alene Credits: Directed by Roger Spottiswoode, starring Pierce Brosnan, Michelle Yeoh, Jonathan Pryce Running time: 2:05 Rating: PG-13

This sidebar appeared with the story: “TOMORROW NEVER DIES” Locations: Lyons, Spokane Valley Mall, Coeur d’Alene Credits: Directed by Roger Spottiswoode, starring Pierce Brosnan, Michelle Yeoh, Jonathan Pryce Running time: 2:05 Rating: PG-13


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