MOVIE REVIEW: Tomorrow Never Dies is a great action movie which fails as a Bond film. The film takes no time for character development and attempts to pad a weak plot with non-stop action. The worst part about this formula is that the action sequences seem out of place and are usually way too long. I actually fell asleep in the theater during one of my viewings of the film. Still, the movie has all the elements Bond fans know and love. M and Moneypenny have much larger parts than normal, but sadly, Q's scene is rather short.
The film is filled with far more sexual innuendoes than usual; it almost become a Moore film in that respect. The ads touted non-stop action and the movie delivered in that aspect. There are more gunfights, explosions, brawls, and shots of Brosnan running that I can count. The stunts are great and well choreographed. Bond's HALO jump looks real, as does he and Wai Lin sliding under the helicopter's propellers (the best stunt in the film). Even the parts that don't involve some life-endangering situation for Bond are also, for the most part, well done. Carver's sinister plan is developed sufficiently, but I never really believed he was the cruel man he pretended to be.
The things Carver does hurt him inside; after ordering the death of his wife, he sits alone at a table, sulking. He did show the usual villain insanity when he compared himself to Napoleon and Caesar. Why do all Bond villains usually compare themselves to tyrants of history?
This time around there are plenty of girls for the non-monogamous Bond. First he "picks up some foreign tongue" from a Inga Bergstrom who is teaching him Danish at Oxford. Next he beds Paris Carver. Finally, he and Wai Lin don't respond to cries of "Commander Bond, Colonel Lin, are you out there?" so they can stay and enjoy themselves on the wreckage of Carver's ship. As for Wai Lin, she was fabulous. For the first time, 007 doesn't have to tell the girl to "stay here and wait for me". He can give her a gun and some limpet mines and she is off. As usual, the locations were breathtaking; they really made Bangkok look like Vietnam. As for Bond in this one, he seemed much more like the spy of Fleming's novels. He womanizes, drinks alone in his hotel room, kills without reservation, and actually gets hurt. Perhaps the best example is when he kills Dr. Kaufman at point blank range.
The main problem with the movie is that somewhere during the motorcycle chase it began to go downhill. The chase was too long and what followed it was not all that interesting. Bond and Wai Lin had to go through the cliched "I work alone" bit, and then finally arrived at "ok, let's team up". It just seemed like a waste of time. The scene in the Vietnamese equivalent of Q branch was a nice touch, but again, too drawn out. Then, the ending was terrible. I didn't like most of the final scene on the stealth ship. The edge-of-your-seat tension that many Bond movies have was missing. I never believed that Bond or Wai Lin's lives were in danger.
The best scene was when Bond had Stamper shoot the man he just killed so Stamper would think Bond was dead: classic Bond technique. Elliot Carver's death by the sea drill was the worst one since Kananga's death by inflation. It didn't give me any satisfaction and was made too obvious before it happened. Another bad move was to turn Stamper into a typical, muscle-bound grotesque henchman. He really showed a sinister side when he gunned down the 17 helpless men in the water without blinking an eye. After that he just became another one of Carver's big bullies. He never seemed to get the same joy out of killing, and the part where he talks about being Dr. Kaufman's student was just pointless and took away from his character. In the end he fell into the trap that so many henchmen get into: invincibility. Bond stabs him two times and he barley winces. That killed any credibility and finished the ruination of the character. But aside from all these peeves, it was still a pretty good entry into the Bond series: especially with no more Cold War to fall back on.
Added 1.2.98: The more I watch this movie, the more I hate the use of slow-motion. It is just not needed and takes away from the overall quality of the rest of the well-directed movie. Finally, the movie's quality during some of the dimly lit scenes was not too good. It was grainy and looked like the movie was not fully processed before release. The last movie this happened with was The Spy Who Loved Me and it bothered me then too. Still, one of the best entries in years.
BROSNAN: In GoldenEye, Brosnan was most worried about conforming to the public's view of who and what James Bond is. Now that it was such a success, he feels more confident with the role, and it shows. Brosnan downplays the Superman image and goes more to the gritty, cold, depressed secret agent of the novels: he kills Dr. Kaufman with no hesitation, sits alone in his hotel room drinking vodka, and delivers his lines with a coldness that works for a man of his profession.
THE MUSIC: The soundtrack was beautiful. After Eric Serra's dreadful score to GoldenEye, I hesitated to think where it could go. I had been listening to the soundtrack long before I saw the movie and loved it then, but was surprised to see just how perfectly it fit in with the film. The music had good usage of the classic theme along with a pace and sound that moved the movie right along. It was a pleasure to hear it and I consider it to be one of the best of the series.
TITLE SEQUENCE: The title sequence was the worst one of the series. I actually found myself wishing I was watching the Sheryl Crow music video instead of it. It was too techno-babble filled and hard to see. The x-ray images of weapons against the white background just didn't work for me and there wasn't enough use of nude silhouettes. It was cluttered and many of the images were distorted. The ultimate insult on the concept of a title-sequence came when Roger Spottiswoode's name was superimposed over the Devonshire. The whole point is to not have any credits over the movie itself. It looked terrible and just further ruined the effect. As a whole, it made me long for the days of Maurice Binder and his simple, black background title sequences.
PRODUCT PLACEMENT: While some of the product placements were quite obvious-BMW, Smirnoffs and Ericsson-others were hidden to the point that the movie became a hide-and-seek contest. I found myself looking for the product placements and then when I saw them they just seemed pointless and out of place. It took away from my viewing because I was looking around and thinking, "wow, so that's where the Visa Check Card comes in", or something similar. If you missed any, here they are. Visa: "Brosnan: Do you think he will take a check?". BMW: The car and the motorcycle. Ericsson: The phone. Smirnoffs: Bond drinks it in the hotel. Heineken: During the motorcycle chase, Bond and Wai Lin crash onto a truck carrying the beer. Omega: Bond wears one. Avis: Bond rents a car from there and crashes the car into an office.
ON VIDEO: As always, the video version lacks most of the luster and bang that its big-screen counterpart had. The sound isn't all too good, even with my surround sound system. For some reason they did not THX the video: the DVD is in THX. However, all negative points aside, the video has been released for purchase in a special limited edition package. The set includes the movie, a special featurette called Highly Classified: The World of 007 that deals with the making of TND, 6 photos, a certificate of authenticity, a sweepstakes, and a full script. The script is perhaps the best part of the package because it has all of the scenes that were left on the cutting room floor such as Q's Jaguar joke.