After all, tomorrow is another day
Tomorrow Never Dies is directed by Roger Spottiswoode and is the second appearance of Pierce Brosnan as James Bond. The film also stars Jonathan Pryce, Michelle Yeoh, Teri Hatcher, Joe Don Baker, and Judi Dench. It is dedicated to the memory of long-time Bond producer, Albert R. Broccoli.
Throughout their history, a handful of Bond films find themselves having something in them representing a saving grace: a certain part of the 007 formula that keeps the film safely above mediocrity but unable to elevate the film above good or, sometimes, passable. For the Pierce Brosnan Bond films, that saving grace is generally considered to be the action sequences, coming to the rescue for any and all shortcomings that usually happen with story, character, and humor. And while GoldenEye was able to successfully dodge being tagged with such a saving grace, the same isn't quite so true with the other Brosnan Bond films, starting with Tomorrow Never Dies, a title that came to be only because there was a typo when the original title, Tomorrow Never Lies, was faxed to MGM and marketing preferred the incorrect version.
It is interesting to note that Tomorrow Never Dies had its theatrical release on the same day as James Cameron's mega blockbuster hit, Titanic, because such a move was immediately waving the white flag in the battle for top box office spot. Apparently, no one informed MGM and their new owner, billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, why such a move was an ill-advised one; MGM and Kekorian were hoping to follow up on the success of GoldenEye, especially because the Bond series was back in public favor and audiences would not take kindly to a disappointing Bond film. Plus, Tomorrow Never Dies would be the first Bond film to be released since the death of producer Albert R. Broccoli, who had been with the series since the very beginning. The result was a rushed final product that couldn't quite match the box office numbers of GoldenEye, let alone provide a challenge to Titanic.
In Tomorrow Never Dies, Bond finds himself up against Elliot Carver (Johnathan Pryce), a power-hungry media tycoon who is out to start World War III by provoking the Chinese and British governments into declaring war against one another. Bond is sent to investigate Carver and later to investigate the wreck of a British frigate that was destroyed by one of Carver's stealth ships. While exploring the sunken ship, Bond meets Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh), a Chinese agent who is on the same investigation. After escaping capture, Bond and Lin decide to collaborate and bring down Carver together.
Tomorrow Never Dies provides you with a plot that makes less and less sense the more you think about it. That being said, the amount of enjoyment you'll get out of the film will depend on how much you are willing to ignore what doesn't make sense and simply be in the present, by finding amusement in what's happening on screen at the current moment and not think too much about what happened twenty minutes earlier. However, to watch Tomorrow Never Dies with such a mindset would require you to accept the fact that you will most likely not remember a lot of what you just saw by the time the end credits roll, aside from say a few neat action scenes and some corny one-liners.
- The action scenes remain as high-octane as they were in GoldenEye, and the body count ranks up at around one hundred ninety-seven, the highest for any Bond film. The best action scene is when Bond is fleeing from Carver's henchmen with his weapon-enhanced vehicle that he can drive using a touchpad on a phone provided by Q. Bond jumps into the backseat of the car and navigates through a parking garage while dodging gunfire and missiles. It's not nearly as cool as the tank scene in GoldenEye, but it's still a nifty, gadget-fueled sequence.
- Michelle Yeoh is one of the more stand-out Bond girls, largely because she actually takes part in the action and thrives at it. That should come as no surprise when you have an actress like Yeoh, who starred in a series of successful Hong Kong action films in which she performed her own stunts. Wai Lin isn't just an object of Bond's sexual desire (she never actually does have sex with Bond during the film); the movie fleshes her out as a character who isn't completely dependent on Bond and could very much carry the movie on her own. Wai Lin's popularity almost resulted in a spin-off film on her. The only thing the screenplay does to hinder her mojo is sometimes turn her into a damsel in distress, in which she gets captured by Carver or Carver's henchmen and Bond has to save her, as opposed to Lin just being able to set herself free.
- Johnathan Pryce can make for a good villain, but here, he's given a character that just doesn't have much going for him. We find out that Carver's end goals are to obtain exclusive broadcasting rights in China and to heighten ratings for his news division, the former of which you are more likely to raise an eyebrow and say, "Really?" because why does Carver want ratings in China of all places, and the latter of which is the obvious goal of any media baron. This is a villain whose ambitions have no unique twist to them, and the result is rather unoriginal and not terribly interesting. It's also strange to note that if Carver is determined to start World War III, how does he know pissing off only China and Great Britain will get it done? If there was an answer for this in the film, I couldn't find it.
So in the end, Tomorrow Never Dies is a middle-of-the-road Bond film whose strengths lie in its action scenes and Wai Lin, one of the best Bond girls in the entire series. Unfortunately, all of the good things the film has to offer can't mask the weaknesses evident in the villain and the overall story. They are far from the worst in the entire series, but I struggle to label them as good despite having the potential to be at least good, if not great. There are far worse Bond films than Tomorrow Never Dies, though it may you leave you disappointed that it didn't end up being one of the better ones.
Recommend? If you liked GoldenEye, I'd say give it a watch.
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