Rewatching the James Bond films chronologically. 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies is something of an oddity among the series, but is that a good or bad thing?
Blond blurb: A mysterious “stealth ship” is running around the ocean, destroying military vessels and threatening World War III. The whole thing is orchestrated by media mogul Elliot Carver, for the benefit of his 24-hour news empire. Bond and Chinese operative Wai Lin work together to take down Carver’s operation.
Bond background: Bond reunites with an old flame, Paris, who is now married to Carver. It raises the question of the exes in his life, and whatever happened to them. We see him with a woman at the end of each movie, but we never see how/when they part ways. Bond’s reunion with Paris explores this, and it’s a theme that’ll be explored in greater detail in the next film.
Bond baddies: Jonathan Pryce is cartoonishly over-the-top as Carver, in full-on “Hee, look at how evil I am!” mode. He’s having fun, though, and that fun is infectious. He has a hulkingly huge Aryan henchman, because of course he does. Along for the ride are two interesting sub-villains. One is a tech guy played by magician Ricky Jay, and the other is the always-awesome Vincent Schiavelli as a psychotic doctor/sharpshooter (no, really).
Bond babes: When Teri Hatcher was cast as a Bond girl, the world said, “Yes, this is a thing that should happen.” She doesn’t last long, though, leaving the main squeeze role to Wai Lin, played by Michelle Yeoh, who adds her considerable stunt and butt-kicking work to the role.
Bond best brains: There’s a funny gag with Q working undercover as an Avis rent-a-car guy. He supplies Bond with his remote control car, operated via Bond’s cell phone. Bond’s phone can also shoot scan fingerprints and shoot electric bolts at doors to unlock them. There really is an app for everything.
Bond bash-ups: This has got to be the fastest-paced Bond film, the fighting and chases just don’t let up the whole time. We’ve got an opening with Bond escaping an illegal arms conference in a jet, a fistfight behind the scenes at Carver’s show, and an elaborate shootout in Carver’s secret lab. This leads to the movie’s most famous scene, in which Bond pilots his remote control car around a parking garage, with him in the back seat. When the action moves to Saigon, we get a harrowing skydive turned deep sea dive, lots of martial arts fighting, and a wild helicopter-versus-motorcycle chase. The finale is, as always, gunfights and pyrotechnics galore aboard the secret ship.
Bond bygones: When fighting Carver’s goons, Bond uses a cello as a weapon against one of them. This couldn’t possibly be a callback to The Living Daylights, could it?
Bond baggage: It’s no secret at all how Carver is loosely based on Ted Turner. A lot of the plot has to do with GPS technology, which is depicted as something sleek and newfangled.
Bond babble: What a wild, wacky movie. It seems more interested in being a roller coaster ride than an espionage thriller. It’s nonetheless a fun roller coaster, with all the appropriate high speeds and sharp turns. It’s low-substance, but nonetheless hugely entertaining.
Next week: We’re not going to talk about that.
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