Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
September 24, 2015 3:58 AM - Subscribe

James Bond heads to stop a media mogul's plan to induce war between China and the UK in order to obtain exclusive global media coverage.

This is the 18th James Bond film adventure.

The Wikipedia entry.
ShrunkenCinema.com reviews Tomorrow Never Dies.
The James Bonding podcast (Matt Mira, Matt Gourley and guest Jordan Morris) covers Tomorrow Never Dies.

Some Top Critic reviews from Rotten Tomatoes:

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: "If Connery was Sexy Bond and George Lazenby was One-Shot Bond and Roger Moore was Geezer Bond and Timothy Dalton was Bored Bond, then Brosnan should be Posh Bond."

Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly: "Bond is just a glorified stuntman now; he's lost his license to thrill."

Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader: "The 18th James Bond movie features the usual saturation bombardment."

Todd McCarthy, Variety: "A solid but somewhat by-the-numbers entry in the James Bond cycle."

Geoff Andrew, Time Out: "Flawed, but fantastic fun all the same."
posted by doctornecessiter (17 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is the one where the seams began to show for me. Pryce did well enough with a thankless role, but there was a tightrope between "This is a real thing that could happen" and "Totally over-the-top cat-stroking supervillain", and the script did not balance between them as well as it wanted to.

Teri Hatcher as a Bond Girl was kind of weirdly "Oh, hey, that's Teri Hatcher." She had already done Lois and Clark at this point, and having a name actress in that role (especially given how small it was, compared to either Xenia Onatopp or Natalya Simonova in Goldeneye) brought me out of the movie.

The BMW product placement was so blatant that I actually cheered when he remote-drove the damn thing off the parking structure, but he smashed it into an open business and laughed about it. There's no way in hell that doesn't kill someone, and for no reason.

So, yeah... fun enough, and Bondy enough, but definitely a comedown after the deliriously good Goldeneye and a harbinger of things to come in the series.
posted by Etrigan at 6:19 AM on September 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


This was a distinctly disappointing movie. I also found Hatcher distracting and well, the bad guy just seemed silly, but not silly enough.
posted by Atreides at 6:27 AM on September 24, 2015


I'm glad I've been going in without knowing which ones are critically panned and which aren't, because this was an immediate favorite for me. There are lots of fun, glamorous settings, there's a depth to Bond's relationships with the two Bond girls, and Michelle Yeoh totally kicks ass.
posted by capricorn at 7:07 AM on September 24, 2015


Pryce did well enough with a thankless role, but there was a tightrope between "This is a real thing that could happen" and "Totally over-the-top cat-stroking supervillain", and the script did not balance between them as well as it wanted to.

...the bad guy just seemed silly, but not silly enough.

I think Pryce is so damn silly that his performance does more to harm the movie than any other single element. He's a cartoon character. I've liked him in a lot of things...But the level at which he plays this part (somewhere in the 11 range) would be more appropriate in something like Pirates of the Caribbean, which he was actually in and was much more subtle.

I love the "controlling the car from the backseat" scene, and while I think the motorcycle chase is just okay I like the idea of Bond and Wai Lin being cuffed together for the duration. There are lots of good ideas throughout the movie, I just feel like for every good little thing there are two lame little things to negate it.

I know that everyone loves David Arnold for Bond because he can sound so much like John Barry, but what I hear for the most part is more like shallow aping than substantive reincarnation of the sound. He leans on that original Bond theme so hard in action scenes, especially in this one...Which is why I do like his Casino Royale score, where he didn't use it until the very end.
posted by doctornecessiter at 7:08 AM on September 24, 2015


I find it interesting that as the cold war wound down, they went further and further afield for villain inspiration. I'll buy a narcotics kingpin inspired villain in the Dalton era because that movie came on the heels of Iran-Contra.

This film though? The big bad is essentially Ted Turner and/or Rupert Murdoch. In a way, it makes perfect sense, espeically to contemporary audiences, but at the time of its premiere? I think it left a few people going "huh?"
posted by radwolf76 at 8:17 AM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


You know how Ricky Jay shows up as a terrorist named "Henry Gupta" and then just kinda hangs out, not doing anything? Turns out his part was supposed to be a bit bigger:
At one point, they wanted me to throw cards as weapons to attack Bond, but the first time they asked me to do it in rehearsal, I was an enormously long distance away from Pierce Brosnan, and I warned them that the cards went very, very hard and fast, and they said no no, they had someone in front of it to block the shot, and I again said, “I don’t think you should do that,” they said, “No, no, it’ll be okay.” And Pierce seemed to be fine with it. So I whaled a card, I don’t know how, 50 or 75 feet away, and they said, “Just throw it at his face,” and I hit him right above the eye, and realized that I almost ruined the most lucrative franchise in the history of film. Suddenly that scene was no longer in the movie.
posted by Iridic at 8:23 AM on September 24, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'd always wondered why they got Ricky Jay to do like two scenes where he's standing around.

But I have to wonder why he didn't say, "No, really, here, watch" and wing a few for them to see.
posted by Etrigan at 8:27 AM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think what bugged me the most about the whole Teri Hatcher character was not just that it was Teri Hatcher...it was that the movie set a bunch of hooks about the past between Bond and Paris, and then killed her off in short order. And that was largely because Bond was rather clumsy in his approach - in public view, and then he provokes Carver. In sum, it feels very weird, like the writers changed direction on a storyline somehow.

The opening sequence is fantastic. And I paid attention: The missile is announced as 4 min, 8 seconds from impact at 2:24; it goes off at 6:50 - 4 minutes, 26 seconds. Reasonably close!
posted by nubs at 11:05 AM on September 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Paris thing has little consequence to the actual plot, especially if you pick up 0.0 chemistry between Brosnan and Hatcher. If they'd succeeded in establishing their relationship (past, present or whenever) more than literally just telling us that they'd had a past, Bond would have an emotional stake in taking Carver down when she dies, which I'm sure was the intention in including her the way they did. If they'd had more of her and Bond together than the one short scene of them meeting at the party plus the one even shorter seduction scene in the hotel room, we could have invested enough in her to care when she's killed. As it is it seems like they finished the screenplay, remembered that the formula has always been that there are two potential love interests, and awkwardly shoehorned her in.
posted by doctornecessiter at 11:17 AM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


As it is it seems like they finished the screenplay, remembered that the formula has always been that there are two potential love interests, and awkwardly shoehorned her in.

What gets me (and maybe nubs too) is that she could have done that all without the pointless tell-don't-show "We have a past" exposition. When Jill Masterson was suffocated by gold paint in Goldfinger, Bond was still motivated to avenge her without some awkwardly tacked-on backstory to their relationship.
posted by Etrigan at 11:25 AM on September 24, 2015


What gets me (and maybe nubs too) is that she could have done that all without the pointless tell-don't-show "We have a past"

Yeah, that's a big part of it for me: how many other times does a woman in a Bond film come with a back story that actually involves Bond? That's really what makes it feel like they were going for something here. Yes, the films give Bond two love interests, but they are characters Bond meets along the way, not someone that he used to know. Bond never has a problem with motivation when it comes to killing the bad guy regardless of whether or not any of the love interests die.
posted by nubs at 11:38 AM on September 24, 2015


I like this movie a lot - but I recognize it's not perfect. Yes, Pryce's performance is kind of over the top and I wish the director had called him on that choice. But Carver the character isn't out of line at all for a Bond film. The series is replete with ruthless billionaires plotting to carve out their own empires outside the established structures of state power or otherwise hack the Westphalian system for their own ends: Goldfinger, Stromberg, Hugo Drax, Max Zorin. His scheme is perfectly in keeping with the Bond mythos - and considerably less outlandish than some.

I also agree that there's a some squandered potential in Paris. I suspect the issue is that modern Bond films are so fast-moving that they have a hard time finding the room for characters to even explain who they are, much less be changed by their experiences. The whole Paris business had to get sandwiched into a relatively short sequence that also had to introduce the Michelle Yeoh character, make a couple plot point connections, have a cool fight scene, and stir in a funny assassin character. It's kind of impressive that they got as much into the Paris scenes as they did. (BTW, I'll also tip my hat to Vincent Schiavelli's Dr. Kaufman - another character that could have done so much more if there'd been time.)

The Craig movies are much more interested in character than any previous Bond films, and you'll notice that when they want Bond to have a meaningful relationship with someone, they tie that person to Bond more or less from the beginning and have them experience the whole story with him. Vesper Lynd of course is there almost throughout the movie. She's not someone Bond meets during the [location] part of the movie and then has no reason to be there once the action moves to [location.] She experiences the same things Bond experiences, and she reacts to them, and he reacts to her reactions, and before you know it you've got two actual characters with an interesting relationship - while not giving up the big action set pieces and globetrotting adventure.
posted by Naberius at 11:40 AM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think you've got the title for the next Bond film there:

The Westphalian Hackers
posted by nubs at 11:53 AM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


nubs: "how many other times does a woman in a Bond film come with a back story that actually involves Bond? "

I would also like to ask how many times a spy movie has a male spy told to use his sexual appeal to get insider information. I found it pleasing as another level of role reversal/leveling the playing field, on top of having a female M.

Speaking of Dench's M, I was definitely surprised by how quickly she goes from outright disdain of him in GoldenEye to complete trust in Tomorrow Never Dies, but I'm still not sure how to feel about it. It's at least a change from the last few Bonds where there's very little character development for the MI6 characters, and everyone stays in the same roles over and over.
posted by capricorn at 12:05 PM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Iridic: "You know how Ricky Jay shows up as a terrorist named "Henry Gupta" and then just kinda hangs out, not doing anything? "

I actually thought this was pretty interesting because it implies that just by being technologically savvy, he's menacing. He doesn't have to also threaten physical harm, because by the time we're in 1997, the idea of someone being able to control computer networks is very real and scary. Alan Cummings' hacker character Boris in GoldenEye is a nerd caricature, whereas Gupta is silent and powerful. Carver murdering him is a sign he's truly become unhinged, enough to destroy his greatest weapon.
posted by capricorn at 12:10 PM on September 24, 2015


Vesper Lynd of course is there almost throughout the movie.

Doesn't she show up like an hour in? It really does feel like she's there for the whole movie, though - that early Bahamas sequence is entirely forgettable.

Count me as another who liked this one, even with Teri Hatcher the black hole of chemistry and the silly villain. I agree with capricorn, having Ricky Jay's tech skills be enough was cool and modern-seeming, and the scene with Q and Bond and the touchpad car was especially well done.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 1:00 PM on September 24, 2015


FanFare: Just throw it at his face
posted by rocketman at 1:23 PM on September 24, 2015


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