Tomorrow Never Dies

Directed by Roger Spottiswoode, with Pierce Brosnan, 119 minutes, United Artists, PG-13

 Bond is Back

By Carter B. Horsley

The magic of James Bond movies has always been more than the machismo and charisma of the hero.

For more than three decades, the series has consistently been on the cutting edge of special effects and has probably done more to educate the general public to the marvels of modern technology than anything since the race to the moon in the Space Age of the 1960's.

But the series had great depth: fabulous villains, great beauties, memorable theme songs, great credits, devilish plots and slick sophistication.

The second James Bond movie starring Pierce Brosnan, "Tomorrow Never Dies," starts splendidly with a thrilling action sequence and perhaps the best opening credits sequence ever.

Brosnan is clearly the best Bond after Sean Connery and Roger Moore. He looks and wears the part well, although he looks a bit frazzled at times here and seems more determined, can we say desperate, than blasé.

Sadly, the great beginning gives way to a wretched theme song, song terribly by Cheryl Crow, and the supporting cast this time is disappointing.

Teri Hatcher, the pouty and less than magnetic Lois Lane of a late 1990's "Superman" television series, is one of the worst leading ladies with which Bond has ever had to contend. It is incomprehensible that Bond, who has sortied with the likes of Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) in "Goldfinger," Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi) in "From Russia With Love," Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress) in "Dr. No," Fiona (Luciana Paluzzi) in "Thunderball," Octopussy (Maud Adams) in "Octopussy," Pola Ivanov (Fiona Fullerton) in "A View To A Kill," Lupe Lamora (Talisa Sota) in "License To Kill," Tiffany (Jill St. John) in "Diamonds Are Forever," Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles) and Corinne Dufour (Corinne Cleary) in "Moonraker," Domino Derval (Claudine Auger) in "Thunderball," Domino Vitale (Kim Bassinger) in "Never Say Never Again," Tracy Di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg) in "On Her Majesty's Service," Tilly Masterson (Tania Mallet) and Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton) in "Goldfinger," and, most memorably, Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet) in "For Your Eyes Only" and Xenia Onatopp (Famke Jannsen) in "Goldeneye," would ever turn his attention to Hatcher.

Happily, her character gets killed off fairly quickly!

The other leading female role, Wai Lin, is played by Michelle Yeoh, who demonstrates considerable skills in the martial arts and is quite striking looking although her part does not have much dialogue.   She is so good at her skills, in fact, that she is the first female who is almost an ideal match for Bond and therefore may herald a new, and politically correct, twist in future adventures.

As the villain, Jonathan Pryce, the star of Terry Gilliam's brilliant movie, "Brazil," is rather disappointing as is his rather chunky and not terribly svelte stealth ship. His glee is a bit too much as he gloats over an underling putting bugs in software to force customers to buy upgrades. His speed typing on his tablet has too many flourishes. His evil is too apparent and too crude for the Rupert Murdoch/Robert Maxwell-type media magnate he portrays. He does not seem to relish much, or have much of a sense of humor, especially when compared with the great villains with which Bond has had to contend: Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman) in "Dr. No," Odd Job (Harold Sakater) and Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) in "Goldfinger," Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya) in "From Russia With Love," Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) and Nick Nack (Herve Villechaize) in "The Man With The Golden Gun," Jaws (Richard Kiel) in "The Spy Who Loved Me" and "Moonraker," Kamal Kahn (Louis Jourdan) in "Octopussy," Karl Stromberg (Curt Jurgens) in "The Spy Who Loved Me," and Sir Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale in "Moonraker" and Klaus Maria Brandauer in "Never Say Never Again."  Pryce's character is malignantly one-dimensional and not as imposingly formidable as most major villains in the serious who were more worthy of Bond's attentions.

Two of the major chase scenes, one in a remote-controlled-driven BMW sedan, and the other on a motorcycle, are very good, but overly long.

There is not a lot of glamour to relish here, but the production values are stunning.

James Bond took the best features of Cary Grant and John Wayne and became the hip, suave role model of the world in the 1960's. Wonderful characters, good repartee, good gismos and gimmicks and great locations, stupendous production values and wild stunts completed the formula for the series.

The James Bond character has survived as a fantasy hero, but is now more dependent on preposterous action than on wits and plush settings and the savoring of recently recorked Bollinger.

Elegance is no longer de rigueur.  

Nevertheless, addicted, we can't wait for the next Bond film….

DVD cover

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