Monday, 25 June 2012

BlogalongaBond / Tomorrow Never Dies:
The Pryce Is Wrong

From Russia With Love, The Man With The Golden Gun, Licence To Kill: all difficult second albums for Pierce Brosnan's predecessors, all improvements on their first efforts. As was by now customary, the actor playing James Bond had relaxed into the role, the writers understood his strengths and weaknesses and audiences knew what to expect. Nothing could possibly go wrong. Right?

Well. Let's be positive: Tomorrow Never Dies undeniably delivers some standout moments. The pre-titles "terrorists' supermarket" sequence is thrilling (although nobody seemed to take advantage of the BOGOF offer on Kalashnikovs and Bond totally failed to redeem his clubcard points on the way out), the set-pieces are fantastic, Brosnan is excellent and there are some mighty fine one-liners, not least of which is Moneypenny's award-winning "You always were a cunning linguist, James".
There are also a couple of relatively interesting Bond girls who are, for once, more than just somewhere for 007 to park his cock. Bond's former squeeze Paris Carver (Teri Hatcher) lends his character rare depth, suggesting an interesting history in a few tender and touching scenes. Most of her lines are razor-sharp critiques of Bond's inability to settle down, and are the kind of things GoldenEye's script should have been saying instead of all that floppy-fringed pouting into the sunset. Meanwhile, Michelle Yeoh's Wai Lin is a formidable ally, amusingly aloof and disinterested in our hero until the inevitable final-scene cock-parking. What's more, both actresses are only about ten years younger than Brosnan, which comes as some relief from the usual borderline kiddy-fiddling that goes on in these films.

Sadly, that's about it for the good stuff. Like You Only Live Twice and The Spy Who Loved Me, Tomorrow Never Dies races along with typical Bondian gusto, skipping over plot holes and underwritten characters so deftly that it's only when you check your pockets at the end that you realise your wallet's been nicked by an inane story, an embarrassingly weak villain and a director with a CV that includes Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot.
Despite director Roger Spottiswoode's previous indiscretions, it's hard to blame him for what makes Tomorrow Never Dies such a below average Bond film. Rushed into production by a recently-sold studio desperate to impress Wall Street with boffo Bond box office, the film started shooting before either the bad guy or one of the Bond girls had been cast and with a script that was changing daily.

The biggest casualty of this chaotic production was that everyone forgot to write a decent villain. Media mogul Elliot Carver looks like an ineffectual economics teacher who's accidentally come to work in his jim-jams and spends the entire film titting about his various HQs bashing away at a magic keyboard that can somehow make sense of the nonsense he's randomly hammering into it. He's so useless at villainy that he requires at least three henchmen (also rubbish) to do his various dirty work, and he's so cripplingly dull that it's actually hard to tell who has the most charisma between the character and his "action" figure.
Fully poseable!*
*Only one pose included: "Lacklustre"

Roger Ebert's mantra "Each film is only as good as its villain," applied so dramatically in Licence To Kill, is tragically forgotten here; even the writers acknowledge how ponderously yawnsome Carver is, having 007 continually treat him like the most boring guest at the party. Audience identification with Bond hits a new high when he almost fails to stay awake through one of Carver's rambling monologues, shooting a nearby flunky just to keep everyone (in the scene and the audience) from nodding off.

What's more, Carver's grand plan to instigate World War III by pitting two super-powers against each other has already failed in at least two previous Bond films, and even in these Leveson Inquiry times the idea that a media magnate would commit mass murder in order to sell a few more papers is just stoopid. For him to then alert the authorities by publishing news of said murders before anyone else knows about it is so incompetent you can almost hear the embarrassed facepalms of seventeen previous Bond villains.

Of course the one mistake everyone makes in relation to Carver is his supposed similarity to a real-life insane media baron, who for the purposes of avoiding a lawsuit I shall call "Rooput Merdock". I've carefully investigated these apparent parallels, and while there is definitely some correlation between Carver and "Merdock", differences begin to emerge upon closer inspection:

ELLIOT CARVER
"ROOPUT MERDOCK"
Is a billionaire international media mogul intent on dominating the world's press both in print and on televisionIs a billionaire international media mogul intent on dominating the world's press both in print and on television
Has close ties to British PM, according to head of MI6Has close ties to British PM, according to everyone
Has an enemy called JamesHas a son called James
Was attacked by a scary Chinese ladyIs married to a scary Chinese lady
Owns 24-hour news channel which tragically went off air on its first nightOwns 24-hour news channel which is tragically still on air
Wears pyjamas to workWears custard pies to Parliamentary committee hearings
Recalls quotes by William Randolph HearstCan't recall anything that happened while in charge of best-selling Sunday newspaper
Disposes of underlings when they've outlived their usefulnessTurns underlings into cyborgs and programmes them to take the fall when they've outlived their usefulness
Engineers war between UK and China in order to sell more newspapersBites the heads off live kittens and drinks their blood in order to remain alive
Is a fictional characterIs Satan

I'm glad I've been able to clear that up harmlessly and without any need for litigation. Moving swiftly on...


The title sequence
I know I mentioned Daniel Kleinman's title sequence last month, but get used to it because he made five fantastic ones and they're all getting their moment in the BlogalongaBond sun. This one is like swimming down a fibre optic cable with a bunch of sexy ladies and some guns and possibly some diamonds too although I'm not sure why. I'm probably also one of only four people on Earth who quite like Sheryl Crow's song; it's no 'Surrender' by kd lang, but on the plus side it's no 'All I Wanna Do' either, and for that we must be grateful.

David Arnold's music
'Hamburg Break Out'

Former interviewee and great friend of The Incredible Suit (great friends in the sense that we had an email conversation once, we don't hang out or chat or really know each other at all in fact) David Arnold's first Bond score is an absolute stonker, livening up the occasionally ropey action no end and enhancing the film exactly as a good score should. It's also ridiculously of its time, all techno and drum loops and phat beats or whatever that stuff's called. Not only that but the aforementioned end credits song 'Surrender', which he co-wrote with David McAlmont and Don Black, is the greatest Bond theme that never was.

The handcuffs
Tomorrow Never Dies was stunt legend Vic Armstrong's first Bond film as second unit director, and the stuff he delivers here is phenomenal. The film's set pieces have to be amazing to wipe out the tedium of the plot, and this one in particular does so with cock-waggling bravado. As close as Bond gets to a Jackie Chan film, the inventiveness of having the leads handcuffed sets up some insane action, and Brosnan does well to keep up with Michelle Yeoh's kung fu skillz.

And finally: Tomorrow Never Dies stars a young Julian Rhind-Tutt as a yeoman on the doomed HMS Devonshire. His character's name?
Unless of course wardrobe just forgot to take the actor's scribbled name tag off his costume.

BlogalongaBond will return with The World Is Not Enough

What the hell is BlogalongaBond? I'll tell you.
Further BlogalongaBondareading here


Thanks to The Shiznit, from whom I stole the subtitle for this post. It's OK, everyone steals their stuff. In fact they actively encourage it.

7 comments :

  1. There was also a very young looking Gerard Butler on the HMS Devonshire! He gets to say a whole sentence!

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is classic, even by your standards. Laughing whilst alone and crying info beer. Currently being sectioned. Partially because TND is actually my favourite BrosBond film!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Russell beat me to it! Darn it. But for all fans of the UK Being Human - Herrick is also present on one of Her Majesty's Ships... I forget which one.
    JADSTERDAD is not alone, I too was laughing a little too much at the Merdock comparison. Can't believe you've only 4 more to go!! Eee =D

    ReplyDelete
  4. Didn't William Randolph Hearst manufacture/incite the Spanish American war just to sell papers?

    ReplyDelete
  5. PS: I'm one of the other four who like the Sheryl Crow/Mitchell Froom tune. And I'm one of those anoraks who thinks her best work was written by/stolen from Kevin Gilbert.

    ReplyDelete
  6. That cunning linguist-remark was one of many oftrecurring phrases in the very popular MTV Europe-show MTV's Most Wanted. Never seen Tomorrow Never Dies, but now I want to find out if there's more of those in there.

    ReplyDelete
  7. He was pretty good in 'Brazil'

    ReplyDelete