Monday, March 25, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #19: The World Is Not Enough

Pierce Brosnan’s era as James Bond was doing well enough, and while Tomorrow Never Dies didn’t quite duplicate the same level of success as GoldenEye, it was still a capable hit with plenty of fans. The same couldn’t quite be said for The World Is Not Enough. I’m not gonna lie, this was one of the movies I was looking the least forward to reviewing. While it’s not the one I was looking the least forward to (just wait until tomorrow for more on that), I think it’s just one of the most bland, jumbled, and undercooked films in the entire James Bond franchise. Don’t expect me to say too much on this one.

After a surprisingly fun opening boat chase, and one of the worst songs and title sequences of the 007 franchise, a billionaire Bond was doing a mission for is assassinated. The MI6 find out that the assassin is Renard, a man with a bullet in his brain that renders his sense of pain non-existent. Subsequently, Bond is given a mission to protect the assassinated billionaire’s daughter, who had been held ransom in the past by Renard. Eventually, a series of coincidences and circumstances reveal much more than those who didn’t see it coming from a mile away can process. Oh, and Bond teams up with a scientist named Christmas… What?

While the scripts of GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies weren’t groundbreaking, they did possess this unmistakable energy that made them work. The World Is Not Enough just lacks that same kind of passion, serving as more of an inconsistent mish mash of ideas that either hit dead on, or miss miserably. How is an audience supposed to care anything about the characters when the film makers give no care to their own characters? The dialogue is weak, the motivations are badly tacked on, and any surprises that were meant to be felt by twists in the story are drastically muted.

Even the action feels like an afterthought. This movie came out at the height of the CGI revolution that plagued Hollywood in the late 90’s. With the release of groundbreaking titles like Jurassic Park and Terminator 2, many action film makers got on board that train quickly. Sadly, the use of CGI here is very tacky. When I think of the best action scenes, I usually remember the ones that use little to no digital manipulation, but anytime they had to use a lot of CGI, it was an epic fail.

Brosnan finally starts to feel like he’s running out of steam. He’s certainly trying, but he just can’t give it the bounce it needs. The movie does at least hold the record for being the first time I’d ever seen a woman as THE main villain. That would be fine, if Sophie Marceau, or her character, were more interesting. Denise Richards is about as engaging as a pole as the Bond girl. I also feel bad for Robert Carlyle, who’s really trying his best, but Renard is just a dull, uninteresting character.

Finally, I want to address one thing that rubs me the absolute wrong way. This was the last Bond film Desmond Llewellyn would ever appear in as Q before he passed away, and in this film, his character was training a replacement, played by… Monty Python alum John Cleese.

Now, look, if you want to cast John Cleese in a film as Q, that’s fine. In fact, when I saw him I thought “Yeah, this makes sense.” Cleese is a talented comedian, one of the funniest people to have ever lived, and this role would be great for him. It allows him to be in a historic and long running franchise, and it would let him use his unique brand of humor in a way that makes sense. This pairing sounds virtually flawless. But if you’re going to cast one of the world’s funniest people in this role, THEN WHY IS NONE OF THE MATERIAL YOU GIVE HIM TO WORK WITH FUNNY?! FOR GOD’S SAKE, YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW HOW TO DO THAT RIGHT, MOVIE!

Needless to say, people didn’t like this movie. Regardless of what critics said, it’s a Bond film, and it was a success. It still didn’t reach the same level of success set by GoldenEye, but it was a nice bit of profit. It got exactly what it needed, but EON seemed to be in a period when they valued box office intake rather than the actual movie’s quality. That would become apparent three years after this movie’s debut, for what many fans of the franchise admit to being one of the hardest to enjoy.

** / *****

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