Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
Directed by: Roger Spottiswoode
Written by: Bruce Feirstein
Tomorrow Never Dies was the first Bond film I saw in the theater. A friend got a copy of Goldeneye for the N64 and we were dumping hours into it when this movie opened, so a bunch of juveniles geeked out on Mountain Dew packed into a Dodge Shadow and went to see it on opening day.
At seventeen, all the cheeky humor in this worked. It was like a light came on and suddenly I knew what they were talking about. The double entendres seemed clever and I couldn’t believe they were getting away with it. We walked out of that theater high on James Bond. The humor, the action, the sophistication of the plot. A Bond fan was born that night.
Here’s the problem with Tomorrow Never Dies, it really only works if you’re seventeen. I still enjoy watching it, but this was a movie made for 15-24 year olds in the 90’s who were first discovering Bruce Lee and lady parts, thought bleaching their hair looked cool and had a very rudimentary understanding of global politics.
The Cold Open:
Do you think if you wait till the end of the Bad Guy Flea Market you can get the best deals? Like they don’t want to pack up those SCUD Missiles so maybe they’ll let them go for a discount?
This was a video game opening, and James conquered that level with ease. You get the ticking clock thanks to the suits who jump the gun and launch a cruise missile. You get to see James use the special weapon he picked up between levels, the exploding lighter. He upgrades his weapons, uses grenades, grabs a plane and ends up having a Top Gun moment.
I spent the opening mentally mashing buttons while I shoveled popcorn into my face. This scene does a really good job of setting the tone for this movie. If you go with it for all it’s goofiness, you will have fun. If you want something gritty, you’re going to roll your eyes the entire time.
The Credit Sequence:
I stated in a previous post that Sheryl Crow’s Tomorrow Never Dies is an okay song with nothing really exceptional about it. I think the same can be said about the opening credit sequence as a whole. It reminds me of the main menu on a dvd that plays on repeat when you fall asleep watching a movie and wake up realizing it had penetrated your dreams.
Boy, does this one belong in a time-capsule. Elliot Carver is a media mogul who is going to start World War III so he can get exclusive broadcasting rights in China for his news network. To do this Carver uses a gizmo to manipulate the GPS of a British ship to direct it into Chinese water where they sunk it and made it look like it was attacked by China.
Bond is sent on a mission to uncover the truth and stop a war.
I heard a joke made in a podcast saying this guy Carver would have made more money if he would have put his energy into focusing on the touchpad that he was carrying around, rather than his newspaper business.
The plot isn’t bad, it just didn’t age well.
There’s this new fangled thing called GPS, it lets you know where you’re at by using a complex network of satellites to relay a… by this point everyone knows how GPS works. This doohickey, the Navigation Encoder, scrambled a British ship’s GPS and sent it off course.
They really loved the idea of GPS in this movie and now we couldn’t give a shit about it. It did serve as a good plot device though.
The Dunlop Cigarette Lighter Bomb is just a classic Q gadget. Pierce had that nice punch a guy after lighting his smoke bit, which he made the most of.
I bandied about the idea of scoring myself one of these lighters but they are way too expensive.
Another hot new thing in the 90’s was the development of ‘stealth’ technology. It felt like every action movie had some form of stealth weapon on display, and Tomorrow Never Dies was no different. Here Carver has himself a sweet Stealth Boat, which he uses to stir up some trouble.
This is actually a nice callback to the Lewis Gilbert days with missions revolving around disappearing ship, like You Only Live Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.
Since I like those films, and Gilbert just passed at the ripe age of 97, I’m going to say the stealth boat ain’t bad.
On the other hand, the Sea Vac Drill is a bit more problematic. It’s cool, and I like the insanity of the scene at the end, but while this drill can easily sink a ship, it leaves overwhelming evidence to contradict the theory of a torpedo attack.
You gotta pay the bills, and EON paid a lot of them with their BMW partnership. While Bond in a sedan might not be the most sexy thing, they stuffed this BMW 750i so full of toys it was absurd. It’s sister gizmo, the EricssonJB988 cell phone, provided the film with one of it’s more entertaining sequences.
Wai Lin’s Bracelet Piton and all the other hidden dangers in her bike shop were cute. We get it, she is Bond’s equal. I think after we see her kick everyone’s ass we knew that.
Is Elliot Carver the least threatening Bond villain? Or do you think he can beat Dominic Greene in a fight?
I’m torn when it comes to Carver. As a villain, his plan is pretty dumb. The guy is already a super wealthy media mogul. He wants to topple a government so he can land a contract with the new guy and become more rich. How much are these exclusive rights worth, cause I don’t think funding a militia with experimental weapons is cheap? What’s the math look like on this little endeavor?
But, when it comes to a movie villain, he is a lot of fun. He’s obnoxious, but I tend to favor the more bombastic villains who are fun to watch.
Starting with Red Grant in From Russia With Love, the Bond series has had an affinity for indestructible blonde henchmen, Richard Stamper was the 90’s version of that. His apprenticeship under Dr. Kaufman (not Steven Wright) in the art of Chakra torture was a nice touch.
Apparently there was a cool scene of Ricky Jay’s character, Henry Gupta, doing some deadly card tossing, but it got cut. That would have been cool, instead we got snarky one-liners. You won’t find me complaining about Ricky Jay being in a movie, even if the role is lame.
The Bond Girl:
Everyone who gets cast as a Bond Girl comes out and says their character isn’t like all the other Bond Girls. Then we see the movie and they end up being exactly like every other Bond girl.
Paris Carver (Teri Hatcher) was your prototypical Bond Girl, but she did give us a little backstory on Bond. Was he having a little jealousy fit with his bottle of Smirnoff when she showed up and dropped her dress? Maybe. Does that mean her death with have an impact on Bond like the murder of Tracy? No.
The list of actual Bond girls who are not like every other Bond girl is short, and the name at the top is Wai Lin. She kicks major ass. There were talks of Halle Berry’s Jinx getting a spinoff series, which was silly, but I’m surprised no one pitched a Wai Lin franchise. I would watch it.
Overall Score: 2.5/5