Tomorrow Never Dies is another link in the chain of James Bond movies. It doesn’t deviate too far from the formula, so if you know your Bond, you know what you’re getting.
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (laserdisc with deleted scenes), 1997, Jay Roach. I don't know if I'll ever be able to see another James Bond movie and not think of the scene in Austin Powers where the families of the killed henchmen are told that their husband/ father/ friend is dead.
The villain this time is media mogul Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce) who wants his near-monopoly on news and information, to become a monopoly. He plans to instigate a war between Britain and China, right in front of his news cameras, using a stealth ship to fool their military forces. Because he’s scripting the war, his news reports can stay well ahead of the competition.
James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is called in to examine possible links between Carver and strange activity in the waters off China. China sends Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh), who becomes Bond’s partner and counterpart.
Bond has encountered strong women before but none who have kicked as much ass as Yeoh. Yeoh, who has worked in Hong Kong action movies, most notably with Jackie Chan, is a great counterpart to Brosnan. She has a scene where she singlehandedly takes out a squadron of bad guys. Bond shows up in time to “save” her from the last villain, but we know who really won the fight. Wai Lin’s relationship with Bond is professional, not sexual, which seems at first like a refreshing twist, but is really a necessity: she couldn’t sleep with 007 (in his own movie) and keep her dignity as an equal.
Desmond Llewelyn makes his 16th appearance as Q, outlasting every other Bond actor. He has the usual gadgets for “doublo sev’n,” including, of course, several car-mounted devices that are sure to make for some excellent chase scenes. Judi Dench returns as the tough new M, making sure that the men of the intelligence community don’t do too much of their thinking with their balls.
Tomorrow has all the ingredients that we’ve come to know and love in Bond films: the sexy, sexist title sequences; the gadgets; the stunts; and the big cavernous room with an army of bad guys in identical jump suits. But this is also what holds it back. Nothing new makes this Bond anything more than just a link in the chain. I enjoyed the movie, but it won’t go down in the Bond books as a classic.
If this film had been made ten years ago, it might have been more of an achievement. But in this age of computer-generated special effects, some excitement is lost. We know or are wise to suspect that some of the stunts and gimmicks are more fake than they used to be. The days of a “real” fistfight on the back of a jet are gone. But as the politics of Bond have been updated, so too must the look be updated.
One thing hasn’t changed though. “James Bond will return.”