Why Tomorrow Never Dies is (Mostly) Nifty-Keen

Marina and I just got back from seeing Tomorrow Never Dies, the latest Bond flick, and Pierce Brosnan's second outing as Bond.

Both of us had the same general reaction -- we kept waiting for that British guy to get out of the way so we could see more of the cool Chinese woman...

Michelle Yeoh was phenomenal. She and Brosnan achieved a wonderful chemistry together, but it was also patently obvious which actor was more credible in their role (and it wasn't him). She didn't quite steal every scene she was in, but she could just as easily have done so.

The plot was surprisingly free of the plot howlers one comes to expect from a Bond film -- on the other hand, it still stuck pretty close to the formula. One nice thing: Bond had actual backup. Not just the immediate backup of Wai Lin (Yeoh's character), but also in terms of the British Navy, which comes to the rescue in the climax. One of the problems I've always had with the Bond films is that Bond always seems to be working completely alone, which just ain't so (except in Licence to Kill, where his working alone was a plot point).

Of course, it is a Bond film, so Bond has to do everything perfectly. On four separate occasions, he gets to save Wai Lin's life (though one of those four is unnecessary on his part, but he doesn't know that). The fourth of these is the only one that strains credulity, as Lin was captured by one person, pretty much off-camera. After all we've seen her do, the idea that one guy subdued her is impossible to credit, and it's solely there so Bond can save her life one last time.

Jonathan Pryce makes a fine villain -- you notice the best Bond villains are played by white male Brits? He's wonderfully maniacal, and quite convincing as Eliot Carver, who is basically an electronic-age William Randolph Hearst.

Actually, the main problem I had with this film was Brosnan. Not that there was anything actively wrong with his performance, but there wasn't a helluva lot to it. Aside from his lone scene with Q (which was as much fun as those scenes always are), his one-liners mostly fell horribly flat. Lin, Carver, M (played again by the magnificent Judi Dench), and Moneypenny (played by the amusingly named Samantha Bond) get all the best lines. (Moneypenny gets the best one early on, a brilliant pun on cunnilingus.)

But, while Brosnan brings a cool professionalism to the role, that's all he brings. He has none of Sean Connery's dangerous charm, none of Roger Moore's suavity (mind you, Moore sucked in the role, but at least he had personality), none of Timothy Dalton's just-below-the-surface intensity. His sex scene with Teri Hatcher is actually dull (Hatcher, by the way, is awful as Paris Carver, saved from being the most dull Bond Girl only by dint of Talisa Soto's abysmal performance in Licence).

My fondest hope is that a) the next Bond film will also team him up with Wai Lin, or b) we'll see a Wai Lin movie next.....

[First posted on the "Keith R.A. DeCandido [KEITH.D]" topic on Genie on 26 December 1997.]

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