July 27, 2011

#5byBond: The World Is Not Enough

We’re following along with John Gruber and Dan Benjamin of The Talk Show fame. This week’s #5byBond flick is The World Is Not Enough, the nineteenth film in the long-running Bond franchise, and number three starring Pierce Brosnan as the British Sixer.

It’s directed by Michael Apted, who also directed Coal Miner’s DaughterGorky Park and Gorillas In the Mist, among others. Have you noticed that things have picked up since EON unloaded John Glen from the Bond director’s chair? GoldenEye was helmed by Martin Campbell, who will return for an upcoming Bond outing, and Roger Spotiswood directed Tomorrow Never Dies. They were both enjoyable Bond flicks. Let’s see what Apted can do this time.

The film’s Bond Girl is played by Denise Richards, which doesn’t inspire much confidence after the fine turn by Teri Hatcher in the previous Bond film, The World Is Not Enough. We’ll hold our opinion for now.

Good old John Cleese, once the Minister of Silly Walks, plays Q’s assistant, and will replace the late Desmond Llewelyn in the role of Q in the next Bond film.

Samantha Bond (heh) plays Moneypenny. We could consider her Brosnan’s Moneypenny, because she appears only in the four films in which he plays the lead. No matter, she ably handles the role, one that will cease with Brosnan’s Bond.

My notes:

  • the iconic Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, designed by Frank Gehry, immediately locates the opening in the Basque country of Spain. Beautiful.
  • Bond and M appear to have reached a mutual respect, sharing a drink over the mission de-brief.
  • great action sequence commences after the money explodes. Bond’s Q-boat is cool!
  • the villainess looks pretty wicked, firing off grenades at Bond as their boats race down the river.
  • Bond riding the boat down a road and through an eatery are just a tad much.
  • she escapes to a hot air balloon, then blows it up! Top to bottom, that was a really good action sequence.
  • title music performed by Garbage, pretty good.
  • Colin Salmon plays MI6 chief of staff Charles Robinson. He was also in Keen Eddie, a short-lived cop show based in London. I liked it, so of course it was cancelled.
  • they keep good old John Cleese in the basement?!
  • a little foreshoadowing by Q, perhaps…”always have an escape plan.” This was Desmond Llewelyn’s last Bond film; was he suffering something that would have the writers script an obscured exit?
  • some complex scenery, ostensibly in Azerbaijan, greets Bond in his BMW M8 after another briefing by M. This film has a bit more depth than we’re accustomed to. Michael Apted’s direction is looking up.
  • oh, Jesus. Skiing. There hasn’t been a skiing scene since Roger Moore left the role. Just. Make. It. End.
  • what’s up with Elektra passing the ice cube from her mouth to Bond’s? Yucko.
  • Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist. Hmm. Casting against type, huh?
  • Richards says Bond doesn’t need protection under ground, because there’s only weapons-grade plutonium down there. Holy shit. Weapons grade plutonium is the more hazardous substance on Earth. Great writing!
  • after the ordeal in the bomb bunker, you get the feeling that this film is about to go downhill.
  • hah…another remotely controlled BMW. Bond keeps wrecking the German cars he’s given.
  • the action gets kinda muddy from here on. Elektra has Stockholm Syndrome, she’s in league with the villain, Renard, and they’re stealing plutonium to create an explosion with a stolen Russian sub’s reactor. Bond must save the day.
  • ooh, nice twist. Elektra doesn’t have Stockholm Syndrome…she turned Renard while she was in captivity.
  • Renard is handling weapons grade plutonium by hand. Huh.
  • Denise Richards has got some major league boobs. They look kinda like balloons. Think they’re real?

The first half or so of this one was prettty good. Brosnan makes a solid Bond, and the scenes of MI6 operations were an interesting bit of back-story. Not the least improvement, each director since John Glen has helmed an entertaining film. Denise Richards, eh. She’s the first Bond Girl whose spoken lines amounted to yammering.

With three films under his belt, this is a good time to compare Brosnan’s Bond to the previous actor’s. Timothy Dalton brought a darker, more serious, and less humorous characterization to the role. His character was written as less of a philanderer, too, a reflection of changing attitudes toward women in western culture. It was a welcome change from the caricature Roger Moore had become.

Brosnan continued the serious characterization, but added a touch more humor and flair to the role. His Bond reclaimed a bit of Sean Connery’s very early turns in the role. Rotten Tomatoes, though, gave Dalton’s two films 73% and 71%, but gave Brosnan’s outings 80%, 55%, 51% and 59%. Maybe additional humor wasn’t the right move … Daniel Craig’s more recent Bond characterization shed much of the humor to better effect.

Interesting, too, that Brosnan’s one well-reviewed Bond film was directed by Martin Campbell, who will return to direct Daniel Craig in the Bond franchise re-boot, Casino Royale.

For now, though, I think Dalton has the edge on Brosnan in the Bond role for me. I prefer the subdued, slightly sociopathic government-sanctioned killer to one who cracks wise, even one who does it with panache. It’s only a slight edge, though. Brosnan has been an enjoyable Bond, too.

Up next, Brosnan’s last run as the British spy in Die Another Day.