‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ Review: Sophomore Slump

Posted in The Screening Room by - January 19, 2016

If I remember correctly, Tomorrow Never Dies was my introduction to James Bond. I was about seven years old and the school had taken us to see a movie, and a kid who was in my class said that he was hoping to go see it when it came out. Years later, I’d discover the character through the N64 GoldenEye game, and then catching the movie on TV. I guess that as a lot of kids and teens of my generation, Pierce Brosnan was our James Bond.

Tomorrow Never Dies is a disappointing follow-up to GoldenEye but overall, it’s not a total waste. It’s entertaining enough, sleekly directed by Roger Spottiswoode, and the villain Elliot Carver is joyously played by Jonathan Pryce. He’s truly evil, cunning, creative, the perfect Bond villain. Michelle Yeoh is a cool Bond girl and ally to Bond, truly his match in more ways than one. If you have a problem with the press and manipulation of the press, you’ll probably enjoy the hell out of Bond fighting against it. Who would’ve thought that such a political topic could make for a huge action movie? There are also the some funny lines and moments you can expect in a Bond movie.  

The movie is close to transcending, but like other weaker Bond movies, there are elements that are good on their own but the movie doesn’t exploit them. It feels like the movie is being forced to fit too much in the usual Bond formula and it does fit in nicely, but it’s like testing a fitting shirt but knowing there are other ones in the store that would look cooler on you. And although cheesy one-liners are a classic Bond element, sometimes they’re too dumb. It’s hard to tell if it’s a problem with the lines or a problem with Brosnan’s delivery. I believe that the films that followed GoldenEye didn’t quite know how to use Brosnan. He delivered a simple, charming, funny Bond in that movie but in the ones that followed he doesn’t seem as comfortable in the role. He never quite explodes again with the same personality as he did in GoldenEye. That soft side of Bond is used well in this movie, but not  enough in a subplot with Teri Hatcher playing Bond’s ex-girlfriend and trophy wife to Carver. There is a funny and even slightly melancholy element to this that I wish had gone on longer.

Also, I’m used to seeing Ricky Jay as sort of the straight-man or the mysterious guy in Paul Thomas Anderson’s movies, so it was funny to see him here as a techno-terrorist. He’s fine, but doesn’t really blend in well with the role that well because you’re always aware that you’re watching Ricky Jay.  Also the theme song by Sheryl Crow isn’t that great, but you can chalk that up to personal musical taste. However, the tune Surrender by k.d. lang is cooler and more fitting, that I wish it had been used for the opening, but hey, at least it’s in the movie.

Tomorrow Never Dies is an average movie that borders on being okay. There are quite a few good elements in it, but it’s overcome by too many average ones. It’s not a bad way to pass the time, but if you want to check out Brosnan’s finest hour as Bond, you’re better off watching GoldenEye one more time.

Final Say: Skip It

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