Tomorrow Never Dies - * *

James Bond is back, but blander than usual. Tomorrow Never Dies is the series’ 18th installment, and one of the series’ more bizarre titles…though not quite as strange as The Living Daylights or the all time A View to a Kill.

Every Bond film is defined by its villain, and this one is no different. This time around, Bond’s nemesis is the media mogul Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce). With his worldwide satellite news channel, Carver can deliver the world’s news. But that’s not enough for him…he wants to control the news.

To that end, he has created a stealth ship, and is secretly playing the Chinese and British fleets against one another. His goal is no less than to start WWIII. You see, there’s nothing like a war to spark ratings, and since he is in control, his newsstation will get all the prime scoops.

Naturally, this upsets the British, who don’t particularly want WWIII. Her Majesty’s Secret Service has some suspicions that Carver may be behind the growing tensions in the South China sea, and so M (Judi Dench) sends James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) to investigate.

China, too, has misgivings, and sends an agent of its own: Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh). Wai Lin and Bond don’t necessarily see eye to eye, but as their investigations converge, the two become reluctant partners to bring down Carver.

Unfortunately, after a great villainous setup, the whole film deteriorates into the archetypical James Bond plot. The whole thing deteriorates into the stock Bond finale, so cliched that they parodied the same sequence in Austin Powers.

Jonathan Pryce has a good character, but he seriously overacts in the part, making him an even hammier villain than Christopher Walken in A View to a Kill. But at least he shows some personality, unlike Sean Bean in Goldeneye.

As is typical for the series, the film’s supporting characters shine. The standout here is one Dr. Kaufman (Vincent Schiavelli), an expert in human pain and torture. Sure, it’s a stock character, but one played with such aplomb by Schiavelli that you wish he made it into more scenes (perhaps replacing the overused tough Stamper (Goetz Otto). And, in a briefer role than the previews might lead you to think, Teri Hatcher has a bit part as Paris, an old flame of Bond’s, now married to Carver.

Brosnan is still very comfortable in the role of Bond. Unfortunately, the script feeds him nothing but weak quips. If it weren’t for a slight streak of ruthlessness, you’d might think it was the second coming of Roger Moore.

Director Rober Spottiswoode handles this Bond film rather germanely. There’s nothing unusual or out of place here (besides the increasingly incomprehensible opening credits sequence). The action scenes aren’t quite boring, but there’s nothing particularly noteworthy about them. Only Michele Yeoh’s martial arts sequences provide anything new…and they seem slightly out of place (why is it that all the martial arts adversaries gravitate toward her? Bond never gets to fight any…)

At least the film is littered with plenty of Bond’s trademark gadgets. However, though they’re nice to look at, some of them seem to be used as gadgets for gadget-sake. For example, there’s one sequence when Bond leaps into the back seat of his remote controlled car, apparently just for the added challenge of driving it via his remote control.

Anyway, while not one of the worst Bond films, Tomorrow Never Dies lacks the spark that has made the Bond series so long-lasting. If future Bonds don’t improve, Tomorrow may surely die after all.

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