Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Tomorrow Never Dies | Review

Tomorrow Never Dies is my dad's favourite Bond film, and my mum thinks it's really good as well. For them, Pierce Brosnan is the best Bond. I've only really seen about half an hour/forty-five minutes worth of the film before, and I really enjoyed what I saw. Having now watched the whole thing, it seems less good...

The introduction is exciting, even though it gets a little 'aah there's gonna be a war' too quickly. Pierce Brosnan gets to be his Bond, with witty lines, and casually shooting machine guns and doing all the things that Bond does. This is intercut with M and Colin Salmon, along with various other boring official people and one slightly comedic Russian, and a Miss Moneypenny who's haircut's awful, and who seems to only function with a good read through her metaphorical Little Book of Cliches. The role of M in this is rubbish. Though it's never been great in the past, it's always been a joy to see M, when he was a male, for small little scenes. Now a female M, though a good idea, gives a good performance, and Judi Dench is brilliant - but it just seems to be lacking a bit. She doesn't get any good lines, and she doesn't have any real connection to Bond. Miss Moneypenny's a bit over the top. Samantha Bond is a good actress to pick for the role - but she's just a bit... cliched. She only speaks in cliches, she has no proper role. They've tried to make her character more dynamic, or at least copy the original, but haven't done anything different with her so she seems a little pointless.

We then hit the title sequence, and one of the most boring Bond songs of all time. It doesn't pick up at all, it's quite slow and drags along. Though Skyfall doesn't really ever pick up, there are clear Bond-theme elements in it, and it works amazingly well with the titles. Tomorrow Never Dies' titles aren't as good as they could be. Rather than being imaginative, we yet again focus on girls with no clothes on, this time painted in circuit boards. It's boring. Move on.

The story from then on goes really well. Carver is a brilliant idea for a modern Bond villain. He's a proper British villain, and he's a newspaper editor. He's got charisma, he has a personality, and he's realistically evil, not over the top. He's everything I expect a modern Bond villain to be, and the idea of a newspaper editor being the bad guy is inspired. The whole plot, in fact, though predictable, is fantastic, and you wonder why Bond had never done anything like this before. It is a fantastic idea, and it begins really well executed. As we go further on, the character of Wei Lin is fantastic - we need more Bond girls like her (though again it annoys me she has to kiss Bond at the end), and she is really good. Her dialogue with Bond is excellent. The motorbike chase, the remote control car chase, they're all really good. The film manages to be funny as well - the scene with the German assassin is brilliant, he's a great character, and Bond's quips and witty lines are well delivered.

Now onto the criticisms. Because this should be a fantastic Bond film. It has all the right ingredients, a fantastic plot, good dialogue, good characters - and yet there are let downs. This feels like a failure at a reinvention. It starts off, in my eyes, as to how Bond should be modern. It's got the action sequences, the witty lines, but in a really modern setting. But then it mixes in old fashioned ideas, things that need to be reinvented but haven't been. The Bond/Paris thing is predictable and boring - and Brosnan's portrayal of Bond during his scene with Paris (the bit before he starts undressing her) is poor and almost out of character. The characters of M and Miss Moneypenny haven't been reinvented enough, and as much as I love Q - you kinda feel a new one might have fitted better. You have old things, old ideas, in a new setting and it doesn't work. The other old ideas you have are Bond's dialogue (which I'll come to later) and the finale. All it is, is a big showdown, which is a bad copy of pratically every Bond finale we've ever had. This is a story about a corrupt news reporter - so an all out battle in a big ship doesn't fit it at all. It's trying to be too much like old James Bond, and if it was a little braver, it would feel like old James Bond and reinvent itself all at the same time.

I realise that then reinvention wasn't as important to the series as it is now (when to be fair, though awesome, the films don't perhaps have enough of true-Bond-ness in them), but there are noticeable signs of attempts at reinvention in TND. So why not go all the way? And I realise that Goldeneye is perhaps more of an attempt at reinvention - but I don't see how much different that will be to this, in terms of new ideas. (We'll wait and see though - I watch that next.)

So then - that just leaves Bond. I've never really been a big fan of Brosnan's Bond, even though he was the Bond I watched while growing up. Craig didn't really inspire me until I was the age I am now, but Brosnan seems.... perhaps worse than he did when I was younger. I get that a Bond needs to make witty lines, it's something lacking from Craig (who, though, when he does have them, delivers them MUCH better), and Moore's witty Bond lines always worked fine for me. There weren't too many. Brosnan's Bond takes it too far. The script has given him a pun after every single villain he gets rid of, every single guard, unless he's facing like ten, and out of that we'll still get one at the end and a few in between. The constant witty lines get tiring and though funny at first - just lose their edge. It makes Brosnan seem like the whole thing's a joke. He's too witty - he doesn't have any of the seriousness that Connery had, and he certainly can't deliver the witty lines as well. It also means that when he does try and be serious, such as the Bond/Paris scene, it doesn't work. This is more of a criticism at the script than Brosnan's acting - but there are ways of making the witty lines seem less of an effort and less samey, both of which they become. Aside from the witty remarks, which frankly seem to make up 90% of his Bond, he's actually not too bad. The witty lines do dominate his performance, but in... erm... fight scenes he's quite good. Um... and he acts well against Carver and Wei Lin too. When he's not trying to be funny.

So it's safe to say Brosnan isn't my favourite Bond. While he doesn't make TND worse, he makes it less serious, and his Bond kind of feels out of place with the plot. It is a good film, the plot is enjoyable, Carver is awesome, but it just tries to be too funny, and it's too much of a mix. When I come to rank this film, I'll remember it more for the attempt at a really good film than I will the bad bits - but the comedy will let it down, and the mix of old and new will let it down. It is a shame - because this film has the potential to be so, so, so good. It just lacks originality (in reinvention, not plot) and doesn't have the emotion I feel a Bond film should have. At least somewhere. Even if just for a scene - I can't find any in TND.

So if this was a really really really good spoof - it would be the best around. If this maybe didn't even have the comical remote control car - this would be better. Anything to make this less of a joke, or anything to reinvent Bond a bit further, would mean I'd have ranked it as one of the best of all time.

At the minute, I'd give it a respectable 6 or 7 out of 10. Good - but lacking.

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