Contents of Issue #5 Contents of Issue #5 [Welcome] [Features] [In Focus] [Reviews] [Info]

Tomorrow Never Dies

movie review by
Gary Johnson

[click on photos
for larger versions]

Web site:

Official Web site for TOMORROW NEVER DIES

Tomorrow Never Dies is filled with explosions, gunfire, broken glass, and airborne vehicles; in short, it's a big, hyperactive, Hollywood-style action movie--along the lines of The Rock, Broken Arrow, or any Bruce Willis movie. And that's a shame because the James Bond series was at one time a rare, difficult to imitate type of movie. Oh, there were imitations, dozens of them, but the Bond flicks always stood in a class by themselves. They were more sophisticated, hipper, wittier, sexier, and more exciting than any of the competition. But now, after the James Bond series languished with Timothy Dalton in the lead, the series has been rewritten as a big, overinflated action exercise that bombards its audience with a non-stop stream of action sequences.

In the process, the James Bond series has lost its most idiosyncratic, most compelling elements. Whereas GoldenEye, the previous Bond flick and the first with Pierce Brosnan in the lead, was so over the top in its devotion to action that it approached camp, most of the action scenes in Tomorrow Never Dies seem familiar--as if we've already seen them in countless other action movies. The plot itself becomes virtually irrelevant, as the emphasis is placed upon the action set pieces. As a result, the movie lacks any sense of suspense or any sense of urgency. It lurches from one scene to the next, intent on turning every scene into the movie's climax.

In an effort to inject some new blood into the Bond series, the great Hong Kong actress Michelle Yeoh has been enlisted to help Bond fight the villains. A veteran of Hong Kong action movies such as The Heroic Trio and Jackie Chan's Supercop, Yeoh proves herself to be more than a match for Bond. But her presence has the effect of throwing the movie completely off kilter. After she takes center stage with Bond, the action never stops and Brosnan's relatively lightweight presence becomes negligible.

Brosnan isn't a bad Bond, but he's a smirking, little-boy's idea of a secret agent, and with Brosnan in the lead, the filmmakers have become suspicious of any scene where the decibel level drops below a roar. They've turned Bond into a Superman capable of anything, and without any sense that Bond can be injured, the action scenes become inconsequential. And because so much emphasis is placed on action, the value of wit and logic gets relegated to the background. Bond solves problems by tossing grenades and opening fire with a machine gun--as in the surprisingly routine opening sequence where Bond takes on an entire platoon of soldiers in order to steal a jet fighter. With boiling flames and the rat-a-tat-tat of machine gun fire, Tomorrow Never Dies begins to resemble ConAir and other testosterone-heavy juvenile fantasies.

Even the usually excellent Jonathan Pryce gets lost in the overkill. And that's a shame because his role as a Ted Turner-style communications mogul is rife with possibilities. Pryce thinks nothing of pushing countries toward war--as long as he can get exclusive video footage on the evening news. "There's no news like bad news," he says. This is some fine material for satire. But the movie's subtleties get squashed in the headfirst rush toward action. Even Bond's characteristic one-liners become mechanical and predictable and rarely fun.

Tomorrow Never Dies is one of the worst Bond movies ever made.

[rating: 1 of 4 stars]

Top Welcome Features In Focus Reviews Info