Rewatching Tomorrow Never Dies

The other day Holly and I watched Tomorrow Never Dies, and I had not watched this one in a while. I remembered really enjoying it of the Pierce Brosnan Bond movies. Though there’s a soft spot in my heart for GoldenEye – it’s got to be the videogame!

I have to say that this movie has held up pretty well. It certainly shows its historical moment – with the Internet exploding out into the public (1997!) and with the level of technology. Sure, there’s a scene with fancy invented super spy tech sitting next to a floppy disc. It’s fine. It worked. And really? It’s a villain, and a plot, that could really still happen today.

So let me look at a couple of highlights of the film, and then talk about how it stands out among the Brosnan-era Bond films. Some spoilers to come!

Good Villain

Quick run down on the plot: a media mogul orchestrates a war between England, with her Navy, and China, with her Air Force. He does this with a stealth ship, and some good planning. And lots of time spent writing the headlines before the news actually happened… It’s a solid power-play and made for a good film.

It’s only a little bit elaborate and over the top. Really, it’s a pretty realistic villain in Elliot Carver. It’s British… were they perhaps going for Rupert Murdock? Who knows. Causing the news to happen, to make the money covering the news – well, newscasters do that today by belaboring stories that should drop, or interjecting and spending time on opinions.

The villain was smart, too – he was always sending his men to kill Bond. Granted, he also always underestimated Bond, but this made sense – he wasn’t himself a spy, or a killer. He had people for that. His people failed utterly, but by golly, he tried! And, as a media mogul, all of his monologuing also makes sense – of course he wants an audience. He wants to show that his plan is flawless. So elements that seem like flaws in other movies work in the context of this movie.

Good Co-Star

Something I really appreciated re-watching this movie is the female spy working parallel to Bond, also trying to stop Carver. Though she and Bond tend not to be at the exact same point in their investigations – using different tactics, and different methods – they still end up in pretty much all of the same places at the same time. Wai Lin is great!

And her tactics are on par with Bond:

  • Fancy party where you meet the villain face-to-face? Check. Oh wait, she utterly wins that round – Carver sees through Bond, but Wai Lin plays into his hopes and he believes that she is a Chinese reporter.
  • Breaking in to the villain’s base to steal his tech? Only a minute or two behind Bond, and although she sets off the alarm, she leaves Bond to be the distraction – quietly escaping unimpeded.
  • And finding the villains hidden secrets (at the bottom of the ocean)? There when Bond is.
  • From there, they work together, and they both kick ass. Yes, she gets captured, but in the end and for better or worse, it’s a Bond movie and he has to do some saving. Which he does – then she runs off and kicks more ass.

Looking for a good female spy in a movie? Give this one another look, for sure!

The Brosnan Era

Okay, so… strong villain, good plot, great female co-star… all of this without decreasing how awesome Bond is, and with plenty of cool tech and explosions… I see why I remember this movie fondly, and why it’s still so good.

So what about the other movies – in particular GoldenEye? Well, that movie served a very specific purpose – it was the first Bond film since the fall of the Soviet Union, and they had to figure out what the series was about again. They stick with Russia in GoldenEye – a place where the mobsters and brutes have taken over, where old Soviet tech is a danger to everyone because it’s not being held at bay like before.

But you have to move away from that – and they did a good job of that in Tomorrow Never Dies, in my opinion. And then… they completely fell apart. The World is Not Enough and Die Another Day were both pretty awful – with some similar plot elements (I remember skiing very distinctly in both), more space-based lasers, less well-realized villains and female characters. They didn’t keep their stride of doing something new, of thinking outside of the Cold War.

It makes some sense that they decided to reboot and go back to basics, changing up Bond considerably with Daniel Craig. But that feels like a post for another day! I feel like I need a Bond-worthy pun here, but I’ve got nothing, so leave your ideas for a good Bond pun or Bond title in the comments below!

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10 responses to “Rewatching Tomorrow Never Dies

  1. I actually like Die Another Day…to be specific, I like 80% of the movie. I think the final sequence is way too long and messy. But up to this point, I think the movie has more to offer than most of the other James Bond movies. But then, I also absolutely dig the opening sequence, including the Madonna song, which is apparently universally hated.

    Oh well…the best James Bond movie is in my book still Goldfinger.

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    • I liked the opening of Die Another Day a lot… Korea, a possible hotspot, and the new tech to make them a threat… Will Yun Lee as the villain, who I love… The torture opening and the Madonna song!

      For me, I remember the movie falling apart after that. Lee was replaced by a British guy, and it lost some of the serious depth they had captured in that opening, especially during the song!

      Haven’t seen it in a long time though, so maybe that’s my next “rewatching” post 🙂 It could definitely surprise me!

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      • I think the main problem with the movie is that the opening is so strong that nothing which comes after can quite live up to it. But that’s not because what follows is necessarily bad, but if you get an opening that great, you expect that what comes after to be even better, and the movie never delivers. But I think it delivers when you don’t put quite as high expectations on it.

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  2. Pierce Brosnan remains my favorite James Bond. The one I like least that he did was Die Another Day. My favorite is The World Is Not Enough. Then I like Goldeneye and Tomorrow Never Dies as much. Now I feel like rewatching these four movies!

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    • I really liked Brosnan as Bond too, he had the charisma needed. I don’t think he got the strongest movies, though, which is too bad – but is partially a result if the end of the Cold War! What do you do with the iconic Cold Warrior without the war? They had to try to figure that out!

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  3. Not that I can remember/distinguish between most of the others, but Tomorrow Never Dies is my favorite Bond movie. 🙂

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    • That’s a good point – it stands out. I think The World is Not Enough and Die Another Day, for instance, are really blended in my memory! And a lot of the older ones, that I’ve mostly seen when they were doing massive marathons on cable, so bits and pieces of lots of Bond movies are mixed together in my head for sure!

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