Friday, January 16, 2015

The World Is Not Enough [1999]

When last we spoke, it was of Tomorrow Never Dies.  I didn't have very many nice things to say about it, and it ended up ranking very near the bottom of the list.
  
It's important to remember, however, that the movie was a big hit, and that it was well-liked at the time.  I've soured on it, but it remains relatively popular with general audiences to this day.  There's no getting around it: the movie was a success, and arguably remains one two decades later.
  
Which mean that the Bond series was sitting in a comfortable position when the next film, The World Is Not Enough, came out.  It opened in 1999, which had proven to be a terrific year for movie, with now-classic films such as Fight Club, The Matrix, Being John Malkovich, Magnolia, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, The Iron Giant, The Sixth Sense, American Beauty, The Blair Witch Project, and Toy Story 2 all coming out within the year.  Not bad.  Not bad at ALL.
  
You will perhaps be surprised to learn that I enjoyed The World Is Not Enough on a level more or less equal with some of those films.  I distinctly remember proclaiming to my Bond-fan friends as we walked out of the theatre that this was the best movie in the series since On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
  
What was I thinking?  Well, let's put it this way: 1999 was not necessarily a year that found me at my finest.  I committed what might arguably be referred to as "a shitload of mistakes" during that calendar year.
  
Claiming that The World Is Not Enough was on equal footing with On Her Majesty's Secret Service might be top of the list.  Man; what a lunkhead.
  
In any case, those days are over now, so The World Is Not Enough fans, beware: I'm about to give the movie the pillocking I ought to have given it in 1999.  I may as well confess, though, that I didn't do a particularly thorough job with this one.  The fact is, I got to the ninety-minute mark -- about the time Bond and Christmas visit the caviar factory -- and kind of just gave up.
  
So if this post seems a bit lazier than normal, there's a good reason for that.
  
  



(1)  Bond ... James Bond

As with Tomorrow Never Dies, it is hard to hold this movie against Brosnan.  He tries his best, but the mix of seriousness and silliness simply has no chance of working.  One example: in the briefing at MI6's Scottish headquarters, Brosnan is great in the moment when he expresses anger at Tanner toward being excluded from the operation investigating King's death.  It's a good, fiery moment, and we cut from this to . . . Bond screwing  a hot doctor so that she will give him a medical clearance.

That's pretty tacky under most circumstances, but there's something about the juxtaposition which makes it doubly problematic.  Brosnan has a lot of moments in which it's clear that he wants us to think of Bond as a human, complete with flaws, quirks, problems, and concerns.  But then the movie continually delivers moments where Bond behaves as goofily as Roger Moore ever did.  Brosnan is good in either mode; he's not good at melding the two into a cohesive performance.  He managed it in GoldenEye; he failed utterly in Tomorrow Never Dies, and he fails even more here.

Case in point: during the pre-credits sequence, Bond injures his shoulder during a fall.  That injured shoulder pops up numerous times during the rest of the film (including during at least two sex scenes).  Bond with a nagging physical injury is fairly new ground for the series, and it might have been good ground to cover if the movie actually covered it.  Instead, it mostly ignores it; Bond does all sorts of crazy, Batman-esque crap, but then every once in a while grimaces, usually only once the superhuman-esque feat is accomplished.  In other words, the shoulder doesn't prevent Bond from doing anything; it's there only to serve as window dressing.  It's sillier and more problematic than simply having Bond BE a semi-superhuman; at least Moore's Bond films were consistent, and could be engaged with on their own terms.

Another example of Brosnan's performance succeeding and failing simultaneously comes during the resolution of the ski scene.  It's essentially just a big, goofy action scene, and it culminates in Bond using his Q-Branch-gifted jacket as an inflatable avalanche-guard.  That's as silly an idea as just about anything from Bond circa 1971, which is fine by me.  Thing is, inside the jacket, Elektra freaks out and Bond calms her down, and the way Brosnan and Marceau play the scene you'd think they were in Schindler's List or something.  Nobody wants ice cream inside their baked potatoes, y'all; some things just don't go together.




Sean Connery would have used this as an excuse to get laid.  So would Roger Moore, although he'd have been so busy spouting one-liners that he might not have gotten around to the fucking.  George Lazenby would have had the good sense to quit the series before being put in this position.  I'm not sure I know what Timothy Dalton and Daniel Craig would do in this situation; I could see Dalton getting it as badly wrong as Brosnan does, but I suspect Craig would have found a way to avoid the whole scenario somehow.  I feel as if his Bond would have no time for the Elektra Kings of the world.

It's not all bad news.  My favorite Brosnan joke of the movie comes when he meets Dr. Christmas Jones, and she warns him not to make any jokes, because she's heard them all before.  "I don't know any doctor jokes," he says in his Russian accent.  Great!  Love it!  It's a lame joke, but there are layers to the lameness, and when you peel them all away, what you find is that it's not lame at all; it's kind of wonderful.  This is a joke of the sort Connery's Bond might have played, and Brosnan sells it as well as I can imagine Connery doing.  Not a bad compliment, that.  I also have to confess that the (ahem) climactic joke about Christmas only coming once a year still cracks me up.  That's a great Moore-esque line, and it makes me wonder why everyone involved didn't just decide to go full-bore Moore with this movie.  They clearly wanted to.  Hell, the movie even ends with Q -- or "R," I guess -- accidentally helping M catch Bond in mind-coitus.  There are, what, like, four of Rog's movies that end that way?
  
Points awarded: 002/007.  Just commit, damn it.  Be the one thing, or be the other thing.  Failing that, be better at mixing the two.  But, again, let's not fault Brosnan too much.  This failing -- if you admit it is one -- is much the fault (if not moreso) of the producers, director, screenwriters, and editor.  Brosnan should only shoulder so much of the blame, and I remain convinced that he was a fundamentally good 007 who was let down severely by weak material.  But we're judging Bond here, not merely Brosnan; and this is arguably one of THE weakest of all Bond performances.
 

(2)  SPECTRE

Main Villain:

Carlyle is good, but he, like Brosnan, seems to be convinced he is in a much better, more serious movie than The World Is Not Enough.  Say what you will about semi-campy, silly villains like Hugo Drax and Max Zorin; those actors knew exactly what sort of movies they were in, and tailored their performances accordingly.

I'd also note that Carlyle's accent is all over the place.  Why cast an actor that profoundly Scottish and then try to get him to be Euroslavian or whatever the fuck?  It doesn't work, or at least it doesn't work here.

I also don't really understand what Renard wants, or why he wants it, or how he plans to go about getting it.  I'm not sure I have any notion of why Elektra opted to join him.  I'm not sure I understand how he can walk if he can't feel anything, for that matter.

Also...?  "Welcome to my nuclear family" is one of the worst one-liners ever spoken in a movie.  At least among movies I've seen.  That's embarrassingly awful.

Points awarded (Main Villain):  002/007.  I want to like Renard, because I like Robert Carlyle.  Can't do it; Renard sucks.
 
Henchmen:

I was tempted to classify Elektra as a villain.  I was also tempted to classify her as the main villain.  However, I think the movie is asking me to believe that Elektra would never have turned to villainy if not for Renard, and so I am operating on that assumption.  Therefore, I am opting to view her as slightly more of a victim than a self-sustained antagonist.  That being the case, I can't make her a henchman.

The movie does have quite a few henchmen, though, including this guy:




Whatever.
  
There are a few others, but none of them are worth talking about.  None of them are horrible, either, though, so I'm going to be moderately generous.

Points awarded (Henchmen):  002/007
 
Total points awarded (SPECTRE):  002/007  

(3)  The Bond Girls

Main Bond Girl:

I'm of the opinion that this movie wants me to consider Elektra as the female lead.  And since I'm not classifying her as a villain, that means she has to be the main Bond girl.  The fact that I have actualy rationale for this is lame, isn't it?  Yeah, I know.  Can't help it, y'all; I'm a nerd.

I'm not a fan of Elektra.  Sophie Marceau is pretty, but she doesn't crank my motor the way the best Bond girls do.  So, does that matter?  Not really.  But the character isn't particularly well-written either, and that does matter.  What are her motivations?  Something to do with her father being a dick, and the implication is that she has religious motivation of some sort.  None of that goes anywhere.  We don't have a sense of why she cares about Renard, or if she really cares about Renard, or anything.  She's shallowness masquerading as complexity, and Sophie Marceau -- at least in English -- isn't quite a good enough actress to make it compelling enough for the sham to work.

Points awarded (Main Bond Girl):  002/007.  Nothing special.

Secondary Bond Girls:
 
Christmas Jones is the worst major Bond girl apart from Mary Goodnight.  And the only reason she's more palatable is that she does not actively get in the way of the plot.  She actually helps it along at certain points, and she's not helpless.  So there's that.

Part of me -- no, not THAT part -- feels reluctant to do any trash-talking toward Denise Richards.  And indeed, I don't think she deserves it.  I really do feel bad for her.  She's not as awful in this movie as the consensus indicates; she's not good, but she's no worse than any number of other Bond actresses who spring to mind.  She's better by far than Barbara Bach, for instance, and I prefer her to Britt Ekland, as well.  I put her on the same level, performance-wise, as Tanya Roberts; not good, but better than the reputation would indicate.
  
If I may stoop to objectification for a moment, I feel compelled to state that I think Richards is pretty, but -- like Terri Hatcher -- not a James Bond movie sort of way.  In, perhaps, a Mötley Crüe video sort of way.  She should be playing an "innocent girl" wearing, like, a Catholic schoolgirl outfit or something.  You know she's coming out of it sooner or later; the suspense is in how long it takes, and whether you'll be there when it happens.  I strongly suspect she smells very nice, which is a bonus.  I mean, at least before Charlie Sheen.  Afterward?  I'm less sure.




She should NOT be playing a nuclear scientist.  I mean, Jesus Christ.  Why not cast her as Fidel Castro?  That'd be just as plausible.  "Denise Richard IS Paul Muad'Dib!"  I mean, honestly.  You can only get away with stuff like this in an actual comedy; an Austin Powers or a Casino Royale '67.  This movie, silly though it may be, is making a poor attempt at being at least somewhat serious, and when you add into that already-volatile mix the grim sight of Denise Richards dismantling plutonium cores and whatnot, you've gone quite a few steps too far.

But here's the thing: I don't think much of this ought to be held against Denise Richards.  She was at the height of her career, and was offered a shot at being one of the female leads in a movie that stood a superior chance of still being seen and known decades hence when she was in her twilight years.  You'd be a fool not to take that opportunity, even if you thought it was beyond your range.  I can't fault Richards for leaping at the chance, and I think the fact that it didn't work out particularly well is much more the fault of the producers and the director than it is her own fault.  And she gives it her best shot: she's not giving a lazy performance.  She reads the lines as though she is an actual human.  She seems lost at sea, but not THAT lost at sea.  In other words, she's competent; her looks work against her, and make her seem less competent than she actually is.  But, again, that's only her fault to a certain extent.

So, Christmas Jones will be a key part in earning a very, very low score in this subcategory, but let me be clear: I am not giving that grade to Denise Richards.  I'm giving it to Christmas Jones, and these things are not one and the same.

Christmas isn't the only secondary Bond girl.  We also have that doctor Bond screws, whose name, astonishingly, is Dr. Molly Warmflash.  It's never spoken in the movie.  Thank the lord God of hosts for small favors, I guess.  This character is pretty weak.  Serena Scott-Thomas is pretty.  So what?  I see pretty women fairly frequently, and very few of them are involved in vaguely-offensive subplots.  Dr. Molly Warmflash is.  So balls to you, Dr. Molly Warmflash; balls.

While I'm being a sexist pig, let me point out one of the film's problems as I see it: the background women aren't particularly hot.  Have a look at a couple of examples:


Your odds of catching chlamydia from those ladies is decent, I'd say.

These are "hot girls" in the same way amateur singers are "good vocalists."  If you see 'em doing their thing at the mall in Tuscaloosa, then yeah, they're hot.  In a James Bond movie?  Mediocre at best.


Points awarded (Secondary Bond Girls): 000/007.  Ugh.

Total points awarded (The Bond Girls):  001/007
 
(4)  "Oh, James..."

Action/Stunts:

Here come some notes that I am too lazy to develop into proper comments.  Enjoy!

The jump out of the window is a cool idea, but the execution is lacking.  It takes too long to come together; what would have worked well as a short, sharp punctuation deflates a bit as a drawn-out gag.

The Thames boat-chase is solid, moreso thanks to having Brosnan take part in so much of it.  Verisimilitude; not just a cool word.




The gag in which the boat goes onto the land hurts the scene badly, but it's redeemed somewhat by a great stunt toward the end in which a dude in a flying boat jumps out of the boat and grabs a balloon mooring.



That is patently not Pierce Brosnan, but in real-time you can't tell quite as badly.  Either way, this dude is a badass.


There is some decent stuff in the ski sequence, but it pales in comparison even with For Your Eyes Only.  And does not deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as On Her Majesty's Secret Service, hence this incomplete sentence here.  The ski scene actually is more of a negative than a positive for me, partially thanks to this:









It's a perfectly fine shot.  James Bond skiiing so hard that he dodges an explosion.  What's not to like about that?  Well, I'll tell you: take a look at that next-to-last image, and you'll see what appears to be sparkler-type fireworks going off as part of this explosion.  What the hell is that crap?

Good question, but I can't answer it.  I can say, however, that it pops up several more times during the ski scene.  Presumably this is some sort of material that made filming the stunt safer, and if that's the case, then I guess that's a good thing.  But it shows on camera, and to the unaided eye; you need not be going frame-by-frame looking for good screencaps to see it, you can see it during the normal course of regular-speed viewing.





  
By all means, do whatever you have to do to keep the stunt crew safe; but if you can't do that without compromising the quality of the movie, then you need to rewrite and downgrade your ambitions for the action scenes.  I'd rather have no action at all than subpar action.

The best moment in the sequence comes when one of the parahawks (I think that's what they're called) explodes, and the detonation causes the sheet of snow/ice that Bond and Elektra are standing on to collapse beneath their feet, sending them plummeting down the hill in the midst of a mini-avalanche.






  
I'm pretty sure Michael Apted and/or Vic Armstrong achieved this shot simply by murdering a couple of stunties.

I kid, of course.  I'm sure the stunt was perfectly safe.  But it looks dangerous, and it looks real, and therefore it looks GREAT on film.  Apart from the fireworks, of course.

Points awarded (Action/Stunts):  003/007.  There is some good stuff.  Some great stuff, even.  But somehow, very little of it works in the big-picture sense of things.

Editing:

shrug

Points awarded (Editing):  003/007

Costumes/Makeup:

Elektra gets a few good costumes, such as that red dress during the casino scene.




I suppose some amongst us will be pleased by Christmas Jones' tank-top-and-shorts combo, too.  If I were twelve, I might, too.  But then again, the argument could be made that I am sort of an honorary twelve; Forever Twelve, or something like that.  And her get-up just doesn't do it for me.  It's trying too hard, and that's not a quality I admire in my Bond wardrobe.


I forgot to screencap it, so I stole this from somewhere.
  

Say, is that a dragon tattoo?

Points awarded (Costumes/Makeup): 003/007

Locations:

Not particularly memorable.

Points awarded (Locations):  003/007

Overall points awarded ("Oh, James..."):  003/007
 
(5)  Q Branch


Bond's Allies:

Nice for M to be so involved in the plot this time, but did she have to be a moron?  Her decision to go hang out with Elektra is about as dumb a move as any made during the entire series, and it goes well past the point of believability.  J.W. Pepper showing up in Thailand makes sense comparatively.  Judi Dench does good work, but in the face of a poor screenwriting decision like that one, there is only so much she can do.




Perhaps the most notable aspect of this movie is the fact that it served as the final appearance as Q for Desmond Llewelyn.  This seems to have been a planned departure, as Q gets a bit of a sendoff.  It's a touching scene, thanks to the way Brosnan and Llewelyn play it.  But it's also a bit nonsensical.  "I've always tried to teach you two things," says Q to Bond; "first: never let them see you bleed."  At no point has Q ever tried to teach Bond this, so far as we have seen.  Perhaps Q held extensive seminars on the subject between films.  And the second thing?  "Always have an escape plan."  And whish, Llewelyn vanishes from the series.  Good moment, despite itself.  It works better in retrospective montages than in the movie, but at least that's something.

What do we make of "R"?  Hey, look, I love Monty Python.  So, naturellement, j'adore le John Cleese.  But hiring him for this role was a mistake.  He plays the whole thing as a farce, and while that might be okay in some Bond films, bear in mind that this one is asking us to take it seriously.  Going from Cleese to the serious-minded scene which follows (Bond researching Elektra's kidnapping) simply doesn't work.  Cleese would have been fine, I think, if the producers had opted to go that full-bore Moore direction I mentioned earlier.  They didn't.

Points awarded (Bond's Allies):  001/007.  Between M's idiocy and the hogwash that is "R," I cannot in good conscience go higher.

Direction:

Michael Apted was, and is, a better director than Roger Spottiswoode.  But why he was hired for this movie is a mystery to me.  He doesn't seem to have a solid grasp on things; the glamor of Bond appears to be beyond his grasp.  He does okay with the dramatic scenes, but the dramatic scenes are at odds with the rest of the movie, so they are failures regardless of whether they work in the moment.

The whole movie looks a bit cheap, too.  And it probably wasn't cheap, so making it look that way is a major disservice.

Points awarded (Direction): 002/007

Cinematography:

Adrian Biddle was no slouch.  He's some great -- and great-looking -- movies on his filmography, including Aliens, The Princess Bride, Thelma & Louise, V For Vendetta (his final film), and, of course, City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly's Gold

Something about the look of The World Is Not Enough doesn't work for me, though.  I'm a bit lost to explain exactly why I feel this way, but the closest I can come to it is to say that much of the movie -- like Tomorrow Never Dies before it -- looks to my eye like something that was made for television.  Let's, as an example, have a look at the casino scene:




Does that look elegant, sophisticated, romantic?  Not to my eye.  The lighting is too . . . I dunno what, but it's too __________, whatever it is.  The extras look like the most attractive poor people who could fit the costumes; the set looks like it's a converted Marriott lobby.  The lighting is drawing attention to those things, and to be honest, I expect better than this from my 007 flicks.

The devil's advocate in me says, "Well, yeah, but this Valentin Zukovsky's casino, so it makes sense that it'd be a little trashy."  True.  But I get no sense that the movie is asking me to actually think that; I'm thinking it of my own accord, and I suspect that the movie wants me to think Zukovsky's place is an exciting and glamorous place.  But hey, I ain't no rube; I've been to Disney World AND Disneyland, so I know exciting and glamorous when I see it, and this place does not satisfy my requirements.  (More to the point, I've seen other, better Bond movies, and this one is not up to their level.)

Points awarded (Cinematography): 003/007

Art Direction:

Scottish MI6 is kind of cool, I guess.

Elektra's house seems to have been built on the cheap.  We are accustomed to seeing large, luxurious spaces in scenes like this one, and what we see here are sets which appear to consist of half of a room; it's like the production couldn't afford to build the entire room, so they decided to just film one corner of it and hope nobody noticed.  Case(s) in point:



Cool room; I wish Michael Apted had filmed it in a more interesting fashion.


To be fair to Peter Lamont, it might be the case that he WAS laboring under budgetary restrictions/difficulties.  But it might also be the case that Lamont built stunning sets and director Michael Apted simply didn't know how to properly film them.  I suspect it's a bit of both.

Points awarded (Art Direction): 003/007

Special Effects:

The Renard hologram is silly, but it looks good, even today.  
  
  
  
The effects are solid throughout, and there is only one moment -- Zukovsky dodging the circular saw-blades -- that resorts to shitty CGI.

Points awarded (Special Effects): 004/007.  Nothing special, but it's efficient and effective and mostly non-obtrusive work.

Gadgets:

More ill-formed notes:

Bond's glasses which remotely control his gun are kind of cool.  And they make sense; those would be potentially useful in many situations, whereas some of Q's gadgets seem awfully specific.  "Here, 007, if you happen to find yourself duct-taped to an octopus, this will come in handy."  Riiiiight...

The exploding money -- is it a good idea for the enemies to have gadgets like that?  The thing that makes the best Bond gadgets fun is the sense it gives you that 007 -- and, by proxy, MI6, Great Britain, and the viewing audience -- are always a step ahead of the bad guys.  Bond always has just the tools he needs for whatever situation he is in.  A silly notion, granted; but to the extent you are going to use that sort of gag at all, it seems best to restrict it for use by Bond.  If the bad guys all have similar gadgets, then what good are Bond's?  You could say the same for the parahawks, or whatever they're called.
 

X-ray specs.  James frickin' Bond has X-ray specs.  I should probably think that's cool, but I don't.

Points awarded (Gadgets):  003/007.  Might be a point too low on this one.  So be it.

Opening-Title Sequence:

Maybe the weakest opening-title sequence in the history of the series?  For my money, it's one of them.  Some of the imagery is arresting thanks to exceptional use of color.  However, the central idea -- to reinforce the themes of world domination via oil exploitation -- does not prove to be terribly conducive to cavorting semi-nudes.Speaking of those semi-nudes: Kleinman here seems almost ashamed of them, and you can barely see even the suggestion of actual female forms.  Okay, fine.  Do something else.  Traditions are wonderful until you stick with them past the point at which they stop making sense, and it's arguable that they had stopped making sense by 1999.

Points awarded (Opening-Title Sequence): 002/007

Overall points awarded (Q Branch): 002.57/007
 
(6)  Mission Briefing

I give everyone involved with this movie points for trying something new.  So there's that.  But they went about it poorly.  As with Tomorrow Never Dies, there is WAY too much emphasis on one-liners.  I'll give ye an example: in Scotland, Bond observes a guy playing bagpipes.  The guy then uses the pipes as combination flame-thrower and machine-gun, and Bond peeks around the corner to see Q at work.  "I guess we all have to pay the piper sometime . . . right, Q?"  That's a lame pun in and of itself.  Q's response: "Oh, pipe down, 007."  I feel as if I could write an entire post about how poorly this combination of puns works.  But life is short, so we're either on the same page here, or we aren't.
  
How does MI6 know all that about the bullet in Renard's brain?  How would they come by such information?
  
"A shadow operation?" Bond asks of his assignment to Elektra.  "Remember," M replies, "shadows stay in front or behind.  Never on top."  Okay, well, let's be honest: M wouldn't care if Bond fucked Elektra, as long as he protected her.  So that's silly.  Also, M is making innuendo without realizing that the first part of her proviso holds nearly as much innuendo potential as the rejoinder: after all, you need not be on top of a woman to fuck her, you can also accomplish that goal from either in front or behind.  So as innuendo-laden dialogue goes, this is a failure.  It makes M look stupid.

And so forth.  I could go on and on, but I'm in lazy-mode.

Points awarded: 002/007

(07)  The Music

Title Song:

The Garbage song has grown on me a lot over the years.  It's arguably not a great song so much as it is a solid melody with some terrific production value; so, a great recording moreso than a great song.  But I do like it, and the video is creepy fun, too.




Points awarded (Title Song):  005/007

The Score:  I'd been a huge fan of David Arnold's Tomorrow Never Dies score when it came out, so obviously I was thrilled to have him back for the next film.  It didn't do the trick for me at all, though.  This is not to say that I hated it; I didn't.  I just thought it was comparatively flat and unengaging, and I found myself listening to the soundtrack very rarely.

Looking back on it, I honestly don't know why I felt that way about it.  I still don't think it's AS good as Tomorrow Never Dies, but it's thoroughly solid.  From the Thames boat chase to the ski scene to the pipeline ride, the action music is uniformly excellent, and Arnold's music does a great deal to enhance the movie.  He's by no means the second coming of John Barry, but expecting him to be is a silly expectation.




Points awarded (The Score): 004/007

A final note about the music: Arnold wrote a proposed end-credits song called "Only Myself to Blame," and Scott Walker's performance of it is on the soundtrack.  It appears nowhere in the movie; the melody is part of Elektra's romantic music, but the song itself is totally absent.  It's a solid song; I'd say at least a 004, maybe even a 005.  But I don't think it would have worked as outro music, so I get why they cut it from the credits in favor of a Bond-theme remix.

Total points awarded (The Music):  004.5/007




  
Double-0 Rating for The World Is Not Enough:  002.44/007

The tally so far:

006.23 -- From Russia With Love
006.03 -- Goldfinger
005.58 -- The Living Daylights
004.84 -- Moonraker
004.76 -- Dr. No
004.42 -- For Your Eyes Only
004.39 -- Live and Let Die
002.55 -- Climax!: Casino Royale
002.45 -- Tomorrow Never Dies
002.44 -- The World Is Not Enough
002.38 -- Casino Royale [1967]
001.43 -- Never Say Never Again
001.02 -- James Bond Jr
 
You Only Blog Twice will return in . . . Die Another DayAnd I'm a bit terrified by this.  What if I end up giving it a higher grade than I gave these last two Brosnans?  Could I live with being that guy?  Then again, it's possible it comes in lower.  We shall see.  Just as soon as I can slog my way through the accursed thing.
  
And now, leftover screencaps:
  
  
Brosnan is great in the pre-titles sequence.


This boat corkscrew, or whatever you call it, is pretty rad.




In a better version of this screenplay, Bond was involved in trying to rescue Elektra, and became infatuated with her.  His failure to successfully rescue her haunted him, and therefore his semi-doomed attraction to her makes more sense, and has more resonance.  His killing her might carry more weight then.



James has apparently poked his eye on something.

  

6 comments:

  1. I really like that Shirley Manson tune, myself.

    It's funny - I remember Sophie Marceau is being ridiculously attractive and Denise Richards as not doing it for me, but these screencaps really raised Ms. Richards' stock with me. Yes, it is unforgivably absurd to cast her as a scientist of any kind and then have her dress like she's in a music video. Buuuu-ut, I'll overlook the last part.

    Good points on the lighting / things not being photographed from angles they better could have been.

    Your overall point of how the production seems to be trying to be two different versions of itself is sound and really does hamper the film. I prefer the videogame. (Not a quality one shoots for, I'd hope, when making a film.)

    I'mma ski is good stuff. Meme-worthy. I hope to see it spread.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The thing about Christmas Jones, the skanky nuclear physicist, is: under certain circumstances, I could accept it. If you were making a movie that fully committed to its ludicrousness and decided to simply have fun in that headspace (like "Moonraker" and, to a lesser extent, "A View to a Kill" or even "Live and Let Die"), then I think Dr. Christmas Jones would be perfectly acceptable. I'd still want her to be played by somebody a bit more charismatic than Denise Richards, but the idea itself would not perturb me.

      That might be brain damage (likely left over from the journey through "James Bond Jr") talking, though.

      I'd like to play the videogame at some point. I've got every intention of eventually incorporating those into the blog. Just a matter of when, and what format I'll use to discuss them.

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  2. I thought this one would have the best chance to unseat DAF and NSNA as the worst Bond movie. God, this movie is almost unwatchable. I don't even know where to start.

    I guess Denise Richards is as good a place as any. There is no fucking way I can buy her as a nuclear physicist. She pronounces all the big words as if she learned them phonetically, which she did, for all I know. She's simply not a good enough actress to pull this off. She's hot, but this is a Bond movie, and we expect hot women, so that's nothing out of the ordinary. Also, Christmas Jones has to be THE worst name for a major Bond girl. Just awful. I'd say she sucks all the oxygen out of the movie when she shows up but this movie didn't have a lot of oxygen to begin with.

    I'm a fan of Robert Carlyle and I hate to see his talents wasted in this movie. (I had the same reaction to his appearance in "28 Weeks Later.") When you sign a talented actor, give him a part consummate with his skill. Carlyle could have played this role while in a coma.

    One more point about Renard. He's portrayed as almost super-human. This is not unprecedented (Odd Job, Jaws) but it makes no sense. He can't feel pain. So what? That doesn't mean he can't be harmed. So he could hold that steaming rock and not feel it, but the skin on his palms is still blistering and burning. When Bond punches him he can still knock Renard out or stun him. The filmmakers seem to have confused feeling no pain with invulnerability.

    I always considered Elektra to be the main villain. It can't be Renard; he works for her. He's definitely subordinate to Elektra. This would make her the first female main villain in Bond history. She sucks, but it would have at least been historic. Like Denise Richards, she's amazingly hot. Also like Denise Richards, I don't think she's a particularly gifted actress.

    No mention of Zukovsky among Bond's allies? He's certainly not a villain here. He saves Bond's ass when he's strapped into that medieval torture chair. Yes, his character gets one truly awful line ("Insurance company is never going to believe this!") and he seems completely unaware that his henchman Goldie or whatever the fuck his name is has switched sides and is now working for Elektra, but I still like the character, probably based on the strength of his appearance in "GoldenEye." This is another example of a stupid death in a Bond film. They should have let him live.

    Desmond Llewelyn deserved a better movie sendoff than TWINE.

    I don't like "Die Another Day" but I like it loads more than I like this. TWINE is just terrible. Frankly, another appearance by Joe Don Baker might have even helped it!

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    1. I really did mostly forget to mention Zukovsky, didn't I? Well, like I said, I got lazy at some point toward the middle of this one, and kind of checked out mentally.

      However, I think there would be room to argue that Zukovsky is a villain and not an ally. He DOES help Elektra, albeit somewhat unwittingly. But he's clearly still a criminal, which means that to some extent he and Bond are philosophically at odds. But overall, I'd lump him in as an ally; close call, though.

      That duality and shades-of-gray stuff COULD have been really interesting. It just doesn't come off, partly because -- as you correctly note -- this is the sort of movie that is still (despite the shades of semi-realism) intent on making the point that feeling no pain turns a guy into a Terminator.

      As regards the name "Christmas Jones," I figure that happened like this: somebody associated with the movie was walking around one day, minding their own business, and heard somebody say "Christmas only comes once a year." Whoever this is had coitus on the brain, and hearing the phrase made them do a mental Butt-head chuckle, and think, "Huhuhuh, he said 'cums.' It would suck to only cum once a year."

      And then, inspiration struck. "Heyyyyyyy . . . if I named a female character in the next movie 'Christmas,' I could have James Bond talk about Christmas coming more than once a year! I am a GENIUS!" The character name was given so as to facilitate the punchline. I guarantee.

      "I always considered Elektra to be the main villain. It can't be Renard; he works for her." Does he? I'm not sure about that. I think they may have more or less mutual and even partnership, but one that exists only because Renard initiated the relationship via kidnapping her.

      I could go either way on that subject, to be honest. But it made the format of the post a lot cleaner to do it the way I did it!

      I understand your disappointment over this one not ranking lower than Diamonds and NSNA. I haven't run the math to say for sure, but I think it might have gotten a lot closer if it hadn't been saved by a strong performance from the music category.

      I think when I've finished running through the Craig movies, I'm going to re-evaluate some of my rankings. Just to make sure they make sense. As I've thought about these last two Brosnan movies, I've also had occasion to consider how poorly I scored Connery in those two above-mentioned movies, and it makes me think I was too harsh toward them by far. So I may end up bumping both of them up a bit; say what you want about those two movies (both of which I loathe), but even though he's doing uninspired work, Connery DOES give consistent and effective performances in them.

      He's better than Brosnan is in these two, at least, so maybe my scores should reflect that.

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  3. I decided to -- as I did recently with "Tomorrow Never Dies" -- read my way through the Raymond Benson novelization and see if it made me feel any different about the movie.

    Eh. Not really. It's still a bunch of nonsense with a mostly uninteresting set of characters. A few scenes are expanded to good effect: we find out how Bond got assigned to go to Bilbao, and the gambling scene in Zukovsky's casino is more extensive.

    The book DOES, however, some of the Renard/Elektra relationship/plot. As Benson writes it, it's like this: Renard kidnaps Elektra in the hopes of getting a big payday from her ransom. When that fails to materialize, it angers Elektra sufficiently that she decides to seduce Renard and join forces with him so as to enact a plot to destroy her father.

    With that in mind, I'm tempted to go back in and rewrite this post and definitively classify Elektra as the main villain with Renard as her henchman. (In fact, it's clear that's what I should do. I'm just not motivated to actually DO it.)

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    1. A few other notes about the book:

      (1) It's not as enjoyable a read as "Tomorrow Never Dies," partially because it's an even worse story, but also because it feels a lot more rushed. TND could almost pass for a legit Bond novel; TWINE is much more in line with the average novelization. They tend to be sort of low-rent and cheap, and this is no exception.

      (2) Case in point: I'd say that about two-thirds of the mention of MI6 are misspelled as "M16." Oops -- BIG oops.

      (3) A few character details are significantly different. For example, Renard -- who is consistently referred to here as "Renard the Fox" (shades of "Carlos the Jackal"?) -- has Bell's palsy thanks to the bullet in his head. More significantly, Zukovsky's henchman Mr. Bullion is about seven feet tall and is chiefly called The Bull (with "Mr. Bullion" being a nickname for his nickname!).

      (4) Bond looks at the Millennium Dome on p. 17: "As Bond looked at the Teflon-coated glass-covered structure from the window, he was reminded of a giant robotic beetle with antennae that might have come from an episode of Doctor Who." I believe that if one if inclined to do so, one can introduce this as evidence that Bond is, canonically, a Doctor Who viewer. Later, on p. 113, he uses a lockpick from Q Branch: "With a touch of a button, the device sent sound waves into the lock; there was a click and the door opened." So that's basically a sonic screwdriver.

      (5) Things that still make no sense to me: why M would be willing to (or be allowed to) go into the field to protect Elektra; why Elektra refers to M as M and not by whatever her name is.

      (6) The best chapter is probably one near the end in which we learn that Renard was a sexually unsuccessful young man, but that his frustrations only increased his desire for female accompaniment. He developed an obsession with actresses, models, and other photogenic women who appeared in the media, and this is how he became familiar with Elektra. His kidnapping her was at least as much to do with his sexual desire for her as it was to do with the potential ransom. Good motivation -- too bad it wasn't in the movie.

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