Thursday, 21 June 2012

Tomorrow Never Dies: Assessed Acrostically

Bond in freefall. How apt.
The script is arguably one of the weakest Bond scripts ever.
There is so much painfully clunky exposition from the very beginning. All the books and articles about TND describe a ‘troubled production’ – spin for absolute fucking chaos behind the scenes – and it really shows when actors are saying things like “He practically invented techno-terrorism” and “Able to topple governments with a single broadcast”. One suspects some of the later drafts were, in fact, written in crayon.

Oh my God, who hired Teri Hatcher?
She’s woefully miscast as someone who has a deep emotional connection with our favourite secret agent. Instead, she phones it in. From a hillside with a dodgy signal, presumably. And why did she need to get her be-knickered bottom out and show off her suspenders? It’s boorish, classless and seedy. “What’s the matter, James? Did I get too close?” Nobody cares, Teri.

Michelle Yeoh on the other hand...
She is a revelation: tough and independent, the banter between her and Bond is genuinely enjoyable, and she knows one end of the gun from the other. The strongest Bond girl since Anya Amasova in The Spy Who Loved Me.

Occasionally brutal.
There are a few nice touches of badass Bond in TND and at least gives us hope that director Roger Spottiswoode is trying to keep a cruel and clinical edge to the central character. The way Bond knifes a baddie squarely in the chest at the start of stealth boat assault – and especially Elliott Carver’s death at the hands of his own drilly thing – are a throwback to Connery’s Bond, and this is no bad thing.

Rely on Pierce Brosnan to fuck up an accent.
Remember in Goldeneye when Bond rocks up to the Casino in his DB5, he greets the valet with a mangled “Bon soir, Pierre, ça va bien?” That’s nothing to his terrible ‘Mein Büro hat ein Auto reserviert” in the airport in this film. I got a C at GCSE German and even I could do better than that. All that money and they couldn’t get that any better?

Reprehensible plot holes.
At the end, aboard the stealth boat, Carver is in full flow with his ‘I-may-as-well-tell-you-all-my-maniacal-plans’ speech and Bond takes Gupta hostage and demands the return of Wai Lin because her and Bond are going to ‘finish it together’. Carver shoots Gupta and Bond blows everything up, not even caring about her. The whole thing is just nonsense – and there are far too many of these foggy interludes.

Odd choice of locations.
We’re not bowled over by exotic vistas but Hamburg looks nice enough. I might go there one day.

Who did they want to play Carver before they hired Jonathan Pryce?
He looks like a desperate last-minute booking in place of the actor they really wanted. I have never ever seen an actor so obviously phoned on a Friday afternoon and told to report to set the next Monday morning. And the worst thing is, Pryce is not a terrible actor, but even he can’t pull off the material given to him. He’s not sinister at all but he tries, bless him, overacting as if his pay check depended on it. Notable mention must go to his terrible typing-acting while writing headlines on his big screen. Just like with Pierce’s accents, couldn’t they have done something to make it better?!

Put it away, love

Needless and lazy puns abound.
And they don’t even really work 95% of the time. “You’ll have to kiss it off”, “You always were a cunning linguist”, “It’s amazing what they’ll print these days” are among the worst offenders.

Easily one of the best things about this film is the soundtrack.
David Arnold really hits the ground running with his first Bond score. It’s lush, brash and sophisticated when so much of the rest of the film isn’t. The pre-credits sequence, the car park chase and the helicopter flight into Saigon are strikingly good, but it’s the kd lang song over the closing titles that steals the show, soundtrack-wise. I have ranted elsewhere on this blog (here, in fact) about my theory that kd lang’s Surrender was replaced as the main theme by Sheryl Crow only because the latter was more bankable. Good job, David.

Very well-executed chase sequences.
The set-piece action scenes are one of TND’s strongest features. The pre-credit sequence, the printworks chase, the car park chase and the motorbike chase through Saigon are rollicking good fun. Yet again, the Bond stunt team show their worth to the franchise. Oh, and the banner surfing down the side of Carver’s skyscraper is pretty neato as well.

Explain to me what Dr Kaufman is for, please.
I suspect that he was a good idea on paper: a creepy and evil doctor of death. The on-screen result is altogether more pantomime-ish and weirdly pitiful. And for someone so apparently skilled at killing, he looks like he can’t even hold a pistol properly. Thank God his death was swift and cold-blooded. I couldn‘t have stood much more of that.

Really? Is that how Bond behaves ‘under cover’, insulting and provoking his host?
At the Hamburg channel launch, Bond comes across as a right dick when he meets Elliott Carver. We know Carver’s the bad guy, Bond knows he’s the bad guy but Bond is unnecessarily provocative and doesn’t behave like the banker he is supposed to be. Think back to when Bond met Auric Goldfinger at the golf club. It was sparky and understated. He didn’t get all up in his shit and then make lazy jibes. Yet again, TND lets itself down by its inelegance.

"Don't go for second best, baby..."
Did you know?
Nichola McAuliffe – Sheila Sabatini in the excellent 90s medical sitcom Surgical Spirit – is the voice of Bond’s BMW. You’re welcome.

Is it me or is Pierce Brosnan ‘wider’ than he was in Goldeneye?
No, he is. The excellent book The Making of Tomorrow Never Dies by Garth Pearce quotes his personal trainer, Richard Smedley: “Pierce was about 20lb heavier than in Goldeneye and he wanted a strong look”. The sort of strong look brought about by... pies?

End titles. kd lang to finish, saving the best for last (see above).

So what conclusions can we reach about Tomorrow Never Dies?
It has buckets of promise and delivers occasionally, but is let down by a patronising script and a leaky plot. Too often, I found myself wincing at the dialogue. The action sequences are top notch. It’s just a whopping shame about the bits in between.

And I never got round to discussing...
i)              Carver never changing his shirty-coaty thing;
ii)             All the now-famous actors on board the British ships (half the cast of Downton Abbey and Gerard Butler); and
iii)           Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer acting together as if As Time Goes By doesn’t even exist!

Roll on The World Is Not Enough for next month’s BlogalongaBond!

Do you agree with my review? Let me know below or on the Twitter.

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