Tomorrow Never Dies isn’t regarded as Brosnan’s worst, but it is far from his best. This sophomore effort for the Irish actor added a lot of cons, but not many pros to the list. The villains were badly over played: Jonathan Pryce going beyond the call of duty to be as wildly over the top as possible; a rather stroppy and stiff looking second in command with an embarrassingly dumb name; and even Vincent Schavelli’s skilled assassin is a little bit too camp and comical to be taken too seriously. Welcome to Tomorrow Never Dies (it just goes on and on).
Add to this a loosely knitted plot, Jon Don Baker’s return as the poor excuse for comic relief that cries for a return of the no-nonsense Felix Leiter. And then there is the Sheryl Crow sung theme tune. There have been a few misses along the way (see Octopussy’s All Time High) but generally the soundtracks have been keeping a good standard until this point. David Arnold may be able to write good Bond scores that deliver on atmospherics (and this is his first) but he can’t pen a decent title track. But his best does appear on this film with the end credits delivering us a track sung by K.D Lang who puts in a far superior effort to Crow, if still a bit of a homage number.
John Barry often had his title song as the backing theme for the picture and replayed through different musical variations. Arnold doesn’t really do that as well. Every bond film from here on in sees a real drop in song quality. Perhaps this is because they have a trend now for going for popular artists instead of great song writers/singers. The CG heavy titles don’t quite add much appeal either (the next film is also quite CG heavy too). You have to wait until Casino Royale before Arnold comes up with a score that truly takes solid form.
On the plus side, David Arnold, although a bit fond of the techno side of music, manages to provide music that does propel the story forward. It is far from perfect but it worked in his favour that Eric Serra’s Goldeneye score went down very poorly with critics. The music Arnold delivers here was enough to get him in the good graces of the producers and it is a gig he has kept since.
Back on the con list is the fact that Bond takes on a BMW car which isn’t quite what we, er, hoped for. The car doesn’t look very nice – and yet again is set up only to deliver bond a few handy gadgets (thankfully it gets to go out in a dive of glory in a car park chase – although we think the idea of the remote control car might be a bit much. What next! Invisible cars! Oops!).
In fact that whole car park sequence is one of the current modern Bond films that shows that going too silly in the action will only date your film – no matter how futuristic you are trying to be.
Michelle Yeoh put in a convincing bit of arse-kickery as the leading bond girl: Not the sexiest we have seen, but she manages to hold her own with a couple of scenes that let her show off her athletic abilities. Again the tone of the actual main fight she is involved in is a little bit too light on its feet.
Teri Hatcher in a reduced role does what she can as Paris, the villain’s wife and former lover of Bond. Sadly she isn’t given enough time for us to mourn her when she is taken out after her betrayal. We only get to see the aftermath of her death, and the poor way in which it is treated by the afore-mentioned assassin. At least Brosnan keeps a bit of thought for both her and what he is doing as the scene comes about.
The action scenes range from fairly well set up (the Bike/Helicopter chase) to comical (the afore-mentioned car park chase), to pointless (the pre-credits aerial battle sequence). The final action sequence pays homage to the likes of The Spy Who Loved Me on board a floating vessel which gives the bad guy a sort of evil base where his at sea business is conducted.
You begin to realise that if Goldeneye was Brosnan’s nod to Connery, this is surely his nod to Moore. Everything is so much lighter and on a much bigger scale than ever before. It even has a sinking ship where a whole crew perish at the beginning much like in For Your Eyes Only.”
The biggest loss here is the use of media and having the villain, Elliot Carver be so OTT. The media is a strong theme to have, and hasn’t featured much in previous Bond films, but it seems almost squandered. But then it would be tough to have this type of a villain and not have the film date very quickly with the advancing technology and online news we provide now as opposed to what is presented in this film.
Ultimately it ends up a weaker effort than Brosnan started out with. There are weak characters around him and when your villain is this poor; their henchmen are two dimensional; the ladies not quite all that worth getting excited about; and even the comic relief annoying you – sadly you are onto a real dog. And this dog has many fleas.