Saturday, December 13, 2014

The World is Not Enough

  After the trendy Tomorrow Never Dies, I think there was a serious push to add more classic Bond elements back into Bond. The plot was more complex, the movie focused more on Bond's character, and there were strong themes of revenge and betrayal. On that note, it was turning out to be a significantly more mature movie than it's mindlessly slam-bang predecessor. Not that I didn't enjoy Tomorrow Never Dies, it was exciting... but unfortunately it was also very simple in almost every way. The World is not Enough is not that simple, in any regard. It induces quite a fit of head-scratching when you wonder why they undercut their own seriousness with silly antics and antiquated innuendo. Although I'm beginning to think I'm one of the only Bond fans who isn't keen on the excessive innuendo. Alas...

  This movie has the 'spy thriller' feel back in place. Even though it's still a big action adventure, it doesn't quite feel like a Mission: Impossible sequel any longer. It feels like a 90's From Russia With Love, with a large contribution from On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Granted, it's nowhere near as good or classic as those two, but it seems to take a page from the book that made those so successful. The World is Not Enough feels personal. From the get go both Bond and M are having to confront death and failures that are very close to them. It's a much more intricate and emotional take on a character who's been nothing but an action figure for a while now. Even though the movie departs from that feeling when it suits itself, the overarching themes hold steadfast.

  The action scenes serve the movie this time, not the other way around. They fold into the ongoing story and serve a purpose. Which is good for a movie that's taken the time to be so thoughtful. The action scenes are more like action sequences in this one. Much like the motorcycle/helicopter chase from the previous movie, the action sequences are creative and don't always involve fifty machine guns and dozens of expendable baddies. Most of the time Bond is trying to escape from some insane situation, pulling if off in the craziest way imaginable. From a high speed fiasco inside an oil pipeline with a nuclear bomb, to a skiing chase involving parahawks and a boat chase through London. The movie is exciting and engaging. More so than it's predecessor, but not entirely.

  The sad fact of the matter is that despite it's complexities and nuances, it's just not that interesting. Nothing really grabbed me about The World is Not Enough. It had good characters, good villains and a devious plot, but it had a completely vapid Bond girl following him around and being rather annoying. With acting so stiff, you'd be forgiven for mistaking her for a special effect. I'm thankful her screentime is limited, but the movie pretends like her and Bond have chemistry, but Bond would have the same chemistry with a plank of wood. It's sad too because I like Denise Richards... but she only really works when everyone is delivering their dialog in the same stilted, artificial way. (i.e. Starship Troopers) Hey, she's easy on the eyes though. She's easily one of the worst Bond girls in the franchise. The poster girl for everything that's wrong with the worst of the Bond girls. She may be a nuclear physicist but she feels so incredibly useless.

  She only seems to be around to wear short skirts and to spout  smart sounding stuff when necessary. Because of all that, it's so hard to believe that she's a nuclear physicist. Which just makes it worse. Having said that, I largely prefer her character, Christmas Jones, to Halle Berry's character in the next movie. I dislike Berry on principle. She doesn't have the look or feel of a proper Bond girl. However, I'll reserve my criticisms of her for the next review. In this movie however, a poignant farewell to Desmond Llewelyn as Q is one of the emotional highlights of the movie, undercut peripherally by his replacement's antics. John Cleese seemed like an ideal person to take over in Desmond's absense as the new Quartermaster, but his entire role here is wasted on the most inane comedy. It's so silly, and if the franchise hasn't learned by now, silly is not good. Thankfully Desmond's own irritable brand of humor outshines Cleese and saves the scene. Q is and always was a joy to watch.

  For all the emotions the movie generates, it ends in typical fashion with Bond getting laid with the Bond girl. It's so inert and hollow, it feels like a throwback to the Roger Moore era. Which... is not good. Having said all that, what The World is Not Enough does right, it does exceptionally right. Among which is the spectacular climax, involving a nuclear submarine sinking with Renard aboard it, ready to blow it up. Bond has to get inside the sinking sub and stop Renard from turning into a gigantic nuclear bomb. It's a great sequence that reminds us that a proper climax doesn't need a huge shootout. It relies more on spectacle and raw thrills instead. What the movie also does right is the other Bond girl, one Elektra King (Sophie Marceau). She plays her role with gusto. A role I don't want to give too much away about, but she's the core of the movie. Her and the villain, Renard (Robert Carlyle) are the two biggest highlights of the movie. You think the movie is primed to follow standard Bond formula, but the story between Renard and Elektra is unique and original. Refreshing enough to outshine the basic plot around them and give the viewer something complex and emotional to chew into.

  Elektra's dynamic with Bond is also quite unique. She ends up being quite the femme fatale, and one who's overly convinced of her charm. Bond responds, showing his cold detachment when it really counts. It ends up being one of the best scenes of the movie. Of which there are many. The World is Not Enough is full to the brim of exciting moments. If it wasn't for the pitfalls this movie gets trapped in, it could have maybe rivaled GoldenEye. It's a strong second regardless, infusing come essential Bond elements back into the franchise and into the character. As a result, Brosnan's Bond feels more complete in this movie than he has in either of the previous two. This is the Bond the 90's needed to make him last into the 2000's. He feels like a fully rounded person, complete with flaws and strengths, and everything needed to make a compelling character. If only the movie itself was as wholly compelling as he was, it would be one of the best.

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