One of the great joys of doing a giant rewatch of all the various James Bond films is seeing how your thoughts and feelings on movies change over time. In particular: the joy of seeing movies you never cared much for shoot up your lists and become some of the most enjoyable for you upon a new watch.
Tomorrow Never Dies is one of the Bond films that has most benefited from this run through the Bond titles. Previously one of my least favorite films in the series and one I would often point to as an example of a fine but bland film, I came out of the most recent viewing excited and eager to watch it again.
Tomorrow Never Dies continues on from the tone and substance of Goldeneye and gives us a Bond movie more serious and focused on delivering a more introspective James Bond. The biggest example of this comes in the form of Bond’s relationship and history with Paris Carver.
While I understand some people’s objections to how little we get of Bond and Paris together, for me it works and has remained one of the movie’s strongest points. I think Pierce Brosnan and Teri Hatcher play off each other well and each gives this wounded vulnerability to their moments together that I have always found interesting to watch. Pierce plays the romantic and emotional side of Bond better than anyone else and he gives all of these moments such heart and warmth.
While this romantic connection idea is probably played to better effect in the next movie, what we get of James’ and Paris’ doomed relationship is good stuff that nicely echoes Bond and Tracy’s own tragic past.
Pierce in particular is just fantastic in this movie giving such a great performance that pops on-screen and he is joined in this capacity by the equally great Michelle Yeoh as Wai Lin who bursts from the screen and has such an engaging presence. It is no wonder that there were rumors and reports that MGM looked at possibly doing a Wai Lin standalone film because she is such a joy.
In a lot of ways they have Wai Lin play up the more silly, almost Moore-esque moments of Bond, like her walking down the side of a building, which frees up Brosnan to not need to go as camp or goofy in his role.
The two’s chemistry is great and while I think this is probably a relationship I liked more as a flirty, teasing back and forth than as them actually ending up together at the end, I understand how Bond movies in the 90’s worked.
One thing that hasn’t changed much in my thoughts on Tomorrow Never Dies comes in the form of the film’s rather forgettable villains. Indeed after a good run of baddies the past few films this is probably the first stumble we have. Elliot Carver, Stamper, and Gupta would all fit in nicely with the Roger Moore era Bond villains. Stamper simply being the newest model of the big, bad, blonde euro baddie trope. He’s a bad guy because he’s big and looks bad, but beyond that there isn’t much personality to him. Gupta is a complete waste of a character and an odd usage of Ricky Jay. He’s sort of just tasked with being there and carrying a small red box around and that is largely the sum of his parts.
Elliot Carver meanwhile is a barely hidden Rupert Murdoch stand-in who has just never worked for me. I’m not sure if it is in Jonathan Pryce’s performance, the writing, or both but he is just such a one note and forgettable baddie. He’s not bad, but particularly in the mix of the Brosnan era larger than life and memorable villains, I think he sort of fades into the background a bit more.
And fading into the background is actually a good way to describe the unfortunate legacy of Tomorrow Never Dies. It has always felt in so many ways like the forgotten step-child of the Pierce Brosnan era of the Bond series. It doesn’t have the love and aura around it of Goldeneye, and it doesn’t have the critical disdain and highly divisive fan reaction to it of The World is Not Enough or Die Another Day; two films that each did bold new things for the series that, while mixed, generated a lot of feelings.
Tomorrow Never Dies isn’t a bold or revolutionary Bond film. It’s a more subtle and slowly progressive Bond film. Everything James Bond has done before can be seen here. Instead of trying to be groundbreaking or historic, Tomorrow seeks to do all the various pieces of a Bond film template at their best, and it gets pretty close at times. Certainly action scenes in a Bond film have rarely ever been as excellent, bombastic, or skilled as here.
Ultimately that is the legacy of Tomorrow Never Dies: a joyous, fun, action-filled Bond flick that, while not charting new ground, delivers everything we have come to expect from a Bond adventure in a stylized and glossy package. It is not Bond at its best, but it is unquestionably right at the front of the next best tier.
Yet again we have another iconic and great pre-titles sequence and in this particular case for reasons both objective and also nostalgic, this is one of the ones most burned into my mind. A great Pierce Brosnan introduction as Bond and a fun, fast, quick, and stylish opening into the movie. I’d say the movie peaks early but there are so many fun moments in Tomorrow.
The remote control car chase inside the parking garage is great and shoutout to Pierce who is just laughing his head off having a blast. Michele Yeoh wiping the floor with a bunch of goons at her safehouse is a standout and super fun scene that shows just how equipped and talented she is.
M giving Bond the mission in a speeding car through London is a fun twist on the usual mission briefing scene and lastly the entire action packed finale to the film is a glorious 90’s action movie at its best. Lots of good here.
Yeah, as I mentioned in the main review above this is one of the weakest parts for me. Carver, Stamper, and Gupta are just such a forgettable and rather bland mix of villains. Stamper is just another big bad euro baddie. Neither the best nor the worst of that group. Gupta is such a random character to even include there to do nothing for the whole movie and while the initial idea of Carver and Bond having this personal connection through Paris is intriguing, that is pushed aside by the end of the first act and Carver as a Murdoch stand-in does just very little for me.
It’s not the worst batch of villains but particularly coming off the great back-to-back of Licence to Kill and Goldeneye which featured some of the best main villain and sidekicks of the series Tomorrow Never Dies is just a marked step back. These are mostly forgettable Moore type villains. 6/10
Shoutout to Dr. Kaufman tho, dudes rad as hell. Coulda had ten more minutes with him.
I mean come on, that car is a ton of fun. The whole sequence between Bond and Q is great and it’s a joy to get to see Desmond Llewyln and Brosnan who just so clearly have great chemistry together on screen. Not the most gadget heavy movie but a fun Q scene and a great car packed with maybe the most gadgets of any we have seen so far. 8/10
Tomorrow Never Dies is really fun. I totally admit being wrong on this for twenty plus years but yeah I had a really enjoyable time. It’s held back somewhat by its rather bland villains and it isn’t the most groundbreaking Bond film, which keeps it from reaching the very highest heights of films like Goldfinger, Goldeneye, or more than a few from the Craig era. But what it does, it does very well. A fun, engaging, thoroughly action-filled ride with great performances by Pierce Brosnan and Michelle Yeoh anchoring the movie. Great stuff. 8/10