As I've blogged before, whenever there's a new Bond film, the older films get re-released on Blu-Ray, and are dirt cheap, so I wind up buying more and more of the classic Bonds. When I snatched up Spectre, I saw all the Bond films in the discount bin and though, "Well...I already have GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies...may as well finish of the Pierce Brosnan run!"
The Brosnan Bonds opened strong with GoldenEye, but never quite lived up to that opening flash. I once read an online criticism saying that Brosnan was a great Bond, just stuck in mediocre Bond movies, and I agree with that...especially after watching The World is Not Enough again.
It's funny...back in the 1990s, I lost many a weekend to James Bond marathons on TBS. And with the Brosnan Bonds in theatres, I'd think, "Wow! These James Bond films are so fresh and modern...they're nothing like the older ones!" I watch them now, and...yeah, they're just like the older ones, and fit in quite nicely with the franchise as a whole. And it's really weird watching them back-to-back with a Daniel Craig Bond. Older Bonds just have a certain...charm that the Craig Bonds are lacking. Which is why I blogged in my Spectre ramble that I think we're ready for a return to the more lighthearted Bond. I wonder if, 20 years from now, we'll look back on the Craig Bonds as being fitting entries in the overall history of Bond.
Although, The World is Not Enough did lay the groundwork for the Craig era, as this the most we've seen of M outside of her office to date, as the ghosts of her past come back to haunt her. With the assassination of British oil tycoon Sir Robert King, Bond is assigned to protect King's daughter Elektra. M suspects that the assassin is the terrorist known as Renard, who once kidnapped Elektra and held her for ransom. M advised the senior King not to pay the ransom, and instead launched a rescue mission. An attempt to take down Renard failed, and now Renard has a bullet lodged in his brain, numbing his senses and making him impervious to pain. It all looks like Renard is out for revenge, but Bond's investigation into Renard's dealings soon leads Bond to discover a shocking relationship.
Yes, in what was considered a revolutionary plot twist at the time for the franchise, Elektra is revealed to be the true Bond villain, and she was in league with Renard to take over her father's oil empire. Elektra wants revenge on M because things would have been so much easier if M stayed out of things and Elektra's father just paid the damn ransom.
For other characters, we have Denise Richards as nuclear physicist Dr. Christmas Jones. She gets dragged into the plot when Elektra and Renard's plot involves nuking a harbour to make Elektra's oil pipelines more profitable. Yeah...Richards is easily one of the worst Bond girls ever. She is the least convincing nuclear physicist ever seen on the big screen. Her acting is incredibly flat, and whenever she has to let fly with the technobable, it sounds like she's reading it phonetically off of cue cards off screen. It's cringe-worthy.
But there are some good characters. Robbie Coltrane returns as Valentin Zukovsky, a former KGB agent who's now a big-time Russian mafioso, and one of Bond's main contacts in the former Soviet Union. Coltrane first played the character in GoldenEye, and it's just such a fun frienemy for Bond that I wish we had him pop up in more films, but sadly, he's killed off in this one.
And of course, it's a sad note for the Bond franchise as this is the final appearance of Desmond Llewelyn as Q, the man who gives Bond his gadgets. Llewelyn had played the role ever since the second Bond film, From Russia With Love, back in 1963. He was killed in a car accident shortly after the film's release. But, as he was 85 when the film was released, the producers had begun planning for his eventual departure from the series. The World is Not Enough introduces British comedy legend John Cleese as Q's successor, leading Bond to joke, "If he comes after [Q], does that make him R?" After R demonstrates the new gadgets, Bond and Q have a brief dialogue that became quite poignant and appropriate after Llewelyn's death.
Bond: You're not really thinking about it, are you? Retirement?
Q: Now, pay attention, 007. There are two things I always tried to teach you. One, never let them see you bleed.
Bond: And the second?
Q: Always have an escape route.
(Q presses a hidden button, and gracefully exits down a hidden elevator.)
Yeah, The World is Not Enough is not the best Bond. But still, there's some fun stuff in there.