Posted by: dougery | November 8, 2011

Better Late Than Never: The World is Not Enough (1999)

Picture yourself as a 13 year-old boy. It is Halloween and you have just gotten back from an extensive trick-or-treating excursion dressed as Lion-o from The Thundercats. But not one of those crappy store bought costumes with the thin plastic shell masks that cause your breath to condense all along the inside where the ensuing chemical reaction makes the stuffy air hugging your face smell like cheese. No, this get-up is all homemade, you have a bright red wig, white face-paint for the ‘feline’ 5 o’clock shadow, blue wife-beater and boots and even the short shorts and a jury-rigged WWF wrestling belt. Your sword is light and made of cardboard but shines from the heavy application of glitter and highlighter. In your other hand is a pillowcase stuffed with bite sized pieces of candy, religious literature, a toothbrush (with accompanying micro / travel-sized tube of toothpaste), zip-lock baggies of popcorn, scattered pennies and a thoroughly overwhelmed apple.

You might not know it at first but the Bond film franchise is in that pillowcase.

There are some real finds, a whole snickers bar, kit-kats, milky-ways. These would be your Dr.No, your Goldfinger, your From Russia With Love. You grab at these first and boy do they hit the spot. As the evening wears on you go for the sweetarts, skittles and peanut butter cups but your jittery super-sugar-saturated body is starting to feel kind of sick. Likewise there is some salvageable fun to be had in Live and Let Die, The Man With a Golden Gun and OHMSS. By the time bedtime draws near and you’ve traded your costume for pajamas, have a stomach ache and a ringing in your ears, it’s time for a one more force-fed morsel, the holiday does comes but once a year. You pick something with cocoanut or those horrid tasting mike n’ ikes.

This, dear readers, would be the pillowcase of candy version of The World Is Not Enough.

We’re knee-deep in Brosnan by this point in the series and as shocking as this sounds, he is the better part of this movie. I’ve railed against him in this space already. At the end of this series of reviews I will do a few follow-ups and barring Daniel Craig completely bombing I’m pretty sure Pierce is in a one secret agent horse race for the smuggest and worst Bond of them all. Yet he disappears at various points of this film and when he does the story and acting actually suffer.

Of course it is relatively easy to come off as a talented thespian when acting opposite Denise Richards. When she first shows up about halfway through, or was it 2/3rds? (the pace of this thing has a way of physically destroying the production of its own recollection in the human mind), I laughed aloud. Seriously, Pinewood studios? Seriously, Broccoli people? This was deemed okay by someone? I can’t remember how 1999 properly fits in my pop cultural history book but were Pamela Anderson, Carmen Electra and Jenny McCarthy too busy or something? Because any of those might (might) have been a step up in the caliber of acting, since the inclusion of Richards (as the inclusion of any of the three substitutes I have just listed) had to have been determined by breast size alone.

I don’t want to spend too much time criticizing the obvious but suffice to say Richards took the role because Christmas Jones was written to be smart. Apparently smart to Richards means talking. very. stilted. and. loudly. in . monotone. narration. Everything she says is robotically addressed to the viewers as much as it is 007. There’s a lot of plutonium this and science boondoggle that. And tank-tops and shorts. Also underwater scenes.

Speaking of malfunctioning robots, there is also some odd fixation with vehicles misbehaving throughout the film. Strange Louisiana bayou-esque hovercrafts para-glide down a ski slope where they land and travel, predictably slowly. Why not just have those gliders on snowmobiles? Bond’s ‘Q-boat,’ so named because it was apparently his arms maker’s retirement boat, is roaring along in pursuit of another motorboat when a bridge comes down. Fortunately this Q-boat can instantaneously sink and travel underwater, the only problem being the ‘cabin’ where Bond is sitting is wide open and the pressure of all the water suddenly striking 007 and his chair at 50+ mph should, by all the laws of physics, cause the damn thing topple over itself into a somersault, not to mention concuss and drown Bond. Likewise, helicopters have giant chainsaws and expensive sports cars have surface to air missiles.

The character actors, among them Hagrid from Harry Potter and Begbie from Trainspotting are clearly enjoying themselves and hamming it up. The latter, Robert Carlyle, plays the villain Renard who has a bullet in his head slowly burrowing forward making him over-act and also lose his 5 senses in the most convenient order possible, beginning with touch, making him impervious to pain. His look is perfect, small and kind of Gollum-y, with a balding guy’s closely shaved head and a Thom Yorkeian lazy eye. He does the best with the lines he’s given which are unfortunately some of the most dire. “A man tires of being executed.” “You can’t kill me I’m already dead.” “What’s the point in living if you can’t feel alive?” Groan.

Renard’s partner in genocide and petroleum price finagling is a smoldering Sophie Marceau whose gigantic hair and Elven attire seem a bit odd for an oil heiress / saboteur. I said Carlyle’s quotes were some of the most dire because Marceau has the rest. Otherwise she plays a convincingly cunning and sexy Bond femme fatale. Or again this just might be the effect of existing in the same movie as Nuclear Scientist Denise Richards.

I will sign off here by mentioning that the brightest moment in The World is Not Enough may be it’s opening title / song sequence. It is performed by the horribly named Garbage whose lead singer, Shirley Manson, has the kind of voice that was designed to sing Bond songs. Low, sultry, it is a throwback to some of the better themes of the series.

Bond Grade (Out of 007): 001


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