Published Nov 28, 2012With the wide critical and commercial success of GoldenEye looming, the pressure was on for a widely marketable, yet high quality, follow-up, leading to a lot of disputes and hiccups during the creative process. Scripts were thrown out, revised and shared amidst an ever-expanding roster of screenwriters and producers, leaving director Roger Spottiswoode with an incomplete story and vision when going into production on Tomorrow Never Dies; a title that was incidentally an accidental misread, when the original title, Tomorrow Never Lies, was smudged in a fax.
Despite this, a very modernist plot emerged, with Bond investigating Media Baron, Elliot Carver's (Jonathan Pryce), plans to start a war between China and the UK—over broadcast rights disputes—using a GPS encoder acquired by American techno-terrorist, Henry Gupta (Ricky Jay). As is the standard for the Bond franchise, every mission has double-motivations, or compounding events, which is where Chinese spy Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh) steps in, collaborating with Bond to find a missing missile, taken from a sunken frigate in the South China Sea.
Though the initially titillating material—war stemming from digital media and control over world broadcasting and viewership—is eschewed for more of a standard Bond narrative, complete with visceral motorcycle chase and a murdered Bond girl ally (Teri Hatcher), it still played more plausibly than the majority of Bond outings. But regardless of modernity and practical logic, this eighteenth installment of the 007 legacy played out as fairly routine and safe, which makes sense considering the amount of input and revision put into the material.
Within this serviceable and formulaic material were a handful of impressively stylized action sequences and the inclusion of Michelle Yeoh as a far more independent and grounded, ass kicking, Bond girl, which showed some progress in technology and gender presentation. Of course, with The World is not Enough, the nineteenth Bond film, any progress in the representation of women was thrown out the window in favour of a half-naked Denise Richards trotting around pretending to be a nuclear physicist.
Tomorrow Never Dies screens at the TIFF Bell Lightbox as part of the Shaken, Not Stirred: Bond on Film retrospective at 9:15pm on Thursday, November 29th. (MGM)