Published on October 27th, 2015 | by Brad0
The World is Not Enough: There Will Be Bond
After the commercial and critical success of Goldeneye and Tomorrow Never Dies, there was a generally positive mood heading into James Bond’s 19th adventure, The World is Not Enough. Pierce Brosnan was back for his third outing as the world’s favourite spy, with the legendary Michael Apted stepping into the director’s chair. Though Tomorrow Never Dies was the first one I saw in the cinema, The World is Not Enough is the first one where I really remember the attendant hype machine which is routine for every major Bond film – you may have seen a few adverts in the build-up to Spectre! Could it possibly live up to the hype?
After international freelance terrorist Renard assassinates oil industrialist Sir Robert King right in the middle of MI6 headquarters, James Bond travels to Eastern Europe to protect King’s daughter Elektra, heir to Sir Robert’s empire and a former kidnapping victim of Renard’s. As suspicions rise about whom he can trust, Bond uncovers a plot to use a nuclear bomb to change the face of the international oil trade forever.
Title Sequence & Bond Theme
The first thing to say about the opening sequence is that it’s bloody long. The original opening was just meant to be his escape from the banker’s office in Seville, but given that that ends on such a tepid note (Bond using a curtain to abseil down the side of a building), the decision was taken to move King’s assassination and Bond’s pursuit of the suspected killer in speedboats on the Thames to before the credits. It’s a good decision, as Bond falling from a hot air balloon onto the Millennium Dome is a much more exciting exclamation point to lead into the opening credits with.
That’s just a bloody great song, isn’t it? Garbage are one of my all-time favourite bands, and their The World is Not Enough theme is the first Bond theme I ever bought. The arrangement is fantastic, Shirley Manson’s voice can make anything sound great, and that chorus is just an instant classic. Ultimately, the theme song would prove a lot better than the film, but at the time we were just off to a blistering start.
The Villain and their Plan
This one require a quick SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t seen the film yet, as the villain’s identity is concealed in the early part of the film. It turns out that Renard is the Bane to Elektra King’s Talia al Ghul, and that seemingly innocent Elektra is truly the architect of Bond’s difficulties. When Renard kidnapped her, her father – on the advice of M and MI6 – refused to pay her ransom. She seduced him, and formulated a revenge scheme against her father, against MI6 and against M. After they were dead, she planned to have Renard steal a nuclear weapon to destroy Istanbul and the three Russian oil pipelines running in competition with hers, giving her complete control over the movement of oil from East to West and making her the most powerful woman in the world. It’s actually quite a cool plan.
Sophie Marceau is wonderful as Elektra. She convinces us in the damaged victim of Renard, and when she gets to drop the subterfuge, she’s a delightfully unhinged villain. She’s the most complex female antagonist Bond has faced, and to date the only woman to be the primary villain in a Bond film. Robert Carlyle does solid work as Renard, who’s more of an intimidating physical presence than any kind of megalomaniac. The conceit is that he’s been shot in the head, and the bullet is slowly travelling deeper into his brain, killing off his senses and making him more and more durable until the day he dies. If you have any knowledge of human physiology the pseudo-science they spout off about it is utter bollocks, but it makes for a cool introduction where he’s able to hold scalding-hot rocks without flinching.
The World is Not Enough opens with some of the best use of the Thames you’ll ever see in a film, as Bond and the assassin race down the river and through a few London streets. From there we move to the Caucasus Mountain range, first in a rural village then up in the snow for a by-now-traditional ski chase. A few judiciously placed quarries follow, and a fairly interesting factory seemingly made entirely of wooden jetties, before the Maiden Tower in Istanbul provides a very scenic backdrop to the concluding action scenes.
The main gadget in The World is Not Enough is a jacket which, when a certain tag is pulled, releases an inflatable cocoon which Bond uses to save himself an Elektra from an avalanche. His watch has a grappling piton and rope for aerial escapes, and mercifully the contract with BMW came to an end with the slightly less offensive-looking Z8. None of that is important.
The World is Not Enough marked the final appearance of Desmond Llewellyn as Q. It wasn’t planned as such. His scene does have a tone of finality to it, almost as if Arthur is saying farewell to Merlin, but there was an openness to it, in case the then-85-year-old Llewellyn chose to appear in the next one. Sadly this was never to be – three weeks after the premiere of The World is Not Enough, Desmond Llewellyn was killed in a car crash on the way home from a book signing. He appeared in 17 of the first 19 Bond films, making his debut in From Russia With Love and only missing Live and Let Die along the way. It’s a record that’s unlikely to be broken. The Q-branch scenes were often the highlight of many Bond films, thanks largely to Desmond Llewellyn’s unforgettable work. Hearing about his death was like being told that Santa Claus had died.
Most Inappropriate/Politically Incorrect Moment
Casting Denise Richards’ boobs as a nuclear physicist, probably! To say she’s woefully miscast is somewhat of an understatement. They also brought back the MI6 staff walk in on Bond having sex at the end “joke”, which I thought we’d mercifully seen the back of when Roger Moore retired. Never liked that motif, Q’s excellent “attempting re-entry” joke at the end of Moonraker aside.
John Cleese as Q’s replacement is a bit of an odd one. He’s playing the typical John Cleese buffoon from the 90s, it doesn’t make sense that he’d be being groomed as the new quartermaster for MI6. Beyond that, the amount of basic errors – the most egregious of which features Elektra making a webcam call to M, whilst wearing white, then when it cuts to Elektra closing her laptop, she’s wearing purple.
Denise Richards plays a character called Christmas Jones. She’s called that so that Pierce Brosnan gets to say, after having sex with her, “I thought Christmas only comes once a year.” That’s the level we’re operating on here. Sadly, that is the best one-liner in the film.
How Good is it Really?
Though it has a great villain and a really strong opening action scene, The World is Not Enough is the beginning of the end for Pierce Brosnan as 007. Though worse was undoubtedly yet to come, there are a lot of warning signs. It’s a fundamentally lacklustre film, with all of its best scenes in the opening half an hour before a 90-minute slog to the finish line. It’s a shame, as there was a lot of potential here, but ultimately it all falls very flat.