×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Revisiting 1999’s ‘The World Is Not Enough’

50 Years of James Bond

In so many ways, Pierce Brosnan was born to play James Bond. He brought the poised silhouette, the sophisticated refinement and the good sense to convey both intensity and nonchalance where appropriate. But after the promise of “Tomorrow Never Dies,” things immediately started to go downhill. The series’ next script wasn’t merely bad, it was downright puerile, and the man who could have been the quintessential Bond would ultimately have to look beyond the franchise – with the Graham Greene adaptation “The Tailor of Panama,” for instance – to find a role nuanced enough to properly exploit his talents.

Brosnan’s showy yet hollow third outing, “The World Is Not Enough,” presents a conflicted persona torn between the corny antics of the Roger Moore era and the grim seriousness of where things would eventually go under Daniel Craig’s tenure. It also contains a dose of Timothy Dalton-esque toughness, as when audiences see Bond submitting to a medical examination after injuring his collarbone falling onto the roof of London’s O2 Arena. (And a Sean Connery-like wink, after he seduces the nurse in order to get his clean bill of health.)

But so much of what made Brosnan such a great Bond is thrust into the backseat by lame jokes and a premature attempt to mix up the formula. He’s stuck making sexist puns (to the shapely accountant who asks, “Would you like to check my figures?”: “Oh, I’m sure they’re perfectly rounded.”) and out-of-touch groaners (to a henchman with a gold-plated grill: “I see you put your money where your mouth is.”). The new Q (John Cleese) is similarly introduced as an object of comedy. Even the villain (Robert Carlyle) can’t help dropping pitiful wisecracks (e.g. “Welcome to my nuclear family,” as he dramatically inserts the firing pin into a nuclear device).

Popular on Variety

As for advances to the plot, for the first time, the evil mastermind is a woman (Sophie Marceau), though the change disappointingly yields only one interesting moment, when Bond must decide to shoot his former conquest in cold blood. (“You wouldn’t kill me. You’d miss me,” Elektra taunts, to which Bond, jaw clenched as he pulls the trigger, replies, “I never miss.”) More intriguing: M, who had seldom been seen outside of his/her office over the course of the series, is now thrust directly into the action, when a bombing at the MI6 headquarters leads to the British Intelligence chief being taken hostage.

But the franchise simply doesn’t seem ready for a radical overhaul at this point (the M-related storyline will be put to far better effect in the latest Bond movie, “Skyfall”). Audiences were still getting used to the idea of a Bond with feelings – a notion first suggested upon the murder of wife Tracy Bond at the end of “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” but still incompatible with the outlandish world presented by veteran documentary helmer Michael Apted. Meanwhile, putting M in a prison cell for half the movie adds little, other than making her the first woman Bond has ever rescued whom he didn’t promptly reward himself by ravishing.

For that, there’s Denise Richards as the unfortunately named Christmas Jones, the least plausible nuclear physicist in the history of movies, who makes even the electrochemist Elisabeth Shue played in 1997’s “The Saint” sound like a Nobel laureate. Admittedly easy on the eyes, Richards had steamed up the screen in the deliberately campy “Wild Things” the year prior, becoming fantasy fodder for many an American 13-year-old (and “The World Is Not Enough” is nothing if not a reversion to the franchise’s most adolescent tendencies).

Back in the days of “Dr. No,” the producers would dub over thesps with thick accents or awkward delivery, but here, they seem to believe some combination of Richards’ beauty and Bond’s jokes would distract from the single worst performance in a series that has featured some real doozies. Any gender-equality progress implied by making the villain a woman or involving Dench’s female M in the action is quashed by the way the film treats Jones, driving home its sexism with Bond’s post-coital coup de grace: “I thought Christmas only comes once a year.” Really, 007, is that the best you’ve got?

Revisiting 1999's 'The World Is Not Enough'

More Film

  • Cathy Yan Birds of Prey Director

    'Birds of Prey' Director Cathy Yan Reveals the Crucial Advice Patty Jenkins Gave Her

    Just months after Cathy Yan’s feature directing debut, Shanghai-set ensemble comedy “Dead Pigs,” made a big splash at Sundance in 2018, the Chinese-born filmmaker landed a gig helming a giant studio franchise movie, the DC Comics adaptation “Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn),” starring Margot Robbie. Going straight from indie buzz [...]

  • Gloria Allred

    Gloria Allred Rips Apart Weinstein's Defense Team for 'Putting the Blame on Women'

    Shortly after Harvey Weinstein accuser Miriam Haley took the stand and testified that she was sexually assaulted by the fallen movie mogul over a decade ago, her attorney Gloria Allred ripped apart Weinstein’s defense team, speaking to press outside of the courthouse. During the six-hour testimony, Haley told the jury that Weinstein forcibly performed oral [...]

  • The Man Standing Next

    Korea Box Office: ‘Man Standing Next’ Dominates Holiday Weekend With $25 Million Haul

    Locally-made political drama, “The Man Standing Next” dominated the four-day Lunar New Year holiday weekend box office in South Korea. Opening on Wednesday (Jan. 22), the Showbox release earned $24.5 million from 3.23 million admissions over its opening six days. It accounted for more than 53% of the total holiday weekend box office. Set 40 [...]

  • The Last Thing He Wanted

    'The Last Thing He Wanted': Film Review

    Writer-director Dee Rees’ career continues to be a fascinating journey to follow. From her breakthrough feature debut, the soulful coming-of-age indie “Pariah,” to the Oscar-nominated literary adaptation “Mudbound,” the filmmaker has been confidently expanding her range with every new effort. That gutsy spirit is very much at the center of her latest, “The Last Thing [...]

  • Kobe Bryant Oscar Win Dear Basketball

    Kobe Bryant's Death Cuts Short a Promising Second Act in Entertainment

    In all things, Kobe Bryant was nothing if not exacting. He was driven, demanding and relentless in pursuit of greatness. His tragic death in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26 at the age of 41, an accident that also took his 13-year-old daughter and seven others, means that the entertainment industry will never know what [...]

  • Liselott Forsman

    Nordisk Film & TV Fond CEO Liselott Forsman on 2020, a Record Budget, Growth

    The Nordisk Film & TV Fond is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a new CEO at the helm: Writer, producer and chair of the EBU Fiction Expert Group Liselott Forsman. This week, the executive heads to the Göteborg Film Festival as one of the event’s key figures. There, she will preside the Nordisk Film & [...]

  • 'Surge' Review: Ben Whishaw Wigs Out

    'Surge': Film Review

    There’s mannered, there’s manic, and then there’s the malfunctioning pinball-machine delirium that Ben Whishaw brings to “Surge”: a blinking, buzzing, flashing clatter of hyper-accelerated impulses, chicken-fried synapses and staggered hypnic jerks that never culminate in sleep. You wouldn’t expect stillness from a film called “Surge,” and in that respect only does Whishaw zig where you [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content