×

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).

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?

Popular on Variety

Revisiting 1999's 'The World Is Not Enough'

More Film

  • Josefina-Molina

    Josefina Molina: Still Battling After All These Years

    SAN SEBASTIAN  — She isn’t done yet. The battling character of Josefina Molina, winner of Spain’s 2019 National Cinematography Prize, was glimpsed in her acceptance speech at the San Sebastian Festival on Saturday. She used part to thank those who had given crucial help, such as, among women, editors Nieves Martin (1981’s “Función de Noche,” [...]

  • Suro

    Lastor, ‘The Endless Trench’s’ Irusoin, Malmo Team for Mikel Gurrea’s ‘Suro’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    SAN SEBASTIAN – Barcelona-based Lastor Media and Malmo Pictures have teamed with San Sebastian’s Irusoin to produce “Suro” (The Cork), the feature debut of Mikel Gurrea and a product of San Sebastian’s Ikusmira Berriak program. The film stars Laia Costa, who broke through with Sebastian Schipper’s “Victoria” and also serves as executive producer, and Pol López [...]

  • Ane

    Madrid’s ECAM Incubator Develops Terrorism Drama 'Ane'

    SAN SEBASTIAN — For the second year in a row, the ECAM Madrid Film School has paired a number of up-and-coming filmmakers with various industry veterans for an Incubator program part of the school broader development arm called The Screen. For its initial edition in 2018, this Incubator selected five feature projects, putting the selected [...]

  • Roma Cinematography

    'Mission: Impossible - Fallout' and 'Roma' Win LMGI Awards for Motion Pictures

    Two major 2018 releases – actioner “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” and critics’ darling “Roma” – were honored for film location work by the Location Managers Guild International at a ceremony this evening at the Eli & Edythe Broad Stage in Santa Monica. The 6th Annual LMGI Awards also recognized “Chernobyl” and “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” [...]

  • Soho House

    Soho House Lands In Downtown Los Angeles

    Warner Music, Spotify and Lyft are poised to welcome a new neighbor to downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District with Soho Warehouse, the third California outpost of the Hollywood-loved members-only club — and the largest North American opening to date. Hot on the heels of the Soho House Hong Kong debut earlier this summer, the private [...]

  • Born to Be Live: 'Easy Rider'

    Born to Be Live: 'Easy Rider' Gets a Concert/Screening Premiere at Radio City

    In a year full of major 50th anniversary commemorations — from Woodstock to the moon landing — why not one for “Easy Rider,” Dennis Hopper’s hippie-biker flick that was released on July 14, 1969? That was the idea when a rep for Peter Fonda, who starred in the film as the laid-back Captain America, reached out [...]

  • Costa Gavras

    Costa-Gavras and Cast on Nationality, Identity, and Cinema

    SAN SEBASTIAN  —  Though he’s been based in Paris since 1955 and came up through the French film industry, director Costa-Gavras has never forgotten his roots. “Those who are born Greek,” said the Peloponnese-born filmmaker at a Saturday press conference,  “stay Greek all their lives.” The once-and-always Greek was not just in San Sebastian to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content