Tomorrow Never Dies at 20: Looking back on Pierce Brosnan’s ‘difficult second album’ as Bond 3 years ago

Tomorrow Never Dies at 20: Looking back on Pierce Brosnan’s ‘difficult second album’ as Bond

It's so deadly, my dear...

Ah, 1997.

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A simpler time when a man hailing from Navan was the coolest secret agent the world had ever known.

20 years young this week, Tomorrow Never Dies marked Pierce Brosnan's second turn as James Bond, having debuted to immediate acclaim two years prior in Goldeneye.

It's fair to say that his next bite at the cherry wasn't quite as fruitful.

There's something of the 'difficult second album' about Tomorrow Never Dies, largely thanks to a pretty ridiculous story and a general flat atmosphere courtesy of director Roger Spottiswoode.

Clip via Movieclips Trailer Vault

Tempting as it might be to revise this adventure as Brosnan's most underrated hour in the famous tuxedo, the reality is that Tomorrow Never Dies is a bit of a mixed bag when rewatching 20 years later. So, how does it all break down, then?

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The Good

Brosnan

He's let down by weak material and a shocking amount of terrible puns - more on that later - but he's more than comfortable in shoes that he had waited a long time to fill.

Whether engaging in casual murder, defying death with ease or riding a motorbike one-handed, you will believe that a man born in Drogheda could be the smoothest dude around.

The Song

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A round of applause for Sheryl Crow, please.

'Tomorrow Never Dies' is an absolute belter. Brosnan had it good music-wise during his run as 007, with Tina Turner and Garbage pitching in with excellent efforts - we'll kindly pretend that the Madonna one never happened - but Sheryl Crow's rousing title effort doesn't get enough love.

Clip via fraktunes

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The pop-folk-blues singer may have seemed a left-field choice for taking on a Bond theme, but she brought it and then some, beating out competitive efforts from Pulp, Marc Almond and Saint Etienne.

The Remote Control Car

Admittedly the sequence in which Bond uses his phone to control a car is a bit "We now go live to the product placement garage for set piece #3!" but it's still wildly entertaining vintage Bond antics.

The Bond franchise is notorious for showcasing the latest must-have items, with phones, watches, cars, beer and more usually enjoying questionable pride of place.

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Clip via TimeLordTrekkie96

The above advertisement scene lasts for a little under three minutes. Shameless. Still, the remote control car is a pretty enjoyable addition to Q's gadgets, even if you can spot the stuntman crouching down during the parking lot battle.

The Bad

The Villain

Jonathan Pryce is a terrific actor. His turn as the High Sparrow on Game of Thrones is proof of his ability to find depth and humanity in even the most over the top characters. Elliot Carver… well, not so much.

You can’t blame the guy for hamming it up when tasked with playing a Bond villain, but his not-so-subtle riff on Rupert Murdoch isn’t one for the books.

Clip via MI5MI6GCHQ

Literally breathless from his first appearance, Carver is a wildly drawn cartoon.

Not only that, but he exits the film with the weird distinction of being killed off before his henchman, the decidedly less charismatic Mr Stamper.

As for his random kung fu racism flourish towards Michelle Yeoh at the end? Awkward then, painful now.

The Plot

Absolutely absurd. Yeah, yeah, it's a Bond movie and we're not asking for complex high art here, but c'mon! The media could never facilitate a madman's rise to power, right? Oh.

The idea of a crazed media baron causing high profile murder and mayhem for ratings isn’t terrible, but it feels weirdly small time for Bond to be bothering himself with.

The Sound Effects

One fight sequence in Tomorrow Never Dies may as well have 1960's Batman TV show graphics for company, such are the ludicrous noises that soundtrack the below recording studio scuffle:

Clip via Nick Blundell

Just try suspending your disbelief when the sound department plump for sound effects straight out of an episode of Tom & Jerry.

The Quipping

Bond: [after throwing a henchman into a printing press] "They'll print anything these days."

Bond: "I may have some breaking news for you, Elliot."

Bond: "You forgot the first rule of mass media, Elliot! Give the people what they want!"

Yeesh.

The Weird

Dr. Kaufman

God rest the soul of character actor Vincent Schiavelli.

If we can get all Troy McClure for a moment, you might remember him from such films as One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Batman Returns and, er, Casper Meets Wendy.

A globe-trotting assassin with a penchant for torture - he's also especially good at the celebrity overdose, apparently - Dr. Kaufman is a formidable foe for Bond, and a weirdly laughable one, too.

Clip via MI5MI6GCHQ

Initially presented as a deadly threat, he's quickly reduced to awkward comedy, the effect feeling like he's been parachuted in from a different film altogether.

Still, his presence does gift an all-timer ice-cold Bond moment as Kaufman begs for his life with the tables finally turned:

Kaufman: "Wait! I am just a professional doing a job."

Bond: "Me too."

And that's all she wrote for one of the more memorable one-scene Bond characters.

Bond is basically invincible

Look, there's no point in going all CinemaSins and trying to apply mundane real world logic to a James Bond film so we won't do that, but it needs to be said that Tomorrow Never Dies takes the piss to an extreme degree regarding the health and safety of everyone's favourite sharp-suited killer.

Frankly, Bond shouldn't escape the pre-credits sequence alive. He's in the open, surrounded by heavily-armed terrorists as he sprays a machine gun wildly in all directions. Not a hope, mate.

As for the bit where he and Michelle Yeoh leap out of a skyscraper window and para-sail down a banner of Carver's face... again, not happening, mate.

Bond always survives. We know this. But he's John McClane in Die Hard 4.0 here.

Brosnan's shoulder-biting fetish

None of the other Bonds do it. What's up with that, Pierce?

Random Trivia Corner

A young Gerard Butler has about two lines as 'Leading Seaman' on the doomed HMS Devonshire.

Was there a video game?

Yes!

Was it any good?

No!

Released two years after the film, Tomorrow Never Dies on the Playstation was an ugly and awkward affair.

Clip via John GodGames

Goldeneye 007 is one of those rare perfect moments in gaming history, so you feel for whatever came along next - we’re side-stepping 1998’s James Bond 007 on the Game Boy here - but Black Ops Entertainment’s effort is a mess.

Switching from first to third person was the first obvious mistake, as was leaving out a multiplayer option.

Despite featuring just 10 levels, the game gets old pretty fast as you struggle through broken controls and a camera that hates you in order to power through a slapdash plot.

Seriously, just fire up Goldeneye instead. Maybe the film, too.