Breaking news: James Bond must stop evil media baron Elliot Carver from a starting war between Britain and China. But will Mel enjoy Pierce Brosnan’s sophomore 007 adventure any more than GoldenEye?
1997: A time of happier UK-Russian relations than we are currently experiencing (Chinese planes are buzzing the British at sea, rather than the Russians), and a joint operation between the two countries is taking place. An unseen agent, codename White Knight, has infiltrated a terrorist arms bazaar. Watching the live footage are M, her Chief of Staff Robinson, Admiral Roebuck from the Royal Navy and the Russian General Bukharin.
Despite M’s protestations that ‘White Knight’ hasn’t finished his investigations, Roebuck and Bukharin press ahead with launching a missile at the arms bazaar.
Mel is not impressed with the admiral. “He’s a pig isn’t he? Why doesn’t anyone listen to M?”
The bad news is that there is a plane loaded with Soviet nuclear torpedoes in the target area, and the incoming missile will “make Chernobyl look like picnic.”
On the ground a man is offered a lighter, then knocked out with a single punch… it turns out White Knight is James Bond 007!
“I thought that was James Bond at first, and he’d actually bothered to go in disguise,” says Mel of the villainous smoker.
Bond battles his way through all the terrorists, and heads for the plane bearing the missiles. Rendering the co-pilot unconscious, he takes to the cockpit and flies the plane off the runway, barely escaping the explosion that engulfs the scene.
“What’s happening?” asks Mel.
I recount the exciting events that have just unfolded on the screen in front of us.
“I zoned out,” she explains.
I take it back to the start.
Bond takes off in the fighter plane again. Mel says, “I zoned out again. Sorry. You’re going to have to go back. I just shut down during action scenes. I prefer human interactions.”
I do my generic Roger Moore impressions and suggestively say, “I prefer human interactions too, darling.”
We get back to the point where Bond’s co-pilot has come round, and is trying to strangle the spy while another plane tries to shoot him down. Bond is so awesome he’s a better pilot than his opponent even when he’s just steering using his knees.
“That looks like his orgasm-face,” says Mel.
Bond cleverly deploys the rear ejector seat so that his assailant is fired into the terrorist’s plane above him. “Backseat driver,” quips Bond.
“Oh, God. No.”
Cheryl Crow strikes up with the Tomorrow Never Dies theme song. I ask Mel if she likes this one.
“No, it’s shit.”
Media mogul Elliot Carver is getting a report from his henchman, Stamper. Their plan is to try and create a Sino-British conflict by luring the HMS Devonshire into Chinese waters and then framing Chinese for sinking her.
“He is so egotistical that he’s got huge pictures of himself on the walls.”
Meanwhile, James Bond is at Oxford University learning Danish from a Professor while they are in bed together.
“Practice make perfect,” says Bond.
“He’s certainly had plenty of that,” says Mel.
Mel thinks Bond’s kissing is a bit rough.
“He’s biting her! Actually biting her.”
M is having another disagreement with Admiral Roebuck, who says, “With all due respect, M, sometimes I don’t think you have got the balls for this job.”
“Perhaps. The advantage is I don’t have to think with them all the time,” M retorts.
“Good girl! —-ing stick it to him, M!” says Mel.
M is dubious of Roebuck’s plan to send the British fleet to the South China Sea.
Mel says, “We need more women in power instead of men taking us to war all the time.”
Margaret Thatcher took us to war with Argentina, I remind her.
“You can’t let one bad apple put you off.”
The Minister gives M forty-eight hours to investigate, and sends the fleet anyway.
“They’re just playing right into his hands! Why don’t men listen?”
M wants Bond to investigate Elliot Carver. “The PM would have my head if he knew we were investigating him,” she says.
Carver seems like a character based on global media mogul Rupert Murdoch (although the cover story MI6 concocts for his death seems like a reference to Robert Maxwell). At the time of Tomorrow Never Dies’ release the Prime Minister who M is worried about is Tony Blair, who did have a close relationship with Murdoch (Blair is godfather to Murdoch’s daughter). But, funnily enough, just as Elliot Carver’s wife is tempted by Bond, Murdoch divorced his wife after an alleged dalliance with Tony Blair.
Moneypenny has told M that Bond used to have a relationship with Carver’s wife, Paris.
“That was a long time ago, M,” Bond clarifies. “Before she was married.”
“Like that would stop him!” Retorts Mel.
Bond is looking reproachfully at Moneypenny, “I didn’t realise it was public knowledge.”
“It’s a bit late to get sniffy about knowing who you’ve slept with!” Mel says. “You are a dogger.”
Bond jets off to Hamburg and is greeted at the airport by his Avis representative, who turns out to be Q.
‘He looks like a Red Coat from Butlins!” Mel says.
Q shows Bond his new car, which can be controlled by the touchpad on his phone.
Mel is unusually impressed. “Sweet!” she says.
Despite designing the gadget, Q isn’t great at controlling the car. Bond takes the phone from his colleague and expertly steers the speeding BMW around the hangar.
“He’s just showing off.”
Q agrees, “Grow up, 007.”
“Exactly! You tell him. You can make this stuff. He just wrecks it.”
According to The Making of Tomorrow Never Dies by Garth Pearce (Boxtree, 1997), there was originally a longer version of this movie’s Q scene:
“Two large packing cases stand in a hangar at Stansted Airport, Essex, with Q about to show Bond his new car. He clips a latch and the crate falls open, revealing an angry-looking jaguar in a cage, snarling.
‘Jaguar?’ asks Bond. ‘Wrong assignment,’ says Q. He then flips another latch and the new car awaits.”
Bond goes undercover at the launch of Elliot Carver’s new network as a banker called James Bond. He spots his ex, Paris Carver (played by Teri Hatcher), and goes over to say hello. Mel used to enjoy watching Desperate Housewives, which also starred Hatcher. I was hoping that this, and the fact that Bond and Paris shared a romantic past, would make her like this film. Paris wins Mel over immediately by greeting Bond with a slap to the face.
We learn that Bond and Paris’ relationship ended when he just left one day saying, “I’ll be right back.”
“Her husband on Desperate Housewives just up and left too,” Mel muses.
Mr Carver gets some goons to beat Bond up, but he soon gets the better of them. 007 shuts down the broadcast, then goes back to his hotel room. He gets his gun ready and drinks vodka in a scene reminiscent of him waiting for Dent in Dr. No.
“He doesn’t half like to drink doesn’t he?” asks Mel. “And you never see him eat. I think he’s an alco-rexic.”
Paris turns up, and she asks Bond if he left her because she got too close.
I ask Mel the question I often ponder when I watch this scene: Which Bond do you think he was when he went out with Paris?
“I don’t know what you mean.”
Do you think he was Roger Moore or Timothy Dalton when they were together? I put on my Roger Moore impression again and say, “Sorry, darling, you just got too close.”
Mel does her Roger impression and says, “Did I leave you in a wardrobe for too long?”
Although Mel can recall annoying things I’ve done from years ago, she very often struggles to recall the many awesome things we have witnessed together watching the Bond movies. Bond hiding Miss Goodnight in a wardrobe while he slept with Miss Anders in The Man with the Golden Gun, however, is definitely something which has stayed with her.
Bond and Paris are in a passionate clinch.
“Why is he into this biting-kiss thing? —-ing weirdo.”
I ask if Mel thinks he got it from Xenia Onatopp in the last film.
“It’s because he’s had nothing to eat!”
“Look, he’s doing it again! He’s trying to eat her. And there’s not much meat on those bones.”
There are rumours that Brosnan and Hatcher didn’t get on during filming. In a slightly passive-aggressive quote from The Making of Tomorrow Never Dies, the Bond actor says:
“There was a beautiful woman up for the part of Paris, a really lovely movie star who I spoke out loud and hard for. But it was not meant to be. Then Teri came on board, of whom I knew nothing. She has acquitted herself grandly in many ways.”
After spending a night in Paris, Bond learns that her husband has a secret lab. Bond goes off to investigate. We see one of Carver’s security guards enjoying a cigarette.
“You can’t smoke in the workplace now can you? He’s in a lab as well!”
“I love how the gadgets Q has just given him always fit the perfectly for the situation he finds himself in. None of them are ever redundant.”
Bond gets into the safe and recovers the American encoder. There are some adult publications locked safely away in the same safe.
“Come on, James, you know you want to take one of those dirty magazines. You’re not telling me he didn’t have a look through those.”
Carver phones Bond, who tells him that he knows Paris is in his room. Bond speeds back to the hotel and finds her dead. She has been killed by Doctor Kaufman.
“He’s very hammy.”
“This is hilarious. It’s like a parody.”
Bond kills Kaufman and then has to use car’s remote control on his phone to escape Stamper’s men. He drives around a multi-storey gleefully blowing shit up from the backseat.
“I am actually enjoying this one a lot more.”
Bond meets Wai-Lin again when they are diving off the coast of Vietnam. They find wreck of the Devonshire, which Carver brought off course and into Chinese territorial waters. When they re-surface 007 and Wai-Lin are captured by Stamper and his men and taken to Carver’s Vietnamese office.
Elliot Carver is typing away furiously on a keyboard.
Mel says, “If he’s really typing there, then he can be my secretary.”
Bond and Wai-Lin are captured, but escape from the roof of Carver’s headquarters by sliding down another huge Elliot Carver portrait.
Bond quips, “Next time I’ll take the elevator.”
“He’s gone back to the Roger Moore lines,” says Mel.
I don’t like that he says elevator instead of lift.
Bond and Wai-Lin, handcuffed together, take a motorbike and ride around trying to escape Carver’s henchmen.
Mel finds the scene familiar. “This is where Kanye and Kim got the idea for their music video from,” she says.
“All right, keep your shirt on,” Bond tells Wai-Lin.
“… for now,” Mel finishes for him.
After defeating their assailants, and still handcuffed together, the two agents have a shower in the street. Lin picks the lock on hers, then cuffs Bond to a pipe and takes off. Bond breaks the pipe to escape and follows her.
“He just broke someone’s pipe! I think he should fix it. Not everything is designed by Q for him just to break.”
Bond helps take out some Chinese soldiers sent after Wai-Lin, and she then reveals a sophisticated secret spy headquarters. Bond volunteers to send a message on her communications array, then looks baffled at the Chinese characters on the keyboard.
I ask Mel if she can spot the mistake.
“I didn’t see. Go back.”
I rewind the DVD and watch as Mel studies the screen. Her lovely face is a mask of concentration as the keen analytical brain that makes her one of the finest legal minds of her generation scans the screen.
“I can’t see anything. Is there an English letter on the keyboard or something?”
No, I tell her. In You Only Twice Bond tells Moneypenny that he has a first in Oriental Languages from Cambridge.
“What?! As if I would remember that!”
Bond and Wai-Lin go on a mission to blow up Carver’s stealth boat, but they are spotted and Bond is captured.
“Bring the girl to me,” demands Elliot.
Mel says, “She’s not a girl, she’s a woman. He wouldn’t say, ‘bring the boy’ about James Bond.”
Elliot performs his little mock martial arts display at Wai-Lin.
M and Admiral Roebuck are sniping at each.
“He really hates her doesn’t he? The way he looks at her.”
I tell Mel that at this time Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer also used to play a married couple in a sitcom, As Time Goes By.
After a battle through the stealth boat, Wai Lin is tied up, underwater. After dispatching Stamper Bond dives down and gives Wai Lin some air.
“I don’t mind him smooching her there. To save her life.”
The day is won and the film sadly has to end. To my surprise Mel says she has enjoyed this one, ranking it just below Timothy Dalton’s two movies.
Mel will return… watching The World is not Enough.
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