Super Serial aims to dissect series of pop art — be it a filmography, discography or run of comics — by looking at its individual components.
Denise Richards is a nuclear physicist. That, in a nutshell, is The World Is Not Enough.
The nineteenth official Bond entry doesn’t bring anything new to the series, except perhaps for being its dullest film. It doesn’t reach the heights of madness shown in Moonraker, but you can at least stay entertained with that film. Unlike the previous film, which cruised by at a svelt 118 minutes, this film feels much longer than its run time — back to the normal 130+. The biggest problem with the film is probably that we hear too much backstory and exposition. Further, many of the things we hear about but don’t see, like the main Bond Girl’s kidnapping and the story of the film’s villain, are more interesting than the things we do see, which weakens the whole effort.
One of this film’s stumbling blocks is that a lot of its plot is hinged upon a major reveal halfway through it. Because of that, I’m going to warn you now about spoilers — if you care to save your virgin knowledge of The World Is Not Enough, go watch it and come back. Really, though, like most of these films, it’s not terribly important.
[Bond, James Bond]
There is an odd plotline running throughout the film between Bond and main Bond Girl Elektra King yet again evoking Bond’s late wife. Near the start of their relationship, when Bond is commissioned to protect her, she asks Bond if he’s ever lost someone he’s loved. Bond evades the question, but you can see the expression on his face, only recognizable to those who’ve followed along during the series. It’s subtle, and probably not ultimately important, but I found it interesting, as Bond begins to act reluctant to getting too close to Elektra. We’ve never seen Bond halt at the chance of sexual exploration before, and there have even been a few times where the relationship turned a bit romantic, but for some reason the film decides to make this an internal struggle for Bond.
The only thing I can think of as any sort of explanation has to do with the turn of Elektra King from love interest to villain (something I will certainly touch on more during the Bond Girls section). Despite his many hook-ups, Bond is never presumed to be the one being dumped or betrayed — we never think of the opposite happening either, but it’s much more realistic to imagine hundreds of scenes left on the cutting room floor with Bond breaking little ladies’ hearts. After their relationship has been terminated, Bond tells Elektra that she “meant nothing,” which is perhaps just a way of protecting himself. There isn’t a lot of indication that Bond wanted anything more with Elektra, but she is distinctive in being maybe the first woman he truly cared about who ripped his heart out.
The World Is Not Enough is not a Bond film that cares much about a precise mission — though it has some parallels to The Man with the Golden Gun and For Your Eyes Only. In the film, after a rather confusing pre-credits scene, Bond brings back some stolen money to MI6 headquarters for Sir Robert King, oil baron and longtime friend of M. The money has been compromised, though, and blows up in King’s face. Bond is then commissioned to protect King’s daughter, Elektra, who was previously kidnapped and escaped from anarchist terrorist Renard.
The most interesting thing about the film’s plot deals with the reveal of Elektra’s evildom. We miss an opportunity by never seeing anything related to her recent kidnapping, only hearing through M’s exposition that she had escaped. We come to find out, though, that it was directly M’s advice not to pay off the ransomers, which is the major reason for Elektra killing her father.
This film is probably the closest in involving M to the plot directly, but I wish she had been more important to the story. Instead, M is captured by the baddies and locked up for most of the movie, with a few semi-comic sequences of her trying to escape. A big advantage the Pierce Brosnan films have had over any others in the series is Judi Dench’s portrayal of the character, so wasting such a nice opportunity was disappointing.
Though not technically the main villain of the film, Renard is who the audience first identifies as the man behind the death of Robert King. The main hook to the character is that he was a former KGB assassin (weren’t they all?) who was shot in the head by Agent 009. The bullet didn’t directly kill him, but it’s still implanted in his brain, cutting off his senses and ability to feel pain. We’re told that Renard will eventually die from the bullet, mostly from the victim himself, who constantly talks about it. I’m no doctor, but I’m willing to go along with this.
Renard could have been one of the more memorable villains in the franchise, but the film never lets him. We’re told during the character’s expository introduction that he is an anarchist — after being shot, he was released by the KGB and now roams the Earth causing mayhem and destruction wherever he goes. Compared to other great film anarchists — especially the greatest of anarchist villains, the Joker — Renard feels very tame. Of course anarchists don’t have to be stark raving mad, but a little bit of that would have benefited the character. In the film, we don’t really see him do anything that would complement that philosophy, and we find out he isn’t much more than a lackey driven by love by the end of the film.
The film also botches his ability to not feel pain — something that is set up fairly well, but completely invisible in the climatic showdown with Bond. It could have been really cool to see Bond throw everything including the kitchen sink at Renard with him slowly deteriorating but continuing to come at him, but Renard is fairly easily beat up and seems to be in quite a lot of pain. Maybe Pierce Brosnan just punches really, really hard.
[The Bond Girls]
Before I get into the atrocity I’ve foreshadowed, I’ll talk about Elektra King, who is much more of a villain than a Bond Girl, but I’ll use some liberty for the sake of categorization. When we meet Elektra, she seems like a fierce businesswoman with a tough exterior — the kind of woman who could escape being kidnapped by an anarchist and also run one of the biggest oil suppliers in the world. When she gets thrown into the action, though, she seems to break down rather easily, and once Bond has saved her life she seems very willing to shack up with him.
Some of it may be sloppy screenwriting, but it can be easily argued that her quick shifts in emotion are only to manipulate Bond into getting too close. Before Bond has figured everything out, he is surprisingly more suspicious than the film has given him reason to be, but I guess that’s why he’s the super spy. At first, he incorrectly accuses her of being a candidate of Stockholm Syndrome, which could have been a more interesting concept or red herring if they chose to do anything more than use it as a buzz word. I am happy that the film allowed her to be more outwardly villainous than that, though, and her motives for killing her father (as I’ve touched on) work much better.
In all, Elektra is much more interesting as a villain than as a Bond Girl. Before her reveal, she seems like just another sweet damsel in distress, another in the line of many girls before her. I don’t think there can be too much read into her actions while she’s playing at being good — I doubt a second viewing of the film will completely unlock her motivations — and she is infinitely more charismatic as a villain.
And then there is Dr. Christmas Jones, infamously played by Denise Richards. Even though it would be very easy to, I don’t want to just destroy Richards’ performance, as I think most of the blame has to go to the screenwriters. The character is in line with some of the worst Bond Girls of the franchise – competent, important professionals who are only really in the film to be played by sexy ladies. Though she is presented as being vital to the film’s plot and action climax, in actuality, her character has no personality and looks like nothing more than an excuse for short shorts and a tight tank top.
Still, though, as my girlfriend said while watching this movie with me: “Someone must have been real drunk during the casting.”
The World Is Not Enough is possibly the least-heavy gadget film of the franchise, reserving the Q scene as a passing of the torch to R, played by John Cleese. This is the last film that Desmond Llewelyn would appear in, and it is a nice tribute for him here. It is really amazing that they were able to let Llewelyn leave on a note like this, with so many other actors in recurring roles just disappearing and being replaced. Llewelyn died only a month after the film’s release.
That aside, there are a few gadgets, including some X-Ray glasses (I’ll give you one guess what those are ultimately used for in the film) and a coat that makes a protective shell over the wearer, conveniently saving Bond during an avalanche.
“The World Is Not Enough” is similar to “Tomorrow Never Dies” in being a more gloomy, serious Bond anthem. But this time, instead of a lively pop singer, they actually had a gloomy, serious rock group play the song, and that is a marked improvement. I don’t know much about Garbage, but Shirley Manson’s voice fits this type of genre. The song also calls back to earlier Bond songs that just feel like they are “Bond songs” — I don’t believe it uses any direct music from the Bond theme or past soundtracks, but it carries the same mood.
“People like us
Know how to survive
There’s no point in living
If you can’t feel the life
We know when to kiss
And we know when to kill
If we can’t have it all
Then nobody will
The world is not enough
But it is such a perfect place to start, my love
And if you’re strong enough
Together we can take the world apart, my love”
Reading the lyrics, it’s more evident that the song is sort of a ballad between Elektra and Renard, which is pretty strange, but cool.
- The opening sequence tries real hard to break the record for banking puns — comes up just short of the pace set by Other People’s Money.
- The Spanish police force may not be the most efficient, but they certainly have the best hats.
- As we finally get one in this film, I realized there aren’t enough dildo jokes in these films.
- I can only expect Bond treats his male doctors in the same way.
- Dr. Molly Warmflash joins the ranks of Pussy Galore and Octopussy as names I think were supposed to be sexy but are actually pretty gross.
- Finally! Bond in Azerbaijan.
- During the opening scene Bond separates his shoulder and is told he can’t go out on another assignment. It seems, though, that his shoulder is only affected whenever someone touches it, conveniently not while he’s skiing, swimming, running or being chased by baddies. I also wonder if this was some sort of attempt at being damaged while fighting a man who can’t feel pain — if so, completely botched.
- Why is Elektra so surprised to find out that her former kidnapper is the man trying to kill her? That should have been a red flag right there that she was up to something.
- Bond is good at his job, yes, but also extremely lucky — I have counted 106 times he should be dead, but for random luck or coincidence. That’s six times per film.
- When we first meet Christmas Jones, she tells Bond that she doesn’t want to hear the jokes about her name. I then spent the entire movie trying to figure out what kind of double-entrendre she could possibly been terrorized by on the playground. Turns out, it has something to do with Christmas ‘coming’ more than once a year. More evidence that 3rd graders are infinitely more cunning than I.
SERIAL, SUPER SERIAL will return in DIE ANOTHER DAY
My Best of 2012 Playlist by Eric Garneau
After being inspired by some friends, for the past few years I’ve been really into documenting my musical exploration with year-end mixes. I realize this is not a particularly novel thing to do, but hey, who has original ideas any more? Anyway, this has gotten even easier to do thanks to new technology like Spotify. read more