Tomorrow Never Dies

on December 19, 1997 by Wade Major
   It's a good thing the James Bond films switch lead actors so often or else it would be very difficult to tell the movies apart. With "Tomorrow Never Dies," the second installment in the Pierce Brosnan era, the series continues its return to the style and flair of its earliest forbears, albeit with notably less pizzazz than "GoldenEye." The real downside of returning to roots as old and established as those of the Bond series, of course, is that after a while, one potato looks pretty much like all the others.
   Essentially another standard-issue Bond with an updated, communication age plot, "Tomorrow Never Dies" centers on the efforts of yet another maniacal madman hell-bent on world domination. Like assorted previous Bond villains, most notably "Moonraker's" Drax, Jonathan Pryce's Elliot Carver is a madman of the wealthy industrialist variety, a Rupert Murdoch-like newspaper and satellite maven who fancies "making" the news rather than simply reporting it.
   What really miffs Carver, though, is China's refusal to grant him satellite rights, leaving a messy, gaping hole in his plan for a global satellite web.
   Naturally, Carver's solution is to engineer a nuclear war, and subsequent peace, between China and England, after which his hand-picked puppet regime in China will finally grant him the rights he desires.
   Die-hard Bond fans likely won't be disappointed by this outing, which possesses all the requisite elements they've come to know and love: inventive chase scenes in exotic, globe-trotting locales; lethal beauties; invincible henchmen; nifty gadgets; high-tech automobiles; and the obligatory pyrotechnic finale in the madman's secret lair, complete with a nuclear missile countdown.
   What is disappointing about "Tomorrow Never Dies" is the degree to which director Roger Spottiswoode and screenwriter Bruce Feirstein fail to make even the vaguest attempt at transcending the formula, much less make adequate use of their two very capable female "leads." As Carver's wife, Teri Hatcher is scarcely in the film a half hour, while Hong Kong action superstar Michelle Yeoh, as a Chinese agent, isn't allowed to really come alive until the film's latter hour. And even then, her considerable action skills are squandered by poorly staged and clumsily shot fight sequences that pale next to even average Hong Kong action fare.
   That said, Yeoh remains about the most refreshing element in the film, not unlike Honor Blackman's similarly balancing presence in "Goldfinger."
   Sheryl Crow's title track is appropriately Bond-like, although k.d. lang's end title song would have been the better choice. Starring Pierce Brosnan, Jonathan Pryce, Michelle Yeoh, Teri Hatcher and Judi Dench. Directed by Roger Spottiswoode. Written by Bruce Feirstein. Produced by Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. A UA release. Action/Adventure. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action violence, sexuality and innuendo. Running time: 119 min
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