Worth A Look: 24.64%
Pretty Bad: 21.26%
Total Crap: 12.56%
14 reviews, 123 user ratings
|World is Not Enough, The
by Andrew Howe
About a week ago I was having a conversation with a female acquaintance, and the topic at hand was the James Bond phenomenon. The exchange went something like this:Me [with studied air of righteous indignation] - "I've never understood why Bond films are so popular. It seems to me that most people flock to the cinemas out of pure instinct - they notice the ad in the paper and say 'Oh, a new Bond film. Guess we'd better go and see it this weekend.'"
"Mind-numbing, formulaic twaddle"
MD - "I go and see them because I want to see them."
Me - "But you've always seemed like a reasonably intelligent person - what could possibly entice you to subject yourself to two hours of that trash?"
MD [taking a book of Jung down from the shelf] - "Well, it's the classical "man of mystery" archetype, isn't it? Bond is every woman's fantasy - the suave, good-looking hero who exudes an air of danger and mystery. Oh, and Pierce Brosnan's really cute."
Me - "You are a sad and twisted individual. I'm going to take a little survey and prove you wrong."
So I took my little survey, and lo and behold, nine out of ten women proved me wrong. The corollary, of course, is that men watch Bond films so they can indulge their fantasies of being the ultimate chick magnet, bedding nubile young things left, right and centre while still finding time to knock back a few martinis and, as an afterthought, save the world into the bargain. Nice work if you can get it.
However, I would contend that once you strip away the opportunities for misty-eyed wish-fulfilment afforded by your average Bond flick, what you are left with is a soulless vehicle which fails on virtually every level you care to name. But don't just take my word for it - consider the following crimes committed by the latest formulaic spyfest to shamble out of the Broccoli stable:
- a succession of schoolboy-level double entendres which had me wondering if I'd stumbled into a Carry On revival by mistake;
- a succession of one-liners which make your average Schwarzenegger script sound like Shakespeare;
- a major supporting role for Denise Richards, who would be the next big thing if I used sexual charisma instead of acting ability as my yardstick;
- a boat chase and a ski/snowmobile runaround which fail to arouse even a moderate level of excitement (see Bond drive his boat through a restaurant! Thrill to Bond skiing off the edge of a cliff! See me go in search of a John Woo film before I fall asleep …), and which also mimic similar scenes not just from other action films, but from other Bond films; and
- an almost-criminal waste of the talented Robert Carlyle, appearing in a role which apparently called for a total absence of emotion, motivation and characterisation.
Let us now take a moment to consider the elements which conspire to lift an action film above the everyday (keep Aliens, Die Hard and The Killer in mind as you read this). The witches brew in question will require several of the following ingredients:
(a) well-drawn characters in whom you can develop an emotional investment;
(b) a villain capable of arousing a significant level of hatred, with bonus points earned for personality traits which deviate from garden-variety psychosis;
(c) action scenes which blow your socks off;
(d) an original, involving storyline; and
(e) a significant degree of style.
Your average Bond film generally meets exactly one of these criteria, being the requirement to exhibit a certain measure of style. However, even this is a dubious achievement, since the style in question is a boy's-own formula straight out of the mid-sixties. As for the rest - now and again you will find a character you can care about (which usually marks them for an early, exit-wound assisted exit), once in a while there will be a villain who arouses some measure of interest (usually a supporting character such as Jaws or Oddjob, since the world-domination/destruction storylines inevitably call for the assistance of your friendly neighbourhood megalomaniac), and once in a blue moon there will be an action sequence worth the time it takes to watch it. However, they never seem to happen in the same film, and what is more the series has never, ever, managed to contrive a storyline which is anything other than pure formula (though Never Say Never Again did show touches of originality. I guess one out of nineteen ain't bad.) Given these facts, it is little surprise that the best of the Bond films are only a touch above average, and the worst (a club to which The World is Not Enough has paid its dues and then some) border on the unwatchable.
There are exactly three good things about this film - a fine performance by Sophie Marceau, a mildly diverting climax (the claustrophobic confines of a submarine adding a little character to an oddly subdued final confrontation), and, for what it's worth, Pierce Brosnan proving once again that he was born to play the role.
However, this is not enough to save a film loaded with stereotypical characters, inane dialogue and inert set-pieces. And yes, I realise that I am attacking the film for the very things many people find so quaintly charming about the series (the audience at the matinee showing seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely), but I see no reason to allow drivel to pass me by unmolested simply because it was never meant to be anything other than mind-numbing formulaic twaddle (now there’s a quote for the cinema advertisements …).
This film aims low, and hits its mark with unerring precision. I can't help but feel that it would be better for everyone concerned if we kept these particular fantasies where they belong, instead of putting them on the big screen where, in the cold light of day, the juvenile nature of the whole charade becomes painfully apparent.
Before the credits rolled I was informed that James Bond would return, and I guess there's nine out of ten women who will take some measure of comfort in that fact. As for me, it's either a change of career, the sin of envy, or a quest for the magic ten percent.Just don't ask me to sit through any more films like this one - Lord knows, I've suffered enough.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=717&reviewer=193
originally posted: 12/20/99 02:45:30
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