The Bond movies now cannot be judged independently. They’ve reached a stage where they have to be measured against each other. There have been nineteen (twenty-three if you count the remaining four); most of them followed a very strict formula that wore out in the ’80s, but now we’re reaching the new millennium with The World Is Not Enough, and the entire skeleton of the Bond franchise is morphing. It is growing, and it’s gaining meat.
So, compared to the other Bond movies, The World Is Not Enough is a fabulous entry. It balances perfectly the familiar one-liners — Pierce Brosnan pulls them off so well — with just the right amount of action. It’s also cheeky enough to have throwbacks to the old movies. This one’s ending sees Bond and his Bond Girl kissing naked under the stars while the new Q, M, and the rest of MI6, watch via a heat seeking spycam. “007!”, M exclaims. Roger Moore’s Bond was famous for such scenes, and I always wondered why M and the gang took so much pleasure in watching him fornicate.
Anyway, The World Is Not Enough sinks its teeth into Bond and its villain. Or villains. It knows that Pierce Brosnan is more than capable, so it returns him to many of the stunts that made the earlier Bonds so multi-talented. For the first time in a long time, he skis. Naturally, the skiing becomes a chase, but because his skill has been honed over so many years, he no longer has to deal with petty henchmen on their own wobbly skis; he can now take on skilled shooters on paragliding snowmobiles. He also pilots a speedboat, which isn’t news, but he looks confident in it now. Confident enough to drive it on land even, between narrow walls and away from chasing coppers. Bond is still Bond, but he’s growing up and realising that he has almost forty years worth of experience to learn from.
The villain here is good too. His name is Renard (Robert Carlyle), a former KGB agent turned rogue, and is now a terrorist. In the tradition of Bond villains having some kind of distinctive feature, Renard takes the cake. He has a bullet lodged in his brain that’s slowly making its way towards his medulla oblongata, which means he feels no pain (all his nerve cells have been shot to hell) — “The bullet will kill him, but he will grow stronger every day till the day he dies.”. How do you beat that? He’s also learnt from past bad guys. He doesn’t want to rule the world and live in a monstrous underwater city; he wants only to blow up Istanbul. Why? I will not tell you. Let’s just say it has something to do with bumping up oil prices.
The World Is Not Enough, as far as the gadgetry goes, is rather sad. This is the last movie to feature Desmond Llewelyn as Q. At age 85, he’s been in seventeen installments, and worked with five out of the six actors to play Bond (I heard somewhere that out of the five, he found Brosnan to be the most gentlemanly). More than any other actor in the franchise, Llewelyn has been a reliable source of humour, entertainment, and charm. When he exits the movie after introducing Bond to his new quartermaster (handled with care by John Cleese), the realisation of the series’ most enduring secondary character departing permanently is altogether moving and poignant. Cleese is an adequate substitute, but he doesn’t last long. By the time Casino Royale comes around in 2006, he will be nowhere to be found.
Like Licence To Kill, this movie treats us to two Bond Girls. They’re both beautiful and terrifying at the same time, but in different ways. Sophie Marceau plays Elektra King, daughter of a wealthy oil magnate who dies early in the movie because his money explodes (or his lapel pin does). She’s been a victim of Renard’s, and now fears that he might be coming back to get her again. She’s also terrifying because Marceau plays her with a lot of seriousness. She seems to understand Bond, and she knows how to manipulate him. And then there’s Christmas Jones, played by Denise Richards, and she’s terrifying because she’s one of the worst Bond Girls to come along. Horrid name aside, Richards is not up to the task. She is unable to deliver lines convincingly, and her attire suggests that she’d be more comfortable in a gym as a personal trainer than as a nuclear physicist with an abundance of knowledge. She has a fulsome chest, I’ll give her that, and I’m led to believe that that’s the only reason why she managed to land the part.
As a fellow Bond movie, The World Is Not Enough is a more-than-adequate entry. It subverts its source material enough to be original, but it also manages to keep the usual trademarks in check. The result is a clever and realistic thriller that doesn’t fail to impress with its plot and execution. As a movie on its own, perhaps it is lacking in some areas. If Richards had been replaced by someone better, and the action sequences made a little more memorable, The World Is Not Enough could have been one of the best.
Best Moment | Bond shooting a particular lady in a heartbeat. He’s been known to kill men easily and without hesitation, but I think this is the first time he does it to a woman.
Worst Moment | Any scene involving Denise Richards.