What takes 14 minutes to get started but still goes nowhere? Why The World Is Not Enough of course! OK so I’m being a little harsh. Whilst the film does take 14 minutes to get through it’s pre-credit scenes what follows does lead somewhere… just very slowly and via the medium of some of the slowest dialogue scenes ever in a Bond film. Oh and Denise Richards is apparently supposed to be believable as a nuclear physicist. Click the link!
So why is the pre-credits scene 14 minutes long? Well because someone clearly didn’t write an exciting enough one to begin with and so they decided to push the title credits back until after the first big action scene. To be fair that first action scene is perfect for what a Bond film’s pre-credits scene should be. There’s a death, MI6 duped in the process and a huge chase set to the backdrop of some iconic landmarks. I have no problem with this sequence. It involves Bond chasing an assassin across the Thames and towards the Millennium Dome, which was just about to finish construction at the time. You get some Bond gadgets, some cool stunts and a little tongue in cheek humour along the way. The problem is that because you’ve been trained by the Bond films to not expect the film to really get started until after the title credits have started you’ll almost not really pay attention to the fact that these scenes are key to the film’s plot. Usually a pre-credits scene is only lightly tied to the plot, sometimes not at all. There’s a few exception though. The result though is that you’re waiting for the film to properly get started when it actually already has.
Anyway, the film’s plot involves the assassination of a billionaire named Robert King, the owner of a oil company currently building a controversial pipeline through much of Eastern Europe. After his death Bond feels partly responsible as the stolen money he had retrieved from King at the start of the film was a chemically triggered bomb in disguise, set to blow up when King got near it via a pin on his jacket acting as the detonator. Yeah I’m not entirely sure how that works either. Lets just go with it. And so Bond sets out to locate and protect King’s daughter, Elektra King (Sophie Marceau), a former kidnapping victim and now heiress of his oil company. A terrorist named Renard (Robert Carlyle) is believed to be behind the assassination and the attacks on Elektra’s pipeline which leads him to be Bonds first target. From here there’s a lot of double crossing, people revealing their true nature and no-one questioning how in the hell we’re meant to believe Denise Richards can be a Nuclear Physicist called Christmas Jones.
Tomorrow Never Dies was quite an action focused Bond film with nowhere near enough attention paid to the story logic. By contract The World Is Not Enough is mostly character focused with a few action scenes chucked in. None of them really amount to much in the way of excitement but they are at least varied. The rest of the film though feels like nothing but extended scenes of slow, slow dialogue concerning trust and love and all that stuff. I appreciate the effort to make the film have a little more depth in the way of character relationships but they have to be at least a little interesting and maybe make a little more sense. Such as, why does Bond feel such an attachment to Elektra? Early on he is looking over her files and he seems to feel some sort of sadness about her kidnapping years prior to the film. But he had no connection to that event and had never met her before. As for the villain Renard, he’s in love with Elektra too, turns out he was the one that kidnapped her before and had fallen in love with her. Now they’re secretly (SPOILERS BTW) in cahoots with each other, and yet he still sends his men out to attack Bond at times where she’ll be in danger. Although to be fair it’s not like similar plots in other films haven’t done the exact same thing. Doesn’t mean it makes any sense though.
The World Is Not Enough is one of those films that’s well made production wise but is lacking a gripping enough or coherent enough story to match it’s better qualities. They should have come up with a different pre-credits scene, moving the current one to after the credit, and trimmed down a lot of the dialogue. In the process get rid of Christmas Jones too. She is an issue with this film. Here’s what she does… she explains nukes, defuses a nuke, gets drilled by Bond. Other than the last one I really can’t believe any of those things could happen in the Bond world when it’s Denise Richards in this role. For a start she fails not only to make her science talk sound convincing but also fails to make coming across as a living, breathing, human being convincing. She is amongst the most wooden and pointless of all the Bond girls. At least she’s not an idiot though so that puts her above at least two. Secondly she explains all this nuclear science stuff and defuses a bomb because apparently Bond doesn’t understand this stuff and wouldn’t know how to defuse a nuke. Except he’s dealt with nukes in multiple films and even defused two of them. Sure times have moved on but I really doubt Bond would fail to keep up with the times. She appears about halfway through the film and her sheer ineptitude at being believable causes the film to take quite a tumble. Honestly, without her the second half of the film would have been brisker and, as such, the film overall would have been elevated some.
Now I wouldn’t say this film deserves to be amongst the worst Bonds, the production quality and the basic frame of the story are pretty decent. But the script is too slow when it needs to be snappy and littered with pointless distractions and poorly linked events. Valentin Zucovsky (Robbie Coltrane) makes a return after his cameo in GoldenEye, and whilst it’s pleasant to see him again, he really only serves as a plot device to help Bond escape in one scene and have one of his men turn out to be a traitor. A traitor who manages to warn the villains that Bond has come to meet Valentin by identifying his car, when he hasn’t seen the car before. I’m pretty sure the car only appears in one shot about 5 minutes before the henchman named Bullion (played by musician Goldie) makes his first appearance on screen. It’s not a major gripe but story is all about the links between events and characters, and there’s a link missing here that could have been fixed by having Bullion just see Bond instead of just his car.
Overall there’s moments where The World Is Not Enough feels like a classic Bond film but it fails to be much fun, has some horrible pacing issues and ends up feeling rather drab. There’s far worse Bond films but this one falls into a similar spot For Your Eyes Only did of just being bad because of it’s painful mediocrity. I do prefer it over Tomorrow Never Dies though because at least the entirety of the villains evil scheme isn’t as pants on head stupid as Elliot Carver’s in that last film. The few thrills the film effectively manages aren’t enough to pull it out of mire of sloppiness elsewhere. Tomorrow night I’ll be reviewing Die Another Day… wish me luck. At least Casino Royale isn’t far off.