Plot is incidental to a Bond film; Tomorrow Never Dies goes for the topical evil of the media. Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce) is a media mogul similar to Rupert Murdoch, whose muckraking goes as far as pitting two foreign powers against each other to start a war which Carver will be able to get exclusive footage of. Bond villains traditionally have outlandish plans; the problem is not that Pryce is hamming it up but that Elliot is so weaselly. His wife Paris (Teri Hatcher) is the secondary Bond girl, an old flame of Bond’s. It’s a thankless role as Paris is fodder but Hatcher doesn’t even make her memorable fodder.
The primary Bond Girl is Chinese spy Wei Lin (Michelle Yeoh). Far more kick-ass than your average Bond girl, Yeoh adds some interest to the film. Ultimately, whilst she is enjoyable within the context of the film, Wei Lin is a forgettable character. Because she is just as capable as Bond if not more so, which dissipates the romance because neither of them really need each other beyond the idea that two heads are better than one.
Hong Kong is a potentially interesting setting but a Bond film should show us a new angle on a location rather than the same old visuals. This is gritty and grimy; even darker Bond films like License to Kill had some moments of beauty in the location. The only real aspirational element of the film is some cool gadgets; a touchscreen phone that drives Bond’s car makes for a fun car chase.
For those who enjoy the innuendo of Bond films, there’s plenty here to punctuate the shoot-outs and punch-fests. Possibly the second worst one of the Bond series comes from Moneypenny (Samantha Bond) who tells James he always was a ‘cunning linguist’. The wordplay is admirable but it’s a cringy attempt at Connery-era chat-up lines.
A disappointing follow-up to Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies is on the surface a classic Bond film but lacks the glamour and fantasy to really make it a classic.