Friday, 14 December 2012

The World Is Not Enough (1999)

The fact that Skyfall has a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes while The World Is Not Enough (Michael Apted, 1999) is sitting at 51% is scientific proof that there is no god.

As scientific as this nuclear physicist's hot pants.

In The World Is Not Enough, James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is assigned to protect Elektra King (Sophie Marceau), an oil baroness and family friend of M (Judi Dench), from terrorist Renard (Robert Carlyle). Bond spends a lot of time swanning around Azerbaijan after Elektra while she saves Russian Orthodox shrines, skis down mountains, and gambles away small fortunes in the back rooms of casinos. Detente debutante Elektra is obviously too good to be true, and 007 soon discovers that she is secretly in league with Renard and has -- insult to injury! --  kidnapped M. Thankfully, there is another nubile wench on hand for him to team up with: Dr. Christmas Jones (Denise Richards; ha! ha!), a nuclear scientist (ha! ha! ha!). Bond and Dr. Jones take down Elektra and Reynard, free M, detonate a nuclear reactor underwater, and generally save the day in every way imaginable. The end.

The World Is Not Enough has gotten an undeservedly bad rap. So have Pierce Brosnan's Bond and the 90s Bond movies generally. Yes, Brosnan starred in a couple duds, but Goldeneye is among the best Bond films of any era. And -- although this is generally something to be whispered quietly, under cover of darkness -- I think that Brosnan is the actor who comes closest to the ideal, Platonic Bond (that includes Sean Connery. So shoot me in the leg). My personal theory is that the late 90s had a Seriously Serious zeitgeist that jibed better with Matrixy pseudo-intellectualism than Bondy fun. In the wake of monsterpieces like Batman and Robin and Wild Wild West, it's no wonder people forgot that "silly" didn't always mean "bad". Anyway, we've now had thirteen years' hindsight on The World Is Not Enough, so let's try to be a little objective.

Here are some good things about The World Is Not Enough:

 1) Hot air balloon battle before the opening credits even start.

2) Super wicked theme song by Garbage.

3) John Cleese as the never-heard-from-before-or-again "R".

4) James Bond's highly selective X-Ray glasses.

5) Valentin Zukovsky's near-drowning in a pool of caviar.

6) Elektra fucking King.

Now, here are some bad things about The World Is Not Enough:

1) Christmas Jones.

2) Christmas Jones.

3) Christmas Jones.

Christmas Jones is a pestilent blight on the face of an otherwise excellent James Bond movie. The second she walks onscreen, you can feel the film nose-dive into mediocrity (don't believe me? Try it). Even critics who didn't enjoy The World Is Not Enough tend to agree that Elektra King is one of the best Bond girls, and best Bond villains, of all time. Therefore, it's like being smacked in the face with a raw tuna when the filmmakers try to replace her with Christmas Jones, who clocks in at about an 11 on the "bullshit strong female character"-ometer. She's supposed to be a scientist, but she acts more like a cheerleader. And if you're wondering why she's called Christmas, here is one of the most unbearable 21 seconds of A-list cinema ever committed to film. Fucking Christmas Jones. Oh, my god. Even thinking about this character makes me incoherent with rage.

But you know what, remove Christmas Jones from The World Is Not Enough and what have you got? A damned decent Bond movie that actually innovates: lets a girl be the Big Bad, shoves M into the fray, and crucially, allows Bond to fail. Everyone who's lavishing praise on Skyfall seems to have forgotten that its most successful plot points are  cribbed from The World Is Not Enough. How? Why? All I know is that somewhere, somehow, it's Christmas Jones' fault.

Don't you love kicking back in your most comfortable high heels? Wait....
SCENE STEALER: Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Elektra King (Sophie Marceau). She is absurdly beautiful. She is a killer businesswoman. She helps elderly Russian Orthodox priests protect their fragile mountainside shrines from cross-country pipelines. She skis like an Olympic champion. She even chopped off bits of her own ears in the line of duty (long story, but rest assured it's pretty badass). Relative merits of her film aside, there was never a better Bond girl than Elektra King, ever. Pussy Galore, eat your heart out.

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