And You Thought It Was Safe(?)


The World Is Not Enough (1999)

Our review of the nineteenth James Bond film, and the beginning, after a temporary flirtation with being awesome, of the franchise’s downward slide back into vacuous, bandwagon-jumping  irrelevancy.

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18 Comments so far
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Nice to know that we both like Garbage’s theme song for the film. I’ve always thought that the more Bassey-esque one goes for a Bond opening credits theme, the better (thought I probably should label it “smoking lounge music”). Other types like the pop fueled Living Daylights or the soaring ’80’s romance of For Your Eyes Only and License To Kill can work ( in my eyes anyway), but its probably best to keep the themes for Bond movies giving off a felling of class. That’s probably just my bias towards the good Ms. Bassey talking, but I don’t care.

As for the film itself: the damn thing is cinematic vapor to me. It leaves no impact whatsoever, which is probably one of the worst sins of filmmaking. Sure, Die Another Day is worse, but at least there they went so over the top that it can be seen a comedy gold. This…this is just duller than dirt. Banal. Basic to the point of blandness with only one standout seen (the departure of Desmond Llewelyn’s Q) in the whole thing.
I hope you decided on watching something with better and with more flavor to cleanse your pallet after seeing this.

Comment by Jordan Levells

“Basic to the point of bladness” is right. We were sold a spy-fi film for a Windows ME world, but if this movie were any more basic, you’d have to run it on an Apple II. It’s greatest sin is the belief – a prominent one in EON of the time, I’ve gathered – that it doesn’t need to engage us with anything other than the traditional Bond Formula. So the Bond v. Electra story (which is little more than Ian Fleming’s James Bond, 007, in The Bodyguard, but I don’t mind, since I get to hum Whitney Houston’s song during their “romantic” scenes) gets twisted and mutilated in order to accommodate things like the casino scene, Ski Chase 6: The Skiening, the demolition of Valentine’s factory, or the trip For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. It sets up this wall of action that, like the guitars of a talent-less grunge band, becomes cacophonous and repetitive. Boring.

As for Garbage, and theme songs in general, yes, all other Bond opening theme singers are measured against Dame Shirley Bassey and found wanting. Especially once we get to the 80s, when EON first began tilting against the “appeal to a younger audience” windmill. Hell of its, World‘s theme came to us from Don Black, writer of two of my least-favorite themes of the ’70s (Diamonds Are Forever – speaking of Shriley – and Man with the Golden Gun). Just goes to show, even the lyricists who confound and confuse can produce interesting stuff if you give ’em enough rope. Or maybe working with David Arnold finally straightened Black out.

Comment by David DeMoss

Wow, Diamonds Are Forever ? Harsh. That’s number 3 on my list on my favorite Bond theme titles. They rank as such:

1. Goldfinger
2. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
3. Diamonds Are Forever
4. Nobody Does it Better (The Spy Who Love Me)
5. Live and Let Die

Comment by Ricardo Cantoral

I’d agree that Shirley Bassey was good, but “Goldfinger” at #1? Not so much. (For me, Bassey’s booming vocals and the ringing brass tend to work against each other a little bit.) My top 5:

1. “The World Is Not Enough”
2. “You Only Live Twice”
3. “You Know My Name” (Casino Royale)
4. “All-Time High” (Octopussy)
5. “Moonraker” (just ahead of “Diamonds Are Forever”)

Comment by Michael O.

I reserve the right to wait until others have chimed in until I give out my own. Or reveal my own in some manner of future article/video. I haven’t decided yet. Though the idea of a Best and Worst 5 Films of the Series once we’re done with the whole thing is already under consideration.

Also, for reasons beyond our control, we won’t be seeing Skyfall until at least next week, so I’m calling it right now, you guys: NO SKYFALL SPOILERS. Thank you, and we apologize for the inconvenience.

Comment by David DeMoss

Shirley Bassey’s style of singing, like Judy Garland before her, is bombastic. Maybe too much for some people but to me, it’s perfect.

Comment by Ricardo Cantoral

Yeah, I’d go along with pretty much all of that – everyone felt as though they were going through the motions. Oh, it’s been two years, time to squeeze out another Bond film. Tomorrow Never Dies at least tried to be vaguely set in the modern world – sure, the core plot is The Spy Who Loved Me which is You Only Live Twice, but it made some slight effort to ring the changes by doing the media tycoon thing. This one? Nah.

Mass audiences seem to call anything “too complicated” if it’s got more than one reveal in it.

Comment by RogerBW

Tomorrow and World both tried to update established elements of Bond for their supposedly new age, though neither really succeeded as much as they’d hoped. I think this is the era Michael G. Wilson was talking about when he said, “we start off trying to make the next From Russia With Love and end up making the next Thunderball.”

I put their failure down to the fact they’ve never been able to find a real replacement for Richard Maibaum, unsung hero of the Cold War Bond flicks and credited screenwriter of eleven of them. Even though every Bond movie, going all the way back to Dr. No, got itself written by committee, Maibaum’s presence gave the series a unified voice it’s sorely lacked since his death. Hence, every time a new movie comes out, you hear the inevitable pronouncement that it “is not a Bond film!” I think people can hear the lack of Maibaum but, lacking proper context (or even knowledge of Maibaum’s name), they fail to identify the true source of their misgivings. So they latch onto something obvious and declare that “NOT BOND!” Like the lack of out-there, Big Idea gadgets, or attempts to characterize Bond as something other than The World’s Greatest Secret Agent…whatever that means.

Comment by David DeMoss

I think there’s a lot to be said for the Maibaum theory. To me, film-Bond is never the barely-controlled attack dog that book-Bond is – particularly in the defining Connery era, he’s an icon of style who, in an uncomplicated way, kills the bad guys and gets the girl(s), but who really wouldn’t be able to justify his existence without bizarre villains to fight. That huge shift from the books, which I can only regard as a good thing, does seem likely to have been in large part down to Maibaum…

Comment by RogerBW

“Icon of style” is a good way of putting it. Much nicer than my default characterization of Film-Bond: an empty suit. A walking billboard for the aspirational capitalism of the moment. Symbolized by one of the franchise’s key trademarks: the silhouette in the tuxedo with limbs crossed and silenced pistol in hand, his flesh only revealed through the use of negative space. It reminds me of Red Letter Media’s critique of Indiana Jones: “It’s not the character; it’s the idea of the character” that people respond to. Hence the protestations to even the most half-hearted change in series Formula. For fifty years, Bond’s been less of a character and more a blank space audiences to uncritically project themselves into. People hesitate to do that whenever he threatens to become more three-dimensional.

Comment by David DeMoss

In one interview, Ian Fleming remarked that Bond was just a silhouette but what is very odd about this statement is that the character was constantly conflicted about his job; Casino Royale was no mere heterosexual fantasy, it was about a man who increasingly became disillusioned by the world he occupies and by the end, he dilutes himself into thinking the world is black and white. Even after CR, Bond never once fooled himself again into believing that killing for king and country was the least bit righteous.

Comment by Ricardo Cantoral

Maybe I am just dumb but I did scratch my head at certain points when I watched TWINE. Just like The Living Daylights, a plot is needlessly convoluted and has little to no pay of.

David, you have a point about ideas smashed together. Some the movie’s major action sequences like the underground explosion and the chain saw helicopters were straight from the original script of Goldeneye.

Comment by Ricardo Cantoral

One of the main problems the Bond series seems to have had during the Dalton and Brosnan eras is putting forth enemy organizations powerful enough to effectively cause MI6 more than minor trouble. This film, simply put, tries too hard to accomplish this. Even in the post-Cold War era, the idea that a terror network fronted by a mid-sized oil company would command the resources to steal a nuclear submarine and nab that much weapons-grade plutonium and provide an armed force sufficient to effectively hunt 007 down at nearly every turn and kidnap the head of British Intelligence without immediately bringing down the collective wrath of the Empire…wow. What next–you start swiping astronauts in their capsules during space missions so you can set off WWIII?

Comment by Michael O.

In fact, coming right up, we have a disgraced and thought-to-be-dead Colonel in the (North) Korean People’s Army: a “Western Hypocricy” major and thus head of his own international conflict diamond-smuggling outfit. Who, disguised as an eccentric English billionaire (who somehow got rich and famous enough to win knighthood in under fourteen months) plans to give his country the ultimate high ground by launching a solar-powered, diamond-tipped, laser cannon into high orbit under the guise of creating a cheap alternative fuel source or “making the desert bloom”…or something…

Looks kinda ridiculous when I write it all out like that. I think your point stands up rather well.

Comment by David DeMoss

Actually, the muscle worked for Renard but you are right about what King Oil co. managed to get away with. And speaking about kidnapping M, boy was that stupid. For no reason, everyone but Elektra’s men and a totally vulnerable M end up in the same room and they manage to smuggle her out of the country with no effort at all.

Comment by Ricardo Cantoral

God, I can’t believe I didn’t make fun of that, specifically. Things sure have changed in a decade of Bond films. At least Robert Brown’s M traveled with a full guard, complete with sniper coverage from every decent nearby vantage point.

Comment by David DeMoss

There is only one great moment in TWINE and one the best the series ever had, Desmond Llwellyn’s final scene as Q:

Q: I’ve always tried to teach you two things. First, never let them see you bleed.
James Bond: And the second?
Q: Always have an escape plan.

Even writing this, I get a little choked up.

Comment by Ricardo Cantoral

Desmond Llewellyn, you are dearly missed.

Comment by Michael O.




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