History, Legacy & Showmanship

Fake News: Remembering “Tomorrow Never Dies” on its 20th Anniversary

December 29, 2017 - 12:49 pm   |   by
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Tomorrow Never Dies’ major importance was in cementing Pierce Brosnan as the James Bond of that time period — a responsibility he fulfilled very successfully.” — 007 historian Lee Pfeiffer

The Digital Bits and History, Legacy & Showmanship are pleased to present this retrospective commemorating the 20th anniversary of the release of Tomorrow Never Dies, the 18th official cinematic James Bond adventure and the second of four to feature Pierce Brosnan as Agent 007.

Our previous celebratory 007 articles include Die Another Day, Dr. No, The Living Daylights, The Spy Who Loved Me, You Only Live Twice, Diamonds Are Forever, Casino Royale, For Your Eyes Only, Thunderball, GoldenEye, A View to a Kill, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Goldfinger, and 007… Fifty Years Strong.

The Bits continues the series with this retrospective featuring a Q&A with an esteemed group of James Bond scholars, documentarians and historians, who discuss the virtues, shortcomings and legacy of… Tomorrow Never Dies. [Read on here...]

The participants for this segment are (in alphabetical order)….

Robert A. Caplen is an attorney and the author of Shaken & Stirred: The Feminism of James Bond (Xlibris, 2010).

Robert A Caplen

John Cork is the author (with Collin Stutz) of James Bond Encyclopedia (DK, 2007) and (with Bruce Scivally) of James Bond: The Legacy (Abrams, 2002) and (with Maryam d’Abo) Bond Girls Are Forever: The Women of James Bond (Abrams, 2003). He is the president of Cloverland, a multi-media production company, producing documentaries and value added material for movies on DVD and Blu-ray, including material for many of the James Bond and Pink Panther titles as well as Chariots of Fire and The Hustler. Cork also wrote the screenplay to The Long Walk Home (1990), starring Whoopi Goldberg and Sissy Spacek. He wrote and directed the feature documentary You Belong to Me: Sex, Race and Murder on the Suwannee River for producers Jude Hagin and Hillary Saltzman (daughter of original Bond producer, Harry Saltzman). He has recently contributed articles on the literary history of James Bond for ianfleming.com and The Book Collector.

John Cork

Lisa Funnell is the author (with Klaus Dodds) of The Geographies, Genders, and Geopolitics of James Bond (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017) and editor of For His Eyes Only: The Women of James Bond (Wallflower, 2015). She is Assistant Professor, Women’s and Gender Studies Program and Affiliate Faculty, Film and Media Studies Program at the University of Oklahoma. Her other books include Warrior Women: Gender, Race, and the Transnational Chinese Action Star (State University of New York, 2014), (with Man-Fung Yip) American and Chinese-Language Cinemas: Examining Cultural Flows (Routledge, 2015), and (with Philippa Gates) Transnational Asian Identities in Pan-Pacific Cinemas: The Reel Asian Exchange (Routledge, 2012).

Lisa Funnell

Mark O’Connell is a punditeer, the grandson of Bond producer Cubby Broccoli’s chauffeur, and the author of Catching Bullets: Memoirs of a Bond Fan (Splendid Books, 2012). His next book, Watching Skies: Star Wars, Spielberg and Us, will be published in May 2018.

Mark O'Connell

Lee Pfeiffer is the author (with Dave Worrall) of The Essential Bond: The Authorized Guide to the World of 007 (Boxtree, 1998/Harper Collins, 1999) and (with Philip Lisa) The Incredible World of 007: An Authorized Celebration of James Bond (Citadel, 1992) and The Films of Sean Connery (Citadel, 2001). Lee was a producer on the Goldfinger and Thunderball Special Edition LaserDisc sets and is the founder (with Dave Worrall) and Editor-in-Chief of Cinema Retro magazine, which celebrates films of the 1960s and 1970s and is “the Essential Guide to Cult and Classic Movies.”

Lee Pfeiffer

The interviews were conducted separately and edited into a “roundtable” conversation format.

And now that the participants have been introduced, might I suggest preparing a martini (shaken, not stirred, of course) and cueing up the soundtrack album to Tomorrow Never Dies, and then enjoy the conversation with these James Bond authorities.

A scene from Tomorrow Never Dies

Michael Coate (The Digital Bits): In what way is Tomorrow Never Dies worthy of celebration on its 20th anniversary?

Robert Caplen: In our current era of “fake news,” Tomorrow Never Dies seems more relevant than ever. Released in 1997 with the Internet in its infancy, Tomorrow Never Dies addressed issues with which we grapple today: manipulation and dishonesty in journalism, cyberterrorism, and the threat of nuclear war. Tomorrow Never Dies was overshadowed by the success of Titanic, but it is arguably Pierce Brosnan’s second best performance as James Bond (after GoldenEye).

John Cork: Tomorrow Never Dies is my favorite of the Pierce Brosnan Bond films. I think it’s Brosnan’s best performance as Bond. It is his most relaxed, his most confident. He moves with a fluidity in the film that seemed perfect for 007.

The film was a nightmare production on many levels. It is no secret that the director, Roger Spottiswoode, and the producers, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, did not get along during production. That’s always unfortunate. Having worked closely with Barbara and Michael, I felt for them. On the other hand, a friend started dating Roger during the production, and just before the film opened in the U.S., I joined my friend and Roger for dinner. It was fascinating to hear his experiences in that kind of casual setting. Regardless of why the communication and trust broke down, you could tell it was a very stressful experience for all involved. Pierce Brosnan had his battles on the set, too. He and Terri Hatcher had a well-publicized row when he bit her lip during the shooting of their intimate scene. He likely felt embarrassed by her response, but the result was a very mean-spirited piece on Hatcher on American television portraying her as a diva on the set. For various reasons, the script always seemed to be in flux, which frustrated actors and crew. Yet, I found the resulting film beautifully edited, filled with Bondian touches, some fantastic dialogue thanks to Bruce Feirstein’s scripting, two great songs, and a David Arnold score that gets my blood racing every time.

Lisa Funnell: Released in 1997, Tomorrow Never Dies reflects the fact that the world in which Bond is operating has changed geopolitically. First, the film highlights the porous nature of national borders (particularly after the fall of the Soviet Union) where alliances and allegiances are less clear. This is emphasized in the pre-credit sequence with the description of the weapons being sold at the “terrorist supermarket,” many of which have national descriptors: “Chinese longmark SCUD, a Panther A-658 attack helicopter, American rifles, Chilean mines and German explosives. Fun for the whole family.” Second, the film does the imaginative work of culture by (re)envisioning a new relationship between Britain and China after the 1997 handover of Hong Kong. Bond works in concert with a Chinese agent, Wai Lin, and the pair take down a threat to the global order. Through this cooperative relationship, Britain via Bond remains a key player in East Asia even as the actual influence of the UK is waning in the region.

Mark O’Connell: I am struggling to pinpoint a Bond film which has never been more prescient twenty years on than Tomorrow Never Dies. Broadcast rights, fake news, rising tensions in Chinese territories, a Britain being told it is no longer the empirical player it once was, younger trophy wives, spun headlines, shoe-horning news into political ammo, a villain obsessed with ratings, media mogul cohorts of the Prime Minister, a villain obsessed with one-sided rallies, arms deals on Russian soil, loathsome press secretaries, talk of corrupt MPs, dubious bankers, an America still reeling from Vietnam and a bit of racist bigotry on the part of the villain — two decades on Tomorrow Never Dies is less a Bond movie, and more of lean, stylish, mature, yet inadvertent prophecy on a post-Obama, post-fact world. It’s also a markedly solid caper of a Bond film and warrants any celebration for that alone.

Lee Pfeiffer: It was Pierce Brosnan’s second Bond film and was essential in proving that his success in GoldenEye wasn’t a flash-in-the-pan. Every Bond actor seems to get better and more assured in the role the longer he plays it. Brosnan’s performance in TND follows that pattern. The role of Bond fit him like a glove. He had been a popular choice for the part when Roger Moore left the series but, as we all know, Brosnan couldn’t take the role at the last minute because NBC decided to renew his TV series Remington Steele. They thought they could have the actor who plays James Bond appearing every week in their TV series. All they achieved was depriving Brosnan of the role, as Timothy Dalton was signed. Brosnan later admitted, however, that it was a blessing in disguise. By the time Bond did arrive at his doorstep, he was more mature physically and more refined as an actor.

Coate: Can you describe what it was like seeing Tomorrow Never Dies for the first time?

Caplen: I enjoyed the film when I watched it the first time. The title sequence initially struck me as odd with suspended female silhouettes randomly floating and looking like insects, but the remaining visuals were fantastic and a prelude to an exciting plot. I really enjoyed Tomorrow Never Dies and thought Pierce Brosnan made James Bond his own.

Cork: I saw the film numerous times before the Los Angeles premiere at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. I believe the first time was when MGM held a big pre-release screening in Westwood and Eon Productions gave me ten tickets. I invited a good group of friends. My favorite moment was as I was entering the theater from the lobby, James Coburn was walking in. When he was right beside me, I turned to one of my friends and so Coburn could hear it said, “Derek Flint could always kick James Bond’s ass.” Coburn smiled, nodded and went on to his seat.

Funnell: In the early 2000s, I was writing my MA thesis on the Bond Girl. I was doing a quantitative content analysis of all the James Bond films and exploring various facets of the archetype. This was the first time I saw Tomorrow Never Dies and I was so captivated by the dynamic performance of Michelle Yeoh as Wai Lin that I stopped taking notes. I had to re-watch the film in order to complete my analysis (oh darn!). This film and especially the performance of Yeoh had a strong impact on me. It inspired me to research and write my first book Warrior Women: Gender, Race, and the Transnational Chinese Action Star. Thus, my first viewing of Tomorrow Never Dies set me down a research path that has helped to shape and define my academic career! So the film occupies a special place in my heart!

O’Connell: I saw it on opening night, having returned earlier from university to continue the family traditions of seeing a new Bond together. From the white dots onwards, this was clearly a Bond movie that wanted to sprint from the starting blocks. It reminds of The Empire Strikes Back where everything and everyone is on the run. What immediately struck was just how frenzied and fast-lane it all was. The opening half hour is a slick unraveling of potentially convoluted events — but in using that initial surveillance room as a narrative crossroads for all the non-Bond elements vying for political and story attention, the film cuts off twenty minutes of exposition and quickly emerges as one of the tightest 007 movies (helmed by Sam Peckinpah’s 70s editor Roger Spottiswoode helps I imagine).

Pfeiffer: I saw the film at a press screening in London then went to the gala premiere that night at the Odeon Theatre in Leicester Square. I had not been as enamored with GoldenEye as most people, though I like it more today. I felt that TND started out as a vast improvement over that film but unfortunately fell apart in the second half of the film when it drops a compelling story line in favor of spectacular action scenes.

A scene from Tomorrow Never Dies

Coate: In what way was Jonathan Pryce’s Elliot Carver a memorable/effective villain?

Caplen: Elliot Carver is two decades ahead of his time: a cold, calculating, manipulative, so-called journalist in charge of a large media conglomerate that carefully controls the dissemination of (false and manufactured) information. Today we would call Carver the editor-in-chief of a “fake news” network. Carver’s journalistic proclivities are accompanied by a wild fanaticism grounded in extortion (of individuals, including the American president, and governments). In an era that predated social media, Carver’s diabolical use of media is scary. Information is Carver’s weapon of mass destruction. Yet, he is no Auric Goldfinger or Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

Cork: I love Jonathan Pryce as an actor. When I was working with Eon before GoldenEye, there was a discussion about whether it would be appropriate to bring back Desmond Llewelyn as Q. Of course it was. Desmond was a great asset to the first three Brosnan Bond films. But I had suggested Pryce as a potential replacement.

The character of Elliot Carver went through so many iterations, with his motivations ranging from originally wanting to destroy Hong Kong to desiring cable news rights in China. He was part Citizen Kane and part Robert Maxwell and part Rupert Murdoch. His original name, Elliot Harmsway, was a bit too close to Esmond Harmsworth, 2nd Viscount Rothermere, who had died in 1978. Why would anyone care? Well, Esmond Harmsworth was the prior husband of Ian Fleming’s wife Ann, and his son still ran the Daily Mail at the time (it is now controlled by his grandson).

Pryce plays Carver with unbridled, malevolent joy. “There’s no news like bad news” is a good line gloriously delivered. I love the scene where he’s creating headlines. “The Empire Strikes Back” is just so perfect. But Pryce gets the line of dialogue that for me is the single best line of dialogue in the Bond series, one that I quote often, one that other screenwriters have asked me if they could steal. That line is: “The distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success.” That’s a Bruce Feirstein line, and I’m glad I don’t have to pay him a dime every time I use it!

Carver’s weak spot is that his goals seem so out of whack to the lengths he goes to achieve them. At some point the audience is left wondering, wait, this is all for satellite rights in China? He also has the problem of “movie keyboard syndrome” where he is typing with one hand on a keyboard as he wanders around the scene. Don’t watch that closely while trying to swallow a mouthful of milk. He also suffered from a weak death scene. I love Bond’s line, but the moment onscreen does not work well, and on paper, it did.

Funnell: Jonathan Pryce delivers a compelling portrayal of a power hungry villain who delights in his ability to influence the thoughts and actions of the leaders of major world powers. But as a writer myself, what I envy the most about Elliot Carver is his ability to type on his keyboard with one hand without making any typos and without looking down at the keys. This is a truly remarkable skill that would serve him well in the era of smartphones!

O’Connell: Pryce certainly makes the best of a potentially hammy foe. He totally sells the Blofeldian machinations of possibly the first SPECTRE-framed villain since Sir Hugo Drax and 1979’s Moonraker. The importance of nearly being Ernst is all there in how the audience comes to his world. We don’t first see him on the racecourse, opera, chemical plant or auction house. He is stood alone facing banks of screens, monitors, buttons and mayhem. How that production motif by designer Allan Cameron unfurls and frames the villain of this film greatly aids Jonathan Pryce who was familiar with eating up a Broadway and West End stage or two. Conversely, there are some curious beats to Carver — not least his awkward predilection for blatant racism (his karate-chop tirade against Michelle Yeoh’s Wai Lin always jars). Yet, Pryce’s Carver has arguably one of the best lines of any character in any Bond film — “The distance between sanity and genius is measured only by success”. It is a mantra for the Bond movie juggernaut itself and great testament to writer Bruce Feirstein. Ultimately for this Bond writer the strength of the plotting and the contemporary machinations of Carver’s scheme props up the villain more than perhaps the performance.

Pfeiffer: Despite my criticisms of the film, I always felt Pryce — along with Vincent Schiavelli — proved to be two excellent villains in the style of the old Bond baddies. The villains were getting smaller-than-life and Pryce at least had some grandeur to his persona and his schemes.

A scene from Tomorrow Never Dies

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A scene from Tomorrow Never Dies

Coate: In what way was Michelle Yeoh’s Wai Lin a memorable/effective Bond Girl?

Caplen: Wai Lin is a unique complement for James Bond. A Chinese spy trained in the martial arts, Wai Lin is much more skillful, strong, and assertive than Ling, another Chinese agent who made a brief appearance in You Only Live Twice. In effect, Wai Lin is a 1990s equivalent of Anya Amasova or Dr. Holly Goodhead, both of whom are assigned to the same case and must ultimately work together with James Bond to complete the mission.

Wai Lin successfully outmaneuvers Bond on several occasions, notably her gravity defying escape from assault and handcuffing Bond to the outdoor shower, and rejects his romantic overtures. Despite her mental acumen and athletic abilities (unlike the school girls in The Man With The Golden Gun who make one brief appearance, Wai Lin’s martial arts skills are prominently featured and recurring), Wai Lin is ultimately a Bond Girl. As such, Bond, not Wai Lin, is tasked with disposing of the villains and successfully completing the mission (with Wai Lin’s assistance, of course), while Wai Lin must be rescued. Here, Mr. Stamper’s preferred death method for Wai Lin is drowning (reminiscent of Dr. No, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and The Spy Who Loved Me). For all of Wai Lin’s independence and empowering attributes, though, she ultimately owes her life to Bond, who literally breathes new life into her while underwater. For those efforts, Wai Lin finally succumbs to Bond’s physical desires, ensuring that the gender paradigm within James Bond’s universe is progressive-lite.

Cork: Michelle Yeoh is a force of nature. While Eon considered a Jinx spinoff film, my vote would have been for a Wai Lin film. She is a joy to watch.

Funnell: Michelle Yeoh plays the strongest and most physically capable Bond Girl in the series. Not only does Wai Lin outfight and outshine Bond in all of the scenes that they share, but Yeoh performed her own stunts and even brought in her own stunt team from Hong Kong. Moreover, she is presented as being a co-hero to Bond and even a superior agent. This is achieved in two ways. First, she is not overtly sexualized and fetishized on screen even though the Bond Girl is a predetermined sexualized role. While sex and sexuality tend to bolster male heroism (serving as visual signifiers of heteronormative masculinity), these images typically work to diminish the heroic competency of action women (as it renders then passive objects of the male gaze). Lin remains focused on the mission at hand while Bond seems eager for a sexual distraction. Second, she is presented as a superspy with her own stash of Q-like gadgets. It is Bond and not Lin who is set up as the butt of a series of gags in which he accidentally sets off a number of devices. In the end, it is Lin and not Bond who is shown to be the superior spy. This might be one reason why she only appears in half of the film so as to not overshadow the title hero. This is, after all, a James Bond film.

O’Connell: She was the first woman for a while who was given that “she’s Bond’s equal” badge who actually deserved it. Yes, Wai Lin still needs rescuing by Bond more than once, but holding her own is clearly no problem for one of 80s Asian Cinema’s biggest names. Yeoh is more effective because she is allowed to be older, and have a momentum to her character that is already three scenes down the line when we meet her. And she is gifted that great fun moment when she is escaping Carver’s Hamburg printing house by using her inner Emma Peel, a piton wrist shooting thin and a slick leather catsuit. Yeoh always has great screen grace and dignity. It was maybe Tomorrow Never Dies that allowed her to share that with the movie world. And she is one of the few Bond actresses whose career shifted a gear after her time with 007 ended. From Bond actress to Star Trek captain is much deserved (with both productions boasting Wrath of Khan’s Nicholas Meyer on less publicized screenplay input duties).

Pfeiffer: The film was cutting edge in terms of presenting Wai Lin as a female kick-ass action hero long before this was deemed to be popular. For decades, female action heroes were considered to be the kiss of death to movie audiences but the Bond films help break that glass ceiling and pave the way for today’s current crop of action-oriented heroines.

Coate: Where do you think Tomorrow Never Dies ranks among the James Bond movie series?

Caplen: I think Tomorrow Never Dies is Pierce Brosnan’s second strongest James Bond film. That said, I believe it cannot compare to several pre-1997 films or Casino Royale, Skyfall, and SPECTRE.

Cork: For me, it ranks #10, which is pretty high among fans. That’s just above GoldenEye on my list.

Funnell: I might be in the minority here but I really like Tomorrow Never Dies. It is not in my top 5 but certainly ranks in my top 10. This is primarily due to the performance of Michelle Yeoh who is utterly captivating on screen. The depiction of strong and capable women enhance Bond films. This is where the last two Craig era films — Skyfall and SPECTRE — fall short for me.

O’Connell: For this Bond writer it is easily Pierce Brosnan’s best turn as 007 in easily his best 007 movie. GoldenEye shook off the cobwebs of Bond’s enforced six-year sabbatical. But Tomorrow Never Dies is where he really settles into the role and the swagger of it. Despite the strange bitey kissing thing he has going on more than once, he totally commands the screen. The audience is glad when he is there amidst the arms bazaar. The audience is glad he wanders into the heated exchanges with a flash of a Carver newspaper and an “it might be too late for that.” There is a great beat of Bond checking the strength of a glass ash-tray whilst being beaten up in a sound proofed recording studio in Hamburg. It is one of the defining tics of Brosnan’s time in the role. The pace of the movie is worth noting too. Twenty years on, and having caught it again recently, this a sleek, fast Bond movie that rarely drags. Spottiswoode certainly knew how to condense the tropes to keep the film — rather than perhaps the franchise — moving. Despite a purportedly hard shoot, Spottiswoode and his editors on this one deserve better credit for that.

Pfeiffer: Certainly not in the top ranks but there are enough good and impressive elements to it to make it rise above the lesser entries in the series. The film benefits from a good score and two good songs over the opening and closing credits. There are other compensating factors but the film’s second half diminishes noticeably in terms of plot and for me that seriously mitigates the potential that the first half of the movie promises.

A scene from Tomorrow Never Dies

Coate: What is the legacy of Tomorrow Never Dies?

Caplen: Tomorrow Never Dies firmly implanted Pierce Brosnan in the role of James Bond. GoldenEye was a hard act to follow, but the 1997 installment offered enough realism to complement the fantasy that rendered Tomorrow Never Dies a tremendous success.

Cork: The film showed that GoldenEye was not a fluke, that Bond was not only back, but beloved. It came out a few months after Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, which in its own way helped introduce a new generation to James Bond. Just as importantly, it came out four months after the launch of the GoldenEye 007 video game, a game that had tremendous influence on the video game market, and primed the pump for more Bond mania.

Also, at the time, a lot of artists were incorporating music from Bond films into their own compositions. The Sneaker Pimps had a huge hit with Six Underground, which sampled music from the Goldfinger score. One of the biggest albums of 1997 was Portishead’s self-titled album, and their sound was a loving homage to John Barry and the spy film sound. And that brings us to David Arnold. Although John Barry had been unofficially announced as the composer a year before the film was released, when negotiations broke down the filmmakers turned to David Arnold. At the time David Arnold was creating a James Bond tribute album with the spectacular Propellerheads version of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Arnold’s score is not only a trip down memory lane for Bond soundtrack lovers, with numerous hat-tips to prior Bond film scores, but it is a brilliant score on its own. While many dismiss the title track by Sheryl Crow, I love it. And Arnold’s swipe at a title song, which was retitled Surrender just lifts up the entire ending. He knocks it out of the park. Nor should we forget Moby’s version of the James Bond Theme. I’m not sure David Arnold much liked it, but it made 007 feel absolutely of the moment. Music is such a vital part of the legacy of James Bond, and Tomorrow Never Dies, for me, defines the entire decade of the 90s for the Bond sound. I listen to that score as often as many of the 60s Bond scores.

Watching Tomorrow Never Dies today, the cynical view of the press is deeply reflected in the attacks on the media by folks like Donald Trump with his cries of “fake news,” (a term he co-opted from the name given to the Russian government’s effort to generate completely fake news to influence elections not only in the U.S., but throughout Europe). Those on the political left see diligent efforts to re-shape our reality by outlets like Fox News and Breitbart and through sub-rosa efforts by Vladimir Putin. Those on the political right believe the press has always had a Liberal tilt, and regularly attack outlets like CNN and MSNBC. If I were teaching a course on the public perception of journalism, I would show Tomorrow Never Dies along with films like All the President’s Men, Spotlight, and The Post. It’s not that the film explores public cynicism toward the press in depth, but it plays into all our greatest concerns that we are being played by media barons with some agenda. I can think of no other film that does this so seamlessly and with such casual bitterness.

Most Bond films exploit our fear of criminal organizations or morally corrupt moguls bent on world domination. Tomorrow Never Dies is the only Bond film to make one of the West’s most cherished freedoms — the press — its target. It is unique in that. And, with the massive (and unfortunate) increase in distrust of the press over the past 20 years, it is also somewhat prescient.

Funnell: Tomorrow Never Dies explores the impact that a media mogul and his various “news” outputs can have on social consciousness and political decision-making. This remains an important issue 20 years later given the rise of bias and punditry in mainstream corporate news media with an emphasis on clicks/clickbait (rather than, say, accuracy and objectivity). It offers a warning of the ways in which those in positions of power can select, distort, and promote stories/narratives that fit their viewpoint of the world and financial objectives.

O’Connell: As the millennium approached, Bond ‘97 heralded a new era for 007 movie making. David Arnold came on board with what is his best Bond score (a close tie with Casino Royale). The film proves that Bond has many templates. But here it is one of utter contemporary steel. Tomorrow Never Dies operates in a coyly-constructed world of grey Europe cities, curbside newsstands, yellowing Tomorrow logos suggesting a history to the brand, dull high street car rental units, neon midnight parties in laser show hangars, and a cacophony of naval personnel and panic — these all lend a current nature to the piece rather than the classical Europe motifs of other Bond movies. The whole film also has a constant silvery palette — almost suggesting a sci-fi mentality without taking Bond into space. The media mogul backdrop was a natural fit for a Bond villain (and the Robert Maxwell “suicide at sea” press release idea from M was delicious at the time). The film also kept a grip of its multiple characters and sub-villains with slick aplomb. It could be argued the side figures of Brosnan’s subsequent Bond outings had less focus and usage than the fun and brilliantly pitched likes of Dr. Kaufman, Admiral Roebuck and Paris Carver here.

There is often one Bond film that is the definitive adventure of its decade. Goldfinger in the Sixties, The Spy Who Loved Me for the Seventies, and A View to a Kill for the Eighties all receive differing fan responses, but physically they are the films where their decades infiltrate everything about them. Tomorrow Never Dies — released at the height of Brit Pop, with musical contributions from Moby, The Propellerheads, Sheryl Crow and KD Lang, the end of British empire with the ‘97 handover of Hong Kong and the first marked use of cell phone technology in a Bond film — is easily the Nineties equivalent. That it is also about clickbait, fake news, media “likes” and ratings before some of those terms were even coined suggests Q gave Bond a crystal ball along with that BMW.

Pfeiffer: I don’t think TND has shown the staying power that most of the other Bond movies have. It isn’t widely discussed nowadays but that shouldn’t diminish the fact that it was a major hit at the time of its release, even though it was directly competing against Titanic. I suppose its major importance was in cementing Pierce Brosnan as the James Bond of that time period — a responsibility he fulfilled very successfully.

Coate: Thank you — Robert, John, Lisa, Mark, and Lee — for participating and sharing your thoughts about Tomorrow Never Dies on the occasion of its 20th anniversary.The James Bond roundtable discussion will return in Remembering “Casino Royale” on its 50th Anniversary.

A scene from Tomorrow Never Dies


Selected images copyright/courtesy 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Eon Productions Limited, Danjaq LLC, MGM Home Entertainment, United Artists Corporation.


- Michael Coate

Michael Coate can be reached via e-mail through this link. (You can also follow Michael on social media at these links: Twitter and Facebook)

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