2 of 5 stars
The World Is Not Enough is the point in the Bond series where everyone involved pretty much said “Fuck it.” The writers brushed off the tried-and-true formula that hadn’t changed since Goldfinger, plugged in the first idea that popped into their heads, handed it to producers who didn’t bother reading it, then put it in front of our eyeballs on 22-foot tall screens across the world. Audiences walked out of theaters saying, “What the hell was that?”
It would take me ages to list all the things wrong with this movie, so let’s begin. (Warning: This review of a movie from 1999 contains spoilers!)
- Opening sequence
Things are pretty much wrong from the get-go. The pre-title sequence is long. Way too long. Like by the time the opening credits start people are leaving the theater because they think the movie is over long.
The problem is the opening sequence contains two distinct scenes: Bond fighting his way out of a meeting with a Swiss banker carrying one Sir Robert King’s fortune, then a boat chase on the Thames back in London after Sir Robert is murdered. The changes in pace and location make the sequence feel longer than it is (41 minutes). The scene with Bond retrieving the money could have been expanded and led into the opening credits, then the movie could have made the jump to London.
That leads us to the…
- Opening theme
Really nothing wrong Garbage’s title song, except it sounds suspiciously like “Surrender” by k.d. lang from the closing credits of Tomorrow Never Dies.
- The villain
TWINE pits James Bond 007 against Renard, a KGB agent-turned-terrorist who can’t sense pain due to a bullet lodged in his medulla oblongata (a term most moviegoers are only familiar with because of The Waterboy).
In reality if Renard hadn’t died within minutes of being shot as the medulla oblongata regulates breathing, the inability to feel pain would prove to be a major handicap. Yes, he would be able to take a lot of punches without flinching, but the smaller things would slowly kill him. He wouldn’t shift in his seat when he felt discomfort, which would put strain on his body, weakening it over time. If he couldn’t feel an insignificant little fly on his arm and swat it away, the fly would lay its eggs under his skin, and he would eventually burst like a piñata full of maggots—which would actually be a lot cooler than how he is actually killed at the end (keep reading!).
However, this isn’t reality—it’s a movie. The concept was kind of cool, and Robert Carlyle (The Full Monty) does a good job in the role.
- The Bond girl
Many reviewers complained about Denise Richards portraying a nuclear physicist because they don’t believe an attractive, busty, 28-year-old girl can be a scientist. She should stick to being a hot teacher, or a hot librarian, or a stripper, or something like that. Those reviewers are all sexist. I didn’t like Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist because she can’t even say “instant catastrophic meltdown” with even the least bit of credibility. And being 18 years younger than Pierce Brosnan, their romantic scenes make the viewer somewhat uncomfortable.
Also, the character’s name is Christmas. ‘Like the holiday?’ Bond asks. “No, like the tree,” she responds.
- The end
This brings me to the ending, which is the most insultingly stupid in the series. All the stuff I listed before this is just nitpicking compared to this movie’s climax, which I can demonstrate is terrible for completely objective reasons.
In previous Bond films, when the villain died an elaborate death, the logic behind it was somehow explained earlier in the film. For example, halfway through Goldfinger, Pussy Galore pulls a gun on Bond while he’s a prisoner on her plane, and he explains:
‘Pussy, you know a lot more about planes than guns. That’s a Smith & Wesson. If you fire this close, the bullet will pass through me and the fuselage like a blowtorch through butter. The cabin will depressurise and we’ll be sucked into outer space together.’
While that’s not scientifically accurate, at least the movie’s internal logic was explained.
In other movies, the villains are killed off in a way that doesn’t require explanation: Christopher Walken falls from the Golden Gate Bridge, a gasoline-doused Sanchez is set ablaze with Bond’s lighter (which he received in an early scene).
In TWINE, the villain is killed in a way that doesn’t make any goddamn sense.
Bond and Renard are fighting to the death aboard a sinking nuclear submarine. Renard is about to insert a plutonium rod into the sub’s nuclear reactor, which will cause the instant.catastrophic.meltdown Christmas mentioned earlier. Meanwhile, Christmas is trapped in another part of the sub that’s rapidly flooding. Wait, why is she still with Bond? Couldn’t he have dropped her off somewhere and given her money for a plane ticket?
Bond is stuck, and Renard is only seconds away from achieving his goal. Then, all of a sudden, Bond sees a tube a dangling. He instantly forms a plan. What does he know that we don’t? He connects the tube to some metal thingy, then grabs a controller with lit up buttons that kind of looks like the nuclear reactor, then presses a button. All of a sudden, the plutonium rod is ejected from the nuclear reactor with the force of a cannon, the blunt end impaling Renard.
I remember seeing this in the theater opening night. The audience was like: “So the shiny thing shot out and killed the bad guy? That’s kind of cool, I guess.”
I’ve never worked on a nuclear submarine so I have no idea how they function. I assume most general audiences don’t know either. In fact, I’m pretty sure the workings of a nuclear sub are top secret. No matter. The ending is disappointing because it doesn’t make sense. The logic is never explained at any point in the film. We could’ve had a scene where Bond is given a tour of a nuclear submarine and the captain explains to a newbie, “Whatever you do, don’t eject a plutonium rod while this tube is connected.” “Why not?” asks the newbie. “Because if you do, the rod will shot out real fast and kill you, that’s why.” Unfortunately, we don’t get anything like that. Maybe that scene was deleted because it was “too boring.”
I’m sure I’m not the only one who left the theater that night feeling gypped. Either the writers were too lazy to go back and add a scene explaining the logic of the ending, or they just didn’t care.
So what did the movie do right?
Sophie Marceau is spot-on as the femme fatale Elektra King. The French actress is beautiful and has a certain class and mystique to her that makes her the perfect choice for the role. Her ultimate fate was simultaneously tragic and satisfying.
Bond injures his shoulder after a fall in the pre-title sequence, and this comes back to haunt him at several points. This is the first time Bond was working with a major handicap, and it added an interesting dimension to the film.
Also, because of M’s (Judi Dench) friendship with Sir Robert, she takes a special interest in this mission, and even shows up in the field when she thinks Bond isn’t doing a sufficient job. Anyone who has worked for a condescending micromanager can relate. When Bond ultimately turns out to be right, we share in his vindication.
There’s also an exciting scene in the middle involving helicopters with buzz saws dangling from them.
The highlight of this film, however, is one of its quieter moments. This is Desmond Llewelyn’s farewell as Q. The actor died shortly after the movie was released. He was planning to retire with this film, and as he gives his final advice to Bond, I can’t help but become misty-eyed.
While The World Is Not Enough has some decent action sequences, it’s basically the most mediocre, formulaic film in the 007 series.