The World Is Not Enough, the final 007 entry of the 20th century, is a mixed bag of an experience. It’s a little better than its general reputation and the film’s shortcomings (Denise Richards and more) have been highlighted much greater than its strengths.
The picture opens with the longest pre-title credit sequence in the series history (14 minutes). It’s an action sequence involving boats and a hot air balloon. With its outrageous and very fun stunt choreography, this opener actually felt more reminiscent of the Roger Moore entries. Most importantly, the sequence brings in the main plot when a close friend of M’s, a wealthy oil tycoon is killed.
As for the title track, Garbage does the honors here and it’s a pretty decent tune and definitely the best so far in the Brosnan films, being a definite improvement over the Tina Turner and Sheryl Crow tracks.
Bond actually sustains some injuries from all the spy work in the beginning, but of course he’s cleared for duty when he, um, convinces his female doctor. He is soon tasked with protecting the daughter of the slain oil tycoon. She is Elektra King (Sophie Marceau), who has a fascinating history as having once been a kidnap victim of the picture’s villain, Renard (Robert Carlyle). Renard is an interesting character himself… he’s got a bullet lodged in his brain that makes him impervious to pain. 007 and Elektra (and therefore Brosnan and Marceau) have a terrific on-screen chemistry. And Elektra is not all that she seems. Spoiler alert: she actually turns out to be the film’s main villain. She orchestrated her father’s demise and is hellbent on using her inherited oil empire to do really bad things (I could explain further, but it’s not all that important). I found Elektra to be one of the better female characters in the Bond franchise and Marceau puts in an effective performance. The dynamic with her and 007 is a major strong point.
It’s the other Bond girl here that got a lot of negative publicity. That would be Denise Richards, of Starship Troopers and Wild Things, as Dr. Christmas Jones (yep), a nuclear physicist helping James out on his mission. Yes, I used Denise Richards and nuclear physicist in the same sentence. There’s not a lot to be said about her character that hasn’t already been said… and little of it is positive. She’s a pretty girl and I don’t want to pick on anyone too hard that had to be married to Charlie Sheen, but Denise is not a very strong actress. And watching her spout lines like “THE HYDROGEN GAS LEVEL IS TOO HIGH!” is both wince and laugh inducing. Her name does allow 007 for a classic one-liner: “I thought Christmas only comes once a year.” Oh, James.
Robert Carlyle is a good actor and is effective as Renard, even if Elektra is the real show as the villain. Robbie Coltrane’s ex KGB agent character from Goldeneye makes a welcome return. Judi Dench definitely gets more screen time than ever as M and she’s always good. Brosnan, it should go without saying, is in fine form per usual.
And on a sad note, The World Is Not Enough marks Desmond Llewelyn’s final appearance as Q. It seemed the actor knew he was retiring after World because his character is also hanging it up in the film and “Monty Python” star John Cleese joins here as his replacement. Tragically, just days after this picture opened, Llewelyn was killed in an auto accident at age 85. Here he is briefing 007 for the last time, followed by a wonderful video tribute from the Bond 50 collection:
Director Michael Apted, known more for dramas like Coal Miner’s Daughter and Nell, does a perfectly suitable job here. And while the action sequences are first-rate, other than the opening scene, none of them really stuck out in my mind. We get another 007 on skis scene that isn’t as great as some others we’ve seen.
The World Is Not Enough is definitely too long and the climax drags quite a bit especially. Yes, Denise Richards and her character are silly and distracting. In all honesty, though, she’s no worse than, say, Tanya Roberts in A View to a Kill. On the other hand, a lot of the plot elements involving Elektra were very well-handled and I tremendously enjoyed those aspects.
So, back to where I started… a mixed bag, much like previous entry Tomorrow Never Dies. And also like its predecessor, it was an enormous hit with $361 million worldwide and $126 million domestically, further solidifying audiences stamp of approval with Mr. Brosnan.
Here are the facts:
Film: The World Is Not Enough
U.S. Release Date: November 19, 1999
Director: Michael Apted
Screenplay: Neil Purvis, Robert Wade, and Bruce Feirstein
Bond: Pierce Brosnan
Main Bond Villain (s): Renard (Robert Carlyle) and Elekta King (Sophie Marceau)
Main Bond Girl: Christmas Jones (Denise Richards)
Theme Song: “The World Is Not Enough” – performed by Garbage
Budget: $135 million
Worldwide Box Office: $361.8 million
My James Bond blog series will return in “The 007 Files: Die Another Day”