Even while fulfilling the expectations of the global James Bond audience, something unusual has happened to the series during its last three outings.
Pierce Brosnan hasn’t changed Bond as much as refined him to his essentials, yet these films all possess a wistful nostalgia for easily identifiable villains and a time when past events could be buried without blossoming into landmines.
In GoldenEye, Bond’s former compatriot (who’s presumed dead) is reincarnated as his nemesis. In Tomorrow Never Dies, it’s his former flame who turns up married to a media mogul fixated on world domination. In The World is Not Enough, James gets a new and exciting Bond girl, Elektra King (Sophie Marceau), who comes with a troubled past.
The young and impressionable Elektra was kidnapped by ruthless freelance terrorist Renard (Robert Carlyle). M (Judi Dench), now Bond’s MI6 boss, advised Elektra’s wealthy industrialist father not to negotiate or pay the ransom. Elektra eventually escaped, but not without some scars.
Now, after Elektra inherits her father’s empire, including a politically vital pipeline from the newly exploitable oil fields of the former Soviet Union, Renard resurfaces with a nefarious plan involving sabotage and a few nuclear devices.
Mixed in with the typical Bond chase sequences (including a spectacular speedboat showdown on and around London’s Thames River) are more thorny questions of loyalty and responsibility. But despite these attempts to make 007 more three-dimensional, the mere presence of someone like Dr. Christmas Jones (Denise Richards as the most unbelievable nuclear scientist possible) proves that the franchise isn’t ready to give up its misogynist dinosaur ways.
Although he isn’t on-screen enough, Renard is a marvelous creation, a sociopath with a bullet lodged in his brain which renders him immune to pain. Carlyle plays him as a melancholy man who, denied all human sensation, tragically develops an insatiable craving for emotions he can no longer feel.
Even with some unexpected plot twists, The World is Not Enough doesn’t stray far from the tried-and-true Bond formula. Once again, the world has fallen apart and James Bond is there to pick up the pieces.
Serena Donadoni writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.