The World is Not Enough (1999) – The 19th James Bond Film; The 3rd (of 4) Pierce Brosnan Films – Directed by Michael Apted – Starring Pierce Brosnan, Sophie Marceau, Denise Richards, Robert Carlyle, Judi Dench, Robbie Coltrane, John Cleese, and Desmond Llewelyn.
THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH is one of those movies that should work but just doesn’t. It’s not a bad movie but it is a sub-par movie that becomes a bit tedious to watch, even before Denise Richards arrives to be one of the more ridiculous Bond girls in the franchise’s history.
The elements are here for a really great James Bond movie. Brosnan is still good. The action sequences present a good mix of old stand-bys and inventive new stuff. The plot – with the focus on oil – is solid. The film builds on a consequence of having a “we don’t negotiate with terrorists” policy. The film moves fast. The film goes places. M gets out of the office. Q has a great scene as Desmond Llewelyn makes his exit from the series. And when I think of what they’re trying to do with the Sophie Marceau character and how well she fulfills that vision, I’m honestly surprised that I don’t like the movie more.
Yes, Denise Richards is not very good, but I won’t be putting any significant portion of the blame for this disappointing movie on her tank-top wearing shoulders. She harms this movie less than Carey Lowell and Talisa Soto wreck LICENSE TO KILL, or Layla Roberts gums up A VIEW TO A KILL.
Instead, I place the blame for ENOUGH’s problems with the producers who decided it was time to take nearly everything to excess in that manner that sequels take things to excess. You know, there was one villain in the last movie, so let’s have three this time around. In general, the idea of “sequelitis” is that the film is made with the other films clearly in mind; instead of simply telling its own story, the film will add unnecessary bits just because the last film had them, or give you more of what worked last time in an attempt to outdo the previous effort. Because if 1 of anything is good, 14 is obviously better. That’s what ENOUGH does – we move around fast, but it’s almost too fast, hitting location after location in rapid succession. Bond’s found another woman to really, really care about, but this time it’s because of her past (Elektra King was kidnapped as a girl) and not because of a shared past. And then she turns into a bad guy. The action sequences are pretty good, but there’s a lot of them and they’re trying too hard to be new and cool when they’re really just putting fresh paint directly on top of old paint and hoping it’s good enough.
There’s just a bit too much of everything in ENOUGH. We’ve got two of the “weird” henchmen (one doesn’t talk, the other has gold teeth). We’ve got another appearance from Robbie Coltrane’s Sarkovsky character, but this time he sticks around for more than a scene. There’s a plenty juicy plot involving Bond’s relationship with Elektra, but as she’s revealing herself as evil, they bring in Denise Richards’ Christmas Jones to play sidekick just to have another woman around.
That’s the real problem with Denise Richards in the movie – it’s not so much that she doesn’t belong as much as it is her character who doesn’t belong. There doesn’t seem to be anything she can do that Bond can’t do just as well (except fill out a tank top and shorts) and while I’m not averse to having someone around just to have someone around, it’s incredibly unfair of the producers to stick Denise Richards and her weak character in the wake of Sophie Marceau and her strong character. Even if she was every bit as good an actor (and she’s not), how could she look anything but bad in comparison?
Another mistake the film makes (and this is either a symptom of sequelitis or a consequence of it) is that it starts to fold back some of the ridiculous elements from the franchise’s past, and it does so without committing fully to the idea that they’re making a ridiculous movie. We’ve got this really heavy, contemporary plot about oil pipelines and then we’ve got a crazy speed boat, a battle against spinning metal blades hanging from a helicopter that … sigh … slice entire cars and factories in half, and a fight against assassins driving paraglider/snowmobiles things. It’s absurd, but Brosnan plays these battles like they’re the most serious, normal threats Bond’s ever faced. There’s a few cheeky lines, too, but that’s the one aspect of the character where Brosnan is pretty awful. The more cheeseball the line, the worse he is at delivering it.
So if you’re the producers don’t give him those lines to say. Whatever expectations people have about what a Bond movie “should be,” I really believe if you just give them a good movie and focus on what the actors can do, more people will leave the theater happy than mad.
The film undercuts its “main” bad guy, too. Elektra has Renard (Robert Carlyle) wrapped around her finger and she totally emasculates him while they’re in bed because he can’t feel anything. He’s got a bullet in his brain that’s slowly killing him, shutting off his senses one-by-one. Do you know what the film does with this character trait? Yeah, pretty much nothing.
The problem with this is that ENOUGH goes ahead and kills the bad guys in the wrong order. If Elektra is not only the real antagonist but the film’s most dangerous one, then why does Bond kill her first? Once he kills her I’m checked out while Bond then goes after Renard to stop the bomb. Bond killing Elektra is played fantastically – there’s no need for anything after that. She doesn’t think he’ll kill her and she’s taunting him, expecting him to fold like every other man in her life has folded before her beauty and charm and then Bond goes ahead and kills her with one expertly placed shot. That’s the climax. That’s the moment that should have ended the film. But the producers seemingly think stopping a bomb and a de-fanged terrorist is a more satisfying than Bond killing the woman he had gone all soft and mushy for just days earlier.
Dumb. And why? Because filmmakers don’t want Bond killing a woman to be the final confrontation of the film?
I kept getting the feeling that someone in production wanted to make a lighter, late Roger Moore movie, but that doesn’t play to Brosnan’s strengths. Of course, Brosnan’s take on Bond seems to want to contrast his emotional vulnerability towards certain women with his willingness to seduce others who can give him what he wants. With all due respect to Brosnan, he plays the latter half of that dynamic much better than the first. In GOLDENEYE, he’s better with Xenia than Natalya, and in TOMORROW NEVER DIES he’s not really good with either one of them, but his actions scenes are better than his tormented lover bits.
Where THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH ultimately goes wrong with me is that I wanted more scenes with Bond and Elektra and less of Renard and Christmas Jones.
The theme song is just a bit off, too. It’s not a bad song, but it just doesn’t quite come together for me. The opening titles are pretty awesome, though.