Franchise Expansion (Or Implosion): ‘The World Is Not Enough’
by Ben Martin
Franchise Expansion (or Implosion) is a column that looks at franchises that have new installments or releases forthcoming. In looking at a franchise, each entry in a franchise will be given a review and then be examined as part of the bigger franchise. (i.e., Was this sequel a worthy expansion of this franchise or was it an implosion of sorts?)
Very seldom does one character define a subgenre. But that is precisely what James Bond 007 has done with spy/espionage fiction. Since making his film debut in 1962, Bond has appeared in over 20 movies. Moreover, the character has only been portrayed by a mere six actors (officially, anyway). Now that the 25th (official) Bond installment, No Time to Die, is finally slated for release on November 20th, I think now is a better time than any to look back at 007’s dossier. I’ll be examining the James Bond franchise to see how these pictures evolved over the decades with each new leading actor. Today’s mission: The World Is Not Enough (1999)!
Unlike our current moment, when things are running smoothly for the Bond franchise it generally hits a nice cycle of delivering an entry every 2-3 years. This was the case with the movie in review – The World Is Not Enough. The turnaround might have been running a little too quickly in retrospect. I say this because the movie was released in the days when Y2K was nearly upon us and every company under the sun wanted to have a marketing tie-in with the new millennium.
It was a cheesy trend then and is silly to think about now. Anyway, the most notorious among these millennial brandings were, of course, the major studio sequels which slapped 2000 on to as many titles as they could between 1998 and 2000. This so common that the 19th 007 installment was originally titled Bond 2000 and was slated for released in the aforementioned titular year. Thankfully though, the producers decided to embrace the Bond family crest instead.
As seems to be the case at EON Productions and the well-oiled machine that is this series, the production company wanted to repeat the previous effort’s success. Hence, they offered Tomorrow Never Dies (1995) director Roger Spottiswoode a chance to return to the helm. The journeyman director declined, however, due to the tumultuous production of the previous entry. Following Spottiswoode’s refusal, MGM briefly considered offering the director’s chair to Peter Madek, who was responsible for the studio’s would-be Summer hit sequel, Species II (1999). But MGM proved to be putting the cart before the horse on that offer as Species II ended up being a critical and financial failure. Having burned through the in-house talent, Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings) and Joe Dante (Gremlins) were respectively offered the chance to direct. Alas, each of those genre legends declined. Eventually, EON made what I would consider an inspired decision to hire a documentarian-turned-narrative filmmaker Michael Apted (the 7 Up Series, Coal Miner’s Daughter) to bring the final James Bond adventure of the twentieth century to the silver screen.
Now, you may ask yourself why the producers would hire a filmmaker whose previous work had focused primarily on real events and fictional drama. [Granted, the director had a couple of thrillers under his belt with Thunderheart (1992) and Extreme Measures (1997)] Well, I have an answer for you! While I think Apted’s a great choice, I also believe he was given The World is Not Enough due to EON wanting to overcorrect. As you can read in my review for Tomorrow Never Dies, my (and many other folks’) main gripe with that film is that it’s not story-driven in the least. As a result, producer and EON Productions co-owner Barbara Broccoli intended to make a film more narratively focused with a dramatic center.
Broccoli brought the director on board with a story in mind. Having watched a Nightline (1980-) special focused on how oil companies compete for untapped territories, she thought it would be a great idea to plot a realistic story in that high-stakes world. Hence, bringing on a filmmaker with the sense of drama and humanity Apted showed in his work. Still, before this more grounded story could be put on film, a screenplay needed to be put down on paper. Enter a screenwriting duo fresh to the espionage-filled world of the world’s greatest spy, Neal Purvis, and Robert Wade, to bring us this story.
The World is Not Enough finds James Bond 007 (Pierce Brosnan) tasked with a more intimate mission than usual. Following the assassination of oil baron Sir Robert King (David Calder) — at MI6 HQ no less — the agency fears further threats on King’s family and business associates. Thus, Bond essentially becomes the one-man security detail for the deceased tycoon’s only daughter, Elektra King (Sophie Marceau). On the surface, this is a walk in the park for 007. But our hero soon realizes the threats to the newly-minted oil queen are more significant than he imagined. It turns out Elektra’s former kidnapper, a psychotic ex-KGB agent known as Renard (Robert Carlyle), is bent on getting back into Elektra’s life. An he aims to incite the nuclear destruction of Europe! Now, Bond must continue to protect the oil tycoon while working with nuclear physicist Dr. Christmas Jones (Denise Richards) and uneasy ally Valentin Zukovsky (Robbie Coltrane) to stop Renard’s atomic plot!
If that plot synopsis sounds crowded, it’s because the story for The World is Not Enough is so unnecessarily convoluted; so much so that I think the writers and filmmakers involved here lose track of the story they want to tell. That is a real shame considering that much of this plot consists of dark and dramatic underpinnings that could have been further explored. The prime example being Elektra and Renard’s twisted relationship, seemingly borne out of Stockholm Syndrome. Perhaps, we could have delved further into M’s (Judi Dench) (clearly sexual) relationship with Sir Robert King and her ties to the King family. Alas, absolutely nothing of consequence is done with these more complex plot threads, which quickly drop by the wayside. Worse yet, the plot moves about as smoothly as a clogged oil pipeline.
In watching this painfully slow tale of industrial espionage unfold, it’s crystal clear that much like its immediate predecessor, The World is Not Enough has script problems that were never worked out on the page. See, Purvis and Wade’s original screenplay was reportedly lacking in several ways. As a result, GoldenEye (1995) and Tomorrow Never Dies screenwriter Bruce Feirstein — along with Apted and the director’s ex-wife, screenwriter, and actress Dana Stevens (City of Angels) — wrote numerous uncredited punch ups on the screenplay. Moreover, Apted is purported to have rewritten much of Bond’s dialogue, while Stevens is said to have done the same for Elektra. Unfortunately, none of these efforts amount to much as the screenplay is replete with perpetual issues regarding pacing and tone. To give you a broad example, in one scene, profound emotions pertaining to PTSD are conveyed. Yet, a couple of scenes later, we’re treated to an action set piece involving asinine contraptions, such as Parahaks or the five-bladed buzzsaw, as Bond spouts some of the cheesiest innuendos in this franchise’s history. I, for one, want to experience excitement while watching a 007 picture, not whiplash.
Unsurprisingly, these issues on the page translate into most of the performances as none of them are given much to work with here. First-and-foremost, there’s Brosnan, who up to this point, I’ve adored as James Bond. Unfortunately, though, outside of a few charming moments, he seems to be sleepwalking throughout this outing. Then there’s Marceau, who gives her all in her role, as does her counterpart Robert Carlyle. But, as I alluded to earlier, both these characters have a solid foundation, yet are given nothing to build upon it as scenes unfold.
Of course, Marceau isn’t the only Bond girl in this picture; lest we forget Denise Richards as Dr. Christmas Jones. Look, Richards has been ridiculed as the worst Bond girl thus far by the audience. Therefore, I won’t shovel too much more dirt on her in this review. Instead, I’ll simply agree with that sentiment that she is woefully miscast as a nuclear physicist. Frankly, the only actor who’s able to deliver an entertaining performance in this movie is Robbie Coltrane; repriseing his role from GoldenEye.
While I haven’t had many positive things to say about this movie, I will say The World is Not Enough is not a total loss. From a visual standpoint, it’s beautiful to watch. Apted and his cinematographer, the late Adrian Biddle (Aliens, Judge Dredd, V for Vendetta), create a colder look for the series, which is very fitting for this particular entry. Furthermore, the film has excellent action sequences aside from the ones mentioned earlier featuring ridiculous machines.
Even with those bright spots, the movie did not live up to my adolescent memory. But, at least I can still fondly reminisce on the video game adaptation, released in 2000 by EA Games, produced for PlayStation and Nintendo 64. Frankly, upon rewatching this column’s installment, The World Is Not Enough is, positively, a Franchise Implosion! It’s a film that rests on its laurels and loses itself by doing so. Mind you. This movie isn’t bad, as much as it’s just dreadfully stale. I can only recommend this installment to two particular types of fans. If you’re partial to Brosnan and a completist like me, watch The World is Not Enough. Alternatively, if you’re an overall fan of the 007, just watch the Q scenes as they mark the late Desmond Llewelyn‘s final appearance as the MI6 quartermaster, Major Boothroyd.
Despite my opinion of The World is Not Enough, this movie did have some significant impacts on the Bond franchise. For one thing, the film was produced for $135 million and grossed over $361.8 million worldwide. Thus, becoming the highest-grossing (and final) Bond film of the twentieth century. More importantly, the movie introduced audiences to Purvis and Wade as the screenwriting team who have written every subsequent 007 picture to date. Granted, they’ve garnered very mixed results over the past twenty-one years. Here’s hoping the forthcoming No Time to Die is one of the duo’s stronger efforts!
The World is Not Enough is Available on All Home Video Formats!
James Bond Will Return For Another Installment of Franchise Expansion or Implosion with Die Another Day (2002)!
007’s Newest Mission, No Time to Die, Will Be in Theaters on November 20th!
Read About Bond’s Past Franchise Endeavors-
From Russia with Love:
You Only Live Twice:
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service:
Diamonds Are Forever:
Live and Let Die:
The Man with The Golden Gun:
The Spy Who Loved Me:
For Your Eyes Only:
A View to a Kill:
The Living Daylights:
Licence to Kill:
Casino Royale (1967):
Never Say Never Again:
Tomorrow Never Dies: