After GoldenEye’s successful critical and commercial reboot of the James Bond franchise, it didn’t take long for the rot to set in.
The World Is Not Enough was only Pierce Brosnan’s third outing. However, bad traits from the fag end of the Roger Moore era had not just crept back in, but almost taken over.
Embarrassingly crude double-entendres, ham-fisted comedy, and an over reliance on preposterous gadgets litter the film like the wreckage of previous 007 entries.
Evidence that the franchise was now stuck in a redundant arms race with itself can be seen in the film‘s opening scene. It is the longest pre-title sequence in the series history. The need to ‘better’ the previous instalment cripples all the subsequent Brosnan Bonds.
We’re then whisked from location to location each merely serving as opportunities for more thrill-less action sequences which seem like a greatest hits collection of Bond films of yore.
We have a ski pursuit, submarine exploits, bomb defusing, and an action set piece in a mine. In between we have Brosnan’s gratuitous sex gags and truly dismal comedy involving Q (Desmond Llewellyn) and R (John Cleese).
The plot, such as it is, involves attempts to control the world’s oil supply via, the preferred method of Bond villains, the usual theft of nuclear weapons.
Bond heads to a caviar canning factory to pursue a lead on villain Elektra King’s (Sophie Marceau) plans. However, she’s tipped off about his presence and sends in two helicopters from her mining operation to dispose of Bond.
The choppers are equipped with giant rotating blades which hang from the bottom of the aircraft and cut through the buildings where Bond’s conducting his interrogation.
After a bit of dashing about Bond uses a remote control to drive his car to where he’s temporarily holed up. He get’s inside and activates the onboard missile system, targets the first of the helicopters and then takes it out with a missile.
The helicopter blows up and plummets vertically to the ground, crashing into some oil drums which create a further explosion.
Whilst Bond’s admiring his handiwork the second helicopter comes in and chops his car in half. After some further dashing about Bond opens a gas pipe which shoots a plume of highly flammable vapour into the air. Using a handy flare gun he ignites the gas which causes the second helicopter, which is conveniently hovering above it, to explode.
The explosion sends the cutting wheels shooting off in different directions like lethal throwing stars.
Underwhelming. There’s an absence of danger to this - and many other -scenes in this film. The destruction of the first helicopter using Bond’s onboard missile system is all too easy. It almost feels like he’s cheating.
The destruction of the second helicopter requires some improvisation from Bond, but it feels like exploding helicopters by numbers. For me the trouble is that Brosnan remains miraculous groomed throughout the entire scene.
His tailored suit unwrinkled by all the tripping, falling and running he has to do to stay alive. His tie remains perfectly knotted at his collar, indeed once the danger has passed Brosnan makes a point of only then loosening it.
But this is really a glib way of making a serious point. If you don’t believe that Bond can be hurt or feel pain it’s hard to really engage in a scene where he is supposedly in peril.
Like a eunuch the sequence has been castrated, robbed of any vitality or virility.
Exploding helicopter innovation
It’s not the first time that James Bond has destroyed a helicopter using a missile fired from his car. Roger Moore took one out in The Spy Who Loved Me from his submerged Lotus.
Number of exploding helicopters
The rotating cutting tools which dangle from the choppers are quite cool. But they require the helicopters to fly around so ponderously that frankly I’d fancied my chances of avoiding death by their spinning cogs of steel.
Bond films in recent years have turned into extended adverts for luxury brands with prominent product placement in the films. Sadly the exploding helicopter scene in this film is besmirched with this tawdry salesmanship.
The targeting system for Bond’s car mounted rockets is at the centre of his steering wheel and integrated within the logo of a certain well known manufacturer of German cars. We don’t like to see the art of exploding helicopters in films being reduced to a way to sell cars.
There are also some truly shocking efforts at Russian accents in this film. Robbie Coltrane’s (Valentin Zukovsky) broad pantomime accent is the best of the bunch. However, Robert Carlyle’s (Renard) accent appears to be from that little known Russian province called Glasgow and as for Goldie’s (Bullion) it’s hard to know what he’s attempting as he mangles his lines.
Apparently Joe Dante (Gremlins, Innerspace) was considered as a possible director for the film. Hey, I can’t understand or believe it myself, but I read it on the internet so it must be true.
Review: by Jafo
Still want more? Then check out the Exploding Helicopter podcast episode on The World Is Not Enough. Listen to it on iTunes, Podomatic, YourListen, Stitcher, or Acast.