Musings on Bond at 50: The World Is Not Enough

Posted: 18 October 2012 in entertainment, film
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007 must prevent an act of nuclear terrorism in The World Is Not Enough as the British Secret Service and M come under attack.

We will not be terrorised by cowards who would murder, and use us as the tool. We’ll find these people. We’ll follow them to the farthest ends of the earth if needs be and we will bring them to justice.

The World Is Not EnoughTaking its title from the Bond family motto The World Is Not Enough finds a physically and emotionally vulnerable James Bond battling betrayal, vengeance and nuclear terrorism in the Caspian Sea. And ensuring Christmas in Istanbul comes more that once a year…

The starting point for the nineteenth James Bond film was provided by producer Barbara Broccoli after she viewed part of the television documentary The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power, a history of the global oil industry, during a trans-Atlantic flight. Broccoli reasoned that only a Bond villain would be ruthless enough to commit an act of nuclear terrorism for the sake of oil profits. The villain in this instance being the flamboyant and flirtatious Elektra King who 007 subsequently kills in cold blood in one of the most shocking moments in the series. “Peeling back the layers” of Bond’s character had been ongoing since the debut of Pierce Brosnan and the murder of someone he cared about would demonstrate his Bond’s overwhelming loyalty to Queen, Country, and M.

The sub-plot of M’s kidnapping by a vengeful Elektra was suggested by director Michael Apted. Not only would it give Bond even more motivation to stop Elektra’s scheme it gave Judi Dench the most screen time afforded to any M. Apted took the view that as the production had the services of one of the world’s greatest actresses it was foolish not to utilise them fully. The evolving rapport between Brosnan’s Bond and Dench’s M is a highlight of that era. In GoldenEye they couldn’t stand each other but by the end of Die Another Day great respect and warmth exists between them. It’s a great shame that a similar attitude to providing M with more screen time wasn’t adopted when Bernard Lee inhabited the role. All too often the actor’s abilities were underused. In a homage to the original M there is a portrait of Lee hanging in MI6’s Scottish base. A reminder that Bond is supposed to be the same man all the way through from Dr. No.

The interior of MI6’s London HQ is extensively featured for the first time. Amongst all the hustle and bustle Bond comes across as a small, albeit it important, cog in a larger machine. The scheme to infiltrate explosives into the building is cleverly done and it’s good to see that 007 can’t always save the day. The subsequent chase along the River Thames and London’s artificial waterways took six weeks to film, with required special government permission required to film in front of the House of Commons. A sly nod to Bond’s tie straightening moment in GoldenEye comes when the Q-Boat is forced to submerge.

Criticism at featuring the Millennium Dome given its perception at a money draining white elephant is idiotic. Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson correctly surmised that it would become one of the post-Millennium landmarks of London. Bond is a British icon and it makes perfect sense to associate him with his home city. How long before 007 features in an action sequence atop the London Eye?

There’s no point living, if you can’t feel alive.

The World Is Not Enough - ski chaseFor the first time since The Living Daylights production of a Bond film was based at their spiritual home of Pinewood Studios – and once again a backlot would see the construction of a complex exterior set. In GoldenEye it was a street in St Petersburg. In Tomorrow Never Dies a street in Ho Chi Minh City. In The World Is Not Enough Valentin Zukovsky’s caviar factory in Azerbaijan was erected. Increasingly EON Productions were eschewing exotic foreign locations in favour of more easily controllable replications in the UK that could be wrecked in elaborate action sequences.

A terrorist attack in Istanbul (previously used in From Russia With Love) forced the cancellation of planned first unit with Pierce Brosnan. Operating under the fictitious film title of Destiny a skeleton second unit was sent to the Turkish city to capture the shots that were required and a recreation of Maiden’s Tower had to be constructed at Pinewood.

Whilst the villainous character of Elektra King as portrayed by Sophie Marceau broke new ground for the Bonds, Denise Richard’s poorly drawn Christmas Jones proved to be the latest in a long line of air-headed American girls for Bond to triumph over at film’s end. The name Christmas clearly used simply to line up gags about her only coming once a year. Pierce Brosnan was enthusiastic with trotting out the endless stream of one liners.

Q: I’ve always tried to teach you two things. First, never let them see you bleed.
Bond: And the second?
Q: Always have an escape plan.

The World Is Not Enough - Bond and QThe World Is Not Enough is the seventeenth and final James Bond film to feature Desmond Llewelyn as Major Geoffrey Boothroyd, Head of MI6‘s Quartermaster Branch. Known to one and all simply as Q. Ever since his debut in From Russia With Love in 1963 Llewelyn’s scenes had evolved into the most anticipated moments of any Bond film. Held in great affection by all at EON Productions and everyone who worked with him Llewelyn’s days on set always saw larger than usual numbers of visitors eager to meet the legendary actor. As one of the series’ greatest ambassadors the actor’s public appearances always garnered huge attendance.

Nearing the age of 85 as production of The World Is Not Enough approached, and aware of his advancing years, Llewelyn asked the producers to tailor him a farewell scene in case he was not able to appear in future. John Cleese was delighted to be offered the role of Q’s assistant (dubbed “R” by Bond) and was anticipating performing in several films with Llewelyn but fate conspired to prevent this.

In crafting the final scene between Bond and Q writer Bruce Feirstein drew inspiration from the parting of the ways between King Arthur and Merlin and in the process crafted one of the greatest parting of the ways in cinema history. The scene took on even greater poignancy after 19 December 1999 when the beloved actor was killed in a car crash only weeks after the premiere of The World Is Not Enough. The day after the tragedy Pierce Brosnan perfectly summed up by the feelings of millions:

There can be forever many Bonds, but only one Q. I’ve lost a great friend, someone who I will miss dearly, someone easy to cry for. And I think the whole world will feel the same. He was a gentle gentleman, this lovely man. He went the way he would have liked, sitting at the controls.

1 From Russia With Love
2 Goldfinger
3 Licence To Kill
4 On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
5 GoldenEye
6 The Living Daylights
7 The Spy Who Loved Me
8 Thunderball
9 Dr. No
10 For Your Eyes Only
11 You Only Live Twice
12 The World Is Not Enough
13 Tomorrow Never Dies
14 Octopussy
15 Moonraker
16 Diamonds Are Forever
17 A View To A Kill
18 Live And Let Die
19 The Man with the Golden Gun

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