The Pierce Brosnan Years, by Rich Paschall
Although Timothy Dalton had a six-year, 3 film deal to play the famous secret agent, James Bond, only two films were made. The third was delayed by a protracted legal fight between Danjaq, holder of the Bond copyright, and a variety of parties, including mega studio MGM. When the six years expired, Dalton walked away. He felt it might not just be the end for him as Bond, but the series itself may be over. Sixteen films had been made by 1989 which is a good run for any series.
While the legal battles went on, EON Studios planned to go ahead with the Bond legacy. With Dalton dropping out, the producers called on Pierce Brosnan who had actually been considered as the one to replace Roger Moore. His contractual agreement to a revived Remington Steele television series kept Brosnan from agreeing years earlier to the super sleuth. In 1994 he went into production on his first Bond film, Goldeneye.
The initial Brosnan movie was the first Bond film not to take the title from an Ian Fleming story. The original work did pay homage to the Bond creator by taking its name from Operation Goldeneye. This was a project Fleming was a part of when he was a Lieutenant Commander in British Naval Intelligence. Years later, after the success of the Bond stories, Fleming named his Jamaica estate, Goldeneye. The book Goldeneye is actually a novelization of the movie.
The story finds Bond investigating the theft of a helicopter, and the attack on a Russian outpost that controlled a satellite with the “Goldeneye” weapon. Was Goldeneye real? Was it capable of destroying London’s financial district? Could anyone save the day? Pierce Brosnan brings charm back to Bond with plenty of opportunity for the double entendre. Judi Dench now becomes M, head of MI6. Some regulars are recast but Desmond Llewelyn returns as Q, having played the part since the beginning of the Bond films. It is a good effort by Brosnan and he revives the series with the 1995 release after the long hiatus. The stunts and special effects are over the top as usual, and they will again ask you to accept the improbable (if not impossible) as fact.
For the second film, Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), can you imagine a media mogul who tries to manipulate the news to improve on ratings? If this seems a bit more modern, perhaps it is meant to be so. A British ship is sunk near China, a Chinese plane is shot down and the resulting tension seems to be pushing the world toward World War III and one cable news outlet is always on hand to catch the disasters as they happen. Jonathan Pryce plays the media mogul and Teri Hatcher is his trophy wife. Bond teams up with a Chinese agent (girl, of course) to find out what is really going on and the world will once again be saved. Despite script disputes with studios and also with actors, the final product was a success at the box office.
The World Is Not Enough (1999) for the evil villains that populate this story. There is no brief summary for this tale of a former KGB agent who is now a terrorist and has to be stopped after he gets weapons-grade plutonium. Is the daughter of an assassinated businessman, who had been kidnapped but later set free, still safe? Can Bond protect her? Is she sympathetic to her former captors?What about M who is later kidnapped? What about the pipeline to save a poor country? What about Istanbul? If you can stay with the interconnected storylines it is an engaging, if somewhat long, Bond affair. Denise Richards is the “Bond girl.” After many years with United Artists, MGM becomes the distributor of the Bond films. The business dealings of MGM and it various holdings, United Artists, Danjaq, EON Productions and others has become more complicated than this Bond film. MGM will count on Bond not just to save the world, but the studio too.
A sad and ironic side note to The World Is Not Enough involves actor Desmond Llewelyn. In the film he seems to be training John Cleese to be his successor of Q division for gadgets. He indicates he is not retiring and there was no intention of replacing the aging performer in the role. Aside from continuity, he was a beloved character in the series. Soon after the première, Llewelyn was killed in an automobile accident. Cleese will indeed move up in the next film.
No one can kill James Bond, not even the North Koreans. While investigating a North Korean Colonel and the sale of diamonds for weapons, Bond is captured and imprisoned but he lives to Die Another Day (2002). Brought home through a prisoner swap after 14 months, Bond is suspended from duty but will that stop our hero? Of course not. Soon he teams up with an American Agent, Halle Barry, to follow the trail of diamonds and weapons from London to Cuba to Iceland. Like some other Bond films, the climactic fight takes place on a plane and who is flying the craft? Cleese is now Q. Madonna has a small part and performs the title tune. The film marks the 40th anniversary of the first feature when Sean Connery told us he was “Bond, James Bond.”
Brosnan had an option on a fifth film. In fact he had once mentioned he thought he might like to do six films. But he was already 50 and recalling the criticism Roger Moore took for staying too long in the role. He decided to decline the option and move on. This gave EON the opportunity to restart the series and go back to the first James Bond story and make the movie that had eluded them all along, Casino Royale.