FRYEAN MYTHOS: *adventure*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTION: *sociological*
In contrast to Pierce GOLDENEYE, Brosnan's first outing as Bond, TOMORROW NEVER DIES shows no particular desire to re-interpret the famed superspy for a nineties audience.
While some Bond films have opened with short sequences that have nothing to do with the main story, this time the hero's first mission-- targeting an arms-dealers' bazaar-- relates tangentially to a plot to bring about nuclear war between China and the U.S. This trope has been around since the 1950s, and the only new twist contributed by primary screenwriter Bruce Fierstein (who had collaborated on GOLDENEYE) is that the mastermind is a media-mogul, Elliott Carver, more or less a de-politicized version of real-life publisher Robert Maxwell.
Presumably MI-6 chooses to investigate Carver simply to aid their American allies. It helps, though, James Bond is in a unique position to investigate Carver's dealings, because Carver is married to a woman named Paris (Teri Hatcher), formerly one of Bond's old flames. As is often the case in Bond films, the hero doesn't maintain the illusion of being just an ordinary fellow for very long, particularly since Bond's raison d'etre in getting acquainted with Carver is to steal a code-device from the publisher. Nor is it long before Bond wins the affections of Paris away from her husband, which eventuates in Paris's death. But the film sets up a second "Bond girl" in Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh), an agent of the Chinese government who's also checking out Carver's plots.
TOMORROW never slacks its pace, dishing out big fights and fast chase-scenes, the standout being one in which Bond and Wai Lin, handcuffed together, have to use a motorcycle to escape an almost endless slew of pursuers. However, the humor's not as sharp as it was in GOLDENEYE, and neither Hatcher nor Yeoh has very good chemistry with Brosnan. At the time the film was made, Yeoh was a major action-star in Hong Kong film, but her balletic martial-arts grace doesn't fit in a James Bond film, and the attempt to make her an "independent woman" who doesn't fall for Bond until the very end is thoroughly predictable.
Perhaps TOMORROW's greatest flaw is a boring villain. True, one shouldn't expect the sort of freakish geniuses birthed by Ian Fleming. But Carver never has much of a reason for wanting to start WWIII and then cover the news in his multi-media empire, despite Fierstein's invocation of the journalistic sins of William Randolph Hearst. It's not that a good villain requires an extensive backstory: Fierstein's own Xenia Onatopp has no backstory, but her character is intense enough to distinguish her from any other Bond-villain. Carver has no emotional center, and even Stromberg, the minor-league Captain Nemo from THE SPY WHO LOVES ME, comes off better.
If the film's phenomenality were to be judged only by Carver's THUNDERBALL-like escapades, it would be uncanny, but this time out the filmmakers chose to emphasize the superspy's many gadgets. In addition to humble devices, like a cellphone that emits an electric shock, Bond drives a heavily armored car that puts his old Aston-Martin to shame. Not only can the car shrug off gunfire, it can fire missiles and drive itself when its occupant is otherwise occupied.