In this day and age, when movies are often winkingly self-aware, and when the James Bond archetype has already been properly deflated by “Austin Powers” and others, it’s nice to see the new Bond film is not unaware of its pop-cultural environment.
That is to say, “The World Is Not Enough” is basically your standard Bond film — full of impossible stunts, bad puns, and James having sex with anybody he wants to — but with the added twist of KNOWING the 007 series is a bit of a dinosaur, and acknowledging that to the audience.
For example, when Bond (the ever-dashing Pierce Brosnan) runs into an old friend, the friend says, “Hello, Bond, James Bond!” — the movie’s way of saying, “Yeah, we KNOW he always introduces himself that way.”
Bond also gets taken to task for his constant destruction of everything he touches, and he may have met his match with Q’s replacement — played with typical snotty hilarity by John Cleese. (“You’re Q’s replacement? So you must be R,” Bond says. To which Cleese replies, “Ah, the legendary 007 wit … or half of it.”)
Don’t worry, though; the James Bond series hasn’t become a self-parody. All the customary trappings are still intact; we’re just not expected to take them all so seriously. He does introduce himself as “Bond. James Bond” once, and he orders a martini “shaken, not stirred.” There are cool gadgets (x-ray eyeglasses!), cool vehicles (including a kickin’ boat used in a spectacular opening-sequence chase), and the usual double-entendres (Bond as he proposes sex with a lady doctor, simultaneously undressing her: “Let’s skirt the issue.” Get it? Skirt?!).
The plot is the same as always — kill bad guy; save world; fornicate with girl. The evil super-villain is a gem of an idea, but his full potential is never tapped. His name is Renard (Robert Carlyle), and due to a bullet lodged in his skull, he can’t feel any pain, which means he can withstand any number of dreadful things that would make lesser super-villains wince. It’s a chilling idea, but it’s hardly used in the film. Too bad.
Another missed possibility is when Bond’s boss, M (Judi Dench), is kidnapped. Now it’s personal for Bond — but M hardly ever seems in much danger before Bond rescues her, and the whole thing seems like a mild distraction, rather than the earth-shaking Bond crisis it could have been.
It’s almost like director Michael Apted is afraid of straying too far from the Bond formula, except for occasionally joking about it. The result is a film that is typical Bond: amusing, entertaining and fun, but nothing spectacular.
B- (2 hrs. 8 min.; )