Wednesday, 26 February 2020 13:42

TWINE: Remembering “The World Is Not Enough” on its 20th Anniversary

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The World Is Not Enough

Coate: In what way was Denise Richards’ Christmas Jones (or Sophie Marceau’s Elektra King) a memorable Bond Girl?

Caplen: Elektra King is a fascinating Bond Girl with a very complex character arc. Initially portrayed as the victim and a pawn, Elektra ultimately presents herself as a conniving manipulator disguised as a businesswoman set on recapturing her family’s legacy (supposedly taken from her by her father) and controlling the world’s oil supply. She has many demons, familial and otherwise, that are touched upon only superficially, an unfortunate limitation in the script. Elektra admits to using sex as a weapon — against Renard and Bond — to advance her own personal agenda, but she ultimately underestimates her sexual powers (at least over Bond). One might say Elektra is the most tortured soul since Tracy di Vicenzo in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but audiences at least get a better glimpse into Elektra’s past. Ultimately, Elektra opens an important portal for the franchise to explore greater complexity and emotion within the Bondian formula.

Dr. Christmas Jones, by contrast, seems entirely out of place in the film. Writers certainly did not help Denise Richards, offering lines such as “Do you want to put that in English for those of us who don’t speak spy?” And the chemistry between Richards and Pierce Brosnan is a few small steps ahead of the Roger Moore/Lynn-Holly Johnson dynamic in For Your Eyes Only.

The concept of Dr. Christmas Jones, of course, is a good one: a capable nuclear physicist who is tasked with dismantling nuclear weapons in Russia. (It’s interesting to note that two of the [supposedly] most educated Bond Girls in the franchise — astronaut/CIA agent Dr. Holly Goodhead and Dr. Christmas Jones — are Americans with names that cut squarely against their qualifications.) But Dr. Jones (no, not that Dr. Jones) falls short of expectations. She does offer some mission critical assistance given her knowledge of dismantling bombs, but she ultimately advances the film’s aesthetic. It is no coincidence that, as water submerges everyone during the climactic submarine battle, Dr. Jones is adorned in a white shirt.

Cork: This is not a knock on Denise Richards as an actress or a human being, but my fantasy edit of The World Is Not Enough basically would eliminate her role entirely. She was an MGM casting decision and becomes more of a distraction than even eye-candy in the film. The problem is that Bond is emotionally invested in Elektra King, and the audience knows this long before Miss Hot Pants joins the festivities in her Tomb Raider / Nuclear Scientist outfit.

In contrast, I absolutely love Sophie Marceau’s performance, and this is from someone who doesn’t much like the way Bond interacts with Elektra King. I’m a sentimental guy. I cry at movies, funerals, weddings, birthday parties. But I am not so mushy that I would reach up to a computer monitor and try to touch a tear on the face of a woman crying in a news clip. I always felt that Bond should not fall for Elektra, and that this was a mistake dramatically. It means we can’t invest in the potential sexual chemistry with Christmas Jones, and that it is all going to end badly. But every shot of Marceau is perfection to me. She brings so much more out of that character, and I could watch her play Elektra King all day long. Her Elektra King ranks up there with the best femme fatal performances from the film noir era and beyond.

Funnell: Christmas Jones is arguably one of the worst Bond Girls featured across the series. She is on par with Stacey Sutton in A View to a Kill (1985), drawing a further comparison between the films (see my comment to the previous question). It is clear that more attention was placed on developing the character of Elektra King; this renders Jones both a cliché and afterthought. Her only purpose is to serve as an object of affection at the end of the film so that Bond can insert (pun intended) his groan-worthy “I thought Christmas only comes once a year” line.

The World Is Not Enough newspaper adCoate: Where do you think The World is Not Enough ranks among the James Bond movie series?

Caplen: Filled with millennial gadgetry, beautiful locations, high-tech graphics, and excitement, TWINE was deeply satisfying for my twenty year-old eyes when I saw it in theaters. I still think it is a fun, entertaining film, but much of the humor is dated. Few contemporary audiences have heard of Y2K, and most probably would not understand that the Bond-Moneypenny cigar dialogue is a dig about the Clinton impeachment scandal. The gravity of Q’s retirement, for me, outweighs any emotion Bond may exhibit after he kills Elektra. And Denise Richards, unlike Lois Chiles, could not overcome a silly Bond Girl naming convention to make Dr. Christmas Jones a more plausible character. I would rank TWINE as Pierce Brosnan’s third strongest film behind GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies.

Cork: I ranked it 19th back in 2012, which seems very low to me now considering the things I love about the film. But The World Is Not Enough feels like two movies fighting each other uneasily, and as much as I love the late editor, Jim Clark (Charade, Marathon Man), he couldn’t marry those two films. There is the light, absurdist adventure film filled with seductions and giant buzz saws chasing after fat men who dive into ponds of caviar, which is one that is not really in director Michael Apted’s wheelhouse, but very much is in second unit director Vic Armstrong’s range. And then there is the hard-edged, darker film where M nearly destroys MI6 because of her affection for an old university friend and her desire to protect his daughter, where Bond has to cold-bloodedly kill a woman he thought he could love. Either one of those films could be great. Together, they are at war.

Funnell: It is not in my top or bottom five.

Coate: What is the legacy of The World Is Not Enough?

Caplen: The World is Not Enough was only the third James Bond film released in the 1990s, a sharp decline in the number of installments per decade than what moviegoers experienced in the 1960s (six films), 1970s (five films), and 1980s (five films). Nevertheless, TWINE brought about a strong close to the twentieth century James Bond, ending much like Moonraker did twenty years earlier. If Pierce Brosnan had not firmly established himself as Agent 007 by Tomorrow Never Dies, he certainly owned the role in TWINE, and audiences craving high octane action were satisfied and longing for more in the new millennium.

TWINE did not delve deeper into an emotional character study, though it certainly painted an interesting storyline with Elektra King and revealed some of James Bond’s vulnerabilities. TWINE ultimately confirmed that drama could coexist alongside typical 007 cinematic elements, as later demonstrated more masterfully in Skyfall. In that regard, TWINE offers a more multifaceted storyline than previous installments, preserving the film’s long-term entertainment value despite the late 1990s ethos.

Cork: The World Is Not Enough began the legacy of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. Screenwriters come and go through the process of creating new Bond films. Few writers really get Bond and get the intricate flow of dialogue that can make a Bond film such a joy to watch. I think Richard Maibaum did. Tom Mankiewicz did. Bruce Feirstein does. Even harder is to get Bond right in the multi-cook kitchen that is a 007 film as it roars toward production. Everyone has new ideas all the time. Michael G. Wilson, who is responsible for some of the greatest scenes in the series, asks a lot of writers. Barbara Broccoli had the initial idea for the story after seeing a report on Baku on a plane flight, and she valiantly fights for the characters to rise above the chaos of a big-budget action film. Everyone sees their own Bond, and everyone thinks their Bondian humor is funny. Purvis and Wade wrote the initial drafts of TWINE with Bruce Feirstein coming in and making wonderful contributions even during production (most of the wittier dialogue in the film is his). Purvis and Wade have come back for six films as of this writing. Only Tom Mankiewicz had been the sole writer on a Bond film (for Live and Let Die) prior to 2002, but Purvis and Wade made it through every draft of Die Another Day. They have been part of the series now for twenty years. That is an incredible run, and one that speaks to a great deal of skill in negotiating the creative process with the producers.

Funnell: The Brosnan era films present the impression that while the world around James Bond has changed, especially in terms of gender politics and geopolitics, the iconic hero endures and remains steadfast in his commitment to safeguard “Queen and country.” However, with the rise of a Bond Girl-Villain hybrid, or a female villain who masquerades as a Bond Girl (depending on how you look at it), the film (un)intentionally draws into question the effectiveness of Bond libidinal masculinity and its shelf-life in the series. It is presented as more of a liability in the latter Brosnan era films (with Miranda Frost disarming Bond in the next film Die Another Day [2002]) and this provides producers with a strong justification for altering the heroic model governing the franchise in the prequel Casino Royale (2006).

Coate: Thank you — Robert, John, and Lisa — for participating and sharing your thoughts about The World is Not Enough on the occasion of its 20th anniversary.

The James Bond roundtable discussion will return in Remembering “The Man with the Golden Gun” on its 45th Anniversary.

The World Is Not Enough


Selected images copyright/courtesy 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, CBS-Fox Home Video, Danjaq LLC, Eon Productions Limited, MGM Home Entertainment, San Francisco Examiner, United Artists Corporation.


- Michael Coate

Michael Coate can be reached via e-mail through this link. (You can also follow Michael on social media at these links: Twitter and Facebook)

The World Is Not Enough (Blu-ray Disc)