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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Tomorrow Never Dies (review)

License to Shill

Explosions. Babes. Gadgets. Exotic locales. Nasty bad guys with German accents. A lovely, tuxedo-clad good guy with an English accent. Tomorrow Never Dies (starring Pierce Brosnan, Jonathan Pryce, Michelle Yeoh, and Teri Hatcher) is a Bond movie. Nuff said. What it does, it does well. But it’s cinematic junk food that you would normally forget before the credits have even stopped rolling.

Except you will not be allowed to forget this movie, because Pierce Brosnan is on television more now than when he was Remington Steele. On commercials. Seems you can’t tune into Must-See TV these days without Brosnan’s mug — however charming — hawking cell phones or luxury automobiles.
Even in the theater itself, you may not escape the ad-fest. Sitting there waiting for Tomorrow to start, the audience was assaulted with a promo for 777-FILM starring you-know-who. “Looking for tickets to the new Bond movie?” the announcer exhorted as Bond cavorts with his gun. “Try 777-FILM.” Yes, thank you, but we’re here already — we’ve already purchased the tickets. Go away.

Smirnoff, BMW, Omega watches, Ericsson cellular phones, Avis — all are featured prominently in the movie. All right, we’re learning to live with product placement, and it’s actually not that blatant. But you’ve seen the BMW commercial in which Bond drives the car around himself and Q with the little remote control, right? Guess what? That’s a clip from the film. BMW did not even bother shooting its own ad (or maybe Roger Spottiswoode — Tomorrow‘s director — just picked up BMW’s commercial). And then there’s the ad that features Q running down car insurance options with Bond — now, is that an ad for the movie, or for Avis, or for BMW? I can’t remember. I wonder if it even matters — they’re all in bed together, anyway.

But the most insidious bit is a product placement that isn’t there. We’re all familiar by now with the Visa campaign featuring famous people who try to write checks and — despite their fame — are required to present ID (surprise: there’s even one with Bond). Well, there’s a line in Tomorrow about paying by check that sounds as if it’s setting up a punchline. However, in the silence after the comic payoff that doesn’t come, I could not help but fill it in myself with a joke about Visa being everywhere you want to be. And that infuriated me — now I’m doing the job Visa’s marketers should be doing! Oooooo! *clenched fists*

The thing that really gets me is that Tomorrow‘s bad guy, Elliot Carver (Pryce) is a media mogul gone bad — he’s Bill Gates, Ted Turner, and The Brain rolled into one. Carver — who’s very Big Brother-esque, from the giant banners of his face plastered everywhere to the spy cameras he uses to eavesdrop on his wife — wants to use mass media to take over the world. So Tomorrow tries to tell us Mass media = Evil, while its creators use mass media to hypnotize us. Repeat after me: I will be a supercool secret agent if I buy an Ericsson phone… I will be a supercool secret agent if I buy an Ericsson phone… I will be a supercool secret agent if I buy an Ericsson phone…

Now that’s evil.


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MPAA: rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action violence, sexuality and innuendo

viewed at a public multiplex screening

official site | IMDb
posted in:
action | comedy | reviews | spy

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