Bond Pretitle Sequences: The World is Not Enough
Simon Pitt |
Thursday 11th July
I’m watching all of the Bond pre-credit teasers one after another.
The World is Not Enough
The World is Not Enough holds the record for the longest title sequence in Bond history. It’s almost a full feature; it certainly has the structure of a three act play.
In the first act, a bespectacled Bond goes to see a Swiss Banker in Spain. “Would you like to check my figures,” the banker’s assistant asks. Bond pulls a face. He can’t believe his luck with a set up like his. He narrows his eyes, trying to resist. Eventually he goes for it, not able to help himself, “Oh, I’m sure they’re perfectly rounded.” He says. I’m beginning to wonder if Bond suffers from a type of Tourette’s Syndrome. It would certainly explain why he carries on making quips when there’s no one around.
It’s not long before Bond has blown up his gun and shot one of the guards. He grabs the banker (who seems to be more worried about smoking his cigar than getting away).”You’ll have to protect me,” he begs, just as a knife flies into his back.
Outside, the police start to arrive. I must say, the emergency services are very effective in Bond films. In Quantum of Solace and Skyfall, they hang around the edge of roads, seemingly waiting for car chases. Here, they’re on the scene within seconds of the gunshots.
Bond meanwhile has come up with a strange and incomprehensible escape plan. First, he pulls a bit of cord off the window blind. I’m not quite sure what this bit of cord is, but it magically seems to get longer as the scene progresses. It’s clearly only about two foot long when he first looks at it, but later on it is, conveniently, the same height as the building.
He ties one end to a stunned villain, threads it round the radiator, ties it to his belt and jumps off the balcony. I remember when I first saw this I went along with it, but now, I just don’t get it. How did he know the bit of cord was going to be exactly the right height for the building? We can see when he jumps off that it’s a tall building. A meter too long and Bond would have crashed into the ground. And how does tying it onto a person slow his fall? He comes to a sudden stop when he runs out of cord. That would have hurt. A lot. How did he even know this bit of cord would hold his weight? What is this bit of cord anyway? Basically, I don’t get it. But Bond pulls it off. As he’s lands the Spanish police burst in with their silly hats, and we get a comedy sting as they look around in confusion.
And that, originally, was the end of the title sequence. However, test audiences found the opening sequence too bland. So the film was cut to move the boat chase sequence ahead of the credits too. This necessitated bringing forward a central explanatory section.
The second act begins with Bond returning to London and handing over the money to MI6. He flirts with Moneypenny, who makes a dirty joke about a cigar, and M flirts with King. She even cops a quick snog.
It’s strange to have this middle, explanatory section in the pre-credit sequence. Pacing-wise, they might have been better sorting out the initial act to make Bond’s escape a bit more impressive and then left it there. Had that first escape scene had a bit more to it, we could have left this bit after the credits. As it is, the final fall onto the Millennium Dome is a bit of an anti-climax and leaves the pre-credit teaser ending on an off-beat.
Bond takes a glass of Whiskey and notices the ice fizzing on his fingers. In a bizarre jump of logic (worthy of Luther deducing that Alice was a psychopath because she didn’t yawn), Bond realises that this means the money is a trap that will go off as King reaches it. It’s so much nonsense that later on Tanner has to explain at great length how the bomb worked and why Bond’s fingers fizzed. Essentially the money was covered in wee. Even the science is ridiculous.
Bond panics. M phones Moneypenny; she doesn’t do running. They don’t think, though, of calling down to anyone closer to the money. Q just sighs as Bond comes past shouting. He’s so used to Bond running around like this. It reminds me of the bit in Skyfall where Tanner seems genuinely irritated that Bond is chasing someone on a motorbike on the roof.
A few seconds later, King Constructions adds an unplanned skylight into the side of MI6 headquarters. As Bond goes to admire the handiwork, he notices a little red dot on his jacket and the Cigar Girl on a boat in the Thames with a sniper rifle.
I don’t really get this bit either. If her plan was to kill King by blowing up the money (which is complex, but let’s go with it), why did she need to be on the river? If she hadn’t tried to shoot Bond she’d have got away. What was her plan? She’s in the middle of the Thames (which has a 9mph speed limit), in London, shooting at the headquarters of MI6. Did she really think she’d escape? We know how quick the police are in the Bond universe.
Apparently, a scene cut from the original, with Cigar Girl explaining to Renard that she’ll have to kill Bond because he knows what she looks like. Assuming she did need to do that, there must be a better way than this. I mean, how did she even know Bond would look out of the hole in the wall?
Either way, Bond runs back and grabs the first boat he comes across. Much to Q’s irritation. “It isn’t finished,” Q shouts. We don’t see any features that aren’t finished though. This is a missed opportunity. Sending Bond out on a chase with equipment that doesn’t work properly would be a nice twist to the “gadget” trope. But no, as always Bond has just the right set of gadgets for his mission.
The third act begins with Bond’s boat flying out onto the Thames. The following boat chase is an impressive sequence. We don’t often see Bond pursuing someone through London. Usually it’s exotic locations in faraway countries. It feels more real when we see the chase in a familiar setting. Of course, whenever you have an aerial shot of the Thames, you do have to be careful not to make it look like the Eastenders titles.
The cigar girl is as bad a shot as Moon was in Die Another Day and misses him with a variety of weapons. Although the chase is long, it soon gets campy. Bond’s boat does a mid-air flip for no real reason, reminiscent of the equally ridiculous car flip in The Man with the Golden Gun.
At least they didn’t put the slide whistle effect on.
The fun continues as Bond finds a dive button (and decides being under water is a good time to adjust his tie). He splashes some wheel clampers and drives his boat down a road. Before smashing up Billingsgate fish market and a restaurant. It’s like the campy days of Roger Moore when a boat chase ruins a wedding in Live and Let Die.
Thankfully, Bond doesn’t drop a fish out of the side of the boat. Even though this would make more sense than it did in The Spy Who Loved Me. This time, I agree with Cubby Broccoli over Moore:
Yes, we did have a little discussion about that. "How the hell," Cubby said, "can you be dropping a fish when the car is waterproof?" I said, "Cubby, it's a movie."
I guess the Thames is just too polluted for fish to survive.
Back on the Thames, Bond is trapped behind some flames. But his handy sat nav has found an alternative route. How it has a dot tracking Cigar Girl’s boat, I don’t understand.
Once again, the police are immediately on the scene. I think this might be their fastest appearance yet. Bond’s boat is only out of the water for about five seconds before they’re on him. For those of you that are counting, this is the fourth time in five films that the police have chased Bond.
It occurs to me, though, that’s Bond’s sat nav is pathetic. Sometimes, parcel delivery people go to the wrong end of my road, but I’ve yet to see sat nav suggest a route to my house that is through a restaurant. As ridiculous as this is, it’s satisfying when Bond flies out of the back of the restaurant, back onto the Thames and the theme tune kicks in.
Unluckily, a hot air balloon is standing by, every villain’s escape vehicle of choice. Bond jumps his boat into the air, leaps out of it and catches the rope hanging from the balloon. It’s good that he gets this practice in; it’s a move he repeats almost exactly in Die Another Day when he leaps from the hovercraft and grabs the bell rope.
“I can protect you”, Bond shouts. He doesn’t seem to notice the irony that the last person who asked for his protection was killed almost immediately. And Cigar Girl will know that, because she was the one that did the killing. Bond’s not getting a very good hit rate for protecting people so far this film.
If I’m honest, the biggest surprise for me in this whole sequence is that the Millennium Dome is solid. I fully expected it to give way like a tent.
The World is Not Enough feels very much of its time. I’d forgotten how much of a fuss there was about the Millennium Dome, back then it was the butt of every joke. A line cut from the film has M saying, “Well, at least the Millennium Dome has some use". The World is Not Enough is actually the first film to feature the Dome, so I guess they had to at least pretend they were adding it to show it off, rather than to mock it. Brosnan uses it for a cheap laugh in a surprisingly stilted interview: “the Millennium Dome doesn’t get destroyed. I’m sorry”.
Back in the nineties wheel clampers were demonised as the spawn of Satan. The equivalent today would be splashing a table of bankers out celebrating their latest bonus. The particular clamper that gets soaked here is Ray Brown, star of BBC fly on the wall documentary Clampers:
His cameo was a topical 'revenge' gag for the public, […] his over-zealous behaviour and apparent enjoyment of clamping illegally parked cars had made him a figure of popular hate.
Before filming, he’d been told they would get “slightly wet”.
Since the boat chase was not originally going to be part of the opening sequence, it was cut down to fit in. This was probably a good thing. The extended sequence is even more camp, has a random section with a dog, and a weird bit where Bond releases a parachute from the back of his boat and causes some police cars to crash.
Overall, The World is Not Enough is a mixed bag. It feels sloppy. There are gaping holes and nonsense moments. Bond’s stunts are too fantastical; you can see the continuation of this trend in the mess that is Die Another Day. The attention to detail is lacking too. At times, you can clearly see the stunt man. Bond’s boat changes abruptly between cuts.
It is, however, generally good fun with some memorable moments. The script has flashes of wit, and although the stunts are silly, if you go along with them, they are impressive. As always, the resounding score from David Arnold helps a lot.
Name Rank and Number
I think he got the Point
- Bond gives his real name when meeting the Swiss banker.
- M introduces Bond to King by his full name. He isn’t referred to as 007 at all during this sequence.
Do all those vodka martinis silence the screams of all the men you've killed?
- “If you can’t trust a Swiss banker, what’s the world come to?” Bond says dryly.
- “Would you like to check my figures?” Cigar Girl asks Bond. Bond looks like he has a moment of doubt before saying, “Oh, I’m sure they’re perfectly rounded”.
- In response to the banker’s claims that the numbers are on his side, Bond quips, “Perhaps you fail to take into account my hidden assets”. Inexplicably, Brosnan appears to do a Sean Connery impression as he says “hidden assets.”
- Having corrected the banker once, Bond threatens him with a gun and besmirches his accounting ability. “Let’s count to three. You can do that, can’t you?” That’s got to hurt.
- Moneypenny rejects Bond’s gift of a cigar. “The story of our relationship,” Bond sighs. “Close but no cigar.”
- King offers 007 a job in his firm. “Construction is not quite my speciality,” Bond says. “Quite the opposite, in fact,” M jumps in. Given what happens next, it’s a good point.
Listen Carefully 007
- Bond shoots one of the banker’s men. The other two he knocks out and we see both recover.
- Cigar Girl blows up her hot air balloon once Bond catches up with her. You can hardly blame Bond for that one. Bond only scores one this round.
Perfect for relaxing after a hard day at the office
- We learn that M went to Oxford and studied law.
- We have a look around inside MI6 headquarters. Most of Q’s laboratory appears to be in the hallway, bizarrely. That must be quite distracting for him.
- Bond’s gun has an explosive charge hidden in it.
- His glasses have the detonator (rather than, as is usual, his watch).
- Later on in the film Q says the boat that Bond uses is his “fishing boat” for his retirement. I’m not sure what sort of fishing he intends to do.
- The Q Boat can dive underwater
- It has heat-seeking torpedoes
- And also a sat-nav system that seems to be able to track, at whim, arbitrary objects (such as the boat Bond is pursuing) and determine, without prompting, alternative routes, even where no path exists. In one way it’s quite impressive. In another, it’s awful. Imagine if you were trying to use that system to get home, and it suggested jumping your boat out of the water and crashing through a shopping centre. Your commute would cost a fortune.
SP will return…