The Bond Villain
While the character of Elektra King may begin the film taking the traditional role of the Bond girl, part-way through the film she is revealed to be the main antagonist. It is an interesting twist on the series formula subverting expectations and providing a female lead villain for the first time in the franchise’s history. As a consequence of her multi-faceted journey, Elektra proves to be a more rounded, fully developed character satisfactorily fulfilling both roles equally well.
Elektra King: There’s no point in living, if you can’t feel alive.
The casting of French actress Sophie Marceau, already an international star following her role in Braveheart, is the film’s masterstroke. In the past, it was generally expected that relatively unknown actresses or former models would take the female roles in the Bond films but with this film it required a more experienced actress to convince in the dual role. Other actresses considered for the part included Maria Grazia Cucinotta, who was eventually cast as Cigar Girl in the pre-credits sequence, and Sharon Stone, who had appeared with Brosnan in an episode of Remington Steele back in 1983.
Marceau was the perfect choice for the role bringing a convincing vulnerability to her early scenes before personifying the cold, calculating woman she has become. She is a truly tragic character, who through circumstances in her past has drastically changed to be motivated purely by wealth even killing her own father to inherit and build upon his fortune. Her link to the film’s other villain, Renard, after their relationship derived from Stockholm syndrome following her earlier abduction, is a dark twist in her back-story but a wholly believable one due to her manipulative nature. After the poorly written villain of the previous film, Elektra is possibly one of the most three-dimensional characters of the Brosnan era films and the film truly benefits from her presence and her death is one of the film’s genuinely surprising moments revealing Bond’s darker side as he kills her in cold blood.
The film’s other villain, Renard, is built around an intriguing concept of a man who does not feel pain due to a bullet lodged in his brain. He also has nothing left to live for as the bullet will eventually kill him so he has no fear either. It is a brilliant idea but sadly never fully developed and overshadowed by Elektra’s story arc. It is made even more disappointing by the fact that Robert Carlyle, a man responsible for some of film and TV’s most unhinged characters including Begbie from Trainspotting, was cast in the role and not given the opportunity to showcase his talents.
Renard: You can’t kill me. I’m already dead.
James Bond: Not dead enough for me.
Aside from the fact that Renard does not even appear in the film until 45 minutes in, the character receives a build up describing him as an anarchist whose only goal is chaos but this is not really how the restrained character comes across. There is a general sense that he has been toned down to take a back-seat in the film allowing Elektra to take the main villain duties leaving a nagging feeling that he is a wasted opportunity that would have been best served in another film taking the lead villain role for himself.
The Bond Girl
With Elektra taking the dual role of Bond girl and lead villain, the character of Dr. Christmas Jones, a nuclear physicist plays a smaller role than that of previous Bond girls. After her introduction half-way through the film it becomes apparent that she is the kind of scientist that can only exist in the world of James Bond and that she has little grounding in reality. In a move that shocked fans and thrilled teenage boys, Denise Richards, who at the time was riding high on the success of Starship Troopers and Wild Things, was cast in the role despite being 18 years younger than Brosnan.
James Bond: What do I need to defuse a nuclear bomb?
Dr. Christmas Jones: Me.
Richards is by no means the worst Bond girl of the series, she certainly convinces in the action scenes and has a tough resilience missing from many of Bond’s previous companions; the biggest problem is she is given some rather clunky lines of dialogue and is on the receiving end of a number of double entendres that seem rather sleazy given the age difference. Like Renard, she would have been better served in a different story as Elektra tends to dominate the film leaving little room for other new characters to develop.
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