Tomorrow Never Dies appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The film suffered from a rather mediocre transfer.
Sharpness displayed many of the concerns. These elements were erratic since parts of the movie displayed decent delineation. Unfortunately, quite a few others appeared rather fuzzy and muddy. I detected no signs of moiré effects or jagged edges, but some edge enhancement appeared.
Print flaws were fairly minor. A little grit occurred at times, but the main defect was an odd one. During a few scenes, I saw light semi-translucent bars that rolled across the screen from right to left. These first appeared at around the 19-minute, 45-second mark, and they virtually always accompanied shots of the Stealth Boat. Most of the movie lacked these problems, but they did provide an occasional distraction.
Colors usually appeared reasonably natural and rich. They didn’t often excel, however, and they sometimes seemed a bit flat and runny. Black levels looked acceptably deep, but shadows were murky. Low-light shots appeared hazy and too dark much of the time. Ultimately, this was a less than stellar image.
Better was the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Tomorrow Never Dies. The world of James Bond is a loud and dynamic one, and this mix pumped the audio to a positive degree. The soundfield showed a very high level of activity. The front channels displayed a great deal of sound across the speakers, as music provided fine stereo separation and effects were broad and engaging. The forward spectrum was quite realistic and involving, and the surrounds also contributed a good level of reinforcement. Dies included a lot of action sequences, and all of these became more exciting due to the engrossing audio that came from all around the viewer. The sounds blended together neatly and panned well between speakers to create a fairly seamless environment.
Audio quality also appeared to be generally positive. Some dialogue sounded slightly stiff, and occasional examples of awkward dubbing occurred, but as a whole the speech seemed to be quite natural and warm. No signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility marred the presentation. Jets and missiles betrayed some modest distortion, but otherwise effects sounded crisp and accurate, and they could definitely pack a solid punch. Dies offered fine low-end when appropriate, which meant that the piece often really rumbled the house. Music also showed positive dynamics, as the score seemed to be clear and was presented with good fidelity. In the end, Tomorrow Never Dies provided a fine auditory experience that was marred solely by a few minor flaws.
On this special edition release of Tomorrow Never Dies, we encounter a nice mix of extras, starting with two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Roger Spottiswoode, who is essentially interviewed here by Dan Petrie. I found this to be an absolutely terrific track during which I learned a wealth of great information. Spottiswoode covers a wide variety of topics, from the technical elements of making a Bond flick to the creative decisions he had to make. He notes that for all of their common areas, it can be difficult to do a Bond film because a) you have to find ways to make things different and more exciting, and b) everyone and his uncle has an opinion about the series. Spottiswoode even gets into a nice discussion of the pros and cons of various film aspect ratios! I really liked the discussion of the challenges that are unique to the Bond universe, and I thought this was a very complete track.
Good but not as scintillating was the second commentary. It featured producer Michael G. Wilson and second unit director Vic Armstrong. Both men were recorded together for this screen-specific track. I suppose part of the reason I liked this piece less than Spottiswoode’s was because inevitably Wilson and Armstrong repeat some of the same information, but even if that hadn’t occurred, I’d still think less of it. They spend too much of the commentary praising various participants and leave less time to tell of details. Wilson dominates the track, and this tendency makes sense since he needs to continue to maintain a positive relationship with all the folks attached to the project. At times I heard some nice details, and this commentary got a bit more involved in the technical specifics of the film, but it wasn’t as compelling as Spottiswoode’s track. Still, it’s worth a listen for fans of the movie.
A third alternate audio program also appears. This one includes an Isolated Music Track. Via this mode, you can listen to all of David Arnold’s score plus other tunes like Sheryl Crow’s title song in their uninterrupted glory. This piece provides the music in Dolby Surround sound. I’m not terribly fond of movie scores, but I know many folks do enjoy them, so this kind of feature remains a nice bonus.
Next we find a documentary about the Bond series. Entitled The Secrets of 007, this program runs for 44 minutes and 35 seconds and takes a global look at the franchise. Hosted by Peter Coyote, the show splits its segments into various topics such as the different actors to play Bond, the movies’ stunts, Bond women, and Bond villains. Dies gets a minor emphasis, and we hear more about it toward the end of the documentary, but the overall emphasis remains on the entire series. It’s a decent show, but I would have preferred to find a more detailed discussion of Dies, especially since GoldenEye included a similar program; that one makes “The World of 007” feel somewhat redundant. Plus, Coyote does not make a satisfactory replacement for Liz Hurley, the host of the prior program.
A few other smaller extras flesh out the package. One was quite innovative at the time of this DVD’s release in late 1998. When you enter the Special Play Options domain, you can select any of the three audio choices I already mentioned, and you can also pick the “Parallel Action Storyboard Presentation”. With this activated, a few scenes in the movie will display a “007” logo. At that point, hit the “angle” button on your remote and you can watch these segments with their original storyboards displayed in the lower right corner of the screen.
The execution of this feature was a little sloppy; the drawings are made semi-translucent, which doesn’t decrease the manner in which they interfere with the film but it does make them more difficult to see. Nonetheless, this was a neat attempt to do something different and interactive, and it can be interesting for fans of storyboards. Note that you don’t have to watch the entire movie to check out these sequences. The menu offers a “List of Scenes” that allows easy access to the nine parts of the flick that include the option.
An Interview With Composer David Arnold provides a minor chat with the musician. In this 160-second clip, we hear a few tidbits from Arnold about his work on Dies; these statements intermix with shots from the film. Ultimately, the latter overwhelm the former. Arnold gives us a couple of interesting remarks about the challenges of composing for Bond, but this piece feels too brief and superficial to add much to the set.
The Special Effects Reel gives us two minutes and 50 seconds of what the title implies: shots of effects footage as they get composited together. We see greenscreen images combined with backgrounds and other elements as they mix to make the final product. This comes only with music from the film; no narration discusses what we observe. Still, it’s a brief but neat little look at how some of the movie’s pieces created the final result.
Gadgets offers a short look at three of the film’s devices. We find narrated text and small images of the Sea-Vac, the BMW, and the cell phone featured in the flick. The details add a little, but not much, as this was a fairly useless piece.
A music video for Sheryl Crow’s title song provides a reasonably flashy and entertaining clip. The track shows Crow as she lip-synchs the tune, and we also see a mix of snippets from the movie. However, the piece attempts to resemble a Bond credit sequence, and it does so well. Crow romps across the visual landscape, and the movie bits become cleanly integrated. It’s not a great video, but it’s definitely above average for a clip that promotes a movie.
Speaking of promotion, the DVD includes two ads. We get the film’s fun teaser and its full trailer. Lastly, the case includes a terrific 12-page booklet that covers lots of interesting Bond facts. MGM used to regularly produce fine pieces like this; it’s too bad they’ve ceased such endeavors, as I always really liked their solid booklets.
Ultimately, Tomorrow Never Dies offers neither the greatest film nor DVD in the world, but it’s a solid piece in both regards. The movie initially left me a little cold, but I’ve come to better enjoy some of its charms over the years. It doesn’t provide the spark found in the best Bond flicks, but it works pretty nicely on its own. The DVD features solid picture and sound plus a positive roster of extras. Tomorrow Never Dies shouldn’t be your first Bond DVD purchase, but it would make a fine addition to your collection nonetheless.