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. Not too many problems emerged in this usually excellent presentation.
Only minor concerns popped up in terms of visual definition. A few wide shots seemed slightly soft, largely due to a little edge enhancement. However, most of the flick seemed crisp and detailed, so those instances failed to create real distractions. I detected no signs of moiré effects or jagged edges, and source flaws were totally absent.
Colors seemed very good. The movie exhibited a natural palette that demonstrated fine clarity and vivacity. Blacks also appeared dark and dense, and shadows usually were appropriately opaque. A few shots – usually those connected to the stealth boat – could seem a little too thick, but those were rare. Overall, this was a very nice transfer.
I liked the audio of Dies even more. The package included both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. As I’ve come to expect from these Bond “Ultimate Edition” DVDs, both sounded virtually identical to me.
The world of James Bond is a loud and dynamic one, and these mixes pumped the audio to a positive degree. The soundfields 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.
How did the picture and audio of this “Ultimate Edition” compare to those of the original 1998 special edition? The audio of both sets appeared identical, but the UE offered substantial visual improvements. It presented better sharpness along with tighter colors and fewer source flaws.
The UE offers all the same extras as the prior release along with some new ones. I’ll mark this package’s exclusives with an asterisk, so if you fail to see a star, the component also appeared on the original set.
On DVD One, we start 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 his tendency to praise 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.
As we shift to DVD Two, we find four separate components under Declassified: MI6 Vault. We begin with a collection of nine *Deleted and Extended Scenes. We get “Gupta in Office with Cards” (1:14), “Moving Assignment – Extended” (3:15), “Bond Gets a Jag” (0:52), “Full Sir Angus Black Story” (1:42), “’Get to Know Him Better’” (1:19), “Rental Car” (1:08), “Gupta Throws a Card at Guard” (0:43), “’What the Hell Do I Pay You For?’” (1:36) and “’Let’s Stay Undercover’” (1:35).
All together, these take up 13 minutes, 27 seconds, and all come with introductions from director Spottiswoode. (He also offers a 26-second statement that leads into the collection as a whole.) the director lets us know a little background about the clips and relates why he cut them.
As for the scenes themselves, they’re usually pretty interesting. None of them adds a whole lot to the experience, but they’re fun to see. The Gupta bits are the most compelling since they offer a minor character element eliminated from the final film.
Two scenes allow us to view them via *Expanded Angles. We find “The Car Chase” (4:07) and “White Knight” (7:28). Both can be viewed in their final film incarnation, as an alternate angle, or as a composite screen with a mix of additional angles; the latter breaks into as many as elements at times. These allow us a cool way to check out unused footage and see other options. This area also comes with a 56-second intro from Spottiswoode, as he sets up what we’ll see.
*Highly Classified: The World of 007 runs 57 minutes, 43 seconds. Hosted by Desmond Llewelyn in character as “Q”, we get comments from Spottiswoode, Wilson, Armstrong, Arnold, aerial coordinator Marc Wolff, stunt coordinator Dickey Beer, title sequence director Daniel Kleinman, HALO jumper BJ Worth, storyboard artist Martin Asbury, costume designer Lindy Hemming, production designer Allan Cameron, miniature effects supervisor John Richardson,
and actors Michelle Yeoh, Pierce Brosnan, Jonathan Pryce, Judi Dench, and Samantha Bond. “World” looks at the opening aerial sequence, the title credits, characters and casting, the HALO jump, storyboards, the banner fall on the skyscraper, the score, costumes, the motorcycle chase, and miniatures.
Originally released as a videotape supplement, we get a pretty good mix of behind the scenes footage and information in “World”. It feels a bit fluffy at times, but it’s always nice to see Llewelyn, and the show packs enough good details to make it worthwhile. Though this doesn’t qualify as a great documentary, it’s fairly enjoyable.
Finally, we get *Moby’s Re-Version of “The James Bond Theme”. The three-minute, 25-second video combines Moby’s techno-fied version of the famous fanfare with an adventure story. We see some movie clips but mostly follow Moby as he eludes baddies and heads toward a countdown. It’s not a scintillating video, but it’s above average for the genre.
With that we head to the *007 Mission Control Interactive Guide. This splits into components under seven different headings: “007”, “Women”, “Allies”, “Villains”, “Mission Combat Manual”, “Q Branch”, and “Exotic Locations”. An odd form of “greatest hits”, this simply presents a few selected scenes that match the topics.
One of the only interesting elements comes from the presentation of the opening credits without text (3:12). “Locations” (4:23) also gives us a narrated set of clips. Samantha Bond chats over the scenes and tells us about the locations. That makes it more useful than the others since they just show snippets from the final film. The rest of the set is a waste of time.
Heading to Mission Dossier, we begin with The Secrets of 007. This program runs for 44 minutes, 33 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.
The Storyboard Presentation alters an extra on the original Dies DVD. Here we can select from nine movie scenes you can watch these segments with their original storyboards displayed in the lower right corner of the screen. Taken together via the “Play All” option, 27 minutes and 39 seconds.
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 can be a fun way to compare the sequences to the final product.
How does this DVD’s presentation of the storyboards differ from the original release? The old disc allowed us to have the boards pop up while we watch the film instead of as a separate component ala this version. The 1998 DVD also let us select them individually, so it had its cake and ate it too.
The Special Effects Reel gives us two minutes and 53 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.
An Interview With Composer David Arnold provides a minor chat with the musician. In this two-minute, 38-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.
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 trailers. We get the film’s fun teaser and its full trailer. The Image Database consists of some *Still Galleries. These split into 16 subdomains, each of which includes between one and 14 shots. 94 pictures appear in all. Some decent snaps appear, but don’t expect anything great. Lastly, the package includes a booklet that covers Bond facts.
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.
Should folks who already own the prior release pursue this Ultimate Edition? I think so. Audio remains the same for both, but this one offers noticeably improved visuals plus a few tasty new extras. This is yet another worthwhile upgrade for Bond fans.
Note that this “Ultimate Edition” of Tomorrow Never Dies can be purchased only as part of “The Ultimate James Bond Collection Volume Four”. This five-movie set also includes Dr. No, Moonraker, Octopussy, and You Only Live Twice.
To rate this film visit the original review of TOMORROW NEVER DIES