IN "THE WORLD Is Not Enough," Pierce Brosnan's James Bond is starting to look a tad long in the tooth. And it looks as though Desmond Llewelyn's "Q" is taking his final bow.
But don't worry. Pierce probably has another Bond in him. And Q's replacement looks to be none other than -- well, let's just say, "Now it's time for someone completely different."
But personnel changes, no matter how significant, will never stop the eternal Bond factory. If there'll always be an England, there'll always be a Bond. Hence this bold, declarative sentence at the end of the movie: "James Bond will return."
In fact, Bond flicks have returned steadily since 1962, when a young Sean Connery (the first Bond, for those of you unaware of the series' original Agent 007) beheld the salty-wet, bikini-clad Ursula Andress -- name of Honey Ryder -- emerging from the sea in "Dr. No."
In "The World Is Not Enough," little has changed in more than 36 years. Denise Richards, who has built her career as a nubile sex symbol without too much gray matter, is now Bond's latest pinup ally as Christmas Jones. She's hardly the world's greatest actor either. But we're meant to believe she's a nuclear weapons expert.
"The World Is Not Enough," which has something to do with the possible destruction of the Western world's biggest oil pipeline, oozes over with plot.
In addition to Christmas Jones, Bond (Brosnan in his third appearance) crosses paths with oil heiress Elektra King (Sophie Marceau), sinister terrorist Renard (Robert Carlyle) and double agent Valentin (Robbie Coltrane). And of course, Her Majesty's best agent attends the usual round of office meetings with Q (Llewelyn) and M (Judi Dench).
Making sense of Bond scenarios was never the point. The movie, like its 18 predecessors, is all about the sideshow. (Okay, Bondistas, I'm not counting those unofficial Bond films like "Never Say Never Again.") We're talking about girls, gadgetry, villains, international hot spots and, last but not least, saucy dialogue.
"Would you like to check my figures?" an attractive woman asks Bond, as he attends a significant meeting with a shady Swiss banker.
Naturally, she's referring to the financial records in her hands. And naturally so is Bond when he replies: "Oh, I'm sure they're perfectly rounded."
I'll spare you the exchange between Bond and Miss Moneypenny (Samantha Bond) on the subject of cigars.
The fact is, this is an enjoyable formula. "The World Is Not Enough" is simply a visit to familiar territory with that martini -- shaken, not stirred -- waiting at some out-of-the-way international bar.
There's a thrilling and wonderfully implausible boat race on the Thames. There's a joyride on the nose of an atomic bomb racing through a pipeline in Turkey. There's a great bungee stunt in Bilbao. And there's skiing in Azerbaijan. There is always skiing, it seems. And as we watch footage of two stuntmen pretending to be Bond and Elektra streaking down the slopes, we have to pretend it's really actors Brosnan and Marceau. And when the stars pause to catch their breath after a strenuous downhill run -- their hair still perfectly coiffed -- we smirk to ourselves. This is the world of James Bond; and if we don't believe, the whole fantasy will plunge into a crevasse.
THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH (PG-13, 128 minutes) -- Contains obscured nudity, extensive machine-gun deaths and risque dialogue. Area theaters.