Is James Bond about to meet his ‘match’ and marry his nemesis?
Bond 25 is due in November 2019. Daniel Craig returning. Pre-production underway, apparently. Director announcement etc, imminent. Warners the favourite to gain distribution rights, with innovative competition in the shape of Amazon /Apple. The rest? Click-bait. Nothing more.
But some rumour threads could have an accidental ring of truth. Lots point to James Bond getting married, with echoes of if not full on remaking On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. All fine. Why not reference one of the greatest Bond books/films ever? And yes, take Craig’s Bond to a logical and linear, developmental end, via a (Christoph) waltz up the aisle? 😉
That said, there would still need to be some original spin, relative to the tone of the Daniel Craig era; current world moods/fears and some hanging threads and motifs from 2015’s SPECTRE. And I have just the thing in mind. Yes, it involves ret-con of a ret-con. But no film franchise truly has every move planned out completely without the odd tinker / tweak here and there. Bit like life.
Run with it. Follow me. The occasional spoiler is involved..’things were about to turn nasty’. Fans will disagree. ‘Do I look like I give a damn?’.
My spin / pitch? Bond marries Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux). But Madeleine is the real Blofeld. So Bond has married his worst fear. Which in turn justifies his lifelong fear of commitment in the first place.
Yes, you read that right. Lea Seydoux returns as Madeleine. In SPECTRE, Christoph Waltz (who could also return for Bond 25), you may recall, played a character called Oberhauser, who was then revealed to be Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
That latter name meant everything to Bond fans but nothing to the Bond character, as that was the first time he’d heard it ‘in universe’. Few if any really ‘bought’ that twist; weakening an otherwise perfectly fine Bond film and arguably leaving an almighty mess, continuity wise, that simply cannot be ignored in the follow-up.
Lea Seydoux’s Madeleine was all but redundant, criminally underwritten, to the extent that she quite literally just leaves the action then turns up again in a contrived coda. From plot device to love of James’ life? Nah!
What if that was deliberate all along, though? You set her up as Damsel in distress and the future Mrs Bond, whilst leaving just enough reverse engineered hints that more was at play.
Think murder mystery / crime thriller terminology. Means. Motive. Opportunity. Conclusions.
- Means: She’s a psychologist. Knows how to mess with a man’s mind.
Hence, playing on Bond’s repressed memories of childhood, Madeleine recruited Oberhauser to elongate his own involvement in Bond’s previous trauma ‘the author of all your pain‘. The constant references to Vesper, M et al: playing on all of Bond’s insecurities, memories, desires.
If that seemed like far too elaborate a contrivance then perhaps it’s because it was precisely that. Madeleine could then generate a false sense of security, posing as the saved damsel. She then actively manipulates Bond toward leaving the secret service, with his resting on a mistaken belief that he has defeated the ultimate villainy. Marriage comes as the next logical step: the final emasculation and isolation of the former 007. And then: bang..she strikes.
Bond crippled QUANTUM, the sister / subsidiary organisation to SPECTRE. Mr White was head of QUANTUM. He was also Madeleine’s Father. So his downfall could logically have registered with her and even left her a tad put out.
Perhaps the family lost money, reputation and so on? Mr White took his own life, supposedly driven to that by Oberhauser and a Russian poison tactic. But it could so easily have all been designed, once again, by Madeleine. And her natural point of vengeful rage: Bond!
Madeleine ran a Clinic. As did Blofeld, in the novel and film of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. It’s an ideal cover for brainwashing activities of assassins run by a criminal organisation. It was also where Bond first met Madeleine and seemingly saved her from certain death at the hands of Mr Hinx (Dave Bautista). But was she REALLY ever in danger? Look again. Madeleine seems rather adept at dealing with Hinx, as though he were in fact taking her orders..
Madeleine could indeed be Blofeld. Remember that the great Barbara Broccoli (007 Producer since 1995’s GoldenEye) once pitched the 1999 Brosnan Bond film, The World is Not Enough, as ‘Bond thinks he has met Tracey but in fact it is Blofeld’. (nb: Tracey = the volatile yet wonderful woman Bond woos and marries in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service; treated as implied canon in subsequent Bond eras, long after its definitive adaptation on film in 1969).
That was an excellent pitch, just realised in a rush and thereby squandered, much like many motifs of the well intended but naturally over-cautious Brosnan era. Shame. Because Sophie Marceau (a French actress, just like Lea) certainly pulled off the reveal of love interest as villain. Must be a French trait (Emmanuelle Beart also achieves the switch in roles in Mission: Impossible, a kind of latte Bond substitute from 1996).
But good ideas are never wasted. They can resurface and be done justice onscreen. Just as Casino Royale and Skyfall took elements from that World is Not Enough potential and did them ‘right’, so too can that core pitch of ‘Tracey = Blofeld’ be done again, ‘right’.
Lea Seydoux could certainly pull off the role and the twist, given her ability to switch character in a look / body language, from loving warmth to villainous revulsion. If in any doubt? Just see her in 2013’s Blue is the Warmest Colour. And it’s there in SPECTRE, with looks of passion / admiration for Bond tempered by her occasional snapping away and putting him quite firmly in his place.
Can it be done? Of course! And it still allows Bond to face a self contained threat, separate from the Mrs Bond is Blofeld arc. Christoph Waltz could return as Oberhauser, exposed as a useful yet still deadly informant, playfully pulling strings again, just not as ‘Blofeld’. More akin to Jeroen Krabbé as Koskov in 1987’s Living Daylights (opposite Timothy Dalton’s Bond) via Waltz’s own Inglorious Basterds routine.
The SPECTRE organisation and Bond’s encounters with its geo-political machinations, can still have occurred, independent of the events in the film. And Bond could still have a secondary romance along the way: a final fling, perhaps with an old flame (Moneypenny? Camille? Or a guest star character, played by someone like..oh maybe Nicole Kidman? Naomi Watts?).
And yes, there can still be a movie manifestation of the novel universe’s ‘garden of death‘. But it must thrill, from start to end: boiling the blood and playing to every man’s fantasies and fears, be they adolescent or nearing old age.
Bond is with Madeleine at the start of Bond 25, perhaps? They reunite mid film, he goes back to finish a mission. She is there at the end. Waiting. Cue marriage. Happily ever afters within reach. And then there is just a sudden ‘tell’. Something over a breakfast table, even.
In a cafe or hotel suite? A hint, a name, something. She’s Blofeld. THAT was her real surname, and ‘White’ , ‘Swann’ etc were all covers. Notice the Fleming precedent (in the On Her Majesty’s Secret Service novel, ‘Blofeld’ used the name ‘de Bleuchamp’ as a cover; and his books frequently end with a woman betraying / leaving / dying at Bond’s hands).
And so, the Craig era ends. Not with a whimper or a bang. But a kind of cliffhanger, with which Ian Fleming once experimented (see the novel From Russia with Love). In this case, you would know Bond’s heart is about to be broken, yet again and that he is very possibly in mortal danger.
But a look of playful vindication is there. He was right to avoid marriage (something he confesses to making an art form in Fleming’s short story Quantum of Solace). He faces, as final challenge, not a system or another enemy agent or even his own limitations. But a woman. Man vs woman, vs nature, time.
This is the ‘inevitability’ he first confronted in Skyfall and only briefly evaded in the timeless paradox of SPECTRE. Time to face the finality. Neither definitive death nor fairy tale ending; a third way between realism and fantasy. A clarity, through ambiguity? 007 might escape; might not. Doesn’t matter.
This is Bond, confronting the ultimate fear: aging, mortality, pipe and slippers and the confines of commitment, then slaying that or being slain. Licence to Kill..or be killed..and leave that possibility open (this need not go full on Prizzi’s Honor in its ending., though that parallel is pure pulp potential).
Best of all worlds (could even be the title? That or Under the Queen’s Peace, Swan-Song, Try Before you Die, End of the Beginning..anything but the all too obvious ‘Shatterhand’).
You’d get a flavour of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, without simply remaking the classic. Bit of darkness, but no moping depression or yet another personal vendetta /Bond goes Rogue as premise. And closure on the hanging threads of SPECTRE, using the same personnel and better. Whilst still giving a self contained ‘Bond on mission’ movie with trappings of fights, scuba, ski, flight, gambling, driving, fine wining /dining/clothing/ exotic travelogue / reference to current world fears and geo-politics/ nods to a bygone Britain at its best.
And you end with the kind of pathos, depth and emotional literacy yet still playful fun and danger that defined the Daniel Craig 007 era from day one. It ends as it started: in a blaze of brutal promise and pertinent, poignant, possibility. Makes perfect sense in an era of female empowerment, without ever losing the sheen of that white knight heroic male fantasy.
Bittersweet. Beautiful. Brilliant. Bond.
SPECTRE is currently running on NETFLIX (UK) and is available on demand from Sky Movies and for download / order from I-Tunes, Amazon etc.
Daniel Craig is currently in LOGAN LUCKY, in Cinemas.
Barbara Broccoli has produced a lovely new film called FILM STARS DON’T DIE IN LIVERPOOL. It stars Jamie Bell (star ascending, fast) and the divine Annette Bening (beautiful, clever, funny, sexy, brilliant: there is a reason she tamed Warren Beatty!). The film has generated great buzz at the TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL and is no doubt headed for both Oscar and Box Office glories. Co-Producer Colin Vaines championed this with Ms Broccoli from day one and it’s great to see the project take off so well.
James Murphy will Return.