05 November 2021 461 Views

#FLEMINGFRIDAY: Can, Should, will..Bond 26 be a PERIOD PIECE?

by James Murphy

There is a rumour doing rounds that the next 007 adventure is indeed..

..set in the 1960s..maybe. 

And that’s fine. Allow me, however, to suggest a slight tweak to that..

Period piece: sure. 60s: no! Here are my 009 reasons..

001:

Yes. Go BACK! It’s time. If you keep going forward in time, the difficulty becomes contriving situations into which Bond can be integrated, without either trivialising genuine peril in the world or worse: overplaying the ‘is he relevant?’ card.

We simply do not know from one day to the next what the geopolitical dynamic will be. That is why there is a tonal problem in basically every Bond movie from Die Another Day through to No Time To Die (however good or not so good each entry is in that canon: each has similar difficulties placing Bond in the world and thereby, defining tone).

002:

That said? DO NOT GO BACK TO THE 1960s!!! It admits defeat, placing Bond perpetually in a bubble of pastiche imagery akin to Austin Powers. There are so many fans who say ‘yeah: remake the Fleming books, properly in the 50s/60s’. No, don’t do that.

If they chose to avoid doing so when they had the actual books and their rights first time around? Chances are there are more reasons not to adapt those again than there are to actually..um..remake /re-adapt etc? And no, guys, reverting to the 60s does not mean Bond gets to smack women on the bum again. Grow up.

003:

Instead? I propose sending Bond to the 1980s-2000s. Seriously. As in a 3-5 film arc over that period.

You can bookend it with narrative from an older Bond (Pierce and /or Tim?) and flashback to a prime Bond who then gets his own 2-4 movie arc (Cavill, whoever, just not flavour du jour off Bridgerton/Marvel/whichever charisma free 12 year old is in fashion).

Oh and not directed by Chris Nolan /Edgar Wright /a n other off the rumour production line. Go BIG (Spielberg: must be aching for a hit now he is not doing another Indiana Jones?; Bring Back Danny Boyle: he knows the 80s/90s like nobody else!). Go classy (Phillip Noyce? John Madden? Brian DePalma? Mike Newell?). Go dependable, craftsperson-like action choreographer (Martin Campbell; Matthew Vaughn? Mimi Leder?).

PERIOD PIE(R)CE POWER! 😉 #HEREALLWEEK..

004:

See, Bond has now become metatextual whether one likes it or not. So this in a way would stand as a comment ON those years. They were in part a wilderness for the character (1990-95) and plenty of unmade, unmined mission material therein.

You set up the idea that ‘this’ Bond is in his peak era as the 90s hit Cool Britannia, whilst setting him up in the less certain 80s/early 90s and projecting through toward the early 2000s (when ‘Third Way’ optimism died, alas: 9/11, Iraq etc).

THAT is your new ‘spectre’ as in the literally looming threat of new power blocks trying to manipulate events as the years progress for Bond. Thereby leaving him increasingly cold, the more he learns?

He begins as willing propaganda patriotic pawn. His end comes when he learns the hubris of that error and systemic failure?  Similar arc to Captain America, without the silly outfits or making the ‘copy Marvel’ mistake. Remember that comic book movies copy Bond, anyway! 🙂 

005:

IE: This tenure has a beginning, middle and end, from day one. You can make the films as often or as little as needed, allowing time jumps that match an actor’s own demands on body/schedule/age.

And he finishes up, with a Bond perhaps disillusioned with service work, leaving the battlefield? Works ‘in’ universe and also, ‘out’ of universe (as in you can then start again, again: leading into stories set in a Daniel Craig -verse?).

The Craig era almost ‘got’ that motif of character progression, but even they lost a resolute determination in keeping the initial hook. Bond is always a work in progress between eras. 

006:

It’s history but RECENT history so not too expensive to shoot/edit. There is the obvious ‘yeah but they cannot do the sponsorships if they go retro’. Bollox. Retro is a thing: tech, fashion, logos, the works: you name it, it’s do-07-able! And if you have a present day bookend narrative too, that base is covered, as is the 4 generation workplace and silver surfer market. Win/win, for all!

007:

It solves the social politics paradigm problem. If Bond is in the 80s/90s then he is starting to see a changing world. The beginnings of a more inclusive and compassionate society, without the polarity and division defining us today.

He can still be ‘him’ but knowing that the time to enjoy his old ways is finite, hence his desire to live as fast and dangerously and sensually as possible. All without EVER having to have Bond behave badly to a minority or a differing sex/gender/race/sexual persuasion.

Perfect compromise! AND you can use the safety of the period setting to make coded comments on the Britain /world of today and tomorrow.

008: 

The visual challenge in design is part of the fun. As is mining the remaining or indeed, already used, Fleming canon material, but spinning it in a recent period setting.

Notice too that some of the best continuation novel scenes come from this 80s/90s era.

Caveat: I would caution against using ANY of the non Fleming books as full  bases for screenplays as it dilutes the brand. Horowitz’s novels add nothing; Gardner is great on set piece detail but weak on character; Benson superb in places but his American idiom lets him down; Deaver experimental fun but a stretch; Boyd too subtle. That said? EON: be creative and maybe take some inspiration from the tones there that worked. Buy the rights if need be?

Or hire a Will Self /Martin Amis to write YOUR sanctioned advance novel and you then adapt it? Just a thought. Builds new canon, new merchandise line and builds hype/ synergy.

009:

Above all: think MARKET FORCES. We do not want to see Bond as a 12 year old on screen.

THERE IS NO WAY EON WILL DO THE HIGSON YOUNG JAMES BOND BOOKS. STOP IT NOW!

But a flashback within a flashback? Cool! Brief glimpse. Same way SKYFALL almost gave us the life story. So a credits montage of his Eton days/ Naval career / etc can set up this new semi-reboot? And there is a fashion for returning old actors. Granted, Bond is not a literal multiverse of sci-fi comics.

But when you did THAT ending in NO TIME TO DIE? You effectively made 007 into Doctor Who. As in nostalgia and futurism, via reverse engineering of canon ARE now options on the table. Multiple timelines, regenerations, albeit as one core character (please, no ‘Bond is a code-name’ nonsense).

And this entire brand has ALWAYS been about nostalgia. The Fleming novels are ww2 in the Cold war; the movies are always one foot in the past too.

By going full on retro but NOT bouncing back to the 60s, Bond can still be forward looking and safe for the cinematic future. 1980s and ’90s Nostalgia is ‘in’ this season: politically (lots of Blair/Clinton projects in the media), technologically (retro gaming etc) and yes, cinematically (Keaton back as Batman etc).

Let’s bring 007 to that party and make it his own, as always! 

 

JAMES BOND WILL RETURN. HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND, ONE AND ALL. TRANSMISSION ENDS. X



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