The 25th James Bond Film has started Shooting in Norway. Press Conference /Official Launch at Pinewood, Imminent. Here’s what we Know, so Far:
Now Pay Attention, 007. Amidst the click-bait and genuine spoilers, both welcome and unwelcome: there exist some nuggets of possible truth and actual..fact. Also some sensible, open predictions which,as informed fans, might turn out as red herrings or may, in effect, decode the entire spirit of the piece. Hence: no spoiler warning per se, more a gentlemanly nod to its possibility. Need to Know, old chap. Sure you understand..
Bond 25 now has a ring to it. May as well just call it that? Nah. ECLIPSE has been used as a cover title. SHATTERHAND all too obvious fan-fic title. SWANSONG a nice possibility in meta nod to Daniel Craig ending his tenure as 007 / surname of Lea Seydoux’s character? Always fancied UNDER THE QUEEN’S PEACE myself. So long as it does not feature the words ‘kill’ or ‘die’ then it should be safe.
Daniel Craig, of course, is on course to play Bond one more time. Is it his final bow? It might be. But hopefully that question does not dominate every press event or infiltrate the tone of the film itself. He has one more in him, certainly. Heck: why not use this continuity and have him become M and stick with the franchise? He is Co-Producer now so makes sense to retain him whilst making way for new ideas (see also: Tony Stark in the Marvel movies). Always thought there was something of the John Thaw Morse about later era Craig 007..just sayin’..
Gruff. Masculine. But tempered by age / experience and sensitivity without being reduced to redundancy. The very kind of mentor one longs for?!
The Mi6 regulars are all back; Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris so expect an M/Q/MoneyPenny scene. RE that team: Let them of course have things to do and more screen-time than traditionally the characters were granted but don’t force it, please:? M need not have a plot; Q can just give out gadgets and MoneyPenny CAN exist as an independent Career Civil Servant who can still kick arse without putting her in danger every movie?
Note inverted commas here. There has not been a ‘Bond Girl’ in YEARS. We had Bond WOMEN. Are there occasional setbacks and missteps? Sure. That’s a given, relative to the episodic nature of the movies’ releases. But it has been clear and indeed should remain the case: James Bond is NOT a personification of toxic masculinity! He does NOT rape or slap women and frankly, he takes no pleasure in breaking hearts or playing the field. At the same time? Romance, glamour, seduction and an urgent passion are PART of these movies. It’s what turns people on. Lose that and you may as well close the whole show.
Precedent here is clear: in the Timothy Dalton era, Bond did have a few girlfriends. But they called him out on his flaws, without emasculating him and the romance felt genuine, tender, intimate, even awkward. Pierce Brosnan’s films returned Bond the lothario but even there they spelled out the idea that 007 wanted to commit yet always refrained due to perils of his vocation as spy. The best of all worlds (another title, there!). And so, promisingly? LEA SEYDOUX is returning as Dr Madeleine Swann. So Bond might be married, or at least in some monogamous relationship. Might that domesticity be shattered (shatter-handed?)? Sure. Though not, necessarily by the old trope of simply killing the girl..which leads, neatly to..
Rami Malek MIGHT be the main antagonist. It makes sense: he is an Oscar winner and deservedly so. I recently saw Bohemian Rhapsody and there was one key moment there that captured the fragility, vulnerability, loneliness and child-like innocence of the artist’s outlook. Freddie Mercury is isolated one night and calls his ex wife, as she is clearly moving on and he begs her to just turn on a light in a window. That. Beautiful! So Rami could play anything, of course.
And he has that multi-national, exotic yet not restricted to one particular race/country ‘look; about him. Great teeth, too and can definitely play psychotic / camp/ charismatic all at once! Drawback? It’s a BIT predictable, given Malek looks like a cross between Javier Bardem and Benicio Del Toro. He’s also a tad young to be the nemesis and even then, physically, Craig’s Bond could take this kid, easily, in a one on one fight? But as twisted sidekick or rumoured, Zuckerberg/Musk like tech mastermind gone bad..could work.
Christoph Waltz has unfinished business as Blofeld, having been let down by THAT twist in which the entire Craig era of adventures was revealed to be born from a family feud of sorts (i enjoy SPECTRE but that was a twist too far: sorry!). Perhaps ret-con the ret-con? And have Waltz there but not as the real Blofeld..a chancer of the Koskov faux defector variety from Living Daylights? A self contained mission where Bond takes down Malek’s bad guy but with that hanging Blofeld sized thread in the background..hinted at throughout and resolved in the closing minutes, perhaps with help from Lea as Dr Swann/Mrs Bond..
We just don’t know ANYTHING yet! And nor will we, for ages. NOBODY could have predicted that SKYFALL would boil down to the idea of rescuing a Mom substitute in a mansion. But it worked, kinda and far better than amping that up in SPECTRE. It’s a tough call. You need escapist fantasy but not full on sci-fi nonsense. There must be a grounding in reality but not so dour that one loses the sense of fun. It’s worth noting that Daniel Craig’s Bond is yet to actually ‘save the world’ in the strictest sense and that is something of an oversight. It is also important to point out that we now live in a time whereby even the most outrageous of Bond villain plot has been done, in real time, unfolding, daily in newsfeeds.
So it is within the realm of the credible for this era of 007 to do battle with some genuinely world altering event, short of actual space lasers and underwater cities causing a nuclear standoff. Maybe a hint of space tech /submarine warfare/Bond in Commander outfit? Even as pre-title sequence throwaway nod? Any number of ‘MacGuffins’ could initiate this mission. And there is a wealth of unused Fleming novel /short story material and canonical reference to harness. Imagine a throwaway reference, even. ‘Congratulations by the way, 007 on that recent Gold mission out in America’. No? ok, sorry (but that German with the Range Rover made of Gold in the 2006 movie CASINO ROYALE boded well for exactly that KIND of rebooted reference).
Current rumour rests on the image of a young girl, running from masked assassins (non spoiler as it’s rumour / ‘out there’ already?). Is Bond now a Dad? Is he protecting someone else’s beloved child? We simply don’t know. But this is a very open, clean slate level plot landscape in the world today, which, though post Cold War, and still ‘safe’, is more uncertain than ever and therefore more in need of 007.
Cary Fukunaga is at the helm. He’s well suited to the job. The right age: young and vital yet steeped enough in the series’ cultural legacies to know how new and old worlds should merge. His style is provocative, edgy and earthy but there is also an understanding of big branding and glossy visual presentations. What better summary is there of the Bond image at its best than that very ethos of surreal meets hyper-realistic as found in the Fukunaga back catalogue? This is a hip, savvy, driven craftsman. Aware of the Netflix boom, yet equally adept at honouring old school storytelling.
Whilst it was a shame to lose Danny Boyle (and with that, his/John Hodge’s script?), Fukunaga might be the best appointment of a director since Marvel selected the Russo Brothers? Boyle apparently thought something radical was needed: was Bond set to die? Well that could make logical sense. This Craig era is its own continuity and prized on realism and consequence. Killing a hero can be strangely cathartic: a meta-textual command and defeat of death itself?
And yet, one must never forget that these films are THRILLERS. Heroes are killed every five minutes nowadays and it’s not THAT radical a thing to do. We KNOW Bond may survive, the trick is to make us guess how and why and with what pain/hurt/sacrifice, short of the ultimate loss of life. It’s another thing that SKYFALL did so well. See also: LICENCE TO KILL, ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE and a few other select Bond adventures. This has to HURT Bond and the audience must feel that with him; yet the character’s fundamental appeal and transcendent immortality as brand? Is as much in the fact that 007 does NOT die..ever..even tomorrow!
With that in mind? The Producers have returned to Neil Purvis and Robert Wade as main screenwriters. Those guys get a lot of stick online from fans who assume that any person at keyboard can do a better job. But these are family run productions with lovely Barbara Broccoli very much the head of that family and writers who are retained have in many cases (going right back to Richard Maibaum) done great things for the series. And Purvis/Wade gave us Casino Royale back in 2006: a very well written movie indeed that both honoured the previously unfilmable Fleming novel AND delivered a fabulously romantic action spectacular. They can do that again, easily! And they may have had some top up collaboration help from Paul Haggis and Scott Z Burns. Bodes well..
I don’t buy the notion that the modern bond should be gadget free, given how we all have Phone apps etc. If anything, that gives MORE opportunity for innovation and compelling devices in the action? My favourite remains the keyring finder from THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS. Each to their own. There is probably a gadget laden car this time, albeit electric? Much made of the fact that Bond would not drive an electric car. Whyever not? Ian Fleming loved the environment and whilst Bond loves to drive FAST cars, he is not a ‘petrol head’ for its own sake. Great to see the series showing again that you CAN have the fun and the danger and excitement and glamour, whilst still honouring the bigger picture and responsibility beyond the fantasy.
JAMES BOND (and JAMES MURPHY) will Return. And Movie-Viral will keep you posted on all the upcoming developments with BOND 25.