14 May 2021 553 Views

Fleming Friday: Can James Bond do shared and expanded universe content?

by James Murphy

Answer: Yes! Course he can. It’s JAMES BOND! 

So, if one looks at things, prima facie, shared universes are dead. The monster-verse at Universal died with The Mummy. BBC just exiled John Barrowman, sadly, from its Doctor Who promotional materials, it seems, thereby removing the notion of more TORCHWOOD  for the time being. Warners all but declared Snyderverse a thing of the past at DC.

And yet: Disney Plus thrives on the shared universe. Multiple Star Wars products (Bad Batch is brilliant, btw: check it out). MARVEL keeps at it, too: Wandavision and Falcon and the Winter Soldier ,with LOKI to come and more, alongside the cinematic universe.

DC now has a multiverse on film, thereby allowing multiple iterations of characters to co-exist and old occupants of franchise properties to reappear, without damaging the new pretenders. Hence, Michael Keaton can still exist in a Tim Burton themed Gotham City whilst meeting a Justice League Flash, whilst R-Batz Pattinson can do his own thing.

By same token, JAMES BOND could, would and indeed SHOULD exploit similar possibilities.

Shared universe, alternate continuity: all up for grabs as the currency is by no means depleted but in a rude state of health, especially in the age of streaming.

To those who would oppose such a move? Too late. Fact is, it is a matter of when, rather than if, such an initiative is activated, particularly in the event of a new distributor getting involved with EON productions.

But fear not! Because not only is 007 suitable for this treatment but one could make a case for that brand having activated the very notion of merchandised, franchised, expanded content we now take for granted on film.

Ian Fleming was a visionary founding father of that business model, he just did not know it in time. When he teamed up with others to write a THUNDERBALL treatment, he was expanding the James Bond property, already. It’s what led to Never Say Never Again.

Ian also helped create the MAN FROM UNCLE characters, naming a hero ‘Solo’. And each one of the storylines in the 007 books and short stories has its own rich world of interactions from which to draw.

Can that same expansion co-exist with a 2-3 year cycle of official series Bond films, today? Yes! Indeed, it MUST. Here’s how, maybe..

Self contained Revisit of a Previous Actor’s Tenure (streaming and /or limited cinema release):

Bond is not sci-fi, strictly speaking. But the brand does depend on coinciding with trends in media. At present, the fad is bringing back old personnel to replay lost opportunities, via multiverse. So why not do that for 007?

How about a final mission for the PIERCE BROSNAN iteration? He can certainly pull it off. Instant 90s nostalgia via catching the wave of older actors returning to signature roles.

Period Piece Reboot in the Official Continuity:

I want a period piece 007. NOT so he can pat ladies’ bottoms in the office or behave like a regressive non P/C twit. No. It is simply because we now live in a world whereby spy-craft today precludes the kinds of good vs evil, army to army, stylised battles of yesteryear.

There was always an element of fantasy and exaggeration to Bond, but lately the films have gone to increasingly contrived lengths to explain his very existence and that of the set-pieces encountered. In the bid for realism and relevance, ironically, they have created the very opposite feeling? 

One need not go back to the 1950s or even 60s. One could start a trilogy at the 70s, even and take Bond through to the start of the 90s, when GOLDENEYE would be about to happen: a meta-textual nod to the concentric circles of reboots that arguably began with the Brosnan era.

The self contained continuity also allows you to keep DANIEL CRAIG, as  Bernard Lee type M. Perhaps even throw in a TIMOTHY DALTON cameo as a retired mentor figure in the field. They toyed with having such roles before for previous Bonds. The world was not ready; it was too ‘meta’. But we can handle it now.

WHAT IF? 

Nobody wants a remake of classic movies or retreads of their imagery. But imagine if one of the old villains had a plan succeed? As in what if Bond had not been the agent assigned to stop their particular brand of evil? And let’s say that rocket did go off or that drug shipment /arms deal does go down.

Start there. Work back, from the baddie viewpoint and delve into their backstory /psyche. Need not be the end of the world, so to speak. And you can still end each episode (say short streaming fixes of around 30 minutes?) with every indication that James Bond is indeed the man sent into take appropriate revenge and clean up the mess..

..what if: Tracey Bond had lived? What if Bond had remained in the Navy / gone corporate rather than the military intel route on leaving the services? So many interesting possibilities and they can veer from fan fiction to more substantial and stylish product in waiting.

SPIN OFFS!

Once again, 007 did this before and was simply ahead of the times/game etc. If you can have a JAMES BOND JUNIOR cartoon for kids in the 1990s, then you can have a continuity free YOUNG BOND show on Amazon or wherever, today. A Felix Leiter mini-series could be made, easily: think WITHOUT REMORSE?. Ditto some adaptation of the kinds of fan fiction about MoneyPenny and co in the Mi6 offices (thereby removing said from playing filler in the main movies?).

Tie that  expansion into educational materials, VR/AR packs and so on. Throw in a Leavesden studios theme park experience, as it was GOLDENEYE that built that place to start with.  Seriously: HOW did HARRRRYYYYY POTTTTTTER displace 007 as our main cinematic UK standard bearer?!

 

 

The secret to James Bond’s success is adaptation to the times, without compromising the timeless essence. I believe that to be not only possible but necessary to the franchise’s survival in uncertain times, without saturation or dilution of the brand. And nobody does it better than 007. 

Meantime? NO TIME TO DIE hopefully reaches us later this year. And no matter what, we are , as fans, always served best by the vision of Producer BARBARA BROCCOLI. Wonderful woman! x



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