18 September 2021 676 Views

#FLEMINGFRIDAY: Where does Bond go from here?

by James Murphy

Yes I know it’s Saturday. So what? Bond breaks rules. So do I!



When you see BEING JAMES BOND, it’s easy to feel a sense of finality. The producers love Daniel Craig and his era has a self contained continuity from origin story through retirement, covering every sub-genre of Bond movie en route. They have done it all and with a seemingly irreplaceable actor.

And yet, NO TIME TO DIE says it all, in the title. Even if the Craig iteration does indeed, ‘die’: there are past Bonds and there will be, MUST be, future ones. Amazon surely bought into MGM with that in mind. With or without Daniel and, though unthinkable, yes, should they choose to retire, even without the Broccolis? Bond MUST endure.

There is now an expectation of a Bond film every few years and a balance between novelty and tradition; innovation and safe trope formula. It is a patriotic asset, too: arguably serving as a vital prop (aganda) to the British profile on the global/media/industrial/military stage.

That said? Of course the series is at a crossroads. One feels a lack of clear cultural climate in which the Bond product can function, organically. Pierce Brosnan was a Blairite/Clinton/Third Way 007. Craig was the answer to 9/11 and an avatar for British last stand at Olympic and Jubilee fuelled optimism, via meta-textual Dark Knight dissection.

But now? The world does not know where to position its political/cultural axes. Old symbols are resurrected and deconstructed, even defaced.

There are real threats for 007 to face, of course. Those cannot be classed easily and in a post Covid 19 era, it’s almost impossible to trivialise their dangers as some adult fairy tale set around geopolitics.

China (CHY-NAAA) is seen as a challenge, for sure, thereby explaining the new USA/UK/Australia alliance programme. Russia baits, unabated: from assassination on our home soil to showing off in our seas. Terror is a sadly immeasurable and infinite problem to ponder and I fear, will worsen, inevitably, after the rushed exit from Afghanistan under Biden. Syria, Iran, North Korea and a few other states are waiting in the wings, too, readied for trouble?

And even without those factors, we face international crime, unfettered bio/AI tech, privatised space, global climate change and a media now powered by the currency of tribal polarities.

James Bond could credibly  confront any of those challenges, within his own formula. But one must be careful in deploying them as plot devices because they can either become anachronistic overnight if defeated or worse still, a nightmare to market as heightened fantasy when the reality is all too painful to confront.

So yes, there is a problem in tone.

Where to take the character; how to redefine the brand whilst maintaining its core ingredients and so on? It is a massive challenge, for sure. The 60th anniversary will pass next year without much fanfare because by that time, NO TIME TO DIE should be out on home video/streaming/Blu-Ray etc and the series will be resting, in transition. USE that time. BIDE IT! But, no panic, ever, either. It’s Bond. He always comes back!

Suggest a 3-5 year break. And, as ever, yes, mirror the current cinematic trends, applying those to Bond and bringing the 007 brand to that party. CASINO ROYALE did that in 2006, matching the BATMAN BEGINS zeitgeist. The trick is not to copy the counterpart too slavishly. SPECTRE went too far into the MARVEL ‘it’s all connected’ ethos, same way DIE ANOTHER DAY tried to be a Matrix tribute for Bond?

Consider as possibilities, the following:

    • Martin Campbell to direct BOND 26 IF he is available, willing, able etc. He excels at the soft reboot!
    • Period piece. But I do not mean, by that, 1950s or 60s. More 1980s/90s. Thereby allowing:
    • NEW actor to be a kind of placeholder. If he fails? This was a one and done tribute transition film.  But if he WINS..

    • Then you have a 20-30 year map of stories, scenarios, characters to reinvent and yes, including possibilities of remaking references to older Fleming material, done ‘right’? MOONRAKER, for a start!!!
    • Don’t rule out using some Amis/Gardner/Faulks/Deaver/Boyd material.
    • Tone should be akin to GOLDENEYE? Mid road. Hints of serious but on the whole safe, glossy, escapist whilst avoiding camp pastiche.
    • USE the certainties of the past to evade and escape yet also confront the uncertainties of today and tomorrow!

      • You can do an origin story, again. Flashback to Bond’s naval career maybe, with possible link then to a submarine/battleship set-piece in the end?
      • USE THE OLDER BONDS! Seriously. Maybe Pierce IS the Bond in this one and flashes back to an early mission, so setting up the new guy whilst softening the blow of losing Daniel?
      • This dynamic would at once embrace and repress the metatextual critique of Bond by the movies themselves which has to some extent, blighted recent entries. No need to establish relevance!
      • It also holds back the societal utility debate regarding 007 changing race/gender etc: by harnessing older actors alongside a young pretender. Bond, helping to reflect a 4 generation workplace!

    • Have a fomrer Bond candidate as baddie? PAGING HUGH GRANT! LIAM NEESON?! TREVOR EVE. SAM NEILL. NIGEL HAVERS! CLAES BANG?! 
    • Consider: some loose thread from a Pierce mission is back to haunt him so he must remember how that started? Could work. Circa 2011, Leveson/Iraq inquiries et al: as those unfold, with Bond watching? What if someone held a grudge against 007 from the 1990s Carver media era / an other plot strand. They want revenge. He just wants a quiet life. Worlds collide.
    • Pierce’s Bond became a corporate superman post Mi6, so giving us also a kind of Thomas Crown 2 (for price of 1!). Perhaps Samantha Bond’s MoneyPenny is the new M in that continuity, still backed by Colin Salmon, John Cleese and Michael Kitchen? And that team recall their old 007 for one last mission?
    • THAT is the James Bond answer to a spider-verse / Keaton and Affleck back as Batman while still handing batons to new actors etc. 

    • IE: You set up the younger Bond, without upstaging him. OWN the uncertain transition and play to the climate for bringing back older actors akin to ‘multiverse’.
    • Timothy Dalton could play a Naval mentor. Lazenby perhaps schools younger 007 in the finer points of cars / tailoring / fist fights via montage. WITHOUT GOING THE WHOLE ‘JAMES BOND IS A CODE-NAME’ nonsense route.
    • Heck, keep Daniel Craig as Co-Producer and maybe, even, a Bernard Lee style M? Paintings of Sean and Roger hang in background tribute, naturally?
    • Start small and intimate / thrilling and then go big and bright, and boldly Union Jack British, as the movie progresses. Think (though it PAINS me to say this) : KINGSMAN ? 

    • MAKE NOSTALGIA CURRENT: weaponise it as asset. Reverse engineer period tech so it can still be used in fashion accessories / advertising. Be five minutes in to a (then) future without compromising the verisimilitude. Re-orchestrate proper John Barry classics: OHMSS, 007, the works!
    • Ignore the political correctness debate. This Bond is a gentleman, refined adventure hero. Loves good food, drink, clothes and looks the part in uniform/wetsuit/ski stuff etc. The women are ‘there’ but no big deal made of parity because that is just taken for granted. Some fancy him. Some don’t. Some want to bed him and do so easily because they find him attractive; others are spoken for and tell him to do one. THINK: GALA BRAND!! RHODA MASTERES!!
    • IE: You do not need to talk about sexism or revisit its drawbacks. This is a sexual fantasy of sorts as much as a social one, for women AND men and anyone in between.

  • Cast a middle of the road movie star OR  a  character actor. But do not rush into the click bait rumour mill.
  • Title: something big, Brit, Fleming-esque? UNDER THE QUEEN’S PEACE? 
  • And IF it fails? No panic. Just wait a few years and reboot..again! THAT is the magic of 007.




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