All Time High

Since the #MeToo Movement emerged in Hollywood (and beyond) the knives have been out for Ian Fleming’s secret agent. It is no surprise, on reflection: if you wanted a genre that had male dominance stamped all over it, here it is. Despite various attempts to shift emphasis (and a distinct move away completely from women as objects that began with the Casino Royale reboot in 2006) Mr Craig’s shower entrance in Skyfall gets an entirely understandable mention in that montage. What might once have been considered sexually charged gains a different hue when consent isn’t obvious, or indeed bothered with.

The people who make Bond quite obviously know they have a problem. A look at the @007 Twitter feed or the Official Website make this all too apparent: nothing controversial, a real emphasis away from the sexual and overly misogynist aspects of the movies, with shift towards what could be considered a more family-friendly outlook. To that end, I can now buy a Funko 007. There’s a 10p Coin of the Realm in a Bond stylee. At the weekend, a friend quite gleefully linked me a tweet which would appear to suggest the iconic DB5 is soon making a debut in brick format.

Those of you concerned that Danny Boyle’s gonna stuff up Bond 25 should bear in mind that there’s a lot at stake here besides the transfer of 007’s License to Kill. The world does need heroes, of that there is no doubt, but it is clearly time to ensure that diversity and respect get a fairer hearing than was previously the case. If the push into less controversial territory in terms of merchandising (and a new installation in the Alps in a location where SPECTRE was filmed that ignores all those scantily clad ladies completely) it’s a fair shout that you’ll be fixating on plot far more than has normally been the case.

The tabloids are full of casting rumours, we know when it starts shooting. Bond 25 has a lot to live up to, quite apart from public expectation. The groundwork already being done already suggests the direction that we’re heading may be distinctly different to those trodden before. Time will tell.


PS: I’ve written my own take on the current 007 and how there could be the means to introduce a female into the iconic slot on the MI6 roster. It seems like a good idea to shove some self-promotion in here…

 

You Know My Name

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Took a day off all forms of writing yesterday, because occasionally even I like to not worry about output. Then I went with Mr Alt to the Royal Albert Hall and watched Casino Royale scored by a full orchestra (plus David Arnold on guitar) and was in the same place (briefly) as Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli. I continue to maintain that this is the best Bond movie ever made. After 11 years it stands up incredibly well to scrutiny, which is more than you can say for many of its predecessors. A long (bar based) conversation was had over the merits of 50 plus years of the Franchise, agreement that most of the ‘best’ movies are undoubtedly products of the age in which they were made. This movie is dated by its electronics, as has been the case for decades. That Sony Vaio laptop… plus so many mobile phones. Ah, nostalgia.

However, as a writer, the progression and eventual denouement of this movie are the most satisfying of any that precede it, and that really matters. You’re also given motivation for a series of four movies that follow and, like it or not, that ‘story’ ends at the end of SPECTRE, which makes the task of tacking on a fifth movie even more problematic. When you know the reason Craig finally said yes to the role (having initially turned it down) was on the strength of this script, one has to think doing one more is going to be a mistake for everyone involved.

The feeling refuses to go away: it isn’t just historical precedent at play here either. Diamonds are Forever, View to a Kill and Die Another Day are hardly stellar examples of the franchise, and all three just showed up the need to change the current actor with the designation to someone younger. The script for Bond 25 frankly has to be so good that it could win an Oscar, or else this landmark film will end up just being remembered as the last one that an actor made who should have quit whilst everybody was ahead. Whatever happens, however, this is where Craig was undoubtedly best as Bond: raw, malleable and ultimately prepared to die for his Country.

My feeling we should have stopped at Skyfall continues to persist, even more so having seen Casino for the first time on the big screen: I only ever got that on video as 2006 was the point in my life where depression consumed everything. I’ve often wondered if that mental attitude clouded my judgement of just how good Craig’s inaugural outing was. Last night confirms just how strong, brilliant and quintessentially Bond the whole experience was. If I am going to remember anything from the tenure of this actor, it will be his first movie and the third. Everything else will be consigned to space marked as ‘acceptable filler’ and I’ll wait to see which British actor is given the nod to replace him. Of course, I’d like an actress or a non-white male to take the role, but there’s as much a chance of that as me getting to write a Bond script.

This version of Bond undoubtedly has run his course. Time for a change.

Coming Around Again

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This is the blog post about Bond 25 that needs to be made, as the announcement popped up yesterday from Eon’s @007 Twitter feed confirming something is in pre-production. Booking a weekend in November 2019 might seem a bit previous, but considering what we’ve seen coming out of Comic Con over the last weekend, it makes perfect sense. This is to prepare the US market for a film which, one presumes, is going to have to be pretty damn special to follow SPECTRE, which effectively drew a line in the sand for everybody involved. If I believe the Internet, Daniel Craig has no soul and is doing two more films. I’m REALLY hoping he is finished with the role as was clearly the case at the end of Bond 24.

As was also true of Dr Who, this is a franchise in desperate need of a reboot.

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The chances of getting a woman in this job however are slim to non-existent. The canon doesn’t support it, and despite the likes of Gillian Anderson saying they’d play Jane Bond, I doubt the majority of the world will want to know. I can’t see Barbara Broccoli allowing her father’s legacy to be redefined in this way anyway: her love of Craig as Bond had as much to do initially with his physical appearance as it was about any ability to act. Bond is supposed to do something at a brain stem level to women that makes his behaviour somehow acceptable. Men just want to pretend they can get away with treating the opposite sex that badly whilst remaining insouciantly cool. Really, like it or not, this role goes to a man, because no woman could ever be that sociopathic and get away with being believable.

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Of course, nothing is stopping the next Bond being Iris Elba, or Dev Patel, except an awful lot of historical baggage. When reduced to only looking at white, heterosexual men, the field gets pretty samey. That’s the problem, all told. Everybody’s of a certain look, or a particular style, and then you’re comparing Tom Hiddleston to Craig or Tom Hardy to Roger Moore, which I’m sure neither would thank you for. Bond, like it or not, is a poisoned chalice: when you die as an actor, I’d argue what you don’t want is to have your family hear your media obituary contain the line ‘best known for his role as 007’ at any point. Anything and everything else you ever did as a professional is effectively sacrificed to commercialism, and that will hurt.

However, even though I’d like a minority interest Bond above white male, there’s probably a compelling argument at present to get Tom Hardy into the Aston Martin. If I believe the rumours that Christopher Nolan is interested in directing, Hardy’s a good fit (Bane in Batman, key role in Dunkirk) and clearly they’d work well together. The problem is, where you go when the criminal organization created solely to engineer your demise seems positively childish compared with the man running the US Government. The enemy remains crime families, sure, but honestly, truthfully, how the fuck are you going to create a believable plot for a Bond movie that’s not been done to death already? SPECTRE only worked as it rebooted the one villain we’ve not seen for decades because, of all things, a legal battle that prevented Eon from mentioning Blofeld existed.

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Whoever they get to play Bond, whether we keep going forward or its rebooted again, is being made to live in a world which his misogyny, plus treatment of the opposite sex has become frankly unacceptable. However sensitive and caring you make the man, he’s still a fucking dinosaur. It is going to take a monumental effort to produce anything based around current canon that won’t look outdated and ridiculous, or that doesn’t involve killing Madeline Swann before the opening title sequence, a la OHMSS. I tried to re-write the canon, but that only worked by making 007 part of an effective unit and one could argue as soon as you take away the ability for Bond to work alone, he’s not Bond any more anyway. Needless to say, I don’t envy the script team one iota. If they pull this off they really are miracle workers.

Until there are details and confirmation of who has the keys to the Aston Martin, all bets are off. Only with more details can we speculate on what happens next. I just hope and pray that the days of a Moonraker style film (with some ridiculous terrorist/cybercrime plot a la Mission Impossible) is not what everybody has to look forward to.

Please Please PLEASE let Bond 25 be a reboot.

Secret Agent Man

There is a point in Spectre, after the first snow-based chase sequence of Daniel Craig’s tenure, when Bond confronts Madeline Swann, having rescued her from the bad guys. She asks: ‘Why should I trust you?’ before a clearly exasperated Bond replies ‘Because right now I’m your best chance of staying alive.’ The audience already knows this is 007’s love interest, that you don’t chase a blonde across the snow and destroy millions of pounds worth of plane and Land Rovers unless you’re clearly indebted to the woman you’re pursuing, and here in one beautiful exchange is my entire problem with this film. It looks fabulous, contains all the elements that should be in a Bond film… except not one made in 2015. This is so obviously a love letter to Bond’s past, and the criminal organisation that gives the film its name also condemns the whole thing to become, in the end, a worrying parody of it’s own genre. Because while Mike Myers made Austin Powers a beautiful pastiche of everything 1960’s including Bond, Sam Mendes makes this 007’s outing a mirror of all the faults that keep the secret agent the way a certain generation of men will always remember him: tortured, brilliant, invulnerable and ultimately hollow.

What makes this saddest of all is that the two and a bit minute trailer for the movie I saw back in the early part of last year is actually a better presentation of the plot than the movie ends up itself being, because once you know that twist, you’re done: its Game Over. When it becomes apparent who Christopher Wentz is? You know how this will conclude. There is no surprise, or amazement, and everything becomes almost embarrassingly predictable. From the ridiculous set pieces to the record breaking explosions and the beautifully composed tableaux, it is all pointless when you know why Wentz is there, and instead of the homage to 23 other movies I suspect Mendes sold this as, you get an almost depressing understanding of where everything is heading. I thought I knew this Bond, I watched him get his 00 designation. I shouted at the screen when a colleague shot him and happily accepted his return from the dead, but when it became apparent her surname was Moneypenny? This path was already laid, and I was annoyed with Mendes, an anger that actually surprised me. All that hard work in two and a bit movies to build Bond as a tenable and acceptable 21st century reboot was removed in a five or so minutes of clunky and ill-conceived lip service at the end of Skyfall to a Spy who should have been left dead and buried in the 1970’s. But no, the World loves Bond. Misogynistic, womanising, invulnerable Bond. Shame on you for using Naomi Harris to do this, too, for just so many reasons. Women clearly give up everything for Bond, happy to be demoted from Field Agent to glorified PA without a line of real or believable dialogue. Oh, give me a fucking break.

Some of us can see right through you, 007.

Spectre is a disappointment, even more when I see how great the British press thought it was. It is almost as if nobody will ever diss James as he’s clearly a national treasure: after all, he jumped out of an aeroplane with the Queen in 2012. It doesn’t matter how earnest you make the relationship with Swann, it’s a joke, because she leaves him in Act 3 and you’re just holding your head in your hands, because if there’s still X minutes left everybody knows she’ll be back. It’s as if this script was written by a bunch of men who understood just how far they could push the envelope and no more, that what really should have transpired wouldn’t have made for a suitable homage anyway because Bond can do no wrong. Monologuing your bad guy works when he has you tied to a chair attacking your exposed genitalia. It becomes less acceptable on his personal Island surrounded by clearly cosmetic server units, and when you reach the stark stylised nature of your deserted desert based lair? Sorry, but no. We had three movies that actually presented a secret agent with a relevance to the 21st century. This means the pre-credits sequence for Bond 25 will either be breaking Bloefeld out of jail so he can spend two and a bit hours being all menacing, or Eon will see sense and actually break the mould. Because with all the interest in an Oscars ceremony where a complete absence of diversity in the film industry is becoming more and more difficult to dismiss?

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This franchise doesn’t need another white, male Bond on a reboot. I’m really hoping Daniel Craig is done with 007, because if he walks away now I’ll maintain the respect he granted me by making Bond finally be the James I thought worked best, who I as a woman could actually believe had a soul. I’ll forgive him about 70% of Spectre where he’s clearly only doing what the script told him to do, and remember the broken man who picked up Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd from the wreckage of the house she died in, and made me cry for the first time ever in a Bond movie. Because then, 007 was real and brilliant and now he’s become a parody of a parody.

You really need to give Idris Elba or Tilda Swinton the designation. Tom Hiddleston won’t do, and if you pick an unknown white guy again? NOPE. The only way I could see you saving this whole sorry mess is giving it to the BBC and letting them take 007 to Television. You want to keep people happy when you do?

Make Bond openly bisexual.

Yeah, that would work.