Some Thoughts on James Bond

With “No Time to Die” out in theaters and the Daniel Craig era ending at long last, I’d like to offer some thoughts on where the James Bond franchise should go next. My franchise critiques roll on apparently!

The Craig era’s principal flaw in my view, aside from its tiresome gloominess and grittiness that sucks the life out of the viewer, is that the stories are about James Bond as a character, when the attraction of Bond is to see him do amazing, suspenseful, and perilous things in his adventures. A character study of James Bond doesn’t work because fundamentally Bond just isn’t that interesting a character. It’s his missions that hold the viewer’s attention, not the man.

I also get the sense that the creators feel guilty about just making a Bond film, and so try to subvert it or turn it into something it’s not; the goal seems to be to make some kind of a point with the films that will elevate them to the level of prestige art, and grant them the Oscar bait status they crave, hence the mopey introspective nature of Craig’s character. The problem is they’ve never quite been able to pull it off, which leaves the viewer with a queasy sense of directionlessness while watching them.

I believe that’s what the fans who register recent Bond films as “going woke” are really picking up on; these elements are not woke as such, but do correlate with woke filmmaking.

Already by “Spectre” the Craig era’s darker and grittier take on the franchise had started to feel like a fugitive from the late 2000s, and that was in 2015! Tastes and trends have moved on, and to be honest a gritty and gloomy style never suited Bond much to begin with. Dark? Sure. Gritty? No.

What should the next James Bond be like?

So what should the James Bond series do with itself after “No Time to Die”? Since it was definitively Craig’s last entry, the first order of business is to find a new James Bond. Aside from the obvious, like needing to be a dark-haired white English or Scottish man (sorry, fair-haired Daniel Craig and certain fans of “diverse casting”, but that’s what Bond is) who’s a good actor, I’d go with a younger Bond, around the age of 30, perhaps late 20s; Bond has a certain maturity to him but recent casting practice has skewed too much toward middle-aged men in my view. Connery was 32 and Lazenby was 29; that’s old enough to project experience but still young enough to be Bond for at least twenty years before the actor becomes too old.

Bond also must have enough physicality to him to believably prevail in fights and do stunts; a handsome and masculine look is also must. Just as important as physicality, Bond must also exude class; at a formal party in an elegant Old World setting Bond must look perfectly at home, he must fit in. Craig just doesn’t project class; he’s too thuggish and doesn’t look comfortable in elegant settings. The new Bond should rectify that deficiency.

Bond should also have a certain darkness and menace to him, comfortable with being a loner, but of course without coming off as villainous; Timothy Dalton nailed this aspect of the character like no other Bond. I’d like to see another actor who could bring that vibe to a Bond adventure.

Who could fit that description? I have no idea, but there are people studios pay to find such actors; use them! Personally I’d like the next Bond to be a relatively unknown actor; surprise us!

Ralph Fienees’s “M” and Ben Whishaw’s “Q” have both been excellent (so I’d keep them on), Naomie Harris’s Moneypenny decidedly not excellent (I wouldn’t keep her), but the non-Bond cast that really matters is the villains and the Bond girls.

Bond Girls Galore

A good Bond girl of course has to be young, attractive, and feminine, and the best Bond girls exude class and intelligence, their allure as subtle as it is sensuous. An underrated quality is that they should be at least a bit exotic: continental European or further afield. A good Bond girl also should have an autonomous outlook on life. A good Bond film should have at least one prominent Bond girl, at least to look pretty for the viewers, if not playing an important role in the story.

In “For Your Eyes Only” the singer of the title song, Sheena Easton, appeared in person in the title sequence, and (no offense to Carol Bouquet) they really missed an opportunity by not just making Easton the Bond girl; I’d really like to see a Bond girl who also sings the opening title song and appears in person in the title sequence.

What should the Villains be like?

As for the villains, now that they have rights to SPECTRE back they should make regular appearances as the antagonist, but I’ve long thought Blofeld worked much better as a shadowy greater-scope presence than the immediate villain; “Thunderball”, where Blofeld chewed the scenery in the shadows at the headquarters while the charismatic Largo led the field work, hit it right on the mark in a way no take on SPECTRE has since.

Non-SPECTRE villains, other smaller organizations or individuals operating a scheme independently, should also make regular appearances; the world shouldn’t feel too small from one installment to the next. The best blend I feel would be for SPECTRE to appear roughly every other movie.

A brighter, classic, but still serious and realistic Tone

As for the tone, it needs to be much less gloomy, mopey, and gritty going forward. No, I’m not suggesting a return to the campiness of the early Moore era, but what’s so wrong with a tone like “The Living Daylights” took? That movie is serious and it has a certain darkness and realism to it, but most importantly it’s fun to watch, witty and a real pleasure for the viewer, and that’s something we haven’t truly seen in Bond since “Die Another Day”, almost twenty years ago.

The bizarre Idea Spies are Obsolete

In particular I don’t want to see another movie where Bond mopes about his life as a secret agent or everyone discusses and whines about how much of a dinosaur he is. The latter aspect of the recent films, the theme of how human intelligence assets like the double-O program are obsolete, is just bizarre. I don’t know what year Barbara Broccoli and company are living in but here in real life right now the rise of encryption is making human intelligence more, not less, relevant; a great many darknet markets, for instance, have only been felled through the use of men on the inside.

Bond himself really should have some skill in computers, hacking, and cyber-warfare, but the primary focus for a truly modern James Bond would be countering those organizations and individuals too tough to be cracked from the outside through the use of cyber-warfare tactics.

New Locations: still so many Places to see!

Great action sequences and stunts are a key part of any good Bond film of course, and a variety of environments should be featured in any given movie; Bond is a jet-setter, after all, and today more than ever the people he’s countering in the field would have global reach.

Exotic and beautiful locations are another key part of any good Bond film, and while some parts of the world have become repetitive there are many regions that would still seem fresh in a new Bond film. Basically all of Africa hasn’t even been touched; that’s ripe with potential. Surprisingly, Bond has never gone to Scandinavia; imagine a visit to the gorgeous snow-covered fjords of Norway followed by a ski sequence. The Tatra Mountains would also be an excellent choice; neither Poland nor Slovakia have appeared in a Bond so far.

Most of Southeast Asia remains unexplored in a Bond film, and Bond hasn’t gone to India since “Octopussy”. It has been too long! If I were to conceive of the next Bond film I’d primarily set it in and around India.

Let’s see a Bond Film set in India!

It’s been far too long since we’ve seen much underwater action. The Indian Ocean is beautiful, and the Maldives, close to India, are host to beautiful islands and, most importantly, spectacular underwater hotels. A place like that would be an ideal Bond film location. Tibet would be another excellent location; the Himalayas are spectacular, and we haven’t seen anything like their brand of Buddhist monks, monasteries, temples, and the like in any Bond movie before.

Bond might even train in meditation and various spiritual techniques during his time there as (somehow) part of a mission; blink and you’ll miss it, but “Die Another Day” referenced him doing just that some time in his past, explaining how he could fake cardiac arrest.

Mongolia is another place with a forbidding landscape and exotic culture we haven’t seen before; imagine Tuvan throat singing in a Bond movie. Imagine the great forests and mountains of southern Siberia in a Bond movie, for that matter. Lake Baikal would be a great place for a Bond film to visit.

Hmm…maybe I’d save the Mongolia and Siberia ideas for a later installment. For the nonce I would recommend India as the region Bond should go to next. He could find allies among the local population, and in particular I’d want a fair and lovely high-class young Indian to be the main Bond girl and vital to the story. That’s not a type of Bond girl we’ve seen yet, but one that has the potential to be a big hit with the viewers.

Most of all, the next Bond installment with the new Bond should be a film following Bond going on a mission, not a film about Bond as a character; I don’t want to dive deep into the soul of a secret agent, I want to see him do cool, exciting, suspenseful things.

The villainous Plot: “Tomorrow Never Dies” updated!

As for the actual villainous plot, it doesn’t need to be something that threatens to end the whole world or even has global stakes; keeping it believable, simple, and relatively low-stakes (i.e. far short of “Moonraker”-style global genocide), but with plenty of peril for Bond and company, is the way to go.

More specifically, the plot of “Tomorrow Never Dies” would be more relevant than ever if it were reused now; just change the plot to dominate old media in the film to a plot to dominate social media. Bots, troll farms, influence operations, all of it could be featured. The plot of that movie was made for the current era of “fake news” and “misinformation”, and begs to be made again.

I wouldn’t want the arch-villain to be Indian, as that would reinforce the idea of foreign control of social media being the problem, so I’d have the leader be a white European type, with the henchmen being a very cosmopolitan group. Indians appear as part of this group and as Bond’s allies, including the Bond girls. I’d like there to be many beautiful girls involved; after all, why stop at one? And it would be a good homage to “Octopussy”. More intriguingly, to further differentiate it from “Tomorrow Never Dies” I might make the arch-villain a woman.

Let’s have a new Bond every 3 Years!

Last but not least, I’d like to see less of a gap between each Bond film. Bond films used to be cranked out every 2 years or so, but in the Craig era gaps have tended to lengthen. One film every 2 years given today’s production schedules is a bit breakneck, leaving no room to kick around ideas or adjust from the reception of each film, but a cadence of once every 3 years is quite leisurely and viable if management is competent. So if they get started now I’d like to see the next Bond film in 2024, then 2027, then 2030, and so forth.

Conclusion

Well, those are about all the thoughts I have now that “No Time to Die” has released at long last and the Daniel Craig era of James Bond has come to a close. In short, let’s forget about a gritty mopey film that’s all about James Bond; bring back the classic style missions that are not campy or ludicrous but also very fun to watch! In these depressing times the world needs that kind of Bond more than ever.

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