Monday, February 29, 2016

Four Ways To Fine-Tune the James Bond Franchise

Let me start this essay out by saying upfront, no, I don't think the James Bond franchise is "doomed" or "busted" or any phrase like that. Financially, the series is doing just fine, and while Spectre was a sloppy mess of a film, it wasn't a Batman & Robin level disaster that capsized an entire saga. Long-term franchises like Star Trek, Star Wars, Batman and, of course, the granddaddy of all summer blockbuster franchises, 007 himself, have high points and low points. When you're around for that long, it's just the law of averages that you'll miss a film every so often. For every excellent Skyfall, there's bound to be a film like Spectre waiting in the wings.

That being said, it's fairly apparent this is a series in dire need of at least a tune-up. Thus, I've compiled four individual concepts that might revitalize things after the turgid events of Spectre and get the films of Bond (James Bond) back on track.

First up...

It's Time To Get a New Bond
Apparently, Daniel Craig has one film left on his 007 contract, but it's not gonna be shocking if Spectre turns out to be his final film sipping martinis and beating up bad guys in a tux as James Bond. Even just from a marketing perspective, it'd be a great way to get audiences back into theaters for new 007 adventures after the mixed reception of Spectre to have the next movie star an all-new Bond. From a creative standpoint, it'd also be great to see a break from the steely, calm as a cucumber version of the character Craig has played for the last decade. Perhaps someone a touch more humorous could take the reins of this character?

Yes, his name is always popping up for this role, but there's a reason Idris Elba is the number one choice for this part. The dude exudes the trademark charm this character needs, and the recurring complaint that his age (currently 43) would prohibit him from doing the role seems odd to me considering Tom Cruise is hanging off airplanes at the age of 53. Another option, if they wanted to really go radical with the next incarnation of this character, would be to have Bond played by a far younger actor than ever before. I'm sure the likes of under-30 actors like John Boyega and Daniel Kaluuya would be more than up for taking on the mantle of 007.

Ditch The Bond Girls
It's becoming readily apparent, just over the most recent two James Bond movies, that the people behind these films are having trouble incorporating the age-old 007 tradition of the main character bedding numerous different women across each film  The worst part of Skyfall was the super skeevy sequence where Bond sneaks up on Severine (Berenice Lim Marlohe) in the shower (just after she told him about her experiences in the human trafficking circuit) and the two begin to have sex. Where did that come from??? Their love-making serves no purpose in the narrative as far as I can tell, though at least it's better than the Bond girls in Spectre. Lea Seydoux gets utterly wasted as Madeleine Swan, while Monica Bullecci shows up for one extraneous sequence to briefly bone Bond.

Neither of these sexual diversions contribute anything to either movies story, so maybe, next time around, it's OK if the screenwriters ditch the Bond girl conceit altogether and just have 007 engage in a platonic relationship with the various women he encounters. There's nothing inherently wrong with sex, lovely looking ladies and getting the chance to see Daniel Crag's abs, but it's apparent that the Bond Girl element is just being shoehorned into the most recent Bond affairs because...well, that's how we did things in the past movies. Sometimes, certain storytelling elements should be left as relics of bygone eras. This should certainly be one of them.

Create Memorable And Unique Action Sequences
Spectre was sorely lacking in notable action sequences, with only a train set brawl between Dave Bautista and Daniel Craig being even remotely noteworthy. Next time around, get some really skillful fight choreographers on board to give 007 a couple of remarkable action setpieces. Something else to keep in mind in terms of the action-oriented sequences is to take a cue from fellow long-running spy movie franchise Mission: Impossible and pick out unique environments to set your sparring scenes. In the last three of his movies, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) has taken out bad guys, among other locales, on a bridge, in an opera house, a parking garage and on the largest building in the world.

Each of these riveting sequences make full use of the idiosyncratic aspects of the environments they're occurring in, with, for instance, the parking garage climax of the fourth Mission: Impossible movie, getting loads of mileage out of the dizzying heights of its domain as well as the presence of numerous automobiles. Future 007 filmmakers should recognize the craft behind those kinds of sequences and be inspired to apply the same level of thoughtfulness to their own scenes of fighting, car chases and whatnot.

Go Bold Or Go Home
Once upon a time, a little-known filmmaker by the name of Quentin Tarantino had an idea for a James Bond adventure, one that he proposed would be entitled Casino Royale, be shot in black and white, set in the 1960's and star Pierce Brosnan as 007. That version of the project never got off the ground, but after the stagnant Spectre, maybe it's time to take inspiration from that concept and take Bond in different storytelling directions. Why not plop the character back into the decade where he first debuted on-screen? A period setting would immediately differentiate this new Bond from his predecessors and perhaps even incorporating iconic real world events from this era could offer untold storytelling possibilities.

In addition to considering a new time period to set future 007 adventures, how about taking a cue from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and have each forthcoming film carry a different genre aesthetic? One Bond movie could have the trappings of a heist movie, perhaps another takes a cue from psychological thrillers. You gotta take those kind of risks with the next James Bond movies, because Spectre has made it readily apparent that just clinging to past iconography and characters won't cut it. We the viewers, as well as a character as long-standing and iconic as James Bond, deserve so much more.

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