Da da – da -da da – da – da da da da da…dumdellelum dum dum dum dum dum dumdellelum dum dum dum dum dum, dumdellelum…nope, lost it.
You know where I was going though.
As a confession, I wasn’t that fussed about the new film. Skyfall was an epic, beautiful, and stunning 50th-anniversary film in a year of Britishness that saw the London Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee.
All in all, if another film was never made, Craig walking into M’s original burgundy oak office in the shadow of the HMS Victory at its prime (a full circle reference to the dilapidated Fighting Temeraire seen earlier) would have been a good ending. The only thing missing was M giving Bond a case file titled ‘Dr No’ and boom, thanks for fifty years.
But, having watched the new trailer, we’re back in business. Sam Mendes is back in the director’s chair and Daniel Craig back in the tuxedo for another outing. Mendes has already said he’s not doing a third film and while Bond producers announced Craig will do another film after Spectre, speculation is already mounting as to who will be his successor. Personally, and as something of a sucker for the books, I think he’s getting too old (the character’s around 35 in the first book and ruminating that agents are put out to pasture at age 45).
This, of course, is to say nothing of Roger Moore’s outing in his late fifties in A View to a Kill, revealing later that he was mortified to learn that he was older than his Bond girl’s mother.
In any event, Craig and Mendes have proven themselves a successful team and have actually dismantled the idea that Bond films should be independent of each other. Theirs is the exception and not the rule, however. The films can be independent of each other and it remains to be seen if any director is brave enough to kill their James Bond.
Yet, if Skyfall was the Bond equivalent of The Dark Knight Rises, Rocky Balboa or Mr Holmes with a broken hero coming back for one more fight, I have a suspicion this is the film that completes the Craig story arc that began with Casino Royale. Money says SPECTRE will have been behind everything and the eponymous Quantum from Quantum of Solace a mere branch office for their wickedness.
So, what do I really want to see in the new film? Here’s my top ten wish list:
1. A theme that says it all
Bond pre-credit sequences and theme songs are works of art. It’s often parodied these days occasionally the film’s title is shoehorned into lyrics that make barely any sense (Thunderball, Moonraker, Goldeneye, Die Another Day, etc.), but they’re still glorious.
As I’m writing speculation seems to be focused on Radiohead and Ellie Goulding. Personally, I’d prefer something akin to Chris Cornell’s superb Casino Royale theme than another Adele-esque Skyfall track (brilliant as it was).
Lest we forget that Thomas Newman is coming back after his stint on Skyfall to score the music for Spectre. Subtle and brilliant, he’s a dark and fiercely emotive composer. If he hits the right note once again, pardon the pun, he’ll define the film like he did last time and just like his predecessor, David Arnold, memorably did for Casino Royale.
2. Use the car(s) properly
I’m one of these people who think there should be more Ronin length car chases in Bond films. They seem to go as quickly as they appear and are never satisfyingly used all the gadgets beyond a few quick moments. Goldfinger, for its reputation, had the DB5 chased round a factory lot before it crashed. It’s still hailed as the best car ever; despite being used for about ten minutes.
Back in 2000 EA released 007 Racing, which as you may have deduced, was a game exclusively built around missions involving the different cars in the series. It was and remains pure gold; an opportunity to do in a game what the films never quite managed to live up to.
The car is the equivalent of the Doctor’s TARDIS, a constant companion, and they should give it more screen time. Die Another Day made great fanfare out of the bad guys having tooled up their cars to rival Bond, but it was not as gladiatorial an encounter as everyone was hoping.
Quantum of Solace got close to it with a terrific opening, but the fast screen cutting didn’t let you see much of it. A solid half hour of epic but ridiculous car chases would have been a golden reversal of fortunes for the cars. We had a hint of the potential (“Few little tricks up her sleeve”), and it’s time for a bitching car race. Not least of all as it’s an Aston Martin.
This one is fooling no one. Christoph Waltz says he is playing Franz Oberhauser but the trailer shows him sitting at a clandestine meeting acting all bad guy-ish. All he’s missing is the white cat.
If it is Ernst Stavro Blofeld, I hope the film moves beyond the clichéd megalomaniac brilliantly parodied by Dr Evil in Austin Powers. We want a backstory and substance, and a villain who is a cruel yin to Bond’s yang. But let’s pray they don’t go for some horrifically intertwined backstory as is suggested. The rogue agent has been done in Goldeneye and Skyfall. No, this has to be something else, but do not, do not and do not…make him his secret brother.
And on a technical note, the film should be called SPECTRE not Spectre, as (unless they’re throwing a red herring) it features the eponymous organisation whose name is an acronym for Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion.
4. Women (feck, drink!)
I’m resisting the temptation to indulge my teenage soul in this section. Yes, they’re pretty, but…I remain adamant that the two best ‘Bond girls’ to ever grace the silver screen were Pam Bouvier (played by the wonderful Carey Lowell) and Vesper Lynd (Eva Green).
Self-starters, intelligent and a worthy foil, they go beyond the typical eye candy function that is intrinsic, but increasingly dated, idea that they’re only there to look pretty. Women will always be sexualized in Bond films, but like rating Bond’s by attractiveness it is ridiculous, and very bland if they don’t add to the plot, function and characterisation of the film. Naomi Harris did a wonderful job adding real weight and a new take on the Moneypenny role and it’s groundwork that should be developed and a mould that should be carried over to the other female leads.
Lest we forget too, in Fleming’s Casino Royale, the book literally ends with the line ‘The bitch is dead’ after Bond finds her.
Let’s hope Monica Léa Seydoux and Monica Bellucci can pull it off.
5. Action, gadgets and ‘Bond moments’
This is like saying you hope there’s dancing in a disco.
It goes without saying that Bond has spectacular action sequences but there’s been a decline in the synchronised use of gadgets, action and one-liners which create ‘Bond moments’ of pure cool. The descent into using CGI for Die Another Day was the moment I thought the series was dead (yes, an invisible car but the worst offence was windsurfing on a green screen). The appetite was thereafter lost for excessive gadgets and computer trickery. In fact, if memory serves the most novel gadget from the Craig-era has so far been a defibrillator pack in an Aston Martin in Casino Royale. The lack of them was even made a joke of by Q in Skyfall: “What did you expect, an exploding pen? We don’t really go in for that sort of thing anymore.”
While Craig’s tenure has been deliberately marked by a departure from the farcical nature of gadgets, the time has come to indulge the audience a bit. How they answer the gauntlet thrown down in the age of Jack Bauer and Jason Bourne when technology is part of the field kit anyway is unknown, but if the trailer is anything to go by we’re getting at least a flamethrower on the Aston.
Additionally, Craig’s wonderful reputation for doing his own stunts, breaking bones and bearing the bunches, but it’s time for a bit of humour. Skyfall started to do it, usually when self-referencing (Craig being pissed off when his Aston Martin DB5 was destroyed). The not-camp but not-contrived Bond moment is something the new series has never addressed, and if it is able to pull it off and give Craig a few laughs it would be wonderful.
6. A more malicious Bond
I’ve deliberately avoided saying “grittier” which is not only cliché but means something different to everyone you ask.
I’ve said for years that the best Bond (admittedly this changes like the seasons) is Timothy Dalton because he was a colder take on the character. But Dalton wasn’t the cruellest. Each of them had that fire in their eyes and showed a contempt for life at some stage (Connery’s Bond used to casually hit women; Lazenby courted a suicidal woman for information; Moore kicked kick cars off cliffs and dropped Blofeld down a chimney; Dalton set a man on fire and fed another to a shark and Brosnan killed a woman in cold blood).
Craig’s Bond has always been a bit held back compared to the hard drinking, chain smoking, womanising bastard of the earlier films and the books. There were moments in Casino Royale, like blowing a man up with a wry grin, but the disposition never carried over to the later films.
A blunt instrument of Her Majesty’s government, it would make for a wonderful film to finally see the increasing self-destruction and casual cruelty of the lifestyle catch up with Bond, particularly if it’s Craig’s last outing. They did it in Skyfall, but he got over it a bit too quickly. Being a killer is a cumulative poison and, as Bond himself said, “you do what I do for too long…and there won’t be any soul left to salvage.”
Unleash your inner bastard young Daniel!
7. Load it up with references
Admit it – who among you caught the On Her Majesty’s Secret Service chords playing in the trailer? Absolutely magnificent, not only because it’s a stunning piece of work but also because it’s signature Bond.
A few years ago Craig lent his voice and likeness to a game called 007: Legends. The premise was that all of Bond’s 23 films happened in the four years between Quantum of Solace and Skyfall. You can play missions from different eras with Craig’s likeness taking the place of the original actors.
Bond films should always feel like they’re breaking out the good china, but it only adds to the effect if there’s a little backstory.
Which gives me an idea: no Bond has truly ever embraced previous stories as their own. There’s been the odd reference to Bond’s murdered wife or, as in the case of OHMSS, an entire opening montage desperately trying to assure the audience that Lazenby was Connery and vice versa. Die Another Day took it to the extreme with a skit in a workshop with all the old gadgets and some aside comment about how it’s Bond’s 20th watch (it was the 20th film).
Spectre would be glorious if it embraced this idea, but it has to be about the plot and not the gimmicks and it would make Craig the definitive incarnation of this generation. Skyfall flirted with the idea when they featured the DB5 with the old ‘modifications’, with no explanation as to how they got there. Did they need one? No.
Maybe at a wonderful push, a reference to Scaramanga as a lovely tribute to the late, great Christopher Lee?
8. Plot & Script
Skyfall was the film Die Another Day tried too hard to be, a good story cleverly interwoven with treats and homages to days of old all while looking to a bright future.
John Glen was the supreme director, putting in a superb effort of five films. From For Your Eyes Only to Licence to Kill, he had a signature style that leant toward the darker Bond elements all within plots that, if unlikely, were more plausible than those seen in many years. Martin Campbell (who directed Brosnan’s best outing, Goldeneye) took on the brilliant Casino Royale but didn’t return to Marc Foster’s weaker sequel.
Sam Mendes is, perhaps, the best director since Glen to develop and inject real-life, characterization and emotional depth into a character that can’t see himself as a parody because James Bond never existed in the story’s fictional universe.
Strong scripts were the bedrock of this of course, and in recent years Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have penned everything from The World is Not Enough to co-writing with Paul Haggis (of Crash fame) on Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. This time, John Logan is returning from Skyfall as co-writer for Spectre which raises the promise that continuity will be ripe.
The big task is creating a story that ties up loose ends and lays the groundwork for more. Loss, death, failure and triumph have all been very human elements of Craig’s series. In many ways, it’s making up for the fact that Lazenby’s excellent portrayal of Bond and the murder of his wife was never dealt with when Connery returned in the follow-up Diamonds Are Forever. No one really batted an eyelid over the character losing his wife and not mentioning her again (the follow-up to the book OHMSS, You Only Live Twice, had Bond on the verge of being discharged from the service and on the cusp of a mental breakdown before he pursues Blofeld for revenge). It’s a continuity problem that diminishes Lazenby’s performance, but perhaps that was the point.
If there’s any source material left from the Fleming books, whether it’s a paragraph or dialogue or a subplot, I really hope they find it. Ideally, it will be more than scraping the bottom of the barrel and stealing the name Quantum of Solace from a wholly unrelated short story to the utter confusion of everyone.
The ingredients are there, and varying the amount of each one is what makes each Bond unique. There’s something special about Mendes, and I hope he can pull it off one last time.
9. Location, location, location
Snow! Did you see the snow? I haven’t seen snow since Die Another Day. There’s something about Bond in the snow; every film that uses it from OHMSS to The World is Not Enough seems to have incredibly memorable action sequences (The Living Daylights with the Aston on the ice remains utterly brilliant).
This chimes in with the rest of this article but realism, action and the avoidance of CGI please and take us to new places. Bond was always about escapism and it would be nice to go to locations that he doesn’t normal appear. It’s been a while since he’s been to Japan, no?
10. “I think you’re just getting started”
This one is tinged with a happy sadness. If Craig elects to sod off after this film the series is in a bit of a quandary and I don’t envy the poor bastard who comes next. They’ve got a new M in place, a new Moneypenny and a new Q. The gang’s back together but the lynchpin, with his present face, might be leaving.
This is to say nothing that introducing SPECTRE can’t be a one-stop event, it should and hopefully, will continue for the next few films (again something never truly done in earlier movies).
The problem with Skyfall was it was the perfect film for the 50th anniversary with many foundation elements that should have appeared in Casino Royale. The impact would have been lost but at 47 Mr Craig is running out of time for Bond films.
If his arc is to end, let it end completely with him. He’s earned it, and it would be odd to pick up where we left off with a new face in the next film. That said, changing faces is part of the charm of the series and there’s no harm in starting with a clean slate next time. It would be a shame to lose the characterisation and plot development, established over the last ten years but each new actor should get a chance to make the role his own.
In any event, James Bond will return.
And by the way: for all you who are going to take a bus to your local cinema to see Spectre, do lend a thought to those of us in Spain who need to take a three-hour bus journey to Gibraltar to see it in English!
Happily done, mind you.