Bond 23

After an incredibly torturous delay, last week came the announcement that the next James Bond film, which has no title at this stage – and is known only as Bond 23, is finally going into production and Sam Mendes is going to direct.

Sam Mendes - director of Bond 23

With that news it is time for the Bond community to rise, and start talking about their hopes and fears for the next Bond film. Although I enjoyed the last film, Quantum of Solace, like many other Bond fans, I thought it was a bit of a disappointment after Casino Royale. After a four year hiatus, not only I, but Bond fans in general expect a quality product, and not something that is banged out to meet the 2012 deadline. 2012 is an auspicious year for the Bond franchise as it is the fiftieth anniversary on Dr. No, the first  Bond film (the Casino Royale TV production not being a part of the official cannon). But I remember the muddle that was Die Another Day – a film written to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of Bond. Die Another Day was not only Pierce Brosnan’s worst outing as James Bond, the film is one of the weakest in the series as a whole. A poor film can certainly take the gloss off any celebration.

As I not adverse to gibbering on about James Bond, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts and wishes for this next Bond film. Firstly, let me say that many of the ideas below are not originally mine. I surf the net and read what others have to say, and I have taken on board the ideas that resonate most strongly with me. Some of the ideas below were first mooted on the Double-O Section, Mister 8 and HMSS Weblog sites.You may have other ideas or thoughts on where the next film should go, which are equally valid. Feel free to share them.

Let’s start at the beginning:

The Title

Casino Royale - A Whisper of Love, A Whisper of Hate

What should Bond 23 be called. Practically all the Ian Fleming book and short story titles have been used – with only The Property of a Lady, Risico and The Hildebrand Rarity remaining (I do not include the short story James Bond in New York, which appeared in Thrilling Cities as it is a fringe piece at best – and the title itself would be rather restrictive for a series which prides itself on its jet-setting, globe trotting storylines). Out of these I would choose either Risico or depending on plot, The Hildebrand Rarity.

Another school of thought is that possibly some of Fleming’s chapter titles could make good movie titles. Fair enough, so a quick glean of the first three Bond novels (Casino Royale, Live and Let Die and Moonraker) gives us a few titles which may work as a movie title. They are:

From Casino Royale
A Whisper of Love, a Whisper of Hate
The Nature of Evil
The Crawling of the Skin
The Bleeding Heart

From Live and Let Die
The Silver Phantom
Death of a Pelican
The Undertaker’s Wind

From Moonraker
The Quickness of the Hand
Dead Reckoning
Pandora’s Box

Of course there are many other Bond books and chapter headings to choose from. Personally if I had to choose from the titles above, I would select A Whisper of Love, a Whisper of Hate or The Undertaker’s Wind. As someone who works on the cusp of the graphic design industry, I think A Whisper of Love, A Whisper of Hate has enormous potential as a logotype, because it has three ‘O’s in it, and can be manipulated to include the 007 text logo. Typographers used to love Roger Moore for the same reason – look at the poster art for Live and Let Die.

Theme Song
Next we have the title song, which is always a bone of contention. Firstly, whoever is chosen to sing the song has to work hand in hand with David Arnold. The title song sets the mood for the film, and I believe the musical cues should in turn hark back to the title track. When songs like Tomorrow Never Dies by Sheryl Crow, Die Another Day by Madonna, and Another Way to Die by Jack White and Alicia Keyes are slapped at the front of the movie without musical riffs, tags or cues being repeated throughout the film (albeit in modified orchestral form), the film feels musically like a patch-work quilt. Those songs above may be to some ears, good songs (I don’t mind Crow’s song), but they do not fit in with the movie.

Laboring the point, I don’t think that Chris Cornell’s Know My Name was a great song, but it worked because he worked with David Arnold and the melody was orchestrated throughout the film. It felt whole – it felt complete.

Sharon Jones - an excellent choice for the next Bond theme!

Next, I guess I should look at musical artists tapped to perform the theme, and this is possibly one of the most subjective things for Bond fans. At my age, I’d like somebody  with a big retro sound, and big voice – I like the idea of Sharon Jones belting out the tune. But the truth is, that Bond films have always used the most popular artists of the day. I tend to look back at Dame Shirley and Tom Jones as almost legendary acts, but in reality Shirley and Tom were simply the pop superstars of the day during the sixties. There longevity in the industry has elevated them to a different plain, and made their Bond songs thematic standards.

Being the old codger that I am, I am not really in tune with the top 40, and who is ‘big’ these days, and I guess I am not really the demographic that the Bond series wants to court – the fifteen to twenty-five year olds are the ones that go to the movies regularly. Tapping into the music of that demographic would appear to be the way to go. I may not like the song, but hey, if they heed my advice and have the musical/pop artist work hand in hand with David Arnold, everything will be okay. Arnold has done the past five Bond scores now. He knows what he is doing, and will make sure it all stays on track.

Casting:

Daniel Craig as James Bond

Daniel Craig is a given, and as such that dictates the style of Bond story it will be. Craig is a rather thuggish and intense Bond (and I am okay with that). Therefore a light-hearted, Roger Moore style Bond movie is a waste of his talent and time. The film has to be amped up and intense.  With Daniel Craig as the incumbent Bond, let him do what he does best. Run around and vigorously kill people – with reason to do so (something personal and emotive). Queen and country is not enough any more. The story must have gravitas, or you just end up with a Bond clone such as Johnny English, or The Spy Who Shagged Me!

Dame Judi Dench as M
Dame Judi Dench as M

Then there is Dame Judi Dench as M. Of course I love Dame Judi, but the thing is, she is getting older, and I doubt she’ll return as M once Daniel Craig’s tenure as Bond has ended. For the record, Craig turns 43 this year, and will be 44 when Bond 23 comes out. Presuming that he makes another film in two years after that, he will then be 46 – and after 4 films, possibly looking at retirement (?). The thing here is, one of the elements that has helped the Bond series ride smoothly over the recasting of Bond every few years has been the consistent supporting cast. When George Lazenby took over the role, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewellyn and Lois Maxwell were all on hand to sell the fact that this was still Bond. Similarly when Roger Moore took over (okay Llewellyn wasn’t in LALD, but he made his presence felt in Sir Roger’s other Bond adventures) they too were on hand. Robert Brown took over from Bernard Lee as M in Octopussy, and with once again Desmond Llewellyn as Q, they shepherded Timothy Dalton into the role as 007. I am sure you are getting the idea.

My point here is that Dame Judi was the bridge between Brosnan’s Bond and Craig’s Bond. But as Q and Moneypenny have been missing from the last two films, she represents the last link (on screen at least) to the history and continuity of the franchise (Thankfully we have had Jeffrey Wright appear in the last two Bond films as Felix Leiter, but I’ll talk about Wright in a minute).

Over the next two films, I believe a succession plan should be put in for Dame Judi as M, with a new actor groomed to take over as head of M.I.6. Over the last few films, they have depicted a bit more back-room bickering and politics, particularly in Quantum of Solace where M is called before a Minister to explain Bond’s actions. Maybe in Bond 23 the plot could involve Bond doing something that we the audience know is right, and he saves the world, but politically looks rather shaky.

Hugh Laurie - the next M?

As a clumsy example of the type of plot device I mean – maybe a group of terrorists have planted a nuclear bomb on a school bus, loaded with kids. The driver is forced, at gunpoint to drive the bus into the centre of London. Bond on foot, and across the rooftops of cars, chases the bus. The seconds tick down. The bomb is scheduled to go off in two minutes. Bond shoots the gunman through the window, however before dieing, the terrorist gunman shoots the driver. The bus careens out of control and flips over. Bond rushes over and defuses the bomb with seconds to spare. However in the crash, six children have been killed. Bond has saved the life of 15 million people by stopping the bomb, but in doing so, he has inadvertently taken the life of six children. The press have a field day, calling for heads to roll. At the end of the film, M is forced to resign defending 007’s actions. M’s successor could be briefly introduced (I like the idea of Hugh Laurie) – and he obviously shows an outward disdain, bordering on hatred, for 007 and the ‘mess’ he has inherited. In the following film, Bond and the ex-M, Dame Judi could meet. He thanks her for what she has done, and she imparts some final words of wisdom (which may or may not aid him in his mission). I know it sounds a little corny, but hey, I am not a script writer – just a mad blogger!

Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter

That brings us to Jefferey Wright as Felix Leiter, and Wright represents one of the great potential building blocks of the Bond series. Firstly Wright is a great actor and can run with Craig on any dramatic aspects of the story. Secondly, at the end of Quantum it was inferred that Felix just been promoted, and as such, I’d expect him to play a more prominent role in the next film. I hope the producers and director don’t allow this opportunity to escape.

Tieing up loose ends
At the end of Quantum of Solace, Mr. White was still alive and still at large – we last saw him at the performance of Tosca, remaining calm and seated while the other Quantum members ran for cover. But my interpretation was that Mr. White was not Quantum’s top man, although he appeared to be higher in the organisation than LeChiffre (Mads Mikkleson – Casino Royale) or Dominic Greene (Matthew Almaric – Quantum of Solace). So who is the head of Quantum?

The film makers have three choices. Firstly they can ignore the Quantum story thread. This to me would be rather unsatisfying, and a slap in the face to audiences and Bond fans in general. Secondly they could tie it up quickly in the pre-title sequence, with Bond rounding up Mr. White, and leaving the Quantum thread up in the air, with investigations continuing in the background. I guess that way, Quantum could return in the future, but I feel that Quantum will be a ‘Craig era’ evil organisation, and therefore it would depend on how many years Craig would be willing to remain the incumbent Bond. If he is willing to stay with Bond until he is fifty (like Brosnan), and make a film every two years, conceivably we could get another four Daniel Craig Bond adventures. But Craig is a busy actor, and whenever the series has been pumped out at one every two years, there was been a noticeable drop in the quality of the films.

The third and final option would be to make Quantum the villains of Bond 23 with Bond managing to take down the whole organisation, out the corrupt politicians behind it, and uncover the mysterious head of the organisation. This is the option I would go for.

Return of an old adversary:

Donald Pleasance as Blofeld

This is an idea that I first heard on the Double-O Section, and I loved it. It’s time to re-introduce Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Some people may cringe at the idea – saying that Blofeld belongs to the 1960s. But I disagree. Blofeld is Bond’s traditional rival, and we haven’t seen him in the official series since 1971 in Diamonds are Forever (I am not counting the cow-catcher at the beginning of For Your Eyes Only, as that was a throwaway that had nothing to do with the plot of the film.) Unofficially we had Max Von Sydow as Blofeld in 1984, in Never Say Never Again. So Blofeld’s last bow was twenty-six years ago.

The conceit of Casino Royale was that Bond had just gained his double-O status, and therefore as a newby he has not encountered Blofeld before, so for those who think that it screws up the chronology of the series, that has already been done. We have to live with that now, but in some ways it may be a boon. Some of the richer Bond lore is fresh game once again, and can revisited once more. That’s not to say that I want a remake of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service…but there is no reason why, in the future, that Bond cannot marry again. But that’s not what I want to see right now.

It would be rather corny to introduce the ‘old’ Blofeld into a contemporary Bond film, I grant you that. So what has to be done, is strip back some of the megalomaniac extravagances that we associate with Blofeld, and make him a bit human. Here’s how I see the story arc going.

Above, I suggested that the Quantum story thread has to be played out. I would have Blofeld as the number two man in the Quantum organisation. Blofeld would NOT be the head of Quantum. But he is a powerful man with a bad temper, possibly bordering on psychotic. But he can be cultured, suave and charming too. He is not an outwardly raving lunatic.

Blofeld has a wife, or a mistress that he loves very much. She is not part of his evil world. She is the only good thing in his life. She has a cat. A white Persian cat. Blofeld hates the cat – he can’t stand the thing.

As the story plays out, in his quest to hunt down the head of Quantum, Bond is lead to Blofeld at his home. A fight ensues – minions die – house explodes. Bond escapes, thinking his job is done and Blofeld is dead.  He now goes after Quantum’s head man, having gleaned the necessary information.

Blofeld also escapes, but has horrible facial injury (made to look like a fresh and bloody version of the facial scarring that Donald Pleasance had in YOLT). Blofeld’s wife dies in the explosion. Blofeld is rather understandably upset at his wife’s demise, and blames Bond and so begins a personal vendetta – this could be carried over into Bond 24 (and possibly the rise of SPECTRE).

The Persian cat lives too and Blofeld, despite his negative attitude toward the cat, keeps it as a reminder of his wife.

Film ends with an epilogue, with Blofeld in a facial reconstruction clinic and his injuries are being repaired by plastic surgery. It has been parodied too much (Dr. Evil for instance) for Blofeld to keep the scar.

Michael Sheen - the next Blofeld?

There have been rumours that actor Michael Sheen has already been tapped to play Blofeld, but I believe that is all conjecture at this stage. I personally would like to see Vincent Cassell take the role, but as he is attached to the new Fantomas picture, it may be too close (or repetitive) to see him as another uber-villain.

Of course, this is all a bit of fantasy and conjecture. Just a bit of fun. Despite my rambling and wishes, the good news is there is going to be a new James Bond film. Whatever comes, I’ll be queued up on the first day to see it, and most likely I will enjoy it, as I have the preceding 22 films before it (not counting Casino Royale 67 and Never Say Never Again – which take the tally to 24 films – but you knew that!)

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Bond 23