by John Finnegan |
The news that Danny Boyle is now officially writing and directing the latest James Bond film is welcome news. One of the best decisions Barbara Brocolli and the other producers made after Quantum of Solace was bringing in, not just good filmmakers, but acclaimed and even Oscar calibre filmmakers. It lends the franchise a degree of credibility that it was sorely missing during the 90s. If only they would be as forward-thinking in the creative choices they make in the films as well. Full disclosure, I love James Bond. I was raised on the films as a kid and I think the Daniel Craig films are some of the finest action films around. But I do think they missed out on a golden opportunity in the most recent release, Spectre. They should have killed off the character. So hear me out. The real strength of the Craig films is that there is consistency in the quality of storytelling. Sure, Quantum of Solace isn't the most well-written film, but there are great moments in it and it links up nicely with Casino Royale. Craig's arc is further explored and expanded in Skyfall when he goes back to his home in Scotland and watches M die before him. These were pretty radical choices for a series that has been, for the last 50 years, pretty paint by numbers. Spectre had a chance to continue that line, further descending into darkness until there was only one logical outcome - the one thing we never thought we'd see - the death of James Bond.
This isn't a crazy idea either - all the signs pointed to it. As I've said, it made sense for his arc to conclude this way. And don't forget, the movie was more or less a soft remake of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, where Bond's wife was murdered in the closing moments of the film. Even the marketing of Spectre pointed to it - Bond is wearing a skull mask for a 'Day of the Dead' celebration in one poster, and the other widely used poster was a bullet hole through a sheet of glass. Surely that cracked glass image is a reference to the ending of On Her Majesty's Secret Service right? I believe that was their plan all along. I believe they planned to kill Bond at the end of Spectre, or at least give themselves the option. Craig wanted out, his arc naturally leaned towards this conclusion. It would make sense. Watching the film, I was convinced it would happen to. The final scene shows Bond retrieving his old Aston Martin, fully restored by Q, sitting into the car with Lea Seydoux's Madeleine Swan, smiling at her and then driving off. It was too happy and cheerful. It was too safe and easy. Surely something was coming - something unexpected, like a bullet through the windshield - not for Swan, but for Bond. Mirroring Lazenby's final shot so many decades ago, but subverting it at the same time. Nope... cue the bond music and role credits. A last-minute rewrite perhaps?
Of course, the studio was never going to kill Bond. Just like Nolan wasn't going to kill off Batman at the end of The Dark Knight Rises. That's just not how Hollywood does business. Studios like to play it safe. They like to know the character is there for another movie if they need to make a quick buck. That's understandable. But there seems to be a misconception in this industry that there's no value in bold creative decision making. That it's somehow bad for business to have people talking around the water cooler about a movie. The shocking ending of Avengers: Infinity War proved that audiences thrive on this stuff. It creates talking points, and that word of mouth does half the marketing department's job right there. Spectre should have been the climax of an already great run of movies. Instead, it was the least significant story because it didn't capitalise on the bold decision making that the other films had.
Hopefully Danny Boyle will create those talking point moments. Hopefully he will do the unexpected in a way that doesn't undermine the work of previous films and elevates the character to the heights that a 50 year old franchise deserves to be at these days. And hopefully, the producers will understand that the Bond franchise has an immortal quality to it which means it can withstand the risky storytelling ideas that executives might traditionally fear. In that regard, it has the chance to reset the standard, just like Bond has always done. (Image copyright: Sony Pictures)