Friday, 21 April 2017

James Bond will return, maybe,
who knows, whatever

The future of the James Bond films hangs in the balance. Sony's distribution deal has ended, so MGM and EoN are currently jiggling Bond in front of a selection of suitors, all of whom are desperate for the rights while simultaneously nervous that Daniel Craig might not stay on board to guarantee boffo box office for the next film. It's a delicate situation, and one which could affect the very DNA of the franchise for the foreseeable future. And I, a lifelong Bond fan, couldn't give a hoot.

This is a problem. Mainly for me, to be fair, unless Barbara Broccoli is overly concerned about my devotion to her baby, in which case it's her problem too. But it's emblematic of how I've been feeling about the Bond films since Spectre dribbled onto screens nearly eighteen months ago (in that time I have rewatched maybe three Bond films, which is a dangerously low level of Bondery in my house), and I need to address it in the form of a rambling blog post, if only for my own mental wellbeing.

It seems inevitable that Babs will hand distribution rights for Bond 25 back to Sony, if only because she and Michael G Wilson seem to fear change right now (although Sony's pitch, apparently held on a recreated set from Dr. No, would have sold them to me in the time it takes Sean Connery to order a black man to fetch his shoes). The sooner that happens, the more likely Craig is to get back in the tux, and Christoph Waltz and Léa Seydoux can clear their schedules for Spectre II: Blofeld Boogaloo. Well, sorry if my enthusiasm isn't so much brimming over as struggling to fill a martini glass.
Don't get me wrong, I love Daniel Craig. He's made two Bond films I absolutely adore and one that I - and about three other people - like very much. And he's easily the best thing in Spectre, despite the fact that he still can't fit into his bloody suits. But his excitement levels for another outing seem about as high as mine are right now - obviously I can't read his mind, but my biggest fear for a fifth Craig film is that he snoozes through it like Connery did in the autumn of his Bond years. Compare his performances in Casino Royale and Spectre: the former boasts a wired, barely concealed hunger to make the role his own (partly fuelled by the epically stupid press campaign against him), while the latter has him mumbling monosyllabic retorts and reacting to cinema's biggest explosion as if a cat had broken wind in the distance.

Then there's the Purvis & Wade factor. I firmly believe the writers' contribution to the last six Bond films has been mostly brilliant - even Die Another Day's kitesurfing scene probably looked good on paper - but when they were revealed as the architects of Bond 25 my heart sank. More of the same looms large, and an entire generation of daring, brilliant writers has grown up while they've been at the helm. Casino Royale was a tremendous surprise - as was Skyfall, to some extent - but it feels like Bond needs to regenerate again to stay relevant.

I despise articles called things like "Here's What We Think Should Happen In The Next Bond Film" with an unquenchable passion, but Here's What I Think Should Happen In The Next Bond Film: Play around. Fuck about. Mix it up. Do a period Bond film set in the 1950s at the height of the Cold War, like when Michael Fassbender skulked around Argentina in X-Men: First Class, only for fuck's sake don't let Matthew Vaughn direct it. Do an Old Bond story, with Timothy Dalton (as we all know, the best James Bond) as a 70-year-old 007 who might just be losing the edge he's maintained for years because he doesn't know how not to (watch 2015's criminally underrated Mr. Holmes to see how to do something new and self-reflexive with a pop culture legend). Do an anthology film of three faithful adaptations of Fleming's short stories in tonally diverse styles. Just do something unexpected, for fuck's sake (but not so weird that I don't like it, that would be terrible. Don't forget this is all about me).
I don't know, maybe Purvis and Wade are currently beavering away at exactly one of these things, but I doubt it, because despite the evidence of successful franchises splintering off in unexpected directions (the MCU, Star Wars) it feels like Bond would never dare. I'm not saying the series has to become an entirely different beast forever - God knows its familiarity is the comfiest of comfort blankets at times - but there are 24 near-identical films that everyone can watch at the drop of a steel-rimmed bowler hat if they want to; would a couple of experiments be that bad for the series?

As a tediously vocal proponent of Serious Bond (Licence To Kill is still the best, don't fucking @ me) I'm going to sound like a massive hypocrite now, but you know what I also really want from the next Bond film? A bloody good laugh. An air-punching, howlingly brilliant stunt that's almost - but not quite - too outrageous for Bond. The other evening I drank a bit too much gin and began tearily reminiscing over Brosnan-era daftness like the time he rode a motorbike off a cliff and freefell into a falling plane. I'll never forget my reaction to that the first time I watched GoldenEye: my heart leapt out of my chest and I had to look around to confirm that everyone else in the cinema had seen what I'd just seen. I even miss things as potentially terrible as a smash cut to Brosnan in a Hawaiian shirt strolling through some Spanish backwater while David Arnold tosses off an almost culturally insulting salsa riff and a caption says "Havana, Cuba", because Brosnan looks amazing in a Hawaiian shirt and that salsa riff is KICKING and it's all just so wonderfully silly. I miss silly Bond. I think the Fast & Furious movies might have stolen him.
People who know me as The Boring Bond Guy are always asking me who I think should replace Daniel Craig, but what they don't understand is that I know far more about people who have already been Bond than I do about people who haven't but might. Glancing at random articles speculating on the next 007 fills me with the fear because I haven't even heard of half the names, and if I have I wouldn't know some of them if I fell over them in the street. Jack Huston? No idea. James Norton? Isn't he a TV chef? And you can fuck right off with your Toms Hardy and Hiddleston: the last thing a new Bond needs is baggage. If cornered, I will vigorously fly the flag for Dan Stevens, and anyone who disagrees needs to watch The Guest on a weekly basis like I do. He can do lean and mean, he doesn't take himself too seriously and anyone who doesn't have special thoughts about him is emotionally dead.

So that's what's going on with me right now. I'm a bit sad about Bond and I don't know if it's because the last one was upsettingly bad, or if I'm still recovering from two years of self-imposed watching, thinking and writing about Bond for no other reason than to see if I could, or if I'm just getting old and grumpy. But spunking all this self-indulgent bollocks onto the internet might help, although not as much as if Barbara Broccoli reads my spunk and fertilises her Bond egg with it and we make the perfect Bond baby together. Though frankly that's unlikely, not to mention worryingly inappropriately phrased. Anyway, my apologies if you've got this far expecting there to be some informed critical thinking, or at least the merest hint of a point, because there are none of those things to be found here. Just a picture of Roger Moore having his nose adjusted to remind us how much worse it could be.