Elsewhere in these chronicles, I have mourned the passing of Mr Bond. In particular, in the piece…
…which was written after I had viewed “Quantum Of Solace” – easily the WORST 007 outing since the execrable “O.H.M.S.S.”
But now I have seen “Skyfall”.
A few days ago it fell off the satellite, a mere ten months after its theatrical opening – and I had been content to wait, since I would be watching it on a 50″ 16:9 Hi-Def TV, with a pukka stereo setup.
And I have to say it was pretty good.
New director Sam Mendes used LONG takes, instead of the MTV style of the last two entries. The plot was involving. The action scenes were superior. And a number of the classic nuances were on display.
They even suggested Bond is bisexual (THAT will have pissed off a few people – but I bet it got cheers from audiences in San Francisco!)
In short, the huge amount of time and money that was spent on this Fiftieth Anniversary Bond was not wasted.
But it got this writer thinking. Being now sixty, I have GROWN UP with Bond. “Dr No” was released when I was ten (although I did not actually get to see it until its re-release, four years later) and since “Goldfinger”, I have seen them all, as they emerged, every couple of years or so.
However, during the last decade, I have become ever more depressed as they have slid inexorably down the DUMPER.
It started with that “fast-forward” shot in “Die Another Day” in 2002 – Pierce Brosnan’s last instalment – where there was an audible groan from the audience. And it continued with Daniel Craig’s first two efforts.
“Casino Royale” was touted as a “reboot” (a more accurate description might be “prequel”) – but since Judi Dench was retained as “M” – and EVERYBODY had seen SOME of the earlier films – that made NO sense.
The film featured an extended parkour sequence – but was eminently forgettable in all other respects.
It was followed by the above-mentioned “Quantum Of Solace” – in which NOTHING was memorable. The plot continued the previous one and the villain was little more than a drug baron who, unlike classic Bond villains, had NO class whatsoever.
And they put the Gun-Barrel Sequence at the END.
But for the latest entry, they forsook continuing the saga established with the previous two and rebooted the reboot – and the result was one of the best Bonds for YEARS.
Plus they took care to establish that Bond Will Continue.
And why not? The film made shed-loads of cash, thus continuing the tradition that No Bond Movie Has EVER Lost Money – something no other current long-running franchise can claim.
However, while Bond may still be A License To Print Money – where will it go now?
Craig has “reluctantly” agreed to do two more (he has to retain his bargaining power) and so we can expect Bond 24 in 2015. Sam Mendes may even return as director.
But what will he do? After viewing “Skyfall”, I asked myself that very question. If I were the writers and director – what would I MYSELF do?
And it was then that something hit me – sure, it would be easy to do a “classic” Bond movie.
The Gun-Barrel Sequence at the START – followed by the cold open, involving a MONUMENTAL and totally original stunt – then the title sequence, with silhouetted naked girls and a strong SONG by a currently strong artist – then Bond walks into M’s outer office and after some by-play with Moneypenny (except the new one is damned attractive and YOUNGER than Bond) enters M’s inner sanctum. Then, after Ralph (properly pronounced “Rafe”) Fiennes has explained the new mission, Q enters, to give Bond the tools he will need for it (Ben Whishaw, taking a break from “The Hour” and possibly, his role as the next Doctor Who).
Then Bond will go off and smoke, drink and bonk his way through another adventure, visiting “exotic” locations, leaving corpses and quips in his wake. The villain he will face will be larger than life, with larger than life plans and a larger than life home (with a descending circle in the ceiling). He will also have a henchperson with a bizarre disability – which they will use to their advantage. Then the whole thing will be turned around by one of Q’s devices which the bad guys will conveniently have missed, resulting in a simple fistfight with the villain, which Bond will win.
Then he will blow up the whole of Pinewood and settle down with the last girl, waiting to be picked up by the good guys. And the whole thing will be scored by someone who sounds like John Barry.
Except of course, that would not do at all. At best, it would be a Bond-pastiche – and at worst, a Bond-parody.
You see, whilst it might be easy – if a tad expensive – to DO all of that, it would be utterly ABSURD. And the reason is this: imagine being a film-writer/director in 1964 – and someone approaches you and asks you to create a CHARLIE CHAPLIN MOVIE.
Really? Yes: the time between “Goldfinger” and NOW – is the same as between that film and “Making A Living” – CHAPLIN’S FIRST FILM.
There you are, in ’64, facing the prospect of making a silent, black and white film – with a stand-in for Chaplin – that will be true to the films he made before WORLD WAR ONE. IMPOSSIBLE.
And yet, chronologically speaking, it is the SAME prospect as trying to make a classic Bond film TODAY.
Thus it can be seen that it is no use bemoaning the fact that modern Bond films have lost the plot. The best we can hope for is that the next entry in the canon will be as good as this last one.
To yearn for a movie like “Goldfinger” is to yearn for the past. Life was simpler then. Style was better. Things were… OH. GROW UP! The past is DONE. We have to deal with the present. There IS only NOW. Even THEN was now, at the time.
Somehow, the Bond franchise has survived for half a century – and so have I. But I am not the same person I was in ’64 – so how can I expect the Bond films to be so?
Times and people CHANGE. The trick is to make now AS GOOD as it was then – preferably BETTER. And “Skyfall” – and myself – ARE good. And so both of us – Bond and I – must try to be even better.
Not waste time yearning for a past which is GONE.