Monday, November 9, 2015

A Reel Opinion: The Future of Bond

Let the mad speculation begin.

The word franchise gets tossed around a lot these days. Hollywood latches onto the concept like it’s the only game in town; after all, a connected series of films is guaranteed to bring in business, and a rich industry is a happy and healthy industry. The term is often related to superhero properties and behemoths like STAR WARS and STAR TREK. One of the most longest-running franchises out there is often overlooked as one, and that’s only because it’s been around for such a long time…50 years and counting, and it’s about to enter a major transitional phase; the JAMES BOND franchise.

This past weekend, the 24th official entry into the BOND franchise, SPECTRE, thunderballed into first place at the domestic and worldwide box office; a clear indication that the world has not had enough of the martini-guzzling, woman-hopping, global-bouncing, sexy-car driving secret agent codenamed 007. The film, which has received very mixed reviews (read Reel Speak’s review HERE), was the fourth outing for actor Daniel Craig in the role of Bond, and it is with Craig where the transitional phase begins.

Craig, who had signed on for five films but has publicly stated that he’s done with it, has been praised by many critics for adding more depth and vulnerability to the character; something that has been missing for many years. Despite Craig’s insistence (and somewhat and grumbly comments) about being done, we should never say never, and there is that possibility that he may be back. The first issue to contend with is that SPECTRE offered a wrap-up to a four-film storyline for Craig’s Bond, so a fifth film may feel like an after-thought; cinematic-wise, the character feels finished. If he is forced to return due to his contractual obligations, he may not be happy about it…and no one wants a Bond who doesn’t want to be there. Craig acted just fine in SPECTRE, but there was that feeling of a man who just wanted to get it over with.

If Craig goes, then the Bond-universe that he populated goes with him, as has been the case nearly every time a new 007 is cast. There’s nothing like a fresh start, especially for Bond, and that opens the question of where the franchise needs to go next. Craig’s first three films were set in a very realistic world; very little comedy, no over-the-top characters, no ridiculous gadgets or situations. SPECTRE took a step back and embraced some of the more comedic and silliness of the earlier Bond films (such as the Roger Moore era from 1973-1985), and although most of it worked, it reeked of indecision of how a JAMES BOND film can work in the real world. When Bond comes back in a new form, what kind of adventures will he have, silly, or grounded.

There is also the minor (ha) issue of the distribution rights for Bond movies going up for grabs. MGM and Eon Productions have currently been weighing offers as Sony’s deal expires with SPECTRE, and major players such as Warner Bros. and Paramount are expected to make a play for the franchise more than worth its weight in gold.

This Blogger hopes that Sony gets out of the picture, as their mishandling of Bond is unforgiveable (their meddling with SPECTRE’s budget and scripting and production has been well documented), and again, there’s nothing like a fresh start for 007. Craig has done a fine job and deserves to be in the conversation concerning the best portrayals of the character, but it does feel like it’s time to move on. Whoever gets the job, there also needs to be a focus on the character; the man-on-a-mission is always fine, but the man who has to pull off the mission shouldn't be forgotten. When the franchise does restart, this Blogger firmly believes that a grounded Bond works best in today’s day-and-age. After all, Bond must be relevant and to do so he must battle real-world enemies who exist in the real world. A comedic approach would seem like a parody, although this Blogger would welcome a series of Bond films set in the 1950’s or 1960’s. The sky is wide open for the franchise, and anything can happen.

Let the mad speculation begin.


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