Seeing James Bond, 007 Into The Next Generation Of Films
I am, if not a Bond-a-holic then an ardent admirer and aficionado of the films, characters and books of Ian Fleming. I have seen, and know all the films, the vast majority of the characters and am quite familiar with the plots to eliminate 007 and take over the world. I have introduced him to my children and my youngest has taken him to heart, often sneaking my Sean Connery collection or Daniel Craig Bond films out of my collection and into his, watching them as he eats a snack or when we travel somewhere.
After Spectre, I wondered where does Bond go from here. He fell in love in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, married and promptly became a widower. In Casino Royale he loved and lost Vesper in a very short time. This prompted him to become a sharp edged tool, a killing machine as he charged forth, doing battle through Quantum of Solace and Skyfall before falling once more in Spectre. As he drove away I thought "What now? James Bond NEVER rides off into the sunset with the girl; it just doesn't happen?".
But what if it just did?
Can James Bond Be Replaced?
So if Bond did just ride off into the sunset, what happens next? If Craig, who many feel brought the ruthless edge back to Bond and was the best since Connery truly is done playing the part what is to take place next? Can we simply pick another person to fit into the suit Craig wore so effortlessly and forget what he brought to this series of films?
Connery was the first Bond, but not the first choice for Bond; Patrick McGoohan was. Remember him? He played Longshanks in Braveheart opposite of Mel Gibson and was last seen on the silver screen as the judge in A Time To Kill, that wonderful film starring Samuel L. Jackson and Matthew McConaughey. I remember him from the old TV series The Prisoner. But being the first Bond, Connery put his mark on the character and time has judged every subsequent actor against his portrayal of Bond. Connery did six films and starred in what many feel is the quintessential Bond film of all time: Goldfinger. If you want to, you can count Never Say Never Again as a seventh film, although this is a rehash of 1965's Thunderball and Connery is too old to be playing the spy at this point. By the way, this is not considered to be an "official" Bond film.
George Lazenby attempted to become Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service and he was the Bond that married. He lasted but a single film before Connery came back in Diamonds Are Forever.
Roger Moore followed and took Bond on a more, shall we say, lighthearted turn through seven films which featured more gadgets and gizmos and humor. Not all enjoyed Moore as much as Connery and following Moore a much more serious Timothy Dalton took center stage. He lasted only a pair of films before being replaced by Pierce Brosnan. Brosnan did a good job for his four films alongside of Judi Dench as she replaced M in that role. This was a break with tradition: putting a woman in the role of Bond's superior, directing him as he set forth to do battle with the evil genius' of the world.
Then came Craig and in that first scene of Casino Royale, cemented who Bond was. Tough, hard, a killer. The black and white sequence was perfect, introducing us to a man who was a killer for hire, although only for his country. The scene that followed, where he chased that free runner all over the construction site, was one of the most thrilling I have ever had the privilege of watching. Then came love, duty, vengeance, and retribution. The four films of Craig's became a tightly wrapped group of films, each able to be viewed independent of one another yet part of a larger collective whole that told a story. Now, if Bond has indeed driven off with the girl, that story is at an end.
Of course, she could be killed: most Bond girls are. But this once it could work to allow him a bit of peace and let him leave. Who Bond was, a masochistic womanizing killer, a "blunt instrument" who "lives in the shadows" might be better remembered for who he was, not necessarily who he might be forced to become. There is a large amount of talk about who will, who can replace him. An unknown? A person of color? A woman? Egads! A woman!?
Yes, in today's political climate there is talk of a spy who is not a white male playing Bond. While I do not, personally, believe this is the best choice (if you read a Bond book you know) the fact remains life has changed a bit since Casino Royale was first published in 1953. Fleming wrote a total of sixteen different stories/books which have become films. If there are twenty-four films that leaves several as being created by someone other than the originator so why not take a turn off the beaten path and explore a new world, one contemporary with what we see today?
What if Bond, James Bond 007 was done? What if he has had his fill of the shadows and decided to end his run at Mi6? The day after he drove off in that wonderful DB5 with Dr. Swann to live a life of peace he officially retired from her Majesty's Secret Service? That opens up a whole world of possibilities, possibilities of replacing 007 with someone like Idris Elba who happens to be a very good actor. He could be shown as an agent yet to achieve 00 status, one who works in a lesser branch, say Mi5 which works in country: someone who is tried and tested but has not made the jump to Mi6 and the world at large.
Blofeld is in custody and no longer a threat to country or self. Bond retires and moves to the European continent to allow his new wife to continue her work. But Blofeld escapes (there are more moles in Mi6 than you can shake a stick at) and sets forth on a path on revenge against Bond. Bond reconnects with Mi6 and his replacement, Elba. Together they go against Blofeld and his organization Spectre, ultimately bringing it down together. Bond then returns to his safe haven, leaving the fate of the world of a new 007, name to be forthcoming.
But Elba is only a few years younger than Craig so would not be a long term (four films or so) replacement as 007. We might get two films at the most out of him and that is not enough.
If not Elba, then who? I still feel a tie in between the old 007 and the new, Bond-ing together to eliminate Blofeld would make a good script but we might have to go younger than Elba. Benedict Cumberbatch is an outstanding actor, is white and British; but again at current age 39 we would not get him for more than two films, maybe three. Paul Bettany is another I feel would be good, but at 45 is basically the same as the others. Hugh Jackman (also known as Huge Ackman to Ben Stiller) is in great shape, and a great actor but at 47 good for one film at best.
There are any number of white male actors waiting with bated breath to hear the phone ring and listen as the question "Are you ready to be 007?" be whispered from the voice on the other end of the line. Some make sense, some not. If I wanted one to play Bond for the next decade, say three maybe four films and keep him in the same character as his predecessors, I might pick Colin Farrell. Irish (close enough to Scottish), hard about the eyes and having the ability to be tough when need be, and possessing the acting chops to play the part of a replacement 007 alongside Craig as they rid the world once and for all of Ernst Blofeld.
Who do you think would be a good replacement as 007?
Then we could go completely against type and cast a woman to play the most dangerous assassin in the world. Think a woman can't play the part? Then you haven't been to the movies lately. Scarlett Johansson is positively deadly as the Black Widow in Marvel's Avenger films, and she was cold and calculating in 2014's Lucy, alternately weak then strong to the point of being machine-like at the end. And at only her early 30's in age, she could possibly take this franchise into the 2020's quite easily while attracting an entirely new group of fans to the series.
Then we have Emily Blunt, she of the action thriller Edge of Tomorrow (also known as Live. Die. Repeat) alongside Tom Cruise. This imaginative (and very well done) sci-fi thriller is an outstanding vehicle for Blunt to play the tough, no nonsense military leader and could translate her acting to a spy quite easily. Again, in her early 30's so she could be 007 for four films easily.
Then there is Kate Beckinsale, who has shown the ability to handle being an action packed actor herself in such films as Van Helsing and Underworld. But her age (42) prevents her from being taken seriously for more than a film, two at the most.
One thought that has great interest is Naomi Harris, who has been Moneypenny for the last couple of Bond films. She is a field agent already, knows Bond and what it takes to be 007, and could conceivably be in line for a promotion to becoming one of Mi6's special agents with that license to kill. I can see her assisting Bond for revenge (she did this already in Spectre) and helping finish off Blofeld once and for all.
What do you think? Has Bond run his course? Is he too old fashioned in this new world we live in? Can he be directly replaced by a younger actor and have the popularity of the series maintained? Or is it time for something new, a replacement 007 of a different name maybe even a female 007? Can Bond survive another fifty years and still be Bond?
Time will tell.