In 2012, the twenty-third Bond film, Skyfall, was released, and it was an event. This film was huge like no Bond film before it, making over $1.1 billion worldwide, including becoming the highest grossing film of all time in the UK with $161 million. Translated into pound sterling, it’s the only film ever to make more than £100 million in its tiny home market. On top of that, a lot of critics loved it, and at the time of writing this article it’s sitting pretty at 92% critics and 86% audience scores on Rotten Tomatoes.
Personally, being a life long fan of the Bond franchise, I hated almost everything about Skyfall. Sure, the opening scene is pretty awesome, but every moment after that, from the second the horribly depressing dirge title music started until the ridiculous Home Alone rip off ending. I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but it was even worse than Die Another Day. So why was it so popular? How did this film, even before being released, change the franchise from being male fantasy to mass appeal? More importantly, why did nobody mind that this film took a ginormous dump all over the rest of the franchise?
James Bond is one of the few legacy characters in film. That means the studio can change the actor who’s playing that character, and still keep everything in continuity. This meant that ‘James Bond’ was less a man’s name, and more of a mantle, or a fake name that different agents would take on. It was a perfect way to explain how ‘James Bond’ had been going on missions since he took on Dr. No in 1962, and how his physical appearance had changed so many times. It would even explain how Sean Connery could return to playing Bond after Australian model George Lazenby tried his hand at the role.
Skyfall undid all of this. By confirming that James Bond was this man’s names, and returning to his family home for a nice reunion with, erm, some old guy with a shotgun, they’ve just said that every film the character James Bond has featured in has been the same man. A man who would now be well into his seventies, would have more illegitimate children than Attila the Hun. It was suggested to me that perhaps the Daniel Craig incarnation of Bond might be the first man to take on the mantle, and the rest have been using his name, but are you seriously suggesting that the events of the Sean Connery and Roger Moore films take place chronologically after the event of the Daniel Craig films? It seems very unlikely.
Some people have also said that the films from Casino Royale onward are a reboot, and not in the same continuity as the rest of the films, but the reuse of Judi Dench as M, as well as numerous other mentions of previous things to happen in the Bond films (including making fun of a lot of older films in the franchise in the most disrespectful way possible) debunk that theory. This means there hands are completely tied on what will no doubt be a big issue in the near future. Recasting Bond. If they were going to stop when Daniel Craig stopped wanting to make films, this might just be ok, but there will be many more when he’s done. Want to cast a black actor as Bond? You’re now asking the audience to believe somebody black and somebody white are the same person. You want a Chinese woman in a wheelchair to play Bond? Same problem. Before Skyfall I would have been open to almost anybody playing the role, as long as they could convincingly take out henchmen and sip a drink, but that’s just not possible anymore.
Believe it or not, there could be something even worse in store for the franchise. The first teaser trailer for the next Bond film, titled Spectre came out a few days ago. I hesitantly clicked on the video, scared for what I might find. Much to my surprise, I thought it looked pretty damn good. Sure, I didn’t…
Wait, there may potentially be spoilers ahead for Spectre, even though what I’m talking about is all in the trailer, so read on at your own risk!
…like the way they were once again going to delve into Bond’s past, but that damage has already been done to the franchise. The tone was good, the music was familiar but chilling, and Christoph Waltz looked like he could be one of the best Bond villains ever. Then I watched the trailer a few more times, and read some analysis, and it all changed. It seems like this film is going to say that (final spoiler warning!) James Bond and Christoph Waltz’s character, Franz Oberhauser, the leader of the evil organisation Spectre, who many suspect will go on to become Blofeld, James Bond’s arch nemesis, are in fact foster brothers.
This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Not every character needs to be linked from childhood. Most of the best villains in history, particularly Bond villains have no prior link to the hero, and this film doesn’t need that either. Did Bond have to be the brother of Jaws to make him a great villain? No. Did Bond have to be the brother of Goldfinger for him to be a great villain? Definitely not! Imagine if in the new Batman film, we found out that Bruce Wayne and the Joker were brothers. DUMB. Imagine if Rocky and Ivan Drago turned out to be brothers. DUMB! Imagine if Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader turned out to be… OK, maybe not that one. But still!
Spectre may well turn out to be the best Bond film yet, and I could be eating my own words, but being such a big fan of the franchise for so long, I can’t help but worry. What do you think about the teaser for Spectre? How about the Bond franchise in general? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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