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Cairns on Cinema - Now some rants on Bond, James Bond

A few words on 007, No Time to Die and the state of the franchise and where it's going
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What should the direction be for the Bond franchise?

NORTH BATTLEFORD — Given the momentary shortage of breaking local news today, I’m going to take the time to write about James Bond.

Obviously, the hype machine is on full blast for the latest James Bond movie, No Time to Die, widely hyped as the final Bond movie for its star Daniel Craig. After heaps of delays to its release date due to COVID-19, it finally opens Oct. 8. The early indications are that this movie is going to have a global opening haul of $150 million. The question is whether the COVID-hesitant moviegoers will still stay home, or whether they will finally summon up the courage to head to the movie theatre for the first time in months to see James Bond. We’ll see. In any event it looks like this will be the biggest hit for 2021 so far.

Driving the demand is the fact it has been a long time since the last Bond movie, Spectre, in 2015. Not only were there COVID-19 delays, but the original director Danny Boyle left due to creative difference in 2018, to be replaced by Cary Joji Fukunaga. So it’s been six long years of waiting for the Bond fans. In the meantime, two of the iconic actors who had played Bond — Sean Connery and Roger Moore —passed away.

Each actor who has played Bond has brought his own style to the role and it’s true when they say every generation’s favourite Bond was the one they grew up following.

Connery exemplified the gritty, tough Bond movies of the 1960s, while Moore’s role was far less dead-serious and much cheesier, with more double-entendres and lots of Bond girls. The Timothy Dalton era was a move back to grit, but then came the Pierce Brosnan era of the ‘90s and a return to the cheesy stuff.

The Daniel Craig era was both a retrenchment of the Bond role back to the tough, gritty, action-packed movies we saw during the Connery era, but also a move towards the contemporary Jason Bourne spy movie formula that aimed for a bit more realism.

Craig’s Bond was rough and tough, but also tortured. He has demons in the closet from all those years of being licensed to kill people.

Daniel Craig will be ultimately remembered as one of the great Bonds, but he has company. I’d say he’s up there with Connery and Moore and the debate about who is the best will rage for years.

With Craig saying goodbye to the Bond role with this movie, speculation will now turn to who might play Bond in future years.

This is going to be a challenge, and the reason the extremely loud equal-rights mob on social media have their demands and suggestions, for what should be next for the Bond role.

These folks, most of whom aren’t Bond fans to begin with, are suggesting a complete break from having yet another white male as Bond. First, they wanted a black Bond and were pushing Idris Elba for the role.

I dunno what to think of that. This idea reminds me too much of the time when they tried a black actor as Kojak on TV. Let’s face it, Ving Rhames was just no replacement for Telly Savalas. 

The latest suggestion now is to have the next Bond played by a woman. (!!!)

In fact, the leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer, actually said in the press that the next Bond should be female. Oh, brother.

Piers Morgan reacted by saying if this happens, he’s “going to campaign for Wonder Woman to be a man.” (Morgan thinks he is kidding.)

I have a suggestion for Eon Productions, maker of the Bond films, if they go the “female Bond” route: why not simply pack up the Bond franchise and call it quits? Because you will have had it.

The reality is that Bond is a rough-and-tumble bloke who likes the ladies, drinks a lot, goes after the bad guys like Dr. No or Blofeld or whomever, and is not the least bit politically correct.

That’s what Bond is, and while you can tweak the formula for the times we live in, any sort of radical changes to change his character or even make him simply more “pacifist” to suit Keir Starmer and the rest of the Labour Party’s die-hard supporters will fall flat on its face.

In fact, change is hard to do. As the most obvious example, there was the time when they tried to make Bond a one-woman man. Remember Timothy Dalton in The Living Daylights in 1987? In the movie they set him up with Maryam d’Abo as Kara the cellist? That was heavily promoted as Bond finally settling down, and with d’Abo you could absolutely believe it because she was gorgeous.

This was also during the Reagan and Thatcher era when “traditional values” reigned and everyone was being encouraged to settle down and not be promiscuous anymore, and there was also this nasty new AIDS virus out there, so you didn’t want to be promiscuous anyway.

The problem was Bond came off looking boring as heck. That probably doomed Dalton in the role, too, in retrospect. Who remembers him?

Anyhow, nice try. The bottom line is the Bond character is better off being exactly what he always has been, which is a bloke. It’s more interesting.

Much of the fun now is seeing how this decidedly un-PC character navigates the current environment. In 1995’s GoldenEye, M, played by Judi Dench, told Bond (Pierce Brosnan) to his face that she considers him a “sexist, misogynist dinosaur” and “a relic of the Cold War.” Take that, Bond.

Speaking of the changing times — in this particular No Time to Die movie, 007 actually is a woman. Bond has retired and MI6 has reassigned the 007 number to Nomi, played by Lashana Lynch. So, seeing how James Bond reacts to that will be fun.

Anyway, one last word on these casting suggestions put forward lately by the Twitter mob. They really do threaten to ruin the Bond franchise. At the very least, when Eon announces the next Bond actor — and mark my words, it won’t be a woman — I see the Twitter mob freaking out and demanding “why didn’t they cast so-and-so,” and the poor guy will be run out of the role before he even begins. It’ll be like what happened with Mike Richards, the guy who was run out of the Jeopardy hosting job (and the entire game show business) after about a week.

Replacing Daniel Craig may not be on the level of replacing Alex Trebek, but it’s close. Whoever takes over as Bond is going to get blown to pieces by the critics.

Also, given the previous history of the franchise, I wonder if maybe we’re due for a swing back to another “cheesy” Bond era like what we had with Moore and Brosnan. That would also lead the critics to blow the franchise to pieces.

For his part, Craig made it known he doesn’t want Hugh Jackman as his replacement. “Over my dead body,” he said.

I’ve probably said more than I wanted to say. I guess I felt the need to vent and push back against the nonsense I’ve been reading from these writers who want to stick their noses in my entertainment — namely, Bond movies — with their outrageous ideas and suggestions. They need to back off.

If you do absolutely insist on a female version of Bond, I suggest you see Atomic Blonde, starring Charlize Theron as a kickass cold-war spy in 1989 Berlin. She’s basically Bond without being Bond in that movie, beating up lots of bad guys.

If you’re not interested in that, you don’t have to see the flick, nobody’s putting a gun to your head telling you to buy it. And that goes double for the Bond movies, too. Double - oh - Seven.

That’s all I have to say about this Bond movie for this session.

John Cairns has been writing about the film industry for decades. Cairns on Cinema focuses on news, occasional reviews and, of course, box office results.