James Bond is one of the biggest film franchises on the planet – the Bond movies are amongst the most popular movies of the last 50 years. But like any franchise, if it’s not reinvented and reimagined every so often, there’s always a risk it can die a death.
A great example of this was the Batman franchise. It was considered dead in 1997 after the embarrassment of Batman & Robin (which, to me, is more a toy advertisement than a movie).
It took a complete and radical re-imagining, rethinking, with a great filmmaker, to relaunch the franchise successfully. Christopher Nolan single-handedly re-invented Batman, and in so doing created the now fashionable ‘reboot’ concept.
You could argue it was Batman Begins, which ultimately provided some the impetus to the hugely successful rebooting of Bond in 2006 in Casino Royale.
But now Bond is in a state of flux. The last movie, Spectre, was, in truth, a huge disappointment. It didn’t help that it had to follow the hugely successful and critically acclaimed Skyfall – but nevertheless, it was the weakest Bond movie since Quantum of Solace, with a villain who could and should have been dark, powerful, and terrifying, yet seemed more of a damp squib.
I felt, watching the movie, that Bond had become grumpy, old, and outdated. Daniel Craig’s constant moaning about the role and his desire to quit, saying he’d only come back for the money, honestly didn’t help.
Once it came out, I thought ‘just draw a line under Craig’s Bond’. Spectre ended in a way which could easily have been left as the end of Bond’s arc, a positive end to boot. It would have made a lot of sense to end there.
But that’s now gone to pot. We’ve just had Bond 25 confirmed for 2019, with Daniel Craig committed to return for what will likely be his final Bond. Hopefully, they can find a way to tie his Bond’s story arc together well, and maybe restore the faith lost with Bond 24.
But long-term, it’s clear to me James Bond needs a major rethink, reboot, reimagining. And this needs to be radical. For me, the long and short of it is this: James Bond needs Christopher Nolan.
Bond, even now, is still in many ways that ‘sexist, misogynist dinosaur’ he used to be. A Bond for the 21st century has to be one who empowers women, who treats them and even defends them as equals, who speaks out against patriarchal views of women, rather than enforcing them.
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation had one of the strongest female characters I’ve seen in an action/spy film, who was in every way the equal of Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt. Even as I watched it, I felt this is one of the big things Bond needs – strong female leads, who are equal to Bond in every way. And Bond’s attitude towards women needs to change going forward, otherwise, in feminist world, a world of gender equality, he will slip into irrelevance.
Indeed, the MI franchise, and Rogue Nation in particular, seem to have taken elements of the Bond franchise – the gadgets, the outlandish stunts, the quirky humour – and combined it with serious, gritty storytelling, grounded in reality.
Casino Royale and Skyfall were two of the best Bond movies of recent years, because they combined grounded reality and good storytelling, with strong female leads (and I count ‘M’ as the principle female lead in Skyfall), a few gadgets, and some great action scenes. But the problem is, in the process, Bond became almost too dark and serious. There was no humour whatsoever, not even ‘life humour’ – the kind all of us find in the everyday. The attempt to change the humour and bring in more gadgets in Spectre felt forced and fake, and came at the cost of good story.
The real issue was, it was inauthentic to Craig’s Bond. It didn’t fit with his interpretation of the character at all. It was like trying to force campuses on Nolan’s Batman – it just didn’t work and wasn’t true to the character. The best thing, in hindsight, would have been to stick to the formula of Casino Royale and Skyfall – there would plenty of time to bring back other elements of the Bond universe in a more believable, less comedic way in future. I hope in Craig’s last Bond they return to those elements which made Craig’s Bond so compelling.
Which brings me back to my point. Long-term, Bond needs a reimagining. Sean Connery was the best Bond, and still is, because he combined the grittiness and seriousness of the character and his world, but added a little tongue in cheek humour when appropriate. He combined the real world of spies, with these incredible gadgets, and made it believable. Since then we’ve gone from one to the other side, and never had a Bond who embodies both.
So Bond needs a reimagining which will do this. And there’s literally only one candidate. Christopher Nolan.
Christopher Nolan is the master of reinventing characters. We mentioned before the job he did with Batman. He’s quite openly a big fan of the Bond franchise, and was interviewed about it recently. He made clear in this interview his genuine desire and ambition to make a Bond picture one day and said he had a unique vision for what he’d do with the franchise – though declined to talk about it, for fear it would be copied by someone else and deny him his chance. He even mentioned ongoing discussions he’s had with the Bond producers about doing a Bond film.
He also specified that him coming on to do a Bond movie would have to be a time when “they needed me”. Although he didn’t make it explicitly clear, it’s obvious what he meant by this. He meant that he’d only come in to do Bond at a time when he was allowed to have more creative control and input, a time of refreshing of the franchise, with a new perspective and new actor in the role.
And he rounded this off by saying he thought Tom Hardy, a staple of many Nolan movies and who has publicly said he wanted the role, was the perfect choice to play the next Bond.
I have to admit, reading this interview was the most excited I’ve been about Bond for a long time. I’ve always had this niggling hunch that Chris Nolan was destined to make a Bond movie one day. And to hear his enthusiasm for it, that he has a vision for the franchise and that he’s been talking to the Bond producers, made this more of a reality for the first time.
Even the timing fits well. Nolan tends to make a new movie every two years, which means his next picture would likely be in 2019, the same year as Craig’s final Bond. Meaning he’d be perfectly placed to take up the reins of Bond 26 in 2019/2020, for a 2021/2022 release.
My perspective on a Chris Nolan Bond, is that he’d try to return Bond to this balance we had with Connery. He’s go for gritty seriousness and reality of the character (what Nolan movie wouldn’t be grounded in reality?), but combine this with the occasional humour, believable but innovative and exciting gadgets, and big stunts.
As huge fan of Nolan, Bond and indeed Tom Hardy – a Nolan-directed Bond film with Tom Hardy in the role, clearly has the potential to be one of the best Bonds of all time. It would get people excited about Bond again, it would give the character a refreshing new perspective, and give momentum and direction to the franchise. It would give us a young Bond with great enthusiasm for the role. And hopefully it would subtly change the character to make him more in tune with the world and culture of today.
Sadly, it looks like we’ll have to wait for this. 2019 will be the final Craig Bond, and hopefully they return to what made his Bond popular and give him a good send off. But the real work begins in 2019, and rebooting the franchise.
Given Nolan’s love of the character and vision for the franchise, and his track record both in franchises and moviemaking, Bond producers would be absolving their responsibilities to ignore him.
James Bond needs Christopher Nolan, because he would breathe new life into the Bond franchise, make Bond movies popular movies again and inspire another generation of Bond fans.