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The Big Problem With The James Bond Franchise (And How To Fix It)

James Bond is in a crisis, and it's one that's been going on for a lot longer than Danny Boyle. The director, famed for the likes of Trainspotting, 28 Days Later and Slumdog Millionaire, recently departed Bond 25 after signing on back in March. The cited reason has been that age-old adage "creative differences", with Boyle's vision for the landmark entry clashing with producers and star Daniel Craig alike.

Right now, the latest 007 movie is in a state of flux. It's lost its director, with a rapid hunt on for a replacement, but there's still uncertainty of whether John Hodge's script (based on an idea by Boyle) or a previous draft by long-standing Bond scribes Purvis and Wade will be used, and all this under a looming (and reportedly unattainable) November 2019 release date.

Related: James Bond 25: Everything You Need To Know

But, really, this is much bigger than a single movie. Bond 25's pre-production is rockier than the side of a volcano secret base, but its problems are really just an extension of 007's struggles with the modern era of movie-making.

Spectre Is The Root Of Bond 25's Pain

Daniel Craig as James Bond and Lea Seydoux as Madeline Swann in Spectre

If there's one reason to suspect Bond 25 will make its release date despite such a major change only fifteen months ahead of release, then it's that something similar happened on the previous James Bond movie. Spectre started filming in December 2014, less than eleven months before release, and wasn't finished until just days before its first screening. This rushed production led to an ill-received film, one that made $200 million less than Skyfall and raised eyebrows from Bond fans and greenhorns alike. And, because even with very pretty images it was an unrefined story, the core problems are glaringly obvious.

It attempted to retrofit Bond into a Marvel-esque shared universe where every previous entry in Craig's canon was part of some grand plan - that Casino Royale was overseen by Quantum, itself part of Spectre, was easy enough to buy (and paralleled Connery's era) but forcing Skyfall into the mix too showed the ill-thinking motivation. The villain was Blofeld, something hidden in the marketing for the benefit of nobody in particular: as with Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness, die-hard fans would immediately figure it out, while those who aren't wouldn't care enough to recognize the name. These were the defining story choices, and they reeked of a classic attempt to pep up the formula.

What really stands out in Spectre, though, is its problems with its own canon. After Casino Royale stripped back Bond for a gritty retelling and Skyfall delivered something almost operatic, Spectre attempt to beeline more towards the tone of late-Connery or Moore, matching the visual stylings of Skyfall with the jokes of the 1970s to bizarre effect. Although, where the film really shows the confused production is in the handling of its defining question. Skyfall was an introspective Bond movie, asking from all corners if James, 007 and MI6's super spies had any place in the modern day, eventually concluding that it can if it willfully evolves; it ended with Bond shown through M's office by Moneypenny, a reaching of the series' original status quo that gave a sequel free reign.

Related: How James Bond 25 Can Move Past Spectre & Rescue the Franchise

And yet Spectre was primarily concerned with reasking the same question: Bond's familial link to Blofeld dredges up the relevancy question with it, and the whole C subplot is essentially a thematic retread of Skyfall. Except this time, the conclusion was that, actually, maybe we don't need Bond: James rejects MI6 and with new squeeze Madeline drives off into the cloudy London sunset. Forget that the ending was literally setting up a Tracy Bond wife-murder situation from On Her Majesty's Secret Service, something we'd already seen approximated with Vesper in Casino Royale, this undid Skyfall and left the entire point of Craig's Bond hanging limply.

Page 2: The Long History Of Bond 25's Problems

Key Release Dates
  • James Bond 25 (2020) release date: Apr 08, 2020
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