The James Bond movies have a special place in the hearts and minds of many cinophiles all over the world. The box office success of the latest James Bond movie SPECTRE is proof that after 53 years of movies and 62 years of novels, the franchise is still viable and entertaining. The only rival for the James Bond franchise in modern cinema, based on duration, is the Godzilla franchise, which I would argue is less popular in English-speaking countries than Bond. I’m sure many of us remember watching Bond marathons on cable TV with our dads when we were kids.
There was something captivating about Bond that inspired the imagination, not to mention the libido. I know I’m not the only one who consumed the Ian Fleming books like aphrodisiac and watched the movies over and over. Many were inspired to enter the film industry or even the actual spy business, joining the CIA, MI6, or whatever organization your country used for espionage. I was inspired to teach a class at the University I work for called Ian Fleming and the Cultural Impact of James Bond.
Even though the movies and books are still extremely popular, there is always room for improvement. The fact that the Broccoli Family has remained in control of the franchise for its entire duration has led to an incredible cohesion between the feelings of the movies (for example the movies did not add fan service nudity like every other action film of the 80s or add pervasive swearing like every other action film of the 90s), so reinventing the franchise would be unnecessary.
But the following 10 suggestions would allow the franchise to stay fresh and remain fun for the next 53 years.
10. More Sex
Bond does not need nudity, prostitution, or soft-core adult film scenes, but what it does need is more sexual escapades for Bond to indulge in. The previous Bond movies, before the Daniel Craig era, tended to feature Bond having sex, with on average three women per movie. Some films had more bedroom scenes than that, especially On Her Majesty’s Secret Service where Bond sleeps with just about everyone. The scenes are not supposed to imply misogyny, but rather that Bond cannot create real human contact, especially after the death of his wife. Sex scenes in Bond serve to reinforce the male audience members’ desire to be Bond, satisfying the fantasy of straight men to sleep with many beautiful women, while serving as a scintillating aspect to the female audience, who wouldn’t mind seeing more of Daniel Craig without his shirt. Let’s get more women in bed with Bond, but make sure to portray the women as having just as much fun; this is about sexual liberation, not objectification.
9. More Realistic Gadgets
In real life, the most important spy equipment is usually hidden cameras and audio recording devices, not pens that shoot fire, laser beam projecting cigarettes or any other ridiculous things that appear in spy films. The Bond franchise has had its fair share of gadgets with the earlier movies featuring more realistic, yet potentially boring, devices and the later and modern movies featuring less realistic, yet more jaw dropping devices. Daniel Craig has not used many gadgets in his films, so we need a surplus in future Bond films. In a world where we are currently invested in high tech, the addition of more sophisticated gadgets in the Bond films would add a level of flare. Let’s see some concealed cameras, small knives, acid pellets, and other realistic gadgets used in intriguing ways so Bond maintains believability but also has toys that no other action hero has.
8. More Focus On Exotic Locations
The Bond movies are known for exotic locations, but lately these locations have only served as a backdrop for car chases and action sequences. The actual character of the location is not very relevant to the movie itself beyond an interesting place to film. In Casino Royale, a sequence in Venice features a building sinking into the water, which is memorable and a much better use of the city than the gondola car from Moonraker. Have any other locations added something to the film? They seem interchangeable to me. In his books, Fleming wrote many specific details of each location so his audience could imagine being there. At the time, Fleming’s audience could only dream of traveling to exotic cities and eating foreign food, which I don’t think has changed that much since the 1950s. Let’s see some shots of the streets without someone racing through them, show the people, show the food Bond is eating, so we can imagine what it would be like to travel to these exotic locations ourselves.
7. Expensive Cars That Make Regular Men Jealous
Throughout the Bond films, the tricked out car Bond gets to drive has played an intrinsic part of the character’s mythology. When Pierce Brosnan played Bond, he got to keep the car after filming wrapped, which made perfect sense to every man, who looked at Brosnan with intense jealousy. The idea of Bond is for other men to want to be like him, and while it may be cool to have the invisible car in Die Another Day or the submersible car in The Spy Who Loved Me, these are not realistic machines (although the flying car from The Man with the Golden Gun was an actual flying car prototype). What is realistic though is an Aston Martin or BMW. In order for the audience to desire the car, Bond has to drive it. Let’s see more actual driving, less gadgets on the car, and more realistic car chase scenes, so we can vicariously feel what driving one of these cars in real life would be like. Fast and Furious movies should not control the market on car-action scenes.
6. Let’s Get Back To Nostalgic Music
John Barry’s Bond theme is as iconic as any aspect of the Bond franchise. In recent years the Bond movies have played with nostalgia involving gadgets, the Q branch storage facility in Die Another Day and the Goldfinger Aston Martin in Skyfall. They’ve tried to branch away from other previous aspects of the movies. The Bond theme was used in the Daniel Craig Bond movies as a cohesion element to tie the timeline of the movies to previous Bond films. Adele‘s theme for Skyfall was a massive success not only because the song was amazing, but because Adele is able to channel the diaphragm-bending vocal range and style of previous Bond musicians like Dame Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones, whereas the music from Quantum of Solace, the Bond film sandwiched between Casino Royale and Skyfall, barely made an impact because it didn’t feel like a Bond tune. Bassey released her last album in 2014; it’s time to get her back in the Bond universe. Let’s get Shirley Bassey and a giant orchestra recording music for the next Bond film.
5. Juxtapose Humor And Violence
The Bond films have gone from light hearted fantasy in the Roger Moore films to brooding, serious action in the Timothy Dalton films. We need to have more balance between the two. Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig have tried to balance funny moments with serious action, sometimes with success and sometimes without success. We need to remember that Bond will kill anyone without hesitation or remorse if he needs to, and every time we start to forget that because of funny one liners and flirtatious behavior, it makes Bond more poignant.
4. Bond Girls With A Back Story
The main female character in each Bond film is usually more important than Bond in making the movies feel different from each other. The Bond girl allows Bond to react in ways we haven’t seen before, which is very important for a franchise as old as James Bond. We have seen plenty of female agents team with Bond including Anya Amasova, Wai Lin, Holly Goodhead, Jinx. But if the Bond girl isn’t one of these, then she needs to be fleshed out somehow. We remember Pussy Galore and Honey Ryder because they had strong backstories as well as beauty. If the Bond girl isn’t memorable, then the connection to the audience is lost. Who did Tanya Roberts play in View to a Kill? What was the story with Severine in Skyfall? We don’t know much about her. The Bond girl needs to be a well developed, memorable character to give us something other than Bond to focus on. Let’s see some Bond girls with complete backstory that play into the narrative of the movie.
3. New, Non-recycled Plots
Initially, Bond battled the terrorist organization SPECTRE because the other main enemy he could have fought was the Soviet Union. People didn’t want to be reminded of the Cold War when going to the movies, so SPECTRE was a safe antagonist for Bond. Later, Bond fought evil billionaires and more recently shadowy organizations who remain mysterious in origin. The villain wants to either blackmail a nation, make themselves more money, or get vengeance against Britain. We have seen that many times before, while real evil exists in the world that the Bond franchise ignores. Let’s see Bond in Africa fighting against warlords recruiting child soldiers. Let’s see him battle the Islamic State and defend law abiding Muslims. Let’s see him battle people motivated by prejudice rather than world domination schemes. We don’t want to be reminded of real evil, but it is also nice to think our heroes are doing something about it.
2. More Memorable Villains
A Bond villain helps set the tone for each individual Bond film. Fleming’s villains were extremely over the top, toned down in both appearance and personality for the films. For example, the film Moonraker cast Hugo Drax as a small man with a goatee, while the book Moonraker cast Hugo Drax as a small man with fiery red hair, scary red beard, and terrible teeth and breath. We remember Ernst Blofeld as the greatest Bond villain because he has appeared the most often, but it’s Donald Pleasence who we associate with the character rather than Telly Savalas or Charles Gray because Pleasence’s version had that wicked face/monocle scar running down his face. The villain needs to be unique and visually interesting to create an identity for the entire movie. Let’s get more villains with an elaborate back story, who are physically deformed and intellectually immoral.
1. Cast A New Bond
Daniel Craig has done a great job as Bond, but nothing reinvigorates the franchise like casting a new actor. Connery’s Bond films were starting to slide, no thanks here to George Lazenby, when Roger Moore took over. Moore brought the series back to greatness in the late 70s and early 80s, but when his movies started to slide, Timothy Dalton came to the rescue. When Brosnan’s movies started to suffer, Daniel Craig came to the rescue. A new Bond always provides the franchise with new life, and while I don’t think Craig needs to go quite yet, he is in his late 40s. Looking for a replacement should be in the works.