Does The New 007
Spell The End of The World?

Does the new 007 spell the end of the world?

I recently saw a re-run of Aussie actor Anthony LaPaglia (of Without A Trace fame)
interviewed on Denton's Enough Rope. Aside from being engrossed by his story of
growing up the son of a migrant mechanic in Adelaide, and making it big in
Hollywood despite the odds, he gave a very pointed critique of what is wrong with
big budget films. In an effort to draw big at the box offices, producers will land big
stars, pay them big dollars, and then revolve the script around them to maximize the
time their faces appears on screen. Naturally, this is at the expense of the story
telling and character development.
Halle Berry was used solely as eye candy in "Die Another Day".
Which is a shame given her acting prowess.

Which led me to think of what I disliked about the last Bond film, Die Another Day.
While no man in his right man, regardless of sexual persuasion, should complain
about Halle Berry being on-screen, the character she played was obviously written
into the script for particular reasons, none of which are relevant to the plot. The
script could have done without the character she played, and the story would not
have suffered in the least. She was written in for her curves and box-office appeal.
Furthermore, her character seemed to be designed to appeal to the younger
hip-hop audience, given the lingo used and her obvious appeal to young men. The
result was a superficial tone to the whole movie, even though her presence
arguably was a big determinant in yielding unprecedented commercial success for
a Bond film.

Which leads me to the current state of the Bond franchise. Immensely popular with
the public, critics and Bond aficionados alike, Pierce Brosnan completed his
contract for four movies and in a shock turn of events was not renewed to continue
playing the role. Brosnan's last Bond film grossed nearly half-a-billion dollars (with
production costs totalling $142 million), and the previous three films around $1
billion in sum, resulting in Brosnan being labelled the "Billion-dollar-Bond".

Enter Daniel Craig. Little-known British actor Craig was offered the role after reports
of several higher profile actors not being interested. The choice of Craig has
triggered a furor amongst the Bond community. Two separate websites are devoted
to cause of boycotting the 21st Bond film, dubbed Casino Royale after Bond creator
Ian Fleming's novel, although little other than the name is shared. Both fansites
protest the choice of Craig. It is hard to disagree that Craig looks the part of a Bond
villain rather than the leading man himself. Reports that he cannot drive a car with
manual transmission, has an anti-gun stance, and has been described as a gay icon
for his role in the film "The Trench", all fly in the face of the 007 image that has been
honed and crafted in Ian Fleming's novels and on the big screen for over three
generations. Jung's collective conscious is definitely making things hard for poor
old Craig (and yes, he does look much older and weathered than his late 30's age
would suggest).

Both sites also object to the producers decision to "reboot" the series. No longer is
Bond a patriotic ex-naval commander, who relies on wit and charm more than
brawn. Instead the new 007 is a former SAS, and no longer begins his career during
the cold war, but acquires his "00" status in the world of today (the "Bourne
Identity" was the chosen template). Craig is on record as saying he wants to "dumb
down" Bond. The anti-Craig and "reboot" sentiments expressed on the two fansites
have been echoed in the press the world over, from Manilla to Montreal.

Past Bond's Connery and Moore have defended Craig as a "fine actor", but as
noted in one of the anti-craig fansites, if fine acting skills are all that is required to be
007, then technically the likes of Tom Hanks would be suitable. Clearly strong
acting credentials, while necessary, are not sufficient for the role.
Much maligned the net over, Daniel Craig has been likened to Mr Potato head.
Picture courtesy of and Noel Morrissey

Considering the commercial success of the last four films with Brosnan playing the
role, such a drastic change in the direction of the franchise can only be seen as
supremely risky. The motive? I suspect that Brosnan's demands for a cut of the
profits (i.e. pay consistent with other actors whose films gross similar amounts of
money), and his desire to have a considerable amount of creative control (he has
long been critical of the lack of artistic integrity of the 007 films he has appeared in),
did not sit well with the wallets or egos of EON, the production company who along
with Sony Pictures hold the rights to the Bond film franchise. Furthermore,
replacing a popular Bond has proven to be tough, both in terms of fan reaction and
box office results. The choice of an unknown Aussie model, George Lazenby to
replace Connery was deemed a failure at the time. More pointedly, the change from
the retiring Roger Moore to Timothy Dalton almost sent the franchise to the grave.

It appears that the current producers decided that re-booting the series to be more
in-line with common action films (i.e. unsophisticated stereotypical action man that
can be played by just about any decent actor) would solve any future issues of
finding a replacement for the role of 007, as well as potentially capturing a new fan
base, one more attention span challenged than past generations. Not to mention
having to avoid paying Brosnan loads of cash and future profits, and surrendering
much of the control of the film making process to his capable hands (Brosnan owns
his own production company and knows a few things about making good films).

Adopting a less cynical point of view, the decision to freshen the Bond franchise
and save itself from inevitable staleness can be considered bold. However, the
signs for Casino Royale are not good. EON's inability to land a big name actor as a
replacement to Brosnan (apparently Hugh Jackman's request to see the script
before deciding on the role was rejected) has been well-reported. Similarly, the
reluctance of any of Hollywood’s leading lady's to sign on shows a lack of
confidence in an unproven commodity in Craig and the attempted "re-booting" of
the series (whatever happened to the Bond tradition of plucking rare beauty from
obscurity?). Furthermore, EA games decided to scrap the development of a tie-in
video game, again raising questions as to a lack of confidence in the new Bond.

Judging from the trailer, the sophisticated and witty 007 I grew up watching will be
no more. Despite this, the new film may still be worthwhile and enjoyable. Or the
whole idea, along with the choice of Craig may backfire immensely. If the latter, one
can only hope that the crafting of the 22nd Bond film, with its script, choice of cast,
and historical context will be motivated by matters other than just greed.


Casino Royale official website

The Sinking Ship pro Craig fansite