When Daniel Craig expressed his disdain about continuing as the iconic super spy, fans, actors, and reporters quickly shifted focus from Craig's frustrations to who should be next to punch in as 007. Interesting enough, there has been a widespread buzz demanding that Idris Elba (Pacific Rim, Beasts of No Nations) be cast as the 7th on-screen incarnation of Bond. This can be seen as a natural extension of peoples' desires to see greater recognition of diversity in Hollywood, especially in the wake of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy. To make matters even more interesting, Gillian Anderson (X-Files, The Fall) shook us all across social media by announcing her interest in playing the first ever female Bond. Whoo! I love that we live in a time where people are toying with the idea of a different representation of James Bond. Personally I would love to see the franchise evolve further and take us by surprise with a Bond like we have never seen before.
Unfortunately, it seems like Eon Productions (and the Ian Fleming estate for that matter) does not seem to care about taking such bold steps. News of Tom Hiddleston being closer to getting the role in future installments seems almost a reality. I have nothing against that notion; Hiddleston is one of my favorite actors today and has an abundance of talent. However, the problem is that Hiddleston seems to be safest choice to play the archetypal MI6 agent we have been familiar with for decades. The Craig era movies brought a certain roughness to the character by highlighting his flaws and put consequences behind choices. That was all too carelessly washed away with the release of Specter, where Bond was reverted back to his pompous and debauchery-filled ways.
With that said, it is important to raise the question – does Bond as a character really need to be re-imagined? I mean think about it; this is a character that was modeled after wealthy white men (predominantly based on Fleming’s personality) as early as the WWI era. There was no versatility to the character to start with, so expecting to take such a cookie-cutter (or should I say crumpet-cutter) persona and trying to take it to a new direction seems like too much work. Bond movies still make a crap ton of cash by resorting to an unchanged formula, so why even bother taking such risks when the returns are secured?
Well, from a movie goer perspective, it can be argued that most of us like being refreshed and surprised from time to time during our trips to the theater. We generally tend to appreciate it when studios offer something unfamiliar but interesting – like the first time I tried sopa de marisco. Take, for example, the upcoming all-female reboot of the Ghostbusters. It was not like people rushed to the streets and banged on Hollywood’s doors for such a movie to get made. Regardless there is a studio putting out a new spin on the classic story we cherished for decades, fully aware of the risk of antagonizing fans of the original and tanking at the box office. So in that context, why does it seem like wanting some diversity in the Bond movies is asking for too much?
In my opinion, the character of James Bond was solidified on screen long ago by the likes of Sean Connery and Roger Moore. Since then we have witnessed subtle extensions of the character, but more or less keeping the formula intact. So if the decision ever comes to make Bond female and non-White, then the backstory has to be unique enough otherwise there will be a continuity breakdown. No, the call for diversity cannot be restrained to just the character and the story needs to acknowledge the change. This is the only thing that would make further installments of Bond’s adventures interesting to watch. Therefore, I would like to urge studios to let their creative juices flow if there is a good story to explore rather than sticking to a formula. Just imagine in the next movie, Bond has gone missing in action and MI6 needs to send out a decoy to handle an urgent mission. And who’s up for the task? Well in walks Idris Elba or Gillian Anderson after being promoted to the rank of 007. I guess I should trademark that idea so that Hollywood doesn’t end up using it in the future.
So guys as movie fans we should learn to ask for things that makes sense to watch on the reel, while the filmmakers expand on their creative efforts. With that I bid you farewell for now and go sip some tea while the butler polishes my full brogue wingtips. Cheerio!