Bond, license to change?
James Bond; 007, or to many, a character that fulfils a certain masculine fantasy of saving the day and getting the girl. But, ahead of No Time to Die, should there be a reconsideration for how this is presented, in light of recent feminist movements and statements?
Bond has been around since 1952 with Ian Fleming’s first novel Casino Royale, flourishing even further when Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli procured the production rights to Casino Royale and its respective sequels, starting with Sean Connery’s iconic cinematic turn in 1962’s Dr. No. With a beloved property such as this, to survive six decades, one expects a certain conservatism, to preserve what many see as a substantial property. People grow attached to Fleming’s writing and the many steely performances of a physical, emotionless force such as Bond.
But what the past welcomed, the 21st century questions, with its progressive ethical debates and stringent focus on diversity. So, speaking of questions, what room is there for Bond 25 in contemporary cinema and, with its development issues, will we and should we see a Bond film we’re used to seeing? Or is it time for Bond to hang up his Walther PPK, pacifying himself and our cinema, in a metaphorical sense?
Hand-holding its female characters - is it time that the Bond franchise takes a more side-by-side approach?
Perhaps Bond will de-suit one day and stick on some sweatpants, split his legs on his couch and binge-watch some Fleabag. But not yet. Bond certainly will return. Because, speaking of Fleabag, the hiring of Phoebe Waller-Bridge, to remould the script into something filmable, could be a redefining moment for the 00 agent. Why? The answer should seem obvious: the injection of some subtle femininity to counterbalance Bond’s excessively patriarchal past.
Waller-Bridge’s past work is enough incentive to raise an eyebrow and click your explosive pen in eager anticipation for the next instalment. Fleabag and Killing Eve are renowned for their deep wit, tragic themes and exciting espionage, in the case of the latter. All three of these qualities are what make Bond the pinnacle of that cat-and-mouse sub-genre, making Waller-Bridge’s particular style a perfect fit for Bond’s classical structure. However, there’s one major difference: Waller-Bridge focuses almost exclusively on strong female leads.
Now, the Bond purists out there might argue that the Bond girl is a character type that’ll live more than twice: it’ll live on throughout the franchise, as Bond rescues the damsel-in-distress as a demonstration of his macho modus operandi. But can we not look back on recent Bond adventures and note a subtle root that was planted back in Die Another Day (of all films) and continues to grow? The strong Bond girl, the fierce Bond girl, the Bond girl that recognises his narcissistic, self-gratifying characteristics and turns them against him like a steel sharp Uno reverse card.
Damsel-in-control - Lashana Lynch's new character, Nomi, looks to adopt these strong characteristics: trailer clips present someone willing to question Bond's authority, while establishing herself as a worthwhile combatant herself
Waller-Bridge’s inclusion could open an underground passage into the heart of the lead character, through the development of characters that she has become so adept at adapting. Creating female foils that don’t stand around as ornaments for Bond to channel his testosterone towards, a Waller-Bridge penned Bond film poses as a possible chessboard: finally accepting its queen as its dominant piece and its king as the identifiably vulnerable lead.
It isn’t just Waller-Bridge. Cary Fukanaga, director of brooding masterpieces like Beasts of No Nation and True Detective, can bring the reflective quality that Bond needs, upturning the chummy one-liner let-down that was Spectre, suitably titled as it haunts Bond with its generic spirit. We’re asking for a small, dialled-down production that capitalises on identity debates by forcing Bond to ask questions about his position within this changing world. There’s always a place for humour, there’s always time for action. But Bond needs another dimension, a darker tone, a shadow that certainly isn’t moon-sized (I’m sorry Roger). Fukanaga, master of morally grey areas, could project that onto the cinematic canvas.
Ironically, Bond needs more balls. Daniel Craig has played this character from a number of angles. But can we not all admit that we miss the ruthless hitman, whose internal trauma gave him depth and texture? Not a patriarchal mannequin on display for our entertainment. What better way to clear that cliché cloud than with complex female characters and a directorial instinct that drip feeds the film reel with tension and relevance. Bond 25 is looking like it’s about to be reinstated as the touchstone of the spy genre.
Do you think Bond needs a narrative uplift? Or should it stay true to its roots? Leave some feedback and let me know! If you liked the article, subscribe to the website! I'll keep you updated on all of the latest posts. And follow The Film Foyer on social media! All of the links can be found in the feedback form at the bottom of the page.