Anyone who has spent five minutes with me knows I am the biggest Bond fan to have ever drawn breath. I was first taken to the cinema to see a Bond film - Goldeneye - by my mother, in 1995.
From that day forward I have enthusiastically accepted Bond as the ultimate movie franchise and a great many of its films, including Goldfinger, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Goldeneye and Casino Royale, as amongst some of the best films ever made.
Therefore, you can imagine my excitement when I managed to get London IMAX tickets for the opening night of SKYFALL.
I thought it was a stupendously good film. It had the grit and unique cocktail of personal animosity, tempered by loyalty that only Daniel Craig can deliver. To look for a floor in Judi Dench's portrayal of SIS spymaster 'M' was impossible. She manages to convey, with masterly effect, the slipperiness of power and the conundrum inherent to reconciling the necessary Machiavellian approach to defending country, with the human 'weaknesses' of sentimentality, doubt, loyalty and miscalculation.
In addition, the photography is exceptional; the stunts are second to none and the special effects leave nothing to be desired. In particular, I loved the fact that M's office of old has been recreated, right down to the red leather-padded door. It is little details like this which Bond geeks, like me, hope are carried forward to Bond 24.
However much I enjoyed SKYFALL, though, there is always room for development. And as reports suggest that the next Bond film is already in pre-production, I thought I would get my two penneth in early. Indeed, there is precedence for fans engaging in the production of future Bond films. For example, the iconic Aston Martin DB5 would have never graced our screens in Goldfinger were it not for a fan who suggested Bond swap his Bentley, of the books, for a DB3.
So here are my suggestions.
The thing that was lacking most in SKYFALL was Bond girls and the one there was - Sévérine - was killed off so prematurely. When she was shot I thought that she could not be dead. It would have added further depth to the film if Daniel Craig's relationship with her had been allowed to develop. Indeed, James Bond has always been largely defined by his relationships with women, as they draw out the scrap of emotion he is otherwise deficient in.
More importantly, killing Sévérine off early meant the other trademark of Bond films - harmless chauvinism - also got the axe. In recent films, the producers have been sensitive to the feminist lobby and thus Bond girls have been professionals and a clear match for Bond's wit and intelligence. This is all well and good - I thought, for example, that Casino Royale's Vesper Lynd was the perfect combination of feisty intelligence and vulnerability - but when each female interest has to be Bond's equal, in every way, it not only depletes reality - Bond is, supposedly, the UK's best spy - but also the impact of the high flirtation integral to the Bond narrative.
The fact that Judi Dench's M is certainly a match for the intelligence, professionalism and cunning of Daniel Craig's Bond should mean the producers have greater license to provide for Bond girls like Miss Goodnight, from The Man with the Golden Gun.
It is a key characteristic of Fleming's Bond that he's emotionally retarded - only capable of viewing women as commodities - pampered commodities but, nonetheless, commodities. Of course, such a view of women is wholly wrong, but this is a deficiency in Bond, stemming from the fact he was orphaned at a young age, not the women.
Moreover, the 'sexism' of Sean Connery's and Roger Moore's Bonds is so tame it hardly warrants comment. I have never heard one woman criticise the films for being sexist. In contrast, I have several female friends who would kill for the chance to be a Bond girl!
Therefore, in Bond 24, I would like to see a greater emphasis on the Bond girl(s); I would like the Bond girls to literally be Bond's girls and I would like more names like Pussy Galore, Plenty O'Toole, Xenia Onatopp and Holly Goodhead.
Another area in which I felt SKYFALL lacked was gadgets. The low point in Bond film gadgetry was Die Another Day, with its invisible car, but there remains a need for exciting, realistic gadgets. For example, I thought Pierce Brosnan driving his BMW via his mobile phone in Tomorrow Never Dies was great and the darts which fired from Roger Moore's wrist in Moonraker added a nice, little touch.
So, Bond 24 needs a greater emphasis on gadgets. Back in the real world, news channels report that drones, which have been used in Iraq and Afghanistan, might one day be deployed on the UK's streets - maybe this is an area in which Bond could pre-empt reality?
Ben Whishaw makes an impressive Q, however, so I am confident that this is part of my wish list will be answered and some.
An integral ingredient to the Bond franchise is the Bond baddie. Bond baddies are uniquely quirky. The obvious example is Donald Pleasence's Ernst Stavro Blofeld of You Only Live Twice, stroking his white cat, but there are many other examples, such as Christopher Lee's Francisco Scaramanga who appears in The Man With The Golden Gun. These baddies add a bit of 'camp' to Bond, which emphasises the franchise's action, rather than thriller, credentials.
While I thoroughly enjoyed watching Javier Bardem's unhinged Raoul Silva, I think it time that the Bond films reverted back to having continuity with baddies - as with Blofeld - and maxed up their quirkiness.
In Bond 24 I would be delighted to see a new nemesis for Bond, setting off on a reign of terror, lasting several installments. Of course, this new character could be played by several actors, as Blofeld was, but continuity in character would be good.
Franchises do need to evolve, though, so a future Bond baddie would need to be a new kind of quirky. In contrast to the relatively tame nature of many previous baddies, I would suggest a darker, more violent baddie be injected into the films. I do not advocate explicit violence, as this would fundamentally depart from the founding principle of Bond films that they should be lighthearted, fun and inclusive, but a lot can be conveyed by suggestion. In fact, one's mind almost always does a better job at imagining horrors than any director could ever capture on film. Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho is a master class in this.
Therefore, in Bond 24, I would like to see the inauguration of a new nemesis for Bond, who remains a thorn in his side for three, four or five films (although not necessarily all consecutive films). An inspired choice to play him would be Zach Galifianakis of The Hangover fame. As well as The Hangover, I have seen him in Criminal Minds and his ability to do both quirky and disturbingly evil marks him out as future Bond royalty.
One last thing I would love to see incorporated into Bond 24, which was not particularly explicit in SKYFALL, is chest-pounding, distinctly British, action. Witnessing Pierce Brosnan In Goldeneye demolish the streets of St Petersburg in a tank, while adjusting his tie, is one of the best moments in British film history. In an age of growing globalisation and, consequently, increasingly sensitive diplomatic relations, it would be refreshing to see a British agent wreak such havoc abroad once more. Maybe Bond 24 could see Daniel Craig destroy the Eurotunnel? At the French end, of course...
Or, with the next installment of the Bond franchise hitting our screens in Autumn 2014 - the same time as the Scottish independence referendum - we could look closer to home? How about Daniel Craig taking on the evil machinations of a deranged First Minister, intent on destroying Her Majesty's United Kingdom? Not likely, I know. Shame that!
These are all very much suggestions for future Bond films, however. SKYFALL is a great film in its own right; I just want to see certain, limited elements of the James Bond of old brought back and greater continuity from film to film.
When does the IMAX start taking bookings for Bond 24?...
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