Ah, Mr Bond, we've been expecting you: 50 years on from Dr No
The franchise is back but, asks John Walsh, will 'Skyfall' be a vintage encounter?
Prolific writer and commentator John Walsh contributes columns to the paper as well as writing features, interviews and restaurant reviews. He has been editor of The Independent Magazine, literary editor of the Sunday Times and features editor of the London Evening Standard.
Friday 04 November 2011
Ding diddle-ing ding ding ding ding ding diddle-ing ding ding ding ding.... He's back again, square of jaw, white of tuxedo and lethal of intent. After a four-year absence, James Bond will return to movie screens next October in Skyfall.
The 23rd Bond film will be directed by Sam Mendes, whose debut, American Beauty, won five Oscars, and will star Daniel Craig in his third appearance as the special agent afflicted with satyriasis and devoted to vodka martinis.
At a press conference yesterday, Craig revealed that filming had just begun, "so it's too late to turn back now". The film will be shot in London, Scotland, China and Turkey.
Producer Michael G Wilson pointed out it was exactly 50 years yesterday that Sean Connery was announced as the first Bond, in 1961.
In Skyfall, Judi Dench will reprise her role as Bond's contemptuous boss, M, for the seventh time. Sleepy-eyed Spanish heartthrob Javier Bardem – a convincingly horrible baddie in No Country For Old Men – will play the villain, while the crumpet factor will be supplied by Naomie Harris and the French TV actress/model Berenice Marlohe. Also rumoured to appear are: Albert Finney; Ralph Fiennes; Ben Whishaw, star of The Hour; Helen McCrory, who played Cherie Blair in The Queen and Narcissa Malfoy in three Harry Potter films.
Work on the movie was suspended in April 2010 due to concerns over the company's future. MGM filed for bankruptcy protection in November. But Spyglass Entertainment came up with a rescue plan and is now in the driver's seat. It is dealing with potentially a very lucrative product here. Casino Royale, the 21st Bond movie and most successful of the series, made £385m worldwide.
Gadgets, girls, guns: The 007 formula
Details are sketchy about the new film's plot, characters, action sequences and even the composer of the score. But based on the previous 22 movies, we can identify a few likely constituents.
Ian Fleming had a genius for portmanteau titles, in which two words were conjoined in a resonant trisyllable: Goldfinger, Thunderball, Moonraker. Since the Bond franchise ran out of Fleming titles (after Octopussy,) the movies have been stuck with tired variants on the words "Kill," "Die" and "Day". Skyfall is a welcome return to a portmanteau form.
There have been more than 100 "Bond Girls" in 22 films, of every nationality and every professional talent (remember 20-something Denise Richards as the physics expert Dr Christmas Jones in The World Is Not Enough?). In the last six films, they've been in just two categories: the one who'll try to kill Bond (Xenia Onatopp in Goldeneye, Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale, Camille in Quantum of Solace) and the initially glacial/innocent cutie (best example: Rosamund Pike) who needs to be, you know, warmed up a bit. Bond girls have been all nationalities, but French and Russian have been popular recent choices. There's a touch of smoky Oriental cruelty in Ms Marlohe's eyes that reminds us of Eva Green in Casino Royale, the best Bond girl since the original (and ultimate) Ursula Andress.
The mad villain's lair
Every suave billionaire nutjob bent on world conquest needs an impressive home: Blofeld's volcano crater in You Only Live Twice, Dr No's Crab Key, Drax's space station in Moonraker, Kananga's under-graveyard cavern in Live and Let Die, Scaramanga's island hideaway in The Man With The Golden Gun. Marvellous.
Sadly, there hasn't been a decent one since Sir Gustav Graves' Ice Palace in Die Another Day (2002). Time to bring back the evil subterranean HQ.
The weird sidekick
Every villain needs a homicidal associate to intimidate our hero. Oddjob, the sinister Japanese butler with the decapitating bowler hat in Goldfinger; Nick Nack, the pint-sized henchman in Golden Gun; Jaws, the 7ft metal-toothed giant in The Spy Who Loved Me – these were nasty people who existed only to end your life as painfully as possible. How about a hugely obese dominatrix (like Miss Trunchbull in Roald Dahl's Matilda) with Tasers in her foundation garments?
The fancy techno stuff
Twenty minutes into every James Bond movie until Die Another Day (2002), the MI6 armourer, Q, would introduce Bond to new gadgets: ballpoint grenade pens, talcum-powder bombs, a watch that became a buzzsaw... it was like a teasing preview of a later perilous incident. Casino Royale jettisoned the gadgets. We need them back.
The chase sequence
There must be a protracted, headlong, wholly implausible chase – on skis down a mountainside and a Lotus submarine in The Spy Who Loved Me, by speedboat in Moonraker, by turbojet (pursued by heat-seeking missile,) across an icy lake in The Living Daylights (the best one ever) and, er, running around on cranes and buildings in Casino Royale. Where will they chase 007 in Skyfall? Duh – through the sky, obviously.
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