Rebooting a Franchise: Who is James Bond?

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As it happens, I am not actually a massive fan of James Bond; I’ve seen one of the films (Skyfall; competently made and engaging enough, but not stunning) but I’ve not read any of the books. It’s one of those franchises that I respect from afar, rather than ever really engaging with.

Still, though, something I am interested in is this whole climate that’s grown up of reboots and restarts and remakes, and Bond is a franchise that is interesting in that regard; it’s one where recasting the lead is a fairly frequent occurrence, but the majority of the time it’s been done as a soft reboot rather than anything else. (Think Ed Norton to Mark Ruffalo in The Avengers, as opposed to Christian Bale to Ben Affleck in Batman vs Superman.)

Previously, the recasting of Bond has been something that’s just done, and ignored – you know, like, “George Lazenby is James Bond now, don’t question it, just get on with it”. And, you know, fair enough – it’s worked very well for them so far – but I’m interested in what might happen were the recasting made into the central conceit, and main selling point, of the movie.

What if, when watching the new movie, you didn’t know who Bond was?

Okay, so, hear me out. You know how James Bond is a spy, yes? I know typically we see him doing more of an action-y sort of thing, but for the film I have in mind, we’ll begin with him undercover, doing some infiltration work at a glitzy party (it can, obviously, give way to action scenes later, but I like the possibility of a tense, slow burn thriller.)

But, like I said: what if we didn’t know who Bond was? We’re beginning with him undercover, so there’s no reason why we have to know which of our glamourous party guests is Bond, right?

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This is something that Eon (or whoever it is now, I think Eon has lost the rights) would emphasise in the marketing campaign, leading up to the film’s release.

A poster for each of our potential Bonds, and four different trailers – each one implying a different candidate for the title role. One trailer for Idris Elba; one trailer for Ian De Caestecker; one trailer for Lara Pulver, and one trailer for Alexander Siddig. (Which is not to say that I’m advocating any particular one of them for Bond, but more that there needs to be variety in these choices; it doesn’t work if they’re all generic, square jawed action stars.)

There are dual benefits to this, I think.

Obviously, from the point of view of Eon (or whoever), it should work out pretty well; if they push the “Who is James Bond?” campaign really well, they can get people genuinely invested in it, and that should hopefully result in a wider audience turn out, because people really want to find out who it is. You’d also have the extra free marketing as it creates more of a social media buzz, and leads to more interest – you know, people saying who they hope it is, digging in and analysing it, etc etc.

I also believe, from a story point of view, this would actually be a really unique and exciting movie. If you’re going into it with all that context, it’ll be more than just another action movie – I know that I personally would find it to be a much more tense affair in general.

There’s a lot of different ways you can go with the story, incidentally; I think probably you’d kill one of the potential Bonds early on, just to ratchet up the tension a little. Maybe you’d have a bit of a fake out, seemingly confirming that one candidate is Bond, before revealing they’re Alec Trevelyan, AKA 006. I do think, though, you’ll have to reveal who Bond is by around the end of Act Two, just because we need to see Bond being Bond, and the mystery can’t be sustained forever.

(Tempting though it would be to kill off all potential candidates in the opening 5 minutes and then introduce a new guy, that’s probably actually a very bad idea for numerous reasons. Absolutely hilarious, mind you.)

Still! That concludes my pitch for the first post-Daniel Craig James Bond movie. He’s probably still got one more left, doesn’t he?

Let’s say, then, that this is going to come out in 2020, featuring various new and exciting actors, directed by the Russo brothers, and written by me. It shall be called Bond, because I like the simplicity, and the mystery it evokes.

What do you think?

Related:

Forget a James Bond movie – television should be 007’s new home

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