Development of the 25th Bond film descends into chaos
The slow, steady degeneration of the James Bond film series is nearly complete. Straight from the Bond Facebook page, on July 24, 2017, the announcement for the next film, the twenty-fifth in the series:
James Bond will return to US cinemas on November 8, 2019 with a traditional earlier release in the UK and the rest of the world. Bond 25 will be written by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade and produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli. The film’s cast, director and distributor will be announced at a later date.
Fast forward into the first stirrings of the new year, 2018, and actor Ben Wishaw (who plays Q) reveals that it’s been zilch for production updates: “I haven’t had an update for a while,” he tells Metro. “I would imagine, I think they have a release date for next year, so I think by the end of this year we have to have started filming something.” Still, the actor can’t restrain his dissatisfaction, pointing out that the production “has gone strangely quiet, but that’s often the way it goes” (Evans).
So much, then, for the original plan: Bond empire supremo Barbara Broccoli boasted a Spring 2016 pre-production start but apparently forgot everything she knew about managing a 007 film. The true status? The trickle of info reveals an as-yet untitled film and Craig’s apparent return. Danny Boyle, I’m sorry to say, has been courted by the producers after several directors were eliminated from the rumor circuit, including the auteur du jour, Christopher Nolan, who insisted “No, categorically” to the director’s chair (James). Take these as implications of paralysis for a series in decline. My sources (very questionable chaps and never to be trusted) did leak the first draft of the script to me. Here it is:
We’re off to a good start, I’d say. Nothing but clean, blank pages to emphasize profound creativity. Still, the Facebook announcement does suggest the usual grind with disturbing elements in its cryptic vagueness. For starters, we’re back to the early autumn slot in the US and UK, which signals another cautious release. The last four entries suffered the same scheduling: a wussified approach from the filmmakers, underscoring their lack of confidence to release a Bond film during the height of the Thanksgiving/Christmas box-office stretch. Whereas past entries such as Tomorrow Never Dies (and, veritably, all the Brosnan 007 films) went head-to-head with major heavy-weight studio offerings and held their own stance, today’s Bond films in the Craig tenure have been relegated to the October/first week of November timeframe, known in the industry as the junkyard slot where Suburbicon-level turkeys are dumped to languish in their box office death. Thus, the modus operandi, bonded and shipped for universal export: with a series tending to degenerate, Madam Producer and her cohorts have surrendered to the belief that 007 can no longer compete with other high profile films—so if you can’t stand the heat, get off the stage and cash in at the junk bin where there’s less competition.
Now, over a year later since the announcement, Purvis and Wade have been ousted, and Danny Boyle has confirmed, or proclaimed, his involvement, boasting that he and his Trainspotting screenwriter John Hodge have been developing a script. The revelation occurred in New York, of all places, where Boyle had screened his new FX show Trust at the Florence Gould Hall Theater. A cloud of vagueness hangs over his announcement, suggesting (once again) a tortured pre-production: “We are working on a script right now. And it all depends on that really” (Wakeman). So it seems the gig is not fully bagged by Boyle, and the situation raises the spectre that it’s all tentative until the producers are confident with the new script.
If the ritual of recent 007 films are to go by, we can be virtually certain of a comeback by Purvis and Wade—Eon’s standby scribes for wretched scripts since 1999’s The World Is Not Enough—to tweak whatever screenplay the anointed director has been left with. Sad to say, the pair cannot be hastily deposed, and this opens the door to a familiar problem: we’re back to the degeneration as manifested in their works. With the Craig films, they’ve delved deep into PC territory, noting the trends in gender studies, and infused the scripts with gay subtleties so that by Craig’s third film, they’ve remolded Bond into a social justice enabler who’s comfortable with the homoerotic advances of the villain Raoul Silva, the first pansexual love interest in the series. Even Noel Coward would have put a quick stop to that nonsense.
Robert Wade once revealed the key aesthetic in their scripts: “If there’s action without a story or a character angle, then it’s just boring” (Chitwood). He must be congratulated for the irony in his candor. The “just boring” essence of their scripts sticks out like Craig’s obvious boredom with the 007 role. What Mr. Highfalutin Robert Wade ought to have said was that he and his crony Purvis always relied on increasing the pace to usher the viewers past the point where credibility is suspended. The trickster elements—bombastic action and explosions, the rapid shifts of narrative, the dark murky scenes—reinforce the technique of the conjuror's other hand: they distract attention from the muddled plots, the laughable idiocy of the supposedly genius villains (the ones of late are quite moronic), and the blandness of the Craig-Bond who makes even the props look animated. Moreover, the last four scripts are solid hack jobs, each serving as a compilation album of Bondian bits with desperate attempts to emulate the recent Bourne and Batman films but suffers from lack of originality. Of course, fight scenes and car chases and explosions are in the mix, followed by more fight scenes and car chases and more explosions, all the while emphasizing a self-inflicted disease: the overstated self-consciousness to be “dramatic.” But the drama—typically, the Craig-Bond scowling in darkly-lit scenes—hasn’t been as effective as the drama you’d get from an episode of Fuller House.
Why the dynamic duo is even hauled into the mix is a curiosity. In late January 2017, Purvis admitted to be incapable of writing a Bond movie, thanks to the current occupant of the White House. Apparently, a New Yorker with a forceful braggadocios persona is enough to neuter the screenwriter’s élan. From screenrant.com:
“I’m just not sure how you would go about writing a James Bond film now. . . . With people like (U.S. President Donald) Trump, the Bond villain has become a reality. So when they do another one, it will be interesting to see how they deal with the fact that the world has become a fantasy.” (Chipman)
Suddenly, for Purvis, the world had transformed into some kind of surreal experience—and all because Trump had won the presidential election. Why is he even asserting that Trump is a real life Bond villain? What nefarious deed has the man with the goofy hair accomplished that exemplifies Bondian villainy? Is this even the necessary conclusion to draw? It is a laughable, irresponsible comment—this from the screenwriter who I’ve always thought the more reserved of the two and the least likely to climb the Tower of London in a hallucinogenic frenzy. Evidently, though, the scrutiny of current events is not Purvis’s strong suit; for unbeknownst to him, a far more irksome chappie, the reptilian George Soros, fulfills the Bond villain analogy, one of the most politically powerful individuals on the planet who’s used his immense wealth to “help reconfigure the political landscapes of several countries around the world—in some cases playing a key role in toppling regimes that had held the reins of government for years, even decades” (Discover The Networks).
In tandem with Purvis’s shift into Bondian political theory, I’ve received a surprising onslaught of emails from James Bond fans, asking about my thoughts on the election. I’m not one to delve into politics per se: in the past, my own very small venture into such discourse was to point out, when pressed, that I had read Fourier’s Design for Utopia during my undergraduate days, but I now realize that I was just saying something to get rid of those inquiring people. Nevertheless, as courtesy to those email requests, I ought to indulge for a bit in this political angle as it relates to the moribund production of film number 25. As an immigrant (the documented kind), I find the Purvis comment a fascinating glimpse into a mindset adamant in its belief, essentially an echo of the post-election protests from febrile enthusiasts. Note that I conjured this idea after two shots of Russian vodka. A few more shots encouraged me to realize that Purvis’s political ramblings only emphasize the decadence of late in the franchise. In other words, dear Man of Letters, why even venture into this area? Why mire the 007 brand in controversy, something it doesn’t need? Of course, nestled in their ideological palace, Purvis and his brethren, convinced they had glimpsed the only road to paradise, have immersed themselves in their moral superiority and, consequently, in their entitlement to oppose, even invalidate, the US election result. It is, after all, for a glorious crusade; for Vlad The Impaler 2.0 has to be negated, lest lightning strikes and he, as president, brings forth the end of days. And thus the catalyst for the ensemble of voices devoted to the manic sport of Trump bashing. As I said, I’m not a political animal; but in my vodka-baked imagination, I wondered if the Purvis crowd even attempted to consider the perspective from the other side: namely, the reality that approximately 60 million people had reasonable concerns about the direction of the country, its border security, crony capitalism, questionable immigration practices, and the emphasis on multiculturalism-at-all-costs.
Meanwhile, I stand back and attempt to see a wider perspective, with or without vodka, facing the inescapable condition: we are where we are, as the saying goes; and the election outcome, with its upheaval, is part of the speed of history, moving ever so swiftly. If we must call this existential velocity something prissy, then I propose (with a nod to Kundera) the unbearable turbulence of being. The literary Bond, in Casino Royale, simply mutters, “History is moving pretty quickly these days, and the heroes and villains keep on changing parts” (134). The line comes near the end of the tale, as Bond recovers from near fatal attack on his nether region from Le Chiffre’s carpet beater, and his exchange with French agent Rene Mathis becomes close in spirit to the nihilism of Sartre. This Bond, long absent from the silver screen, can no longer sense anything that structures his world. With turbulence comes uncertainty. As events happen too fast, nobody can be certain about the unfolding moment, or about anything at all, not even about himself, and is forced to grasp for any assurance of meaning. This returns us to our good friend Neal Purvis: one would think a professional would bow out gracefully, especially after his concession of reaching a dead end for concocting 007 plots. Fat chance. Purvis retreats into the comfort of his ideology (ah, the source of Truth!) and declares that the Trumpian world is out of joint to justify his inability to write a Bond film. Even more bizarre is that a screenwriter who admits he’s bankrupt of ideas is actually hired by the Bond producers. This is the equivalent to hiring a mechanic who claims he can’t fix your car. Now that’s truly hope and change for a series in decline.
Also a jarring aspect of the Purvis-Wade crop (or shall I say crap?), at least from the standpoint of character development, is the progressive degradation of Bond himself, as depicted in the Craigian quartet:
This synopsis, I think, is enough to trace the underlying movement in the last four films: a steady progression to draft an entirely different character, emphasizing a gay-friendly refutation of the dark romantic hero archetype, and reshaped for today’s culture and its clamor for social justice. Even the interim piece from Madam Producer, a commercial featuring the Craig-Bond in drag, reinforces this new approach. Think of it as a preliminary sketch of the character we saw in the last two Bond films. Released in the spring of 2011, the commercial (which commemorated the centenary of International Women’s Day) signaled the full intention of the Bond makers to downplay the playboy imagery that has long been associated with the series. As Barbara Broccoli states, in what is essentially her own bizarre negation of the series, “[Bond] developed some rather distasteful pastimes but those have now receded into the past” (Singh). In other words, forget the teasing sexiness in the pre-Craig Bond films, where the exotic babes were blatantly showcased, and the virile rebel of a hero sort of winked at the audience to acknowledge that it’s all just a two-hour fantasy. Instead, the 007 of yore is dismantled, blotted out from the screen to fade in the murky fog of forgetting, as Madam Producer proudly declared.
So the mandate is clear: all hail to this new PC gayish Bond, a proclamation that only fuels the degradation of the series. Regardless of her politics, the veteran bond producer has essentially jumped on the bandwagon of Hollywood’s group-think culture. Put another way, what she’s done to the Bond series falls into the “repercussions of an ever-expanding politically correct mindset,” especially evident in Hollywood, “where celebrities frequently set the trends and a collective public conscience follows in the famed footsteps” (Hirsen). Here’s me, about four years ago, noting Eon’s reverence for the PC culture:
They [the Bond makers] also seem eager to position the franchise with the Hollywood leftist culture. I recall a Rolling Stone interview with Johnny Depp in which the actor is asked about a “certain gay undercurrent” in his character Jack Sparrow, to which the actor reveals he deliberately approached the part with a suggestive homosexual persona, a tactic that foreshadows what Craig and the producers have done with Bond. . . . I don’t pretend to know all the ins and outs of the purported Hollywood agenda and its adherence to political correctness but, in context to the rebooted 007 series, it seems safe to say that the Bond makers have entered that orbit. For one sure sign you’ve turned an established character into a gayish spectacle is by having him imply he’s welcomed homosexual encounters, or showcasing him in skimpy light-blue swimming trunks as he walks out of the sea, or presenting him gadding about in full drag in a Bondian tie-in commercial for the centenary of International Women's Day.
The aforementioned Rolling Stone interview, “Johnny Depp, The Last Buccaneer,” contains the following exchange, which highlights the actor’s attempt to add just enough ambiguity to his character to imply an effeminate, gay persona:
Interviewer: When people talk about your portrayal of Jack Sparrow, they generally mention Keith [Richards] but also point out a certain gay undercurrent.
Depp: Well, there was a great book I read . . . What was it called? Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition. A very interesting book. I wasn't exactly going for that with the character. And Keith is not flamboyant in his actions. Keith is pretty stealth. But with Jack, it was more that I liked the idea of being ambiguous, of taking this character and making everything a little bit . . . questionable. Because women were thought to be bad luck on ships. And these pirates would go out for years at a time. So, you know, there is a possibility that one thing might lead to another.
Interviewer: Could happen.
Depp: You're lonely. You have an extra ration of rum. [Shrugs] "Cabin boy!" (Binelli)
The offbeat actor has since declared that all of his characters (a coterie of outliers from Edward Scissorhands to The Mad Hatter, to name a few) are quite light on their loafers—picture it if you will. The suits at Disney, on the other hand, were aghast to see his portrayal of the trickster pirate and wondered if the character was meant to be gay, encouraging Depp to quip, ‘But didn’t you know that all my characters are gay?’ One cannot overlook the double entendre in his remark: from the movie assembly lines these days, we have the increasing sense of forced diversity, reinforced when the so-called “gay” label is slapped onto a character and proudly boasted to highlight the virtuousness of filmmakers. Thus, the central paradox of this business: with the group-think mentality, filmmakers “feel pressure to create content by consensus,” notes publicist Jenn Hoffman, rather than stick to their own true convictions, “which is a very stifling environment for creativity” (McKay). At the confines of Eon, the Madam Producer, who I imagine reacted to this movement with surprise and excitement, caught on: for here at least was a stratagem for her new Bond.
Not that the series has ever dabbled in other trends. Take, for example, The Man With The Golden Gun and its emphasis on kung-fu and karate action sequences that reflect the popularity of martial arts in the early 70’s. Or consider Moonraker, the only Fleming title that could possibly be applied to an outer space motif, which exemplifies a deliberate march into the sci-fi craze of the late 70’s. But the Craig films are an altogether different breed, marking a major shift in the series in their reworking of the Bond character and their drift into political correctness. We’re a long way from the days of Pussy Galore. Fans of the series have sent me emails, expressing senselessness in this change and requesting specific explanations to the question at heart—what the hell happened to the series? Well, maybe Barbara Broccoli sought advice from the political philosopher, Jennifer Lawrence. Or maybe a mysterious person showed up at the script conferences and blew some special hallucinatory drug (distributed by Latin American pharmaceutical cartels) into the faces of the filmmakers and convinced them to redefine the Bond character. Or maybe, as I’ve been suggesting all along, the group-think mentality simply kicked in. Imagine it as a circle: they have all joined something magical, its members bonding to form a ring. Their hearts are overflowing with a deep sense of rapture. They are united by a strong belief, like crusaders. And they have the zeal to force everyone else to think and say exactly what they thought and said in order to form a single entity, a unified crusade into utopia.
Accordingly, the gay ambiguity of the Craig-Bond prefigures the glorious world to come that the circle members envision—a world reset like a clock but ticking with enduring social justice and where even cinematic heroes conform to PC revisionism. Here, for example, is Joanna Robinson, deranged critic extraordinaire for Vanity Fair, resenting that a gay angle is missing from Captain America: Civil War:
So while Marvel was likely never going to make the homoerotic subtext of Cap and Bucky into text, would it really have hurt to keep their relationship more ambiguous? As if to put the nail in the coffin of speculation, Bucky and Cap paused for a moment in the middle of snowy Siberia to reminisce about their days chasing skirts in pre-War Brooklyn. It’s a sweet, human bonding moment but one that also bristles with heterosexual virility. (Robinson)
Horror of horrors! Nothing could more shocking, positively shocking, than “heterosexual virility,” the gravest threat to modern civilization. I suspect her observation is tied to some phallic-based bureaucratic oppression, or whatever the guardians of social justice decide this week, though I ought to confess I’m part of the decadence: I didn’t notice that scene of “heterosexual virility” on the blu-ray disc of Civil War because the poker pals and I were ogling the photos in Playboy, especially the Plastic Endowments of the Month centerfold, as we reminisced about our own skirt-chasing days. Nevertheless, this Joanna Robinson must have applauded Brokeback Skyfall and its “sweet, human bonding moment,” bristling with the gayness she yearns: villain Raoul Silva fondles the Craig-Bond but the latter’s response has enough ambiguity to suggest the homoerotic subtext that she seeks in fictional characters. This scene alone plunges the series so deep into kitsch.
Lost in all this clatter is the edict from original 007 producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. In the bloom of From Russia with Love, they had already specified that “Bond should never get involved in politics” (Rubin 25). Consequently, screenwriter Richard Maibaum discarded Fleming’s use of the Russians as villains and adapted the SPECTRE organization (essentially an apolitical force) as the main enemy instead. Today, the political foray of the Craig films—a blazing hallmark of their degradation—forces me (again) to think about politics and note that this business of meddling with established characters, such as our man Bond, cannot be taken at face value. One could look upon the effort to redefine as conformance to a more complex movement. It contains, rather disturbingly, a streak of condemnation of Western history and tradition. (Okay, the windmills of my mind are now spinning rapidly on all this political contemplation.) Let me put it another way: I see this effort to redefine as a reflection of those historical statues being toppled by activists. So just as the iconic image of Bond is slowly eroded into forgetting, the more time-honored statuaries—that of Columbus and Robert E. Lee, for example—face the wrecking ball. No historical figure is exempted, not even an assassinated president who the Arcata city council voted into oblivion on the grounds that the subject happens to be a “POS”, as deemed by the local community, and deserves to be “re-assassinated”, as eloquently described on their poster.
The world to come, when everything is reset to t-zero, cannot blossom until the entire past is obliterated, as symbolized in the toppling of all these statues. It is, in essence, a revolutionary state of mind; and the t-zero brigade holds no distinction between historical statues, composer Stephen Foster, the film Gone With the Wind, the books of Dr Seuss, or the “classic” James Bond character. All that matters is that such artifacts need to be cleared away. The forgetting of the past is now. Mark Steyn notes the movement from a bigger perspective:
This psychosis isn't confined to America: In London Lord Nelson is feeling the heat, and in Canada Sir John A Macdonald. The Guardian wants to topple a statue of H G Wells. Wells' political views are not mine - but, in the fullness of his life, he got some things wrong and some things spectacularly right. That's not good enough for the thought police: 19th century men, and 18th century men, and 16th and 13th and back through the millennia, have to get everything right by [today’s] standards - or their statues must be guillotined.
And the 007 film series, created in the early sixties, will have to be retrofitted to get everything right by today’s standards, as suggested by Madam Producer in her proclamation that “I am absolutely a feminist” and that “Bond has changed, too, in how he deals with women” (Barnes). From her feminism, a new Bond emerges, she is saying, tailored for today because the character is now meant for the principles of today, detached from the archaic intentions of his creator. Her words, spoken in 2015, remind me of the dauphin Justin Trudeau, dear leader of my other homeland, the demented Dominion, and how he explained with a smile on his face that he sought gender parity in his cabinet “because it’s 2015” (Hannon). What theatrics! That line, the poetry of his spontaneous remark, must have surprised even himself. I imagine him feeling that he soared away from the staged words of politicians and landed in the ranks of glorious thinkers who also spoke French: Voltaire might have said something similar, Rousseau too, certainly De Beauvoir. Of course, Trudeau’s beloved words were hailed around the world; but unbeknownst to the boy king and his eunuchs in the media, the statement, succinct as it is, bolsters the rationale behind the toppling of statues; for implicit in his remark, just as in Madam Producer’s, is the notion that today is all that matters, and there is no more need for the past. Three years later, in a town hall in Edmonton, the prime minister made an astounding contribution to linguistic studies by declaring there was also no more need for the words of the past: "We like to say 'peoplekind,' not necessarily 'mankind,' because it's more inclusive," he chastised a woman in the audience who had uttered that most offensive word mankind (Menon). The language of the past, its vocabulary, will simply not do—because it’s 2018 (to borrow his catchphrase). No other reason is truly required.
Thus the battle cry of the t-zero brigade: “Because it’s [insert current year].” We thrust our values onto the past. We remake the old stories with our perceptions of today. A different time, ages long ago, but rammed with our cultural standards of the present. It’s the insistence that all of human history and its achievements must be remolded to fit our views of today “because it’s [insert current year].” Hence, the overthrow of past figures. Columbus, after all, never considered renovating the Niña, Pinta, and Santa María with transgender bathroom access. And certainly the heterosexual fictional character 007—and, by god, he was created by an imperialist in 1952—was never crafted for gender fluidity and must therefore be remade with sexual identity vulnerabilities, tinged with childhood baggage, for our hyper-sensitive times. These figures, historical or fictional, cannot be tolerated as they are because they share nothing in common with the t-zero brigade. As one Bond fan (a Ms. Judy Lockhart in Calgary) writes in an email:
“Eon really changed James Bond. It’s too politically correct, making him imply he’s gay or bisexual. Really? Is this where we’re going now with the series? Fleming doesn’t do that in his books. As a woman, I miss the manly romantic image of Bond. I wish they would return to the style of the young Sean Connery in Dr. No. Or can’t they look at what Fleming wrote and give it respect?”
Ah, but my dear girl, with the t-zero brigade, there are some things that just aren't done, such as looking at the past with reverence. The past can no longer shed any illumination. There is no light through yonder window breaks—only the fog of forgetting in a cold void. For the brigade, the only time is now, unraveling to their totalitarian impulses. In their negation of the past, the brigade completes their circle—that most magical uniformity of belief where members, including the Madam Producer, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Joanna Robinson, and Justin Trudeau hold hands, forming a single entity, a single ring, united in their crusade.
Standing atop this mountain of degeneration is, of course, His Eminence, Daniel Craig. Still the “official” 007, the actor continues to baffle audiences: fresh from the flopperoo known as Logan Lucky, his only appearance in a major studio release since Spectre, the actor joined the recent BAFTA awards telecast as a presenter and caused an uproar with his bizarre appearance. Bloated, bent like an old man, and stuffed in a loose-fitting tuxedo, the actor—haggard and grey—glistened at the podium, the stage lights bouncing off his waxen complexion, forcing us to wonder if he was dipped in a barrel of petroleum jelly. “I can’t believe what I saw,” an exasperated Bond fan, a Ms. Jane Woodson in Sheffield, had emailed to me. “Is this really how Craig looks now? [Oh yes, dear lady, oh yes.] This is no way to look like Bond! [The reality is, many fans shared the same reaction from the moment he was cast.] He aged a lot, OMG, and his face is all stiff and puffed like a mask.” The theme continues in other emails: befuddlement, surprise, an outcry of astonishment. “What happened to Daniel? I’m in shock,” writes Davin in Tampa, Florida, in what turns into something of a political rant:
He’s inspirational to so many guys, you know. [Speak for yourself, old boy.] He truly changed the concept of the action hero. He’s remarkable making Bond more in touch with his feelings and opening up about his sexual issues. It’s the new Bond, a new hero for today, only appreciated by forward thinking people, people that understand diversity and how important it is to be dynamic and open-minded about humanity. [Ah, spoken like a true progressive, blathering about his superiority over others. His outlook recalls the talking points of Hillary Clinton in that inane interview in Mumbai.] I just don’t understand what’s going on. The media, then users on Twitter, they’re all attacking him. Can people do this, you know, just stop praising him so quickly? [Of course, insolent fellow, of course.] Ok, so he looks different. Big deal, we all change and he’s still awesome and better than a lot of people because he believes in Bernie Sanders. I’m just feeling uncomfortable with the criticism.
Perhaps the most blunt email, lambasting the actor, comes from the capital of Mindanao. I did not expect the dig at Craig’s politics or the snarky comment about the actor’s resemblance to a certain member of the Trump administration:
So this is James Bond? He looks like attorney general over there in USA, old guy Jeff Sessions. Craig don’t look like he got energy left. I thought he was ok for Bond in first one. The guy is old now. No way he can do fight scenes and look realistic. You think they will put this guy in movie looking like that? What a joke. You hear about Eskrima, Kali, Arnis? It’s Filipino martial arts. Kids learn here and they will kick this James Bond’s ass any day and they will kick that plastic face off him so it melt fast in our tropical sun. Stupid Hollywood guy, wants to be socialist following Bernie Sanders, but no way he is serious. I believe him only if he comes to my country and join NPA and fight imperialism. He is just show off, thinks he can fool people but no way. Even monkeys here have more brains than him and can see he made ugly face surgery. Idiot guy, no way usable for action movie.
Ernesto in Davao City
Another message, from Russia with outrage:
Daniel has let himself go. He was really awful on stage. He’s so old now! He was never my favorite Bond but I am a Bond fan and proud of the series. Why would he do this? Something is not right the way he is looking rumpled like that, and his face like a plastic doll and the hairpiece not fitted right. This is not acceptable! He better get in shape for the next movie or it will be a disaster! He must do something. He better fix his appearance. I am really surprised he went on stage like that. He is representing the series and he makes it look bad. Makes me worried for the next movie! So frustrated!
Katya, St. Petersburg, Russia
Surprisingly, the PR handlers were silent about this botched BAFTA gig. Then again, even Craig’s return to the Bond role has been cloaked in a strange silence. I cannot think of anyone more likely to have offered a sonorous announcement than Madam Producer herself. But this time, a subdued acknowledgement surrounds the actor’s return, which is quite drastic from the past approach: typical of the Hollywood factory machine, we’ve had nothing but a battalion of journalists on the hype payroll. A wide net was always thrown to organize the court eunuchs of Emperor Craig and Madam Producer—the major newspapers, the tabloids, entertainment writers, gossip writers, all typically left-leaning, were assembled and, above all, eager to assert their ideology of social justice, which accords neatly with the persona of Craig, that most dependable underdog, whose “unconventional” looks subvert the archetypal image of Bond. But as my correspondent Katya (in St. Petersburg) suggested, any actor in the 007 role embodies the front end of the franchise; yet, in this case, a decrepit facade now greets the world, an apt symbol of the degeneration of the series.
Craig’s return is in itself an oddity. Let us revisit the hysterics of His Eminence: during an interview with Time Out magazine, he burst into contempt for the series, bitterly proclaiming to “slit my wrists” instead of subjecting himself to another Bond film. Translation: he looks forward to making another one like the way he’d be excited to have holes drilled into his skull. Bond fans had every reason to take this personally: the demigod had gone at least temporarily insane and dragged the series into uncertainty by admitting he was bankrupt of ideas and would want nothing more than to put the next film on ice for a year or two, though insisting he’d only return strictly for the cash grab. What a guy. Fortunately, such attitude is the key to entice Madam Producer, which implies that she, in her abysmal taste, still finds it worthwhile to thrust the unstable actor in front of the media and risk the new film to go up in flames during the publicity rounds. Now purportedly still in the role, Craig snatched the dangled carrot, although the ungodly amount, as described by the spinmeisters, is dubious at best: Craig is no major star and comes to the next Bond film fresh from spectacular box office flops (Logan Lucky, Kings), the consistent trend in his filmography. This downward spiral reveals that while the Tinseltown asylum (which includes the subservient media) is keen to portray Craig as a major force in filmdom, moviegoers disagree, even expressing an astounding indifference towards his efforts. As for his Bond films, leave it to the renowned 007 “branding” and the gazillion-dollar marketing blitz to sell it all to the masses: Craig is undependable in this area and has been over-hyped flash and pomp but useless in the charisma department. In the midst of it all, the critical thinker sees how Craig’s infamous remarks cannot hide the actor’s hypocrisy. He was, as revealed during the 2016 presidential election, an ardent supporter of the senile socialist Bernie Sanders, no doubt cheering the usual class-warfare claptrap; yet here he is, unable to avoid anything as bourgeois as money, let alone the studio’s flowing champagne—poured as a fat salary—which certainly taste exquisite to Craig. These antics from the actor only reinforce the degeneration that plagues the series.
Now consider this:
MGM and Annapurna Pictures have formed a new joint venture for theatrical distribution in the U.S. With MGM moving back into distribution, it seems like the natural set-up to distribute the next Bond film. (Busch)
In the last few years, the muddled negotiations with various studios for distribution rights hovered over film number 25 like a thundercloud; but this business about Annapurna Pictures could be a vortex of chaos looming on the horizon. You may have caught some of the works from this arcane studio, which is spearheaded by a Ms. Megan Ellison (herself nurtured in the California lefty culture as the daughter of Oracle grand poo-bah Larry Ellison). The studio’s eclectic catalogue includes Sausage Party and Zero Dark Thirty, films suitable for those with a high threshold of kitsch. The former, an adult sex cartoon, provoked attacks for its anti-Christian message of hedonism and its overall anti-religious parable, which concerns food items as sentient beings declaring war on their own gods, the shoppers who consume them. If it doesn’t sound all that compelling, please note that Seth Rogen was involved in the script. Zero Dark Thirty, on the other hand, was made with cordial pandering to the Islamic world: in a film about the hunt for Bin Laden, what stands out is the absence of depicting the enemy—not once do we see Osama’s mug—and the fantasy that the only CIA official who is hell-bent on capturing the al-Qaida leader is a Muslim himself who keeps a prayer rug in his office. Both films, in essence, downplay the West. Just the political climate that could make its way into the next Bond film—an ultra feminist leftwing approach at that, considering the alliance of Madam Producer and Megan Ellison, an omen for one catastrophic Bond film.
This potential disaster becomes even less surprising when we realize that Danny Boyle, a known leftist, would want nothing more than to pour revisionism into the Bondian martini glass. This will be the first 007 film after the #MeToo and #TimesUp firestorm. For Boyle, such topical matters wouldn’t be out of place in the Bond canvas, as he suggests in an article in The Telegraph: “You write in real time,” the director responds when asked if female characters would be portrayed according to “the current Time’s Up campaign against sexual harassment in the workplace.” His additional comment is disturbing: “You acknowledge the legacy of the world [of Bond]... but you also write in the modern world as well.” Ah, further steps into the degeneration. Boiled by Boyle, the James Bond character will be modernized, ever more so as a man sensitive to today’s cultural standards. Imagine if you will this version of Bond delving into an app from Q Branch that tracks the numerous alphabet of customized sexual identities. Or this Bond could very well offer his paramour, in the romantic scene (if one even comes into play), a lengthy consent form, which leads to the dramatic discussion about what’s permissible in the physical mechanics of the act. Bottom line: the stage is set for Danny Boyle and his progressive outlook. Social moralizing. Virtue flaunting. Culture policing as the path to that most wondrous utopia. We are back where we started with the circle.
Let those dubious of the Boyle factor consider another piece of evidence. For the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Boyle orchestrated the opening ceremony, inextricably with a political slant. The pastoral settings at the beginning—patriotic enough, with touching accompaniment by children's choirs—last only a few minutes, giving way to vast leaps in history, avoiding homages to 1066, the Magna Carta, Cromwell, and so forth, so that the focal point centers on the grim backdrop of the industrial revolution, rendered with wily capitalists in top hats, suggesting the caricature of robber-barons such as the Monopoly man. This is Boyle’s vision of his country’s timeline, set against Blake’s “Jerusalem” to underscore the rapid movement from “England's green and pleasant land” into a country of “dark satanic mills,” but only to be revivified by the advancement of socialism. Hence, Boyle offers a smooth segue into the motherlode of his vision: a compilation of key elements of socialist Britain, complete with trade unionists and suffragettes on the march and special emphasis on socialized medicine, as depicted with illuminated beds arranged to form the letters NHS, for National Health Service—a fervent tribute to government-run health care. The jab at the triumphs of the West is also kept in tact through the strange depiction of the military:
Somewhere along the way we were treated to a glimpse of men in military uniforms—a fitting memorial to the British armed forces who lost their lives in the two world wars, but a memorial, nonetheless, that carefully avoided seeming to celebrate the Allied victories in those wars. (Mustn't offend the losers!) In the same way, nowhere in the whole spectacle was there so much as a shadow of a suggestion that there might have been a good side to the British Empire. (Mustn't offend all those former colonies!) (Bawer).
Well, we mustn’t neglect the tribunes of political correctness, so let’s just have the empire take a posthumous thrashing in a colorful choreography. To this farrago of nonsense, Boyle manages to bring a pomp display of embarrassment for the nation’s historical achievements (could there be nothing but ancient sins in Britannia’s colonial past?) while extolling the splendors of socialism as implemented in his country. Even the remarkable legacy of glorious British literature is skimmed, relegated to Kenneth Branagh reciting a few lines from The Tempest. It’s today’s Britain that matters to Boyle: the strong emphasis of the youth culture (a mishmash of rap music and social media) depicts the vibrancy of contemporary Britain—that and the aforementioned glory of socialism.
His tactic essentially overshadows the Bondian shtick with the albino Daniel Craig and Her Majesty, the Queen. Craig, as usual, is strangely detached from the proceedings, looking every bit like a British citizen wondering why he was hit with a huge unexpected Vodafone mobile phone bill. Sad to say, he allows himself to be outshined by a pair of Welsh corgi dogs and a helicopter. His gait alone, as he walks up the grand stairs in the palace, lacks the panache of Bondian coolness, too uncouth in its stride, conveying the essence of a man unaccustomed to posh surroundings. Still, we can look upon the sketch as Boyle’s first attempt at the James Bond character—and it doesn’t bode well. Fleming’s creation has become not only a fixture in British iconography but also a representation of a courageous free spirit, of rugged individualism. In this absurd sketch, you’d think that the Craig-Bond, as Her Majesty’s security escort to the Olympic stadium, would parachute from the helicopter before her to secure the site below. As it is, the Queen has all the courage, leaping without hesitation, leaving us with the impression that the Craig-Bond is afraid to jump, lacking initiative and bravura. This 007, devoid of any determination, is incapable of taking leadership (presumably, a key requirement in his job description). Such characterization contributes to the fatal flaw in the entire spectacle: absent from Boyle’s vision of Britain is a strong awareness for the heritage of individual liberty. Once again, from Bawer:
For all the imaginative brilliance of Boyle's opening ceremony (which did indeed include a great deal that was beautiful and moving), that heritage of liberty – which has inspired people around the world to fight and struggle to breathe free, and which is still sorely envied in many of the not-quite-free nations whose athletes paraded into the stadium on Friday night – barely seemed to be on Boyle's radar.
Fleming, in his novels, at least had awareness for this heritage of liberty, as evident in the ethos of the literary Bond, manifested in his strive for individualism, in his courage, in his patriotism. It’s unclear if Boyle has any interest in this Bond. The great need for the next film is unique imagination and a strong sense of why it’s important for Boyle to lend his talent to the series, apart from potentially using it as a launch pad for his politics. Right now, the shambles behind the scenes only reinforce the degeneration of the series—aside from a disinterested Craig, other signs point to a cavalcade of political bullshit. Of course, to what degree of disaster remains to be seen. And so it is, at this point, that we’re left with the uncertainty of whether the film will be a Quantum-level train wreck or be a Spectre-caliber hogwash or something in between or what. The one thing I feel I can say with confidence is that with the inevitable media and marketing blitz, it will thoroughly look as if the Bond makers will deliver another box-office hit.
|||The other culprits in this horrid approach to the Craigian Bond films are, of course, the longtime 007 producers, the revolving door of inept script writers, and the bargain basement directors who, in the end, never understood how to make a Bond film.|
|||It always amuses me to receive emails from readers all over the world—from New Haven to Paris to Helsinki to Canberra—wondering about my political affiliation, or even any belief system I happen to adhere. Speculation runs the gamut whether I’m a libertarian, a Tory sympathizer, a Trotskyite, Theravada Buddhist, Mormon, a wiccan, creationist, evolutionist, structuralist, Brechtian theater patron, sanctuary city proponent, anti-sanctuary city proponent, Brexit advocate, an NDP member, a garden-variety Democrat or Republican. As a political atheist, I’d say I’m a pedestrian.|
|||It's understandable to find somebody disagreeing with a politician's views. But throughout the election and its aftermath, the reactionary bashing has been hysterical, fanatical, and disturbingly manic. Even I, a completely nondescript individual without an aggressive political agenda, have received emails from left-leaning Bond fans demanding that I turn this web site into a political platform devoted to the denouncement of the Trump administration. One example from a friendly site visitor, Maggie Hawkins in London: “This is bigger than all of us, you jerk!” Then a series of expletives spans about two sentences, presumably to enhance the description of said jerk. “The whole world is falling apart,” she finally proclaims, “I can’t live like this seeing a dictator! OMG we having one as the president! I’m having a nervous breakdown, so you better help fix this, do whatever you got to do, just do it, oh just [expletive] you! You got a voice with your site so you better do the right thing and expose that dictator for what he is.” Another warm email from a Lowell Smith in Boston: “Turn your site into something useful, you [expletive]! The country’s spiraling into chaos, [expletive] tax cuts are destroying society, the 1% will get everything and the homeless won’t get a dime.” To which I say: they never will, O Righteous One, because the homeless don’t pay taxes. This chap has a serious misunderstanding of the tax system. He rambles on: “[Expletive] you! You narcissist fascist, that’s what you’ll be unless you redeem yourself by doing what’s right. Get the word out on impeachment. Help the undocumented Americans. Write about how we can't have that stupid wall he's going to build. America is for EVERYONE! What about transgenders that need to cross the border? I don't see you writing about all this oppression. Do something, you hear me? You’re shoving the world into ruins if you don’t get involved. We got a despot running the country. I swear I’ll go on YouTube and do a presentation on impeachment! So to hell with you!” I will never know what has happened to my good friends: I have since blocked them from my email system but I do wonder if they've settled in a top-notch asylum. All in all, these voices have the delusion that they alone have been appointed to set forth what is good and noble in the world and what is not. In this utopia, their candidate—Revolutionary Comrade Pantsuit, in her signature Mao-inspired fashion line—was the only one worthy to sit in the Oval Office. Of course, this ideological fantasy got spanked in the early hours of November 3, 2016, when the Associated Press declared the election for the crass real estate mogul.|
|||At least initially Purvis and co-writer Wade were hired by Eon. The script they developed must have been none too thrilling; but I assume they are still waiting at the sidelines. At this stage, it’s also unclear if the producers settled on the John Hodge script, or whether Boyle is willing to direct from any script that did not have his involvement.|
|||The Skyfall script is truly wretched: another glaring misinterpretation of Bond sticks out when Silva shoots the woman (Sévérine) while a glass of whisky balances on her head and the Craig-Bond quips, “Waste of good scotch.” Based on the glut of emails I received concerning this scene, I’d say many fans were appalled. The scene does underscore the current filmmakers’ lack of effort to understand and develop Fleming’s character for the screen. The chap in the books would have found a way to overcome the situation and rescue the girl. Witness Moonraker: captured in Hugo Drax’s lair, the literary Bond uses a blow torch to free the heroine Gala Brand, and together they reset the rocket gyros to thwart a nuclear attack on London. Throughout the novels, it’s always Bond in a situation to help, or save, a girl. At least in the seventeenth film, GoldenEye, he doesn’t leave the girl in the helicopter that has been programmed to self-destruct. Presumably, this is based on an advanced lesson in Double-0 agent training: never leave the girl behind, especially when you wake and find yourself trapped in such a contraption and realize that you’re also tied up with the gorgeous Polish-Swedish actress Izabella Scorupco. Meanwhile, the Craig-Bond (surely the dumbest of MI-6 agents) is baffled (most likely) when he sees the whisky glass on Sévérine’s head and, as a result, is incapable to act with heroism. Which leads us to believe that he must have skipped a number of classes in secret agentry school.|
|||The commercial actually works against itself. It contains the noble intention to raise awareness for the plight of women, but the notion of introducing Judi Dench's M offsets the theme of gender inequality. Moreover, it denounces the Bond character without taking into account his underlying gallantry, something that Madam Producer has apparently forgotten: evident in the novels is his tendency to reach out to a woman and help her. Fleming also presents the character as a fantasy figure for a certain type of woman. And who is this woman? Well, Bond keeps running into a distinct type: young, fairly adventurous, and sexually drawn to him and delving into a stage in her life where she, just as Bond, is not seeking permanent involvement. For the films, raise this characterization by several notches on the Bond-girl dial, and you get a heightened variation of the fantasy.|
|||This trendy gayification of characters, whether they’re established characters or new ones, extends into the Star Wars franchise: Director J.J. Abrams has confirmed that diverse characters are inevitable in future films, proclaiming that "When I talk about inclusivity it's not excluding gay characters. It's about inclusivity.” And for The Last Jedi, a brewing gay romance between Poe and Finn was on the table for the powers-that-be to consider, as described in the piece “What Will It Take to Get a Gay Character in Star Wars?” Once again, from Vanity Fair, and central to its thesis is a quote from Lucasfilm sovereign Kathleen Kennedy who insists, in future installments, “There should be many, many more faces of color, many more women, many more gay people.” For new characters, so be it—as long as it’s all in the framework of dramatic significance that reinforce a good story. Just show us a well-crafted engaging narrative, as seen through the medium of imaginary characters and who, in their dramatic conflicts, reveal a humanity that evokes from us empathy for others. Otherwise, it’s all for the sake of a PC agenda or, even worse, a deliberate attempt to create controversy and buzz for marketing purposes, which, in that case, points to a quick grab at the box-office cash, the ultimate agenda of the less-than-brilliant Hollywood elites.|
|||In this struggle, it’s not a stretch to see shades of Pol Pot’s Year Zero, which he instigated after the takeover of Cambodia in April 1975. It was radical, revolutionary change, wiping the slate clean by purging all culture and traditions in that country, culminating in one of the most bloodiest atrocities in history. Today, with the ongoing attempt to reach t-zero, the bronze statue of composer Stephen Foster also faces the wrecking ball, while Gone With The Wind has been pulled from the historic Orpheum Theatre in Memphis for its alleged glorification of the South. Previously, the film was part of the theatre’s Summer Movie Series, an event in which the film was featured annually for over 34 years. As Scarlett O'Hara notes, tomorrow is another day, although she was unaware that the day to come would not include her. She’ll be joined in the void of forgetting by Dr. Seuss, whose books are under attack for alleged racism, and Fleming’s Bond who the suits at Eon Productions are eager to forget. At this rate, I suspect Fleming’s own plaque on 22 Ebury Street, Belgravia, London will eventually be removed by cultural demands. But one question at the heart of all this struggle—essentially the question—is, What exactly will be built after the teardown? The t-zero brigade is quite good at destroying things but their vision statement seems to be missing. It’s also difficult to have a civil discussion with somebody brandishing a sledgehammer, so we can only speculate. And therein lies the paradox: it seems to me nothing will truly be built. The t-zero brigade are the nihilists of our time, totalitarian nihilists, whose sole reason of being is to destroy the past and nothing more. The end result is the ultimate existential crisis, the description of which has no place here because it would require lengthy philosophical musings—and I’m all out of vodka.|
|||Not that there is anything astray with gender parity in his cabinet. Trudeau, however, has been self-consciously politically correct, a campy politician who embraces any diversity box he can cram himself into. Moreover, his pandering obsession with political correctness has proven to be annoying even to his base (witness the reaction to his botched visit to India). He is the kitsch performer of PC, his every act deliberately facetious and orchestrated. What stagecraft! As for the term, “demented Dominion,” I believe it was Mark Steyn, ever tongue in cheek, who first referred to the country as the Deranged Dominion. Political correctness has taken grip of the Great White North, I’m sorry to say. As Art Spiegelman notes, it’s “symptomatic of a deeper cultural illness.”|
|||And in my head, I go around and around about what to do with the blizzard of politically-charged information I keep running into. In this case, I gather this chap is referring to a communist group, the New People’s Army—not exactly a batch of tourist-friendly islanders, if my paper-thin knowledge of political movements is to be trusted.|
|||On April 4, 2018, a piece from The Hollywood Reporter revealed that the involvement of Annapurna Pictures is uncertain: with an ousted CEO (Gary Barber), the suits at MGM have been probing the sale of the studio. The tactic is to use the James Bond franchise as the selling point. However, the situation also indicates that the next Bond film still lacks a distributor—which means the movie is under threat not to be made because a major distributor/partner is not around to finance the damn thing. In a such a scenario, Boyle's association would be tenuous. Which probably explains why MGM hasn't truly confirmed his involvement. Added to the murkiness is Variety's report, on April 16, that "MGM announced last summer that it would open Bond 25 on November 8, 2019, but it's unlikely to do so."|