By Gerald Rebeck
Last year I posted three pages from the Die Another Day script on a fan forum and it caused a big mess. A little late to apologise, I know, but for the record… big mistake. Those pages ended up getting three great Bond websites temporarily shut down, and then, once they returned, banned from using any ‘official’ images.
And believe me, I got mine. Any black humor I might have seen in causing such an event was gone the morning I sat down to check my email and found that an international law firm in London was threatening to sue me for copyright infringement. Me… in Denver, Colorado… in my underwear… with serious bedhead… eating a raisin bagel. That’ll wake you up.
I felt like a relative of Kevin McClory.
Silly? Oh you bet, but it was ugly for a moment there. When you’re getting ‘Cease And Desist’ orders from an international law firm in London… well, it tends to get your attention. I reluctantly complied with their demands. In other words: I folded like a cheap tent and did some very un-Bondian arse kissing.
Except — At one point late in our exchange of emails, almost after the fact, when some kind of indignant pride finally kicked in, I actually got a little self-righteous. They warned me I might have to pay punitive damages for their “lost revenue”. (Yeah right… Here, take my bagel). I couldn’t resist. I wrote back that unfortunately I would not be able to pay because as a lifelong James Bond fan I had already given pretty much ALL of my expendable income to EON/MGM-United Artists/The Broccoli Family for movies, books, CDs, DVDs, posters, video games, toy cars, calendars, you name it.
In fact, on second thought: THEY owed ME!
…Some consideration, some appreciation, a little elbow room for, yes, harmless fanboy spying, and most of all, BETTER BOND MOVIES.
So, now that DAD is history and a huge financial success – don’t ask me how, but thank god – I’m here with my own laundry list of grievances, to collect my debt if you will. Think of it as a class action counter-suit on behalf of all us nosy troublemaking fans. Nothing new, of course. This is done every day in a million different ways on the CBn Forums, I know – but my frustration is so epic I just felt the need to spew it out in one long manifesto.
Eon, are you still there…? I have a few suggestions.
Give Pierce Brosnan his definitive Bond. Poor Pierce. By unanimous vote he’s either the best Bond ever or a very close second – and yet time and time again he is being let down by the rest of the creative team. Four films and he still has not had his “Goldfinger”, his “The Spy Who Loved Me”. Hell, even George Lazenby got a bonified classic on his first and only try. Brosnan deserves an incredible Bond film, one for the ages. Especially since it looks like 21 could very well be his last. He almost single-handedly resurrected your series, give him THE BIG ONE.
Don’t Wait, Do It Now! P.S. He’s not getting any younger either. You would think the memory of a certain distinguished gentleman huffing and puffing his way up the Eiffel Tower would instill in you a touch of urgency, but noooooo… November 2005?? At this glacial pace, Brosnan in a bonus Bond 22 or even the publicity bonanza that is the perfect-fit year of 2007, are both becoming increasingly far-fetched. And don’t talk quality. The three year wait for DAD did nothing but make the finished product a huge gut-wrenching disappointment. Pop culture moves a lot faster these days, guys. Let’s face it: Bond has had to play catch-up, make up for lost momentum, ever since The Great Post-Dalton Depression of ’89-’95. And still has yet to find its best rhythm again. All an extended hiatus is going to do is invite more of those annoying “Can/Will/Should Bond Survive?” articles. This franchise is like a muscle that needs to be exercised – use it or lose it. Now that MGM has come to their senses and scrapped the Jinx film (a pointless make-work vanity project if there ever was one; not Halle’s vanity, YOURS), it’s time to get down to Job #1 and stop wasting precious time. HURRY UP.
Stop Cheating On Locations. Don’t even pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about. Ever since “License To Kill”, where Bond “globe-trots” from Key West to Mexico, you have been cutting exotic corners and the films have suffered for it. Cubby Broccoli was justifiably proud in his time of putting every dollar “back on the screen” – and giving the audience a glamorous visit to an AUTHENTIC LOCALE was a large part of that value. Now the movies are made almost exclusively in abandoned car factories, and it shows. I hate to break it to you but London And Surrounding Towns Is Not Enough. I understand some places can or must be created digitally, but the less the better; and you know when a juicy locale like Hong Kong is reduced to a mere cardboard backdrop with Christmas lights you’ve really lost the magic of Bond. Stop pinching those pennies and give back to the fans what they deserve: a real adventure on real locations. Oh, and maybe then you won’t feel the need to plaster a title on every new scene to tell us where we are (that dated device reeks of a guilty conscience) – maybe if we were actually IN Cuba we wouldn’t need to be told. Also, make sure the locations are worthy of Bond The Hedonist. Think vacation hot spots, not oil rigs and mine shafts. So far, I haven’t seen anything in a Brosnan film half as transporting as the way the Egyptian Pyramids were used in “The Spy Who Loved Me”.
Enough ‘Failure’ For Bond. We get it: he’s human. But here’s a shocker, that’s not really the reason that we go to see him. We want to see the coolest man in the world find a cool way out of cool predicaments and turn the tables on his enemies, coolly. It’s nice to add some shading here, some angst there, and to give him serious challenges so there’s a sense of real danger…but guys, enough. So far every mission of Brosnan’s has been “personal”. It’s getting to be laughable. Why can’t we see one adventure like the old days where he’s just your happy-go-lucky Superspy on a mission nobody else can accomplish and having a ball bringing down the bad guys? That’s right: HE ENJOYS HIS JOB! It was his irreverent love of mayhem and destruction that originally made him such a fun guy to hang out with. That is until he started avenging all of his friends and their wives and ex-girlfriends and chasing down ex-partners and fighting with M and blah blah blah. Everybody in the Bond rip-off movies is having a great time imitating his “cool, calm, collected” style, but 007 himself has lost his light touch. Just this once, give us the perfect matinee. Forget the revenge and give us a sexy blast from beginning to end.
Let The Action Breathe. Whatever happened to the great action sequence that builds momentum and gets more and more clever and surprising as it goes? Like the extended boat race in “Live And Let Die”. Now we get these choppy and chopped-up “Action Bites” that distract more than they satisfy. Bond is about Old School type action, the mixture of the real and surreal. DAD looks like it was cut by an ADD child on speed. There is never enough time to really relish or laugh at any of Bond’s cool escapes because it’s all just a candy-colored blur. A perfect example is when Bond uses the ejection seat to flip the capsized Aston Martin back upright. It should be a classic moment…but it’s filmed with all the flair and style of a “Dukes Of Hazard” episode. Get a REAL action director. Someone who knows how to lay out the geography of a chase and make it cohesive, who doesn’t need to use hackneyed devices like slo-mo or bullet time – can put together a sequence that excites us in REAL TIME, while allowing us in on all the thrills.
No More Looking Back. Once again, we get it. No more inside jokes and winking homages. More importantly, stop giving us pale imitations of past villains and past plots. Move forward and offer audiences something fresh and innovative. We all want certain elements to reoccur in each Bond, yes, but there’s plenty of room to startle us with new elements. Bond being captured at the start of DAD was an original twist, but like so many things of promise (Zao? Miranda? Jinx?) it was not fleshed out well enough and abandoned all too quickly. Bond used to be cutting-edge, pushing the boundaries of bizarre plots and widely diverse evildoers. Now we get the same rich industrialist every time. Try to act as if there have been no prior Bond films and you’re starting from scratch – that eagerness to satisfy, that filling up every inch of the screen with ingenuity and outrageousness, is what made the series great and is what it is desperately in need of today.
Get More Writers. I’m a screenwriter myself, so I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but Bond scripts need more polishing (and sharpening and pumping up) than one pair of writers can do alone. Purvis and Wade have shown a genuine flair for unusual plot and story structure, but let’s face it, they are weak in other areas – particularly dialogue. If ever there was an argument for “gang-banging” a script Hollywood-style, it’s this series. These films are all about IDEAS. Some of the best entries passed through the most hands. Which brings me to my next point…
Bring Back Wit – No, Real Wit. That’s right…not just this endless stream of tired half-assed double entendres and penis puns that not even a sixth grader thinks are funny. People used to laugh at Bond’s one-liners, now they just groan. Do you understand there’s a difference? Hire one writer whose sole job it is to put cool and clever remarks in Bond’s mouth. Or even better, our villain. (Example: Carver in TND, “Don’t worry Mr. Bond…we’ll always have Paris” – I’m not really that smart, how come YOU didn’t come up with that?) Again, spend the money. The jokes have been getting worse with each film: cruder, more obvious and cringe-inducing. Call Tom Mankiewicz, if you can still get him. Call Steve Martin! Somebody with an actual sense of humor. John Cleese can make almost anything funny, but Purvis & Wade gave him zero to work with in DAD. The absolute nadir of the entire series came at the ending, when Bond and Jinx are off- screen discussing whether to “take it out or leave it in”…and oh my god, it turns out to be a diamond in her belly button! Oh how hilarious, I never would’ve guessed! SEE, I THOUGHT THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT SEXUAL INTERCOURSE. Wow, you really got me. Allow me to wipe the tears of laughter from my eyes.
Stop Stinting On Your Climax. Another thing that has gone seriously downhill ever since Cubby is the big finale. Lately Bond seems to be fighting all his final battles in basements and cargo holds and submarines…and submarines…and, oh yeah, submarines. Whatever happened to a massive assault on the villain’s lair? Here’s an idea: how about just letting Bond fight somebody OUTSIDE? We’re not asking for much, just a tiny patch of grass under a real sky! Just open a side door and let Bond fight the evil mastermind in somebody’s BACKYARD. Anything that doesn’t resemble yet another air-conditioned Pinewood set. Somehow, while these movies get more and more expensive to make, the climaxes are getting cheaper and cheaper-looking. The average Bond finale these days includes about 3 or 4 people. That’s not a climax, that’s a Bridge game. Pretty soon I fully expect to see Bond interrupt the villain while he’s on the toilet and the two of them fight for world domination all the way from the bathtub to the shower. You’re cheating us and we know it. The DAD ending gets bonus points because it became all about two people in a cartoon helicopter falling through a cartoon sky while trying to avoid being hit by a crashing cartoon airplane. I’ve seen more realism in an old “Thunderbirds” episode. The bottom line? You seem to have forgotten that the third act is THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THE FILM. Can I get a “Duh”?
Also, Where’s The Last-Minute Henchman Attack? Remember those? I would much rather see Bond pulled into one more surprise fight at the end then watch him moon over the latest bimbo and spout the same weak line before a slow fade-out. You’re putting the audience to sleep just when they should be walking out of the theatre with a spring in their step, charged with adrenaline. This is just a basic principle of action films: leave your best and coolest bits for last. I’d settle for a sudden black-out instead of a slow fade, anything.
The Devil Is In The Details. Stop letting David Arnold’s fantastic music get drowned out by noise in the final mix. He writes a great score, only for it to be buried under the action – muting the impact of everything on screen! Let Daniel Kleinman do his job and don’t interrupt the credit sequence. It’s just awkward. Forget the CGI bullet too. Cute, but stupid. Peter Lamont is a brilliant production designer, give him something other than military fixtures to build – the Ice Palace was a start, a nice throwback to the grandeur and absurdity of Ken Adams’ legacy. Make sure you have a really kick-ass title song before you commit to using it. Maybe get a few to choose from? Obviously having a big name star is not a sure thing. Bob Simmons is a legend I know, but the action isn’t cutting it – maybe he needs some help. Force MGM to give the next one what we like to call (write this down) an AD CAMPAIGN. That means, fresh and exciting poster art, presented with some care, sophistication, finesse, a little mystique, all of which have been sorely missing since “GoldenEye”. The DAD campaign was beyond lame and an insult to the fans. Give the American and English actresses a rest – pick Bond girls that are more international. And last point: why is it that Brosnan always looks better and younger and more handsome in HIS NON-BOND FILMS? Get a cinematographer who knows how to light a hero. I’m not saying use a Liz Taylor Vaseline lens, but he’s Bond for god’s sake – take care of the guy.
In short, Eon… Put back the snap, crackle, pop. You’re slipping.
Stop worrying about what website is using what illegal image or what the latest Austin Powers movie is called and just make the best damn Bond films you can. Because in the final analysis, box office can be deceiving and I’m afraid if you don’t start backing up your hype… Bond will wear out his welcome.
I’ve had my say, have yours.