In a famous scene from the 1964 Bond film Goldfinger, the titular villain has 007 strapped to a table as a deadly laser makes its way towards his crotch. The suave spy asks “Do you expect me talk?” to which Goldfinger replies “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.” Of course we know our hero will find a way out. We never expect him to die, and that’s just one of the reasons why he should.
While 2006’s Casino Royale was an attempt to bring James Bond into the new millennium, the latest Bond adventure, SPECTRE, proves that really nothing has changed at all. He may not hit women anymore, but they’re still as disposable as the million dollar vehicles and gadgets he constantly discards or destroys. Some of the old rules have been bent, but far too many have remained non-negotiable to allow the franchise to grow or surprise audiences. Some have suggested that casting a black actor would help move the character forward, but the root of the issue lies in the character, not the actor. James Bond needs to die.
The character has fallen into the trap of needing to fulfill certain expectations in every outing. There are notes that the filmmakers feel they need to hit in every single film, but after two dozen adventures, it’s time to find some new notes. Bond has become a slave to his own behaviour and even Daniel Craig is tired of it, as he claimed he would rather slash his wrists than suit up for another mission. Please kill James Bond.
A Spy by Any Other Number…
I’m not saying they need to kill the franchise or reboot it again. I enjoy the world of MI6, in fact the scenes in Spectre with Q (Ben Whishaw), M (Ralph Fiennes) and C (Andrew Scott) were great. I could watch an entire film of just them. I get a kick out of their extreme Britishness, and being British is much more essential to Bond’s character than being white or a male. They could still have fun with the old expectations, maybe 008 is still under fire but gets nervous when women hit on him. At least give him or her a couple flaws to make the character seem, you know, human? Just bury 007 first.
Killing Bond would also up the stakes for his successor. Bond runs headstrong into scenarios that no sane person would, but it’s okay, because he’s James Bond and we know he’s basically indestructible. If they were to kill him off, it would lend credibility to the suspense and makes us feel like the characters lives are actually at risk. The success of Game of Thrones is basically built around this concept. I’m not saying they need to behead Bond, I’m just saying he should no longer be allowed to live.
In a way these films have fallen into the same trap that Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy did. Casino Royale came out at a time when everyone wanted to do for their heroes what Nolan did for Batman – which was to ground them in some kind of believable reality. The problem with this is that it opens them up to all kinds of scrutiny in other areas of implausibility. As with Batman, they seem to get a little further away from this with every subsequent film, until they’re right back where they started with a world where almost anything can happen (except for Bond dying). The same thing happened with Brosnan’s four film run that devolved from a solid 90s action film (Goldeneye) to the utterly campy Die Another Day. There’s not really anything wrong with this as long at the film can embrace it and not pretend like it should be taken seriously. The flip side of this coin would be Kingsman, which goes full balls-to-the-wall kitsch and is unapologetic about being a politically incorrect hyper-violent popcorn film. In a way, Kingsman even killed their “Bond” character, and it was provocative and shocking and fun.
What’s in a Name?
More than anything, people seem to be attached to the name ‘James Bond’. I get it. It’s a brand and it’s a pretty cool name. But are we really going to these movies just to hear him say “Bond. James Bond,” give a very specific drink order, and drive a car worth more than most people make in a lifetime? Also, let’s not forget the fact that it’s ridiculous how this “secret” agent goes around telling everyone his real name. A real spy would dead in a week if he did this, and Bond should be too.
If people really like the name the so much, how about bringing the 90s animated show James Bond Jr to the screen? At least Junior (Bond’s nephew on show) would be given permission to do things a little differently, maybe even take a precaution or two. I know Bond’s bad boy edge is a big part of his appeal, but imagine the appeal and menace of having a baddie who was actually able to kill Bond! Perhaps a villain who doesn’t reveal his entire plan and actually succeeds, wouldn’t that create real force to be reckoned with?
Kill Your Darlings
I can’t think of a better example of a property that should take William Faulkner’s advice to “Kill Your Darlings”. Everything about it has become too precious and predictable. They tried to keep the fact that Christoph Waltz would be playing Ernst Stavro Blofeld in Spectre a secret, but as soon as they showed him wearing the nehru jacket in the trailer it became blatantly obvious to anyone who would care about that kind of thing. Killing off Judy Dench’s M in Skyfall was a bit of a surprise, but do you know what would really surprise audiences? You guessed it. I’m glad you’re with me on this.
Ian Fleming died the same year Goldfinger was released, over half a century ago. At the time, they had only adapted three of his 14 James Bond novels to the big screen and producer Albert R. Broccoli probably figured he had enough stories left to last a lifetime. He almost did, but unfortunately there weren’t enough to last his children’s lifetimes as well (the rights now belong to his daughter Barbara and stepson Michael G. Wilson). Spectre is the 24th Bond film, and the films have consistently been set in modern day, which would make most of them seem like science fiction to Fleming, so I think it’s safe to say some liberties have been taken. Bond is constantly updated for the ages, but he seems to always become obsolete faster than the latest Mac OS. He’s still a misogynist, he just has to be a little more subtle about it these days. What would be really interesting would be to go back and set the films in the 60s with more faithful adaptations of Fleming’s books, I’d consider this an acceptable alternative to killing James Bond.
I realize I may be coming off like one of the many villains who expound about how they’d like to see this particular spy perish, but I really don’t hate Bond, I just feel like his time has passed. I loved the films as kid (Pierce Brosnan will always be my Bond) but I’ve been hot and cold on the Craig films. Admittedly, I’m probably being harder on Spectre because I was so impressed with Skyfall. Obviously I think his death should have some dignity, I don’t think he should trip and fall off a building. Let him go out in a blaze of glory, give him a proper send off by having him sacrifice himself for Moneypenny or someone else who will give the franchise some fresh blood. After all the torture (seriously, he gets tortured a lot) and all the lives he’s had to take (he gets a lot of use out of that license), he’d probably welcome it.
It’s a risky move, but so was replacing Sean Connery with George Lazenby, and that worked out okay in the end (for Roger Moore). Producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson are the only ones with a license to kill James Bond and this is a ‘Live and Let Die’ scenario where to let the franchise live, they need to let James Bond die.