Article – James Bond

How To Make A Bond Film

(Originally published in Inform Magazine, November 2002)

The supposed jewel in the British film industry, James Bond, gets his 20th
outing this month. but, like Pierce Brosnan, isn’t it all getting a little tired and predictable?

Die Another Die. It’s not exactly a title to conjure with is it? In fact, if you were sat at home with nothing to do and idly decided to come up with a James Bond film title, that’s what you’d eventually come up. And dismiss it as sounding perhaps too obvious.
The thing is, that’s exactly what the makers of the Bond films do. Die Another Day – the 20th Bond film – got that title as the result of a lot of thinking. Titles which actually had something to do with the plot – Beneath The Sea, Beyond The Ice – were rejected in favour of something that had nothing to do with the content because they didn’t sound like Bond film titles.
Still, it’s not the worst title – that honour belongs to Tomorrow Never Dies – but you do know exactly what to expect from Bond films these days. Let’s go through them point by point shall we?
1. Bond is on a dangerous mission for the British Government when he comes up against some fearsome enemy who gets away somehow.
2. Bond tells this to M, who gives him permission to investigate further. Flirtatious banter with Moneypenny.
3. Bond gets help from an old friend, who fills him in on bits of the plot.
4. Bond meets an ally (usually a woman), who he doesn’t get on with at first, but they come together in adversity. Usually by shagging.
5. Bond inveigles himself into a party and meets the big bad guy for the first time. They banter.
6. Bond investigates a mysterious base and uses lots of gadgets to get away from pursuing bad guys. The bad guys are usually headed by a fearsome enemy who’s usually the same guy from 1.
7. Bond meets up with M again, then gets delivery of more gadgets from Q. By odd coincidence, all these gadgets come in useful later.
8. Together with the ally, they get captured by the fearsome enemy, who reveals himself to be the sidekick to some bigger bad. They end up at the HQ of this true bad guy. This is usually the guy from 5, but sometimes it can be the ally whose been helping him (in which case Bond gets a different ally, who this time is definitely female).
9. The bad guy explains the plot. Bad guys are never leaders of democratically elected governments or paranoid sociopaths, like the bad guys you actually get in the real world.
10. Bond escapes and goes off to rescue his ally.
11. The bad guy’s base explodes (Bond having killed him in an original way) and Bond and his ally escape to get down to some serious canoodling.
12. The fearsome sidekick is not dead and tries to kill Bond in a last minute surprise. Bond dispatches him. Resume canoodling.
13. M, Q and some other dignitary catch him at it. The end.
How many Bond films does this formula fit? Depressingly, just about all of them. No wonder Austin Powers has managed to squeeze three films out of parodying this material; the series itself has gotten 20 films out of it.
When Pierce Brosnan’s first outing, GoldenEye, came out it was genuinely seen as a reinvention – a tougher Bond fighting a morally gray enemy, with a female M and Moneypenny giving as good as she got. It even managed to subvert quite a few (but definitely not all) of the above list.
Nowadays, it’s back to giving the people what they want. The World is Not Enough was a good Bond film but even the clever twists couldn’t save it from being a bit predictable. There was still the fearsome sidekick (Robert Carlysle), the big bad revealed halfway in (Sophie Marceau), the bedable ally (Denise Richards) and the old friend (Robbie Coltrane). Looking at the cast list for Die Another Day and it looks the same: bedable ally (Halle Berry), big bad (Toby Stephens), fearsome sidekick (Rick Yune) and old friend (Rosamund Pike). It’s this predictability that will one day force another hiatus and rethink. Bond lives for the moment to die another day. Hey! Maybe that’s what that title is all about.

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About klausjoynson
I'm a writer, editor, musician, DJ and cartoonist. Contact me at: klausjoynson(at)gmail.com or follow me on Twitter: @KlausJoynson

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