The name is Bond, James Bond. That simple phrase is a defining characteristic of the Bond franchise. With over 24 films, spanning almost 50 years and six different iterations, the series has ventured from serious to campy and every shade in-between, as the franchise has transitioned from debonair Cold War assassins to the modern day chilly international badasses.
While the aesthetic of the series has changed remarkably, thanks to the various directors and production crews, the overall craft has remained partly intact and barely seems to challenge creator Ian Fleming’s original stories. Since the beginning there has always been a British Bond, an M, be they male or female, and enough gadgets, cars and women to fill an abandoned Spectre warehouse. This stagnation provides the basis of how we perceive the British spy. I mean, what kind of Bond movie would it be if he didn’t sleep with as many women as possible while narrowly escaping death? Obviously those tent poles make it enjoyable to come back and watch every few years as the series pushes forward, but what exactly might the Bond experience be like if it had a drastic change? Would it even be a Bond film?
I believe the problem is us; the audience. How would we react if the next iteration of Bond was gay, or black, or even a woman? Seeing how the box office is dominated by strong white men that never turn down a challenge, I believe that the market isn’t sustainable to make the needed change at the moment. Characters who stretch outside the painted lines fare substantially worse in bringing in audiences, unless they are provoked by an inner guilt (I’m looking at you, 12 Years a Slave). For the Bond series to grow it must be shown that audiences will bring their money to see a different 007, that the change will not be reluctant, but assured due to audience demand.
George Lazenby offered the first real change to the status quo in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Starting off as a model and being the first person to take up the mantel post Sean Connery, he brought a slightly more intimate look into the psyche of Bond, all the while taking the character to a very melancholic and wholly dark ending that has yet to be surpassed on an emotional chord since the 1969 film. Many view Lazenby’s portrayal as one of the worst in the series due to the radical departure from the suave gentleman that Connery provided, but I still believe it to be a great starting point for those new to the series.
The next radical change didn’t occur until 2012’s homosexually lenient villain Raoul Silva, played by Javier Bardem, was introduced, adding another layer of reality to the slowly stagnating series. Things have further developed in the series by offering an age appropriate bond girl with Monica Bellucci’s character in Spectre. I believe that the only place to go is further into new territory.
Many have speculated that Tom Hardy will be the next to take the roll after Daniel Craig’s contract is up, but I am rooting for the underdog. British actor Idris Elba would be the next logical step for the series to take it into uncharted territory where the suave debonair attitude, rarely seen in Craig’s films, would cross with the recent brutality to create a unique, Timothy Dalton/Pierce Brosnan combination. While Ian Fleming stated that he would never live to see a black Bond, the only thing I have left to say is, I guess you don’t always live twice.