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With news that Sam Mendes is on board to direct Bond 24 (link), it's curious to note how many people are already declaring the as-yet unmade film will be brilliant or a disaster. It's a classic case of projecting one's best hopes or worst fears and becoming convinced one's thoughts are real. They're thoughts shaped out of acquired preferences, learned tendencies for either polarity or non-polarity response and generalizations about what names like 'Sam Mendes' equates to.

Here's the thing that interests me: it's a curious by-product of devotion.

SKYFALL and STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS are two great examples of highly successful films which have attracted bitter criticism from a large number of franchise fans.

It takes devotion to get that upset by making the Enterprise eight times larger than it used to be. (By the way, it's not twice as big: it's twice as long; and twice as tall and twice as wide). It takes devotion to an expectation of who James Kirk is to get that upset by his new-found juvenility.

Here's my untested theory:

When a franchise has been going as long as James Bond, it will attract many fans who are devoted to a favourite film, a favourite actor, a favourite style or a favourite era. The greater the devotion, the more difficult it becomes to please. If you're utterly devoted to GOLDFINGER and the Sean Connery 007 films (as am I), Bond 24 faces the double bind that if it's too much like GOLDFINGER it'll be rip-off and a pastiche and they should have left the GOLDFINGER thing alone; and if it's nothing like GOLDFINGER, it'll just not be like the heyday of Bond films, i.e. GOLDFINGER.

I used to joke that the only people who thought SKYFALL was the best Bond film ever (we mustn't forget the comic book guy emphasis on the word 'ever') were those who also added, "and I'm not even a fan of James Bond films, normally".

I thought that last little bit of the declaration was the telling sign. I told myself it was the James Bond film for people who don't like James Bond films.

Of course, that was just me falling for the illusory reality of my thinking. See, we all do it.

But here's the thing. History teaches us that it takes an outsider to re-invigorate a franchise and not get locked into the more-of-the-same thing that trapped directors like John Glen. It takes someone free of the past to create the future.

Prior to SKYFALL at least, there were a lot more people not yet converted to Bond than ones devoted. That's the bigger sea to go fish in. If James Bond is going to survive another fifty years, it has to keep fishing in new seas, not old ones. It has to convert new fans, not just entertain old ones, many of whom have become grumpy and impossible to please. Like a snake, it occassionally has to shed its skin to grow new skin.

It's the outsider directors who know how to fish in those new seas. Abrams may have alienated a proportion of devoted Trek fans but he's probably converted many more new ones. And it may be to his films, not the original series, that these new fans become most devoted. Mendes is seemingly achieving the same with 007.

I'm still devoted to the old Sean Connery films with classic John Barry scores. But, y'know, that time is past. Do we continue by pastiching that era? I might not be a great fan of 'new Bond'. SKYFALL didn't convert me. Bond 24 may or may not do so either. But I've got my Bond films to treasure.

It's no disrespect to the past to create a new future. And it doesn't help anyone when a franchise dies of entropy. That's why franchises like Bond and Trek need people like Mendes and Abrams, even if they're not creating their works for old school die-hards like me.

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Comments (13):Log in or register to post your own comments
What a great, reasonable, point of view you have!

Yavar

P.S. I enjoyed the last Trek film quite a lot (in large part because of Karl Urban as McCoy who was unexpectedly perfect) and had high hopes for the current one, but was one of the "old Trek fans" who was really pissed off how they did things.

Good insights; it's true that the longer a franchise goes, the more opinions there are about what the best and most "true" era was.

As a long-time Bond and Trek fan, I really enjoyed Skyfall (though I thought the third act went on way too long) but very much disliked Star Trek Into Darkness. Ironically, one of the problems I had with Into Darkness was that it actually made too many references to the older films and series (specifically Wrath of Khan) to the point where it was distracting. After the 2009 film, I was excited about the prospect of new stories and ideas, so I was disappointed that they chose to rehash a concept that had already been done so well, and then compound the problem by continually reminding us of how good the other movie was.

And it's true, as you said, that the filmmakers (and fans) end up getting trapped by their devotion to the "gold standard" of the franchise, such as Goldfinger or Wrath of Khan. Both of those are great films, but I'm actually a little tired of the blind reverence everyone has for them. They both have their flaws, and they are not the only times their respective franchises have been good.

And even the "eras" we revere have their ups and downs. I'm a Sean Connery fan myself, but Diamonds Are Forever is probably the worst Bond film ever made (at least in the official series); it's certainly worse than anything Roger Moore ever did. And as much as I like TOS Trek, there were some pretty laughable episodes here and there ("Spock's Brain" comes to mind).

Sometimes I think Patton Oswalt was on to something in his Wired article a couple of years ago. Geek culture may need a palate-cleansing of sorts before too long.

Diamonds Are Forever is probably the worst Bond film ever made (at least in the official series); it's certainly worse than anything Roger Moore ever did.

Sir, I demand a duel. :D

Ha; you're on!

Seriously though, Moore's films got pretty silly, but I dunno; something about Diamonds always rubbed me the wrong way.

It's certainly a well-thought out post, and I both agree and disagree, mainly on Into Darkness, which I felt was not only a poorly constructed film barely held together by its cast and its music irrespective of any Star Trek nerd complaints, but also didn't do itself any favours by being a hamfisted recreation of what everyone considers to be the Goldfinger of Trek. Khan has been both a gift and a bane to Star Trek over the years, and it'd be nice to just let it go.

Ha; you're on!

Seriously though, Moore's films got pretty silly, but I dunno; something about Diamonds always rubbed me the wrong way.


I hear ya. These films, starring Connery, Moore or others would ALL have seemed fine when I was a teen, and the same goes for the new ones. But at nearly fifty, the Bond films just seem like so much fluff, albeit HIGHLY entertaining fluff. The same goes for Star Trek, which I still dearly love, but which are just inconsequntial movies nonethless. Let's appreciate them for what they are.

How long do you reckon it will take before I am now challenged to a duel? :D

Oh, like you, I could write a list of criticisms as long as your arm on both INTO DARKNESS and SKYFALL. But then again I could probably do the same for GOLDFINGER and THE WRATH OF KHAN if I felt inclined to do so.

As for DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, I disagree that its worse than the Moore films, but I do agree it was a harbinger of rot.

Today, it's 46 years since YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE opened in New York. Whilst I enjoy that film a lot, it's emphasis on moving the story on fast (at the expense of a well-written causal logic) from one gadget-laden set piece to another was a blueprint for rot in the series. It was fresh at the time and it was a big success. However, DIAMONDS was a polarity response to OHMSS, swerving wildly to the YOLT template and therefore was, arguably, the first film in the rot phase.

Lewis Gilbert at least did that formula better and I'm quite fond of both THE SPY WHO LOVED ME and MOONRAKER, but it would take until FOR YOUR EYES ONLY for Bond to re-grasp some of its earlier greatness. It did not do so convincingly, however, and with the exception of that and the Dalton films, the Bond films continued to be about devising fun-emphasising gadget-laden set pieces connected by weak narrative.

Until Daniel Craig, that is, when everything started going down the Bourne route instead.

Thanks for commenting folks!

Ha; you're on!

Seriously though, Moore's films got pretty silly, but I dunno; something about Diamonds always rubbed me the wrong way.


Connery looks bloated and bored as hell (and his toupee looks lousy), the production values are atrocious (probably due to 90% of the budget going into lining Connery's pockets), there's a notable lack of tension, Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint are deeply embarrassing "gay" caricatures that are horribly dated today, Jill St. John's awful Bond Girl (I always cringe when she does her "Yeeeee...!" bit at the end) and this is truly the beginning of the "campy" Bond that would carry through the Moore era. Had Connery stuck to his retirement after You Only Live Twice, he'd have a perfect 007 record, so it's sad to see him in such a slapdash production. Only A View To A Kill and Die Another Day are worse Bond films. :(

The question is: if you change (almost) everything to please a new audience and keep the series "fresh", why still call it a "Bond-film"? Why not start a new series...oh yes, I know, it´s the money. You need the name "Bond" to be able to cash up big time. So, in reality that´s almost all that´s left of the Bond-films and books: the name! Fleming, Maibaum, Barry, Young, Hunt, Binder, Saltzman, (Albert Romolo) Broccoli are all dead. So the producers should let Bond die, too, and invent a new character. Of course they won´t do this and so we will get new non-Bond-Bond-films for evermore.

I disagree, Stephen, on your contention that John Glen got 'trapped' before he exited the series. His LIVING DAYLIGHTS and LICENCE TO KILL, the last two of his streak, are among the best and most interesting and unusual of the series, especially in the case of the latter, which really veered from the established formula.

Have to agree that DIAMONDS is one of the worst, right up there with DIE ANOTHER DAY. I'll still watch DIAMONDS again though when its turn has been reached in my blu ray set, though!

VIEW TO A KILL actually wore better for me, having just watched the blu-ray recently. I've never disliked it though, as other have. Lewis Gilbert's films still seem to me to be among the weakest Moore Bonds. I actually prefer MOONRAKER to SPY, which has always been well loved but has always, in my view, seemed to lie there on the screen like a dead, bloated fish!

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