NO TIME TO DIE:  Why You Cannot Kill Off James Bond.  Or could you?

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Contributed by: Daniel Silvestri and Tom Pizzato of SpyMovieNavigator.com

No Time To Die is now scheduled for a November 2020 release, after the April 2020 delay due to the worldwide pandemic.  

Plenty of speculation of what will happen in the film – we have about 6 podcasts out on No Time To Die already!  The biggest
question is:  What will happen to Bond?   Will he survive?  Die? Be Dying?  Will someone big, who we are used to, die?

James Bond has been around since Ian Fleming first published “Casino Royale” in 1953.   He has been on television with Barry Nelson playing an American version of Jimmy Bond, in the 1954 production of Casino Royale.  The first actor to play Bond on screen.   Then Eon Productions took over striking a deal with Fleming to produce James Bond movies, and Dr. No was the first one they produced, released in 1962. It was an immediate hit.    About $1 million to produce, and it grossed over $59 million!

Eon continued to produce James Bond movies, and No Time To Die will be their 25th film in the franchise. Over the decades, they grossed at the box office over $7 billion.  And then there are licensing fees, DVD and Blue Ray sales and more that bring in revenue.

The formula, although changed gradually over the decades, has worked well for Eon Productions.   It has made them a lot of money, has gained them tons of recognition around the world, and continues to be a juggernaut.   Skyfall (2012), their 23rd movie, grossed over $1 billion at the box office.   And Spectre, in 2015, grossed over $878 million dollars.   So, this franchise is strong and continues to grow in popularity and in making money.   Which is a good thing.

So, now we have No Time to Die, the 25th entry, scheduled.   And speculations abound.  Many serious reports that Bond will survive, and others that he will die.   Now, if you are Eon Productions, which has successfully tweaked Bond’s character over the decades, reducing his misogynist tendencies and womanizing, and make him more in tune with the brave new world.  

And, as of the last film, Spectre (not one of the fans’ favorite films in general), they still grossed over $879 million. Not bad, right?

 

You’re in a meeting with Eon.  Where should the franchise head?

So, now suppose you are sitting in one of the Eon meetings where they are deciding what to do next.   Are you raising your hand saying, “I think what is best for the business is if we kill off Bond in our next release?”

Well, if not you, who?  Danny Boyle?  And what is the argument?

“I think in Bond 25, we should kill off Bond and start afresh with a new 007 – perhaps a woman.   It would fit the social narrative of our cultures now, and we can gain a large part of the female audience that we lack so much now.   The male audience will continue to come to see the “Bond” movies because they are used to it and will want to see how the new 007 develops. We can merchandise lots of clothing and other items around the new 007 who is female.   We won’t lose out massive Bond audience if we do this right.”

What happens if you’re wrong?

Well.   What if you DO lose your audience – your multi-billion-dollar business might be competing with Charlies’ Angels instead of dominating the spy movie world.   What happens if the new 007 is NOT accepted?  IF people want Ian Fleming’s Bond still around – after all, THAT is the whole basis of the James Bond franchise – the original Ian Fleming manuscripts.

 Yes – James Bond has changed over the decades as we have said. He is becoming more of a good social citizen.   But we must remember, a spy by nature is two-faced.   When we talked to Roberto Schaefer, Director of Photography for Quantum of Solace, he said as much.   A spy is something else in the known world and an undercover assassin in the dark underworld.   So, how much do we want him to change IN the dark underworld where his business takes him? Do we want a completely different spy? A nicer spy in this dark world?  

Then what?

Basically, what else do we demand to be changed in the character of James Bond?   Let’s make a list.

  1. He is still too much a misogynist.  So, we must get rid of that.
  2. He still does not have enough respect for women.  So, we must change that
  3. He has been a cold-hearted killer.   Shooting and killing people who are unarmed, like Professor Dent on Dr. No.  We can’t have that.
  4. Bond knows how to do everything.  He can fly any craft, drive any vehicle, get out of any jam, disarm bombs – is anyone THAT good?  He needs to be more realistic. 
  5. And on what an agent makes, how can Bond afford the best clothes, the best food and drink, the best of everything?  MI6 isn’t paying for all that stuff, are they? Unrealistic.   Need a more grounded agent – grounded in the real world.

And if we change all of this in Bond, no one will accept this new iteration of Bond.   So, maybe we switch to a whole new spy.  A female “Bond-like” character.

This is all possible. With the delay of No Time to Die, we have more time to speculate. 

Our thoughts

Now, if it were SpyMovieNavigator making this decision, we would do one of two things.

Leave Bond alone.  People for decades have been loving James Bond in the movies, so leave him alone.
Sure, tweak some things as you have done in the past.   The faithful audience can accept that people, even spies, change over time.    And James Bond in the movies, HAS changed over time, and the last couple of Bond movies were the highest-grossing box office Bond films ever.   So, there is plenty of reason to stay the course.

If you are going to introduce another MI6 agent to take Bond’s place – a complete replacement – then do it as an experiment.  Do NOT kill off Bond.  Ian Fleming left us hanging at the end of his novel, “From Russia With Love, not knowing if Bond would survive the poison unleashed upon him by Klebb.   In No Time to Die, do a similar thing then, if you must.  Leave us hanging.

If you KILL off Bond, and the new agent replacement for 007 is NOT accepted, what do you do?   Now, if this were science fiction, you have no problem.   Because no one ever dies in science fiction.  You can write anyone back into the next script. 

But this is not science fiction.

Where have we seen this before?

But wait.   Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did it with Sherlock Holmes!  Sherlock Holmes died in “The Adventure of the Final Problem”, after falling off Reichenbach Falls.  Sherlock Holmes.  Dead.   And fans did not like it!  They were outraged!

So, after pressure from his publisher and the public, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle “brought back” Sherlock Holmes in “The Hound of the Baskervilles”, which was
a prequel to Holmes’ death in “The Final Problem”. So, he really was not brought back from the dead.   Yet.
They COULD do the same with Bond. Bring back Bond, if the new non-Bond 007 is a flop – in a series of prequels.  

But Sir Arthur Conan Doyle finally did bring Holmes back to life, in a series of short stories, “The Return of Sherlock Holmes”.

So, maybe EON Productions can bring back James Bond in a similar manner.   He dies, let’s say, in No Time to Die.  The movie-going public is outraged and rejects the new 007 in the next film released.   A board meeting.   Eon decides, we must bring Bond back.  And, they fabricate a screenplay that does just that.  It is possible.

And would the public accept it?  Yes, of course!  They did for Sherlock Holmes and they will for Bond!  

And that takes us to … To die or not to die?  That is the question . . . that may not matter!

So, it seems:

  1. If Eon Productions kills off Bond in No Time to Die, they could probably bring him back to life somehow in a future movie, that is either a prequel or he is resurrected and is alive again to “Die Another Day.”  Or, perhaps the new 007 is even more popular than James Bond, and he remains dead as long as the money is rolling in. 
  2. If they leave us hanging, with Bond appearing to die, or dying at the end, then Eon could easily choose to do what they want next.
  3. If Bond survives, then life goes on.  And so does the Bond franchise.

So, it looks like Eon Productions can do whatever they want in No Time to Die, and all will be fine for them.   Sure, some rough waters could be ahead, but they can always return to calm seas.  

For us James Bond 007 fans, let’s see what they do.  But, whatever they do, let’s just chill out.  In fiction, where you write it and it is done, anything can happen.