A Universal Bond

By Ron Scopelliti

I’m worried about Bond. That’s right, Bond – James Bond. I’m worried, not so much about the character, but about the trend in movie-making that the Bond movies have come to represent. There’s been all sorts of talk about whether Daniel Craig would return for another film, or whether he would be re-cast with a younger actor, or an actor of color, or a woman. I hear Sean Combs even volunteered for the position, just in case nobody with talent is available. Nobody seems to know what to do about the next Bond movie.

I’ve got a novel alternative: how about not having another James Bond movie? It’s a radical solution to the situation, especially considering how much I’ve enjoyed some of the Bond movies. But I’m becoming so tired of every movie getting an indefinite number of sequels and spin-offs and reboots and ret-cons that I’d rather see a new character in a new environment than see another attempt to make an old character seem new again.

In the past, it was enough to make a good movie – just one good movie – that stood on its own. The African Queen didn’t need a sequel. If The African Queen had been a hit made in this era, it would have been followed up by sequels where Charlie Allnut and Rose Sayer move to Spain and get caught up in the civil war, then another where they travel to Poland and get caught up in Hitler’s invasion. Or better yet, the third movie could be a crossover piece where they go to Casablanca and hide out in Rick’s Café Américain.

Of course, today I don’t know if you could get away with a hero named “Allnut,” unless you played it for laughs. You could cast Ben Stiller in the role, and replace Katharine Hepburn with Tina Fey, and come up with all sorts of phallic jokes about Charlie Allnut’s torpedo. Now that I think of it, maybe I should write up a treatment and pitch it to a studio.

Orson Welles didn’t need to make a sequel to Citizen Kane, though he had a plot pretty much handed to him in the seventies: imagine a sequel where Kane’s granddaughter succumbs to Stockholm Syndrome and joins a band of revolutionaries led by a guy who can’t pronounce his own pseudonym. But Welles knew that one great movie about a thinly-disguised member of the Hearst family was enough.

These days, it’s not enough to make one good movie – everything has to be a franchise. And there has to be an extended “universe” for each hero to inhabit. Universes are a big thing in entertainment franchises these days. On top of the endless sequels, you have to create an entire universe to make room for spin-off movies, TV series (both animated and live-action), video games, and series of novels and the like. There’s a whole mainstream industry built around the Marvel Comics universe, the DC Comics universe, the Harry Potter universe, etc… Name a set of marketable characters, and there’s a universe being built around them.

It’s kind of hypocritical for me to complain about this concept, because I really like what Deep Space Nine and Voyager did within the Star Trek universe. It’s too bad that one universe wasn’t enough, because now they’ve created an alternate Star Trek movie universe with a surprisingly ugly and bulbous Enterprise.

Now that J.J. Abrams is involved in both the Star Trek and Star Wars universes, how long will it be before an Enterprise in a second alternate universe gets sent back a long, long time to a galaxy far, far away, to join forces with the next generation of Star Wars characters, who are still inexplicably using the same third-hand R2 unit that Grampa Vader used?

And as long as they’re at it, maybe that’s where James Bond should find himself – in an alternate universe where he can join Kirk and Spock to battle Boba Fett, who has adopted a Persian cat and hatched a plan to heat up the cold war between the First Order and the Klingons. If nothing else, it would offer the chance for Aston Martin to get on-board and re-design the J.J. Abrams Enterprise so that it no longer looks like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade float. And they can add an ejection seat to the Millenium Falcon for when C3P0 starts getting on everyone’s nerves – never did like that robot…