Spending A Moneypenny: Would a rehash of Bond take the piss?

Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny.

Skyfall, Skyfall, Skyfall, Skyfall, Skyfall. Did I mention Skyfall?

The amount of Bond blabber has been unbearable, and I’m a little begrudged to add to it! But after seeing it on its now recording breaking opening weekend there’s been something that’s really eating me. Near the end of the film, Bond finally asks the name of the sassy field agent, who assisted him against this outing’s baddy. ‘Eva Moneypenny’ came the reply, and I was sent into a spiral of despair. The credit’s further threat that ‘Bond will be Back’ made it even worse, because it set up something which I think could possibly be quite harrowing.

With a clear sign that the franchise will not go quietly into an unprofitable night there are two ways it can continue:

  • Whole new Bond films continuing where Ian Flemming left off
  • Remake of all previous Eon films

The former I can deal with. So many of the details of Flemming’s novels have been changed in all films that what remains is more or less just the idea and essence of each Bond novel rather than their original strict narratives. With such record breaking Box Office takings, brand new Bonds with new stories is one way to ensure the studio can keeping the franchise alive and suck all possible dollar bills out of it.

But the latter to me is just unthinkable, and I really hope that this doesn’t happen. For starters do they really need a modern day makeover? It seems a bit silly to ask this question because Bond has always been modernised in film. The World is Not Enough was very 90s and not in keeping with the campy 60s and 80s extravaganzas of Dr. No and Octopussy respectively. But despite the films always keeping up with the times, their charm has always been a timeless one – Bond is always the swath alpha male of epic energy, sex appeal, and danger. But they are also very much of their time, which also forms part of their novelty, with films like Moonraker challenging your average Carry On for most innuendoes per minute. Indeed the first two Austin Powers films did a wonderful job of spoofing everything we love about the older Bond films – the needlessly complicated execution attempts, the maniacal and downright ridiculous plots to control the world, the strange abilities of sidekicks, etc. But they are none the less the films that we know and love. Do they really need a face lift?

I just can’t quite imagine a Christopher Nolan remake – a brooding, raspy Bond wallowing in crushing self-pity and regret, an Odd Job who is actually menacing, and a movie choc with pretty but slightly overbearing special effects played to the same score that Hans Zimmer keeps trying to pass off as new.

But maybe I am being too cynical? Hugh Armitage wrote a rather marvelous article for So So Gay in praise of reboots, especially with the success of the Spiderman reboot’s rebooting (‘rebootception’ to capitalise on a meme) and Man of Steel looking less Superman and more Supergrittyrealismman than anything else (as long as it’s not the dire Superman Returns, I actually won’t mind). Maybe I should be looking at the prospect of a rehash as more of a reworking/re-imagining of James Bond, much like Nolan’s sensational treatment of Batman (as much as I’ll affectionately mock). Who knows, a remake of the Eon films might turn out to be something better and more affecting than my initial response of abject horror, and we might see something deeper than a mere cashing-in and bastardisation of what we’ve come to adore.

To colour my argument, we need only to look at Josh Whedon and Zak Penn. Their superhero films culminating in Avengers Assemble thus far,whilst not be reworks of old films (with the exception of Ang Lee’s a little too boring Hulk and other Hulk films and TV series that came before that), are certainly a clear reinterpretation of the original comics. As writers/directors their success is on their knowledge, understanding and empathy of the genre and the stories in order to tweak and update them.

But in order to turn established groundwork narratives into nearly new stories, there really does need to be someone behind their reworking such as Whedon and Penn in order to prevent the franchise taking a nose-dive into crass and unwanted pastiche. Alas, until we actually know what is to become of everyone’s favourite nymphomaniac secret agent, we have only our fears to dwell on. But even if those fears are realised and the franchise does start to take the piss, at least there’ll still be the oldies but goodies that can still be enjoyed – it’s not like they’re going anywhere.

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