Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Will the next Bond flick be on a "Road to Perdition," or captive to an "American Beauty?"

Sam Mendes to direct next Bond pic.

A friend recently sent me the this from The Hollywood Report on the latest development involving the 23rd Bond installment. Although, not an uber-devout Sam Mendes fan, the werewolf thinks this bodes well for next Bond film.While American Beauty was somewhat dark, twisted, and enjoyable, it was also incredibly overrated. It's indictment of middle class suburban conformity was drowned out by the psycho kid in a beanie constantly filming plastic bags blowing in the wind. The Road to Perdition, which incidentally features Daniel Craig as a villain, has an incredibly magnetic narrative, and qualifies as a damn decent film on all levels. This leads us to the fate of Bond 23. The werewolf thinks that as long as it is better than Quantum of Solace, (which shouldn't pose a challenge for a director like Mendes) everything will be alright.

The werewolf has been a disciple of all things Bond since about the age of three. Especially Connery's presence as Bond. The werewolf's sense of style, automotive preferences, and other social assumptions are highly predicated on the first several Bond installments, along with most of Fleming's Bond novels and novellas. He'll leave his scathing criticism of the ridiculous Pierce Brosnan Bond years for another post, but he does want to direct some legitimate ire at Quantum of Solace's confused and messy translation onto the big screen. Following 2006's Casino Royale, and its smashing reinvigoration of the then rudderless Bond franchise, the werewolf thought that Hollywood had finally gotten something right. That assumption was promptly blown apart by Quantum of Solace.

The werewolf's primary concern is the blurring of the James Bond and Jason Bourne franchises. Granted, Quantum of Solace is the only theatrical release highlighting this claim. Quantum of Solace over-emphasized a series of confusing, crack fueled action sequences throughout several portions of the film without ever really unfolding a plot or sense of direction. It was one part revenge, one part poorly executed nostalgia, and one part high velocity Jason Bourne action, with very little of the gritty essence that made Casino Royale such a thrilling and worthy film.

Don't get the werewolf wrong, the Bourne films, despite their distinctive anti-American positioning, and the continual and unoriginal "the CIA is at the root of all evil plot lines," are fun. Although the third Bourne installment, The Bourne Ultimatum, possessed such violent and shaky camera work that the werewolf nearly slipped into an epileptic fit during some of the chase sequences. It is crucial for Hollywood to remember that Bond is not Bourne, despite both being super spy assassins.

Bourne is a man without an identity, perpetually in search of who he is/was. No past, uncertain future, and profound insecurities about his gift for killing. There is no specific mission portfolio, he was indelibly damaged by all sorts of strange psychological programing, and although an uber-badass, his story is that of lost soul looking for home. He is in many ways a rejection of most things American and all things super-spy, while being well packaged into a trio of decent action flicks.

Bond is the exact opposite. Beyond the simple fact that he is an Englishman. He is man who knows exactly who/what he is and is extremely comfortable in that role. He is Her Majesty's foremost double-0 assassin and he is damn good at it. Everything he does, he does for England. Whereas Bourne is constantly searching for who he is, Bond is constantly trying to improve and hone his skill sets. To apply a business school term from my operations class, Bond is the human embodiment of kaizen. Bond isn't without his pitfalls, we learn that once in a blue moon, he gets a little soft and actually likes one of the women he beds, but always corrects course quickly, and reemerges a stronger, better killing machine. Bond also has a defined background. He is an accomplished naval officer, orphan, card player, vice aficionado, womanizer, well heeled and groomed gentlemen, with a roguish suaveness, and classically inclined killing streak. He is the uber-patriot who will accept any mission for his country, and do whatever it takes to complete that mission. As we've seen, he even has a flair for bending the rules, when needed to execute the task at hand.

Beyond sultry and devilishness temptresses, British sports cars, tailored Savile Row suits, his Walther PPK, sharp wit, and killer instinct, Bond should avoid any DNA transfusions from Bourne. He needs to carve out his own niche, while maintaining a connection to his established legacy. Bond's direction can evolve with the times, as it should. The Cold War has ended. New global threats from Islamic jihadists, global drug cartels, and rogue states partly define the new security paradigm, and Bond can rise up to those challenges on his terms. I just hope that Mendes, and the writers for this installment, push Bond down a road toward perdition, more than having him contemplate and reenact a Jason Bourne cameo in American Beauty.

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