In 1965 the writer Kingsley Amis, well known as a serious critic, poet and author, published the book ‘The James Bond Dossier’, an analysis of Ian Fleming’s Bond novels. The book which contains studied lists of Bond’s victims, lovers (at my count Bond prefers English, American, French and then Swedish ‘friends’) and adversaries (few governments, mostly individuals and warped older male sociopaths at that), helped Amis enter the world of popular culture – he clearly had a sense of the allure and longevity of the Bond brand.
That brand has become a multi-billion dollar business, so much so that Amazon will now partake of the next chapter in the Bond saga (following its purchase of MGM), reflecting a world where Bond must now compete for our attention with the likes of Jason Bourne, Bureau des Legendes and Homeland.
This next chapter is marked by the departure of Daniel Craig as Bond and widespread speculation not only on the identity of the new Bond but also on the degree to which the character should reflect an apparently ‘woke’ world.
A recalibration of Bond might be in the offing but in my view Bond as a character should be faithful to the individual set out in Fleming’s books (the excellent ‘Geographies, Genders and Geopolitics of James Bond’ by Lisa Funnell and Klaus Dodd underlines how Fleming’s conception of Bond was influenced by his father, brother and several colleagues) but can also reflect what that character might be like in the 21st century.
To this end some commentators describe the Bond films as a requiem for the British Empire, and others, such as Mark Tinker’s fine ‘Market Thinking’ blog quip that the future Bond films could be like ‘The Crown but with more guns’.
What is perhaps a more interesting aspect of the Bond genre is what the plots (yes, the Bond films have plots) tell us about the world we live in and how they reflect the nature of Ian Fleming’s role in Intelligence (he worked at Room 37 at the Admiralty). He was given charge of a small but telling operation whose aim was to conceive high impact missions that had little chance of success, but that would confuse the enemy. His playbook of operations was called the Trout Memo – after the fly-fishing technique designed to entrap trout.
Some of the films based on Fleming’s work have been spot on in identifying threats and trends. On the whole and perhaps reflecting Fleming’s own operations, many of them involve the disruption of supply chains and the resulting profiteering – for instance Goldeneye was based on the deployment of an electromagnetic device to rob the Bank of England (don’t forget that Goldfinger plotted to use a dirty bomb to steal gold from Fort Knox), Tomorrow Never Dies Involved the manipulation of the media, in Die Another Day a satellite is used to manipulate the weather over North Korea and so on, though all of this does make me wonder who exactly is behind the widespread disruption of supply chains today.
While I rule myself out of the running for the next ‘Bond’, I wouldn’t mind a crack at writing the next Bond script, and can think of three pitches, based on the evolving world before us.
The first, relatively conventional script might be, modestly, called ‘Bond – The Levelling’. It would weave together some of the emerging, dangerous threats to humanity, a world riven by the wild side-effects of climate change (a very recent US National Intelligence Estimate focused on climate change as a disruptive force for security). Bond, in order to stop a global hedge fund manipulating weather patterns, needs to fly to the USA, though he and a female agent of the Japanese PSIA are stuck in Taiwan. They cross to China and hijack one of China’s top secret hypersonic glider craft which takes them undetected to the US in hours.
The second scenario might be called ‘MoonShot’, something that came to mind when reading a very interesting Bank of America note on the technologies of the future (e.g. the flying car eco-system). Here Bond is up against a villain with enhanced Emotional Artificial Intelligence who plots to collapse property prices by enticing people to buy real estate in the MetaVerse. Early in the film Bond is captured and subject to experiments in Synthetic Biology, and an army of duplicate, bad Bonds is launched using Holograms, 6G and Wireless Electricity.
My final attempt at a Bond script deals with a commodity that is in increasingly short supply, democracy, and that like some Bond films, is coming under attack from within. The villain in the film is a well-known political figure, who has launched a new media operation called ‘Truth’ whose aim is to spread lies. The confusion caused by this brings the apparatus of democracy to the edge of collapse, political representatives act like the assassins we see in Bond films (please see Las Vegas Councilwoman Michele Fiore’s campaign video as she seeks to be elected Governor of Nevada).
Sometimes, reality is stranger than fiction.