Fifty years ago today, Terence Young stood on a set in Jamaica and rolled film for the very first time on a feature film about Ian Fleming’s creation, James Bond. It was the scene where Bond arrives at the Kingston airport and tries to avoid being photographed. It was a significant day at the end of a long search for the right man to play the part and even though Ian Fleming wasn’t convinced at first, Sean Connery not only turned out to be a nascent movie star, but he made Bond an icon that endures even now.
Fifty years later, EON Productions and Sony are in production on the latest film in the series, with Daniel Craig playing Bond for the third time. And today, Sony Pictures released a terse but interesting summary of what we can expect when “Skyfall” opens later in the year.
I’ve been a Bond fan since my first exposure to the character. I was seven years old when my dad took me to see “The Spy Who Loved Me” in the theater, and it was love at first sight. Sure, part of the kick was the idea that my dad was taking me to see a “grown-up” movie with him, just the two of us. And part of it was because I could tell how important the character was to him. Mostly, though, the whole thing was just so damn cool.
After all, he had a car that turned into a submarine. When you’re seven, that’s the most insanely mind-blowing idea possible.
I started reading the original Fleming novels not long after that. My dad had all of them stashed around the house, mixed in with the Travis McGees and the Destroyers and all of the other pulpy ass-kicking tomes that he loved. And in time, I started to fill in my knowledge of Bond by catching up with the other films. I’ve seen every one of them in the theater since 1977, including the ones released before that, and I’m excited by the direction the series has taken creatively in recent years. It’s almost impossible to believe how much life there’s been in the property, and this year seems like a perfectly logical time to look back at the entire series.
What I propose is a series of articles in which we’ll talk about the Fleming books, the films that were adapted from them, and the way the series has changed over the years to reflect the shifts we’ve experienced in society in the last 50 years. We’ll time them so we can wrap the series up right as “Skyfall” is about to open. I’ve seen all of the films numerous times, and while I once swore to avoid a few of them, I’m willing to even give “Moonraker” and “A View To A Kill” one more time around the block so we can have a fresh conversation about the movies.
I’m not surprised to read that Sam Mendes is a big Bond fan. I think it’s hard to be a film freak in general without having some affection for some part of the series, and growing up in England, I would imagine Bond is a national treasure, one of the key pieces of shared pop culture. I think Daniel Craig has done a nice job of redefining the character for the 21st century, and I sincerely hope he keeps making Bond films between his other jobs for as long as he is able.
For now, here’s the synopsis for “Skyfall”:
Daniel Craig is back as James Bond 007 in “Skyfall,” the 23rd adventure in the longest-running film franchise of all time. In “Skyfall,” Bond”s loyalty to M (Judi Dench) is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.
I’m curious to see just how much screen time Judi Dench has in this one. I’ve liked her as “M” in the past few films, but she hasn’t had much to do overall. This time, she appears to be a key part of the story. The cast is impressive this time, maybe more impressive than any Bond film ever. In addition to Craig and Dench, both returning, we’ve also got Ralph Fiennes, Javier Bardem, and Albert Finney in major roles. Naomie Harris, Berenice Marlohe, and Helen McCrory are the first announce “Bond Girls” for the film. And, finally, it looks like they’re bringing Q back in the form of Ben Whishaw.
This far into the series, we’re not really dealing with what Fleming wrote anymore. The title and the story appear to be original, and while longtime Bond scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are back, this time you’ve got Patrick Marber (“Closer,” “Notes On A Scandal”) and John Logan in the mix as well. There’s so much talent combined working on this one that I have my fingers crossed this is going to be a very special film in the series. And considering the milestone they’re celebrating this year, it should be.
“Skyfall” appears in theaters on November 9, 2012.