Bond, James Bond and the movie Franchise
I’m a James Bond fan from my first seeing Dr No when it came to our local theatre back in May of 1963. I was nine years old and hooked!
Of course, the Bond that I was imprinted with was Sean Connery and he is the touchstone of my image of Bond.
As we all know the conceit behind the film franchise is that though the actors may change they are always playing the same persons. This goes for James Bond, M, Money Penny, Felix Leiter, etc.
However with the release of Casino Royale in 2006 the franchise took a new turn. They decided to Retcon the whole ‘history’ of James Bond and being it all anew with Daniel Craig and the year 2006. Each of the following films was built upon the premise that this actor is the ‘birth’ of James Bond as a license to kill 00 agent.
[The first published use of the phrase "retroactive continuity" is found in theologian E. Frank Tupper's 1973 book The Theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg: "Pannenberg's conception of retroactive continuity ultimately means that history flows fundamentally from the future into the past, that the future is not basically a product of the past."
The first known printed use of "retroactive continuity" referring to the altering of history within a fictional work is in All-Star Squadron #18 (February 1983) from DC Comics. The series was set on DC's Earth-Two, an alternate universe in which Golden Age comic characters age in real time. All-Star Squadron was set during World War II on Earth-Two; as it was in the past of an alternate universe, all its events had repercussions on the contemporary continuity of the DC multiverse. Each issue changed the history of the fictional world in which it was set. In the letters column, a reader remarked that the comic "must make you [the creators] feel at times as if you're painting yourself into a corner", and, "Your matching of Golden Age comics history with new plotlines has been an artistic (and I hope financial!) success." Writer Roy Thomas responded, "we like to think that an enthusiastic ALL-STAR booster at one of Adam Malin's Creation Conventions in San Diego came up with the best name for it a few months back: 'Retroactive Continuity'. Has kind of a ring to it, don't you think?" The term then took firm root in the consciousness of fans of American superhero comics.
At some point, "retroactive continuity" was shortened to "retcon", reportedly by Damian Cugley in 1988 on Usenet. Hard evidence of Cugley's abbreviation has yet to surface, though in a Usenet posting on August 18, 1990, Cugley posted a reply in which he identified himself as "the originator of the word retcon". Cugley used the neologism to describe a development in the comic book Saga of the Swamp Thing, which reinterprets the events of the title character's origin by revealing facts that previously were not part of the narrative and were not intended by earlier writers. From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retroactive_continuity ]
Throughout the Craig films MI6 is constantly under scrutiny by the British Government, especially the parliament, and the 00 agents in particularly are threaten with being shut down. Each movie shows the triumph and the continually need for the 00 agents and MI6 due to the activities of Bond, Q , Money Penny and M.
We and the franchise are now at a cross roads. Craig is due to retire as the current actor playing Bond. All the effort that has gone in to portraying a ‘realistic’ history for the characters is about to be challenged by the insertion of a new actor into the role of Bond. The usual and obvious move for the Franchise is to simply continue the way it has and keep up the pretense that the fact that new actors play the character we are to pretend that this is still the same man, Bond.
I want to speculate on something radically new and different. Something a bit heretical.
It would violate the conceit that the movie franchise is following the books of Ian Fleming. This is of course a true leap of faith and a true fiction. But, hey, who can truly say that the Roger Moore era of Bond films was an accurate portrayal of the Fleming stories that had those titles?
Why not embrace the fact that the movies are based on and inspired by Fleming’s books but they are not to be confused with an attempt to bring the books to the screen.
My radical new tact would be the following, now remember what I am about to suggest is not how the movie franchise has been run. It is not a re-reading of what had gone before; it is creating a new Retcon of the whole franchise.
MY NEW RETCON
My idea would be that M explains to Bond, portrayed by the actor Daniel Craig, the following:
M explains that to keep MI6 going they needed to make a deal with the Parliament and the Government. The deal is that MI6 will be able to keep one and only one active field agent with a 00 license to kill designation. All other agents will be downgraded and no longer have the 00 license to kill. M further explains that Bond is getting old and needs to be retired from activity duty. The job calls for a younger man to be in the field. Bond will be taken off active duty and given a new code name and identity. He will henceforth be called ‘Daniel Craig’ and a new identity will be given to him. He will be put in charge of the training and running of the new 00 agent. The sole 00 agent of the agency. The deal is that henceforth there will only be one active agent, he will be 007 with the code name of ‘James Bond’.
At this time it is revealed that since 1960 the agency has had a long series of 007 agents who have been in the field and have retired. These are now known as Connery, Lazenby, Moore, Dalton, and Brosnan. [In doing this with this new Retcon, all the prior movies become part of the current timeline and history of 007.]
Now, this Retcon means that Bond will always be an agent/actor who is in their late 20’s and active till his mid 40’s. The agent/actor is always replaceable. Each agent/actor is a variation on the theme. Each has their own personal history and bio before taking on the identity of ‘James Bond 007’. Each new movie story can make use of this baggage to add depth and newness to the portrayal of the agent.
Also this means that there is real danger and real threats to the agent 007. He can be killed. He can be critically injured. The agent can be replaced with a new person taking up the identity of 007.
This gives us and the franchise a chance to redo the plot line of Her Majesty’s Secret Service, going into the plot line of You Only Live Twice and flowing into the beginning of The Man with the Golden Gun. Bond can confront a Blofeld who has never seen his face. This new agent Bond can fall in love, marry and have his wife killed by Blofeld. Then the events of You Only Live Twice can play out with this Bond sent on that suicide mission to kill Blofeld and seek revenge. This Bond can be captured and brainwash to return to try an assassinate M. Now, either they stop the attempt by capturing Bond or they kill that agent in the act, either is a possibility since the agent/actor is always replaceable.
I doubt that the movie franchise will take this tact. But I wish it would. It would bring a whole new depth and level of ‘reality’ to the ongoing films.
Long live James Bond 007!