One of the big requests from fans over the years has been for the films to finally realised the unused content from the original novels, and the big three that people call for are a) the Garden of Death, b) the aborted assassination attempt on M, and c) a straight adaptation of <i>Moonraker</i>. There are other bits and pieces from novels and short stories that have so far been unused, but most people call for those three. This led me to ask the following question: <i>can</i> they actually be filmed? It might be nice to see those scenes played out on the silver screen, but I suspected that some of the content was deliberately left out by EON because it was unfilmable. So with this in mind, I got my hands on copies of <i>You Only Live Twice</i>, <i>The Man with the Golden Gun</i> and <i>Moonraker</i>.
And I have to say, the results weren't good.
Of the three, the failed assassination attempt is probably the only one that can be readily adapted to film. But the Garden of Death and <i>Moonraker</i> have content that makes them very difficult - if not impossible - to use.
First, <i>Moonraker</i>. The biggest problem in adapting it is in the way it is so firmly set in post-War Europe. Large parts of the plot hinge on Drax's motivation as a dedicated Nazi, wanting to seek revenge for the Allied victory over Berlin. By the time BOND 24 comes to be made (assuming it is not used in BOND 23), the Nazis will have been extinct for nearly three-quarters of a century, and thus would not be very convincing villains. And resurgent Nazi groups have been a staple of action films for years. Naturally, the path forward would be to update Drax's character to something more modern - but it's already been done. Their backstories and the finer points of their characters may differ slightly, but Alec Trevalyan was essentially built along the same scaffold: a foreign national who was accepted as a British citizen, but grew to resent them and planned retribution by detonating a nuclear device over London and playing the stock market the day before to make a massive profit.
The second problem with <i>Moonraker</i> is the Moonraker itself. It is heralded as England's saving grace, a missile that can reach any city on the European continent because it is more-advanced than any weapon in the Soviet arsenal. The Moonraker was created early in the Cold War, and is probably best described as an early prototype of an intercontinental ballistic missile. The Moonraker itself would be outdated compared to missiles of today. Therefore, it would be a weak plot device in 2011 and beyond. Even then, it can be re-written slightly; the Moonraker could be a weapon built in 2011 to 1955 plans so that the early-warning detection systems do not recognise it as a missile. All the same, there is a massive challenge in the way <i>Moonraker</i> is firmly rooted in the mid-1950s.
Even if <i>Moonraker</i> can be adapted, <i>You Only Live Twice</i> is even harder. I agree, the Garden of Death is a fantastic location, and would no doubt be the epitome of James Bond locations if it were used. But, like <i>Moonraker</i>, the difficulty of adapting it lies in complications of the plot - complications that might make it impossible to film.
The driving factor of the plot is MI6's desire to gain access to Magic-44. In exchange for a steady stream of intelligence, Tiger Tanaka asks Bond to kill Ernst Stavro Blofeld/Doctor Guntram Shatterhand because he himself cannot. Blofeld has positioned himself as a wealthy and respected botanist, a guest of Japan held in high esteem by the Diet. But his castle grounds are populated by toxic flora and fauna, making it appealing to people who wish to commit suicide. Tanaka cannot act against Blofeld because technically, Blofeld has committed no crime (yes, his guards kill the suicide who thought better of it, but Bond could not prove it if challenged). He is simply studying the toxicology of plants and animals on private property, using his research to aid pharmaceutical developments. The suicides are the ones who break the law, trespassing on castle grounds.
The fact that Tanaka cannot act against Blofeld is not the issue here. His reasons for being unable to act are. The Garden of Death is politically-embarrassing because it encourage suicides. Suicide in Japan is a politically- and socially-sensitive issue; the country currently has the fifth-highest suicide rate in the world. Suicide itself is a very touchy issue, even when handled seriously (in 2002, an independent horror film called <i>Suicide Circle</i> was released, stirring up controversy), and the Bond films are far from serious films. Portraying Japan as a nation were suicide is considered acceptable and even encouraged is very dangerous territory to stray into, even without the general light-heartedness of the Bond films. Because of this, I think it may be incredibly difficult - if not impossible - to adapt the Garden of Death into a film.
So, can the hiterto-unused Fleming material be adapted for a modern film? If not, why not? And if so, how would you update it for 2011?