Geopolitics in Bond Films and the growing discord between creative and commercial Bond souls

edited December 2016 in Bond 26 & Beyond Posts: 11,119
I am asking this pivotal question, because I seriously think we are witnessing a global power shift on this planet that would seriously excite Bond's creator Ian Fleming. We all know that the inspiration for the very character of Bond came from his own dealings as a Naval Intelligence officer working on the decoding (Enigma) department.

Ever since then, and until his death he was inspired by the events from the Second World War and the later Cold War. But we also know that during the late 80's détente kicked in. For several decades we experienced relative peace and prosperity in the Western World (USA, Canada, Europe, Australia). On top of that agent 007 wasn't only the personification of Britishness, he was very much so a child of Western Civilization. Yes, he was very much a fierce supporter of Western interests.

But things have rapidly changed since then. We had 9/11, which was already reflected in the Craig-era of Bond films. Ever since Connery's early films we haven't seen so many terrorist attacks in Bond films. It's eery to say, but films like "Casino Royale" and "Skyfall" therefore still feel very much realistic, eerily realistic to be honest.

And now we have more and more conflicts. Starting with.....
--> Islamic State in the Middle East,
--> Islamic State terrorist attacks (Orlando, New York, Madrid, Istanbul, Berlin, Nice, Brussels, London, Paris)
--> failed Arabic Springs in countries like Syria, Tunesia and Lybia,
--> a massive immigrant crisis in Europe,
--> escalations of conflicts in Eastern Ukraine (Crimea),
--> the rise of right-wing (and left-wing) populism in The West,
--> Brexit,
--> the rise of 'Putinism'
--> a failed coup-d'etat in Turkey
--> a Cold War-like relationship between the USA and Russia,
--> the crumbling of the EU,
--> serious cyber terrorism from Russia (Hello Raoul Silva?!!? :-O), and, as of today (29.12.2016)....
--> the most serious sanctions since the end of the Cold War against Russia, issued by the USA.
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I mean, the late Ian Fleming would be wishing to be alive today!

BUT, there's a big 'but'. With the growing shift in the balance of power on the globe, also welfare and financial prosperity are shifting towards other parts of the globe, especially China. China becomes more and more the new world order when we're talking about economics. And the Hollywood movie industry knows this. Already many Hollywood movie companies are teaming up with Chinese producers. Look at the recent productions of Paramount. Even "Skyfall" was in essence a Chinese co-production (a minority share yes, but still), although EON managed to get rid of these ugly Chinese movie logo's. Something which Tom Cruise doesn't care about for his "Mission: Impossible"-franchise.

So what will happen with the plots and storylines of future Bond films? Are we going to reflect politics in Bond films like we have been doing the past 20 years? Not to mention the fact that this was already the case in the Connery- and Moore-era of Bond films ("From Russia With Love"? Hello?? "Octopussy"? Hello?!!?! :-O).

Are creative movie professionals and commercial movie professionals not going to clash on this subject? For the sake of global expansion of agent 007, are the Bond producers going to let Chinese and Russian censorships give more influence on what particular stories they ought to tell? Do we make agent James Bond 007 a double agent that sooner or later actually switches to the Chinese side? Russians are already complaining that "SPECTRE" was 'too serious'. Or are we going to stick to Fleming's premise of the original character; the sole defender and hero of Western interests, thus risking the Bond franchise commercially and/or even lowering market shares within the action-movie blockbuster genre?

I am curious what you all think of this :-).
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Comments

  • w2bondw2bond is indeed a very rare breed
    Posts: 2,096
    Bond can touch on these themes but needs to avoid making a political statement. Blockbuster, needs to remain in the realm of fantasy. Studios wouldn't like to offend any country either least they be blacklisted like DAD in Korea
  • bondjamesbondjames You were expecting someone else?
    edited December 2016 Posts: 23,883
    w2bond wrote: »
    Bond can touch on these themes but needs to avoid making a political statement. Blockbuster, needs to remain in the realm of fantasy. Studios wouldn't like to offend any country either least they be blacklisted like DAD in Korea
    I agree.

    I think Bond would do well to stay apolitical and above the fray. The thing about geopolitics is that it can change by the year, and former rivals can become friends quickly. I think that is increasingly likely in this new multi-polar world, where affiliations are loose and driven by bilateral interests. Turkey and Russia cooperate against ISIL but have differences elsewhere. The US & Russia cooperate on Iran but compete on Ukraine. Etc. Etc. Relationships change must faster these days, and so using real world threats can date a Bond film quickly.

    Therefore I think using an instigator like Spectre (although in a far better way than it was employed in SP) is the way to go. As an example, I think they did a good job using Carver as a trouble maker in TND. Similarly Quantum was well used in QoS as an organization with fingers in many pies.
  • chrisisallchrisisall Brosnan Defender Of The Realm
    Posts: 16,202
    bondjames wrote: »
    As an example, I think they did a good job using Carver as a trouble maker in TND. Similarly Quantum was well used in QoS as an organization with fingers in many pies.
    I am forced to agree with my esteemed colleague here.
  • TripAcesTripAces Universal Exports
    Posts: 4,062
    bondjames wrote: »
    w2bond wrote: »
    Bond can touch on these themes but needs to avoid making a political statement. Blockbuster, needs to remain in the realm of fantasy. Studios wouldn't like to offend any country either least they be blacklisted like DAD in Korea
    I agree.

    I think Bond would do well to stay apolitical and above the fray. The thing about geopolitics is that it can change by the year, and former rivals can become friends quickly. I think that is increasingly likely in this new multi-polar world, where affiliations are loose and driven by bilateral interests. Turkey and Russia cooperate against ISIL but have differences elsewhere. The US & Russia cooperate on Iran but compete on Ukraine. Etc. Etc. Relationships change must faster these days, and so using real world threats can date a Bond film quickly.

    Therefore I think using an instigator like Spectre (although in a far better way than it was employed in SP) is the way to go. As an example, I think they did a good job using Carver as a trouble maker in TND. Similarly Quantum was well used in QoS as an organization with fingers in many pies.

    All of this is true. I view Spectre as an organization hell-bent on making money, not conquering the world. I'm reminded of the Clive Owen film, The International, which I found to be a pretty good thriller.
  • chrisisallchrisisall Brosnan Defender Of The Realm
    Posts: 16,202
    TripAces wrote: »
    I'm reminded of the Clive Owen film, The International, which I found to be a pretty good thriller.
    Actually IMO, a pretty great thriller....
  • I agree with the fact that Bond films should never become 'vehicles of politics'. Hence the fact the Bond producers decided with "FRWL" to replace SMERSH as 'evil villain' with SPECTRE. Because as a crime syndicate SPECTRE was way more neutral.

    But even then we all know that every Bond film, from "DN" until "SP" represents a slightly larger-than-life universe/reality of our real geopolitical environment. It's one of the reasons I love the franchise. But what worries me, is that even that particular aspect -the representation of a slightly larger-than-life geopolitical environment- could be in danger in the near or long-term future.

    Just look at what Chinese censors did with "Skyfall". They basically deleted the scene in which a Chinese guard was killed by Patrice. Even the Chinese subtitles were slightly altered for that reason. And that wasn't even real 'politically motivated criticism'.

    What worries me though, is that in the near future it will become near impossible to create wonderful characters like the rogue Soviet General Orlov in "Octopussy", or to incorporate roles like those of Sergei Barsov in "TSWLM". Not to mention filming 'politically sensitive' locations like Checkpoint Charlie.

    I think it would be a near total loss if we can't use such things anymore in Bond films. They ought to be present in Bond films as well, albeit in a slightly larger-than-life setting. It's what Ian Fleming liked about his creations. And I hope, I sincerely hope that EON Productions shows some backbone not to alter storylines for the sake of commercial gains. I really hope that creativity here doesn't become the victim of commercialism and censorships from Russia or China. I think it could make the Bond franchise in the long end a bit more....hollow and soulless.
  • chrisisallchrisisall Brosnan Defender Of The Realm
    Posts: 16,202

    I really hope that creativity here doesn't become the victim of commercialism and censorships from Russia or China. I think it could make the Bond franchise in the long end a bit more....hollow and soulless.
    Film making in general has suffered because they generally aren't made in real places anymore. There's a bit of soullessness in most movies these days... a removed & digitized look. But you know, change. It's the way of things.
    And yes, the Bond movies will be made with distribution in mind. Creativity will have limitations.
  • bondjamesbondjames You were expecting someone else?
    Posts: 23,883
    chrisisall wrote: »

    I really hope that creativity here doesn't become the victim of commercialism and censorships from Russia or China. I think it could make the Bond franchise in the long end a bit more....hollow and soulless.
    Film making in general has suffered because they generally aren't made in real places anymore. There's a bit of soullessness in most movies these days... a removed & digitized look. But you know, change. It's the way of things.
    And yes, the Bond movies will be made with distribution in mind. Creativity will have limitations.
    Sad but true.
  • bondjames wrote: »
    chrisisall wrote: »

    I really hope that creativity here doesn't become the victim of commercialism and censorships from Russia or China. I think it could make the Bond franchise in the long end a bit more....hollow and soulless.
    Film making in general has suffered because they generally aren't made in real places anymore. There's a bit of soullessness in most movies these days... a removed & digitized look. But you know, change. It's the way of things.
    And yes, the Bond movies will be made with distribution in mind. Creativity will have limitations.
    Sad but true.

    :( Yes, indeed @BondJames. I just hope.....it won't happen too much. Hence I started this topic.
  • bondjamesbondjames You were expecting someone else?
    edited December 2016 Posts: 23,883
    bondjames wrote: »
    chrisisall wrote: »

    I really hope that creativity here doesn't become the victim of commercialism and censorships from Russia or China. I think it could make the Bond franchise in the long end a bit more....hollow and soulless.
    Film making in general has suffered because they generally aren't made in real places anymore. There's a bit of soullessness in most movies these days... a removed & digitized look. But you know, change. It's the way of things.
    And yes, the Bond movies will be made with distribution in mind. Creativity will have limitations.
    Sad but true.

    :( Yes, indeed @BondJames. I just hope.....it won't happen too much. Hence I started this topic.
    I'm actually more concerned about the apparent craving for ever more excessive action these days.

    I think it's a consequence of Bond films having to make money in other markets, and the fact that action translates easier than complex or nuanced dialogue and humour. We were heading in that direction in the 90's before the CR reset, and it looks like we're back to it again (based on the latest installment).

    I've always preferred a lower key, more suspense oriented & personal level of action (like in CR, FRWL, GE etc.) to the big explosion rubbish that we see in other franchises. Bigger is not necessarily better, and inevitably leads to more crappy CGI, which was painfully evident in DAD and more recently (at least for me) in SP. Moreover, CGI is cheaper than real stunt work, just as CGI locations are cheaper than real location work. Shame.
  • edited December 2016 Posts: 154
    Ah, a matter I've written on extensively, even publishing a book on the subject.

    If I may use the name "Bond" to represent the entire 007 machine (its producers, distributors, etc.), I'll make the following statements...

    Bond has always been, and will most likely remain, a complete geopolitical coward.

    Even in the height of the cold war, the Soviet Union (or even communism for that matter), was never Bond's real enemy, not in a single movie, not even FRWL or OP. In fact, several Bond movies feature Soviet or Russian traitors. These traitors are always Bond's enemy. In the movies, an enemy to Russia or the Soviet Union is an enemy to Bond -- always.

    While Bond is indeed a living, breathing icon of western values, especially consumerism, his main villains have usually and traditionally been evil personifications of extreme rogue capitalism (and "rogue" is the operative word here).

    Bond does not so much fight for western democracy as promote globalization. Anytime there is a Bond enemy of a particular nationality, Bond is given allies of that same nationality in order to off-set any perceived racism -- with one very notable exception...

    The Bond movies have featured far more German/Teutonic/Aryan-esque villains than any other type villain. (In fact, Bond sometimes ridicules everyday Germans.) However, Bond has never been given a German ally, not even when the mission/movie is set in Germany and not even when the plot is crawling with German villains (many of the Bond movies). This is in direct contrast to the typical formula of providing Bond with allies of the same nationality as the villains. Why the exception for Germans?

    My thesis/contention is that Bond is simply on-board with the global corporatist media agenda of vilifying Germany as the most successful nationalistic (the Germany of WW II) challenge to globalization. The Germany of WW II represented nationalism in response to globalism. That was a threat to TPTB. We must never be allowed to forget that "only evil, stupid people are nationalistic". Bond is doing his part to make sure we never forget.

    Similarly, Islam will never be vilified. It's doubtful Bond will ever even have the balls to fight radical Islam or Muslim terrorism. The globalists wish to co-opt Islam. Bond is too much the geopolitical coward to go against them. Look what happens when even he comes close to doing so...

    SP
    Bond takes on the Illuminati and globalist government-backed surveillance society. The corporate media ripped the movie apart in its reviews, ensuring that Bond took a severe financial hit at the B.O. for his dared transgression.

    QofS
    The mission/movie highlights the collusion of western governments and big business to control a very vital natural resource (water) needed for life. This was possibly the most realistic story arch in any Bond movie. Again, it was ripped apart in its reviews, and not just for its editing. Many critics specifically sited the plot as "confusing". Yea, right. In fact, few Bond movies, if any, had a plot that made more sense. The plot made too much sense, was too honest in the world it depicted -- and that was the problem.

    TWINE
    The mission/movie highlights the control of oil routes through areas of the world in which the U.S. and other western nations were involved in war (and still are), specifically, among other reasons, to control the area's oil. That damned entertaining moving was also ripped in its reviews.

    I could go on with a couple/few more examples but you get the idea. If Bond gives us a cartoon villain a la Sylva, etc., while continuing to vilify nationalism, the movies will get good reviews from the globalist-backed corporatist media. I expect more of that in Bond's future, though in more subtle and sophisticated form than we've gotten in the past.

  • bondjames wrote: »
    bondjames wrote: »
    chrisisall wrote: »

    I really hope that creativity here doesn't become the victim of commercialism and censorships from Russia or China. I think it could make the Bond franchise in the long end a bit more....hollow and soulless.
    Film making in general has suffered because they generally aren't made in real places anymore. There's a bit of soullessness in most movies these days... a removed & digitized look. But you know, change. It's the way of things.
    And yes, the Bond movies will be made with distribution in mind. Creativity will have limitations.
    Sad but true.

    :( Yes, indeed @BondJames. I just hope.....it won't happen too much. Hence I started this topic.
    I'm actually more concerned about the apparent craving for ever more excessive action these days.

    I think it's a consequence of Bond films having to make money in other markets, and the fact that action translates easier than complex or nuanced dialogue and humour. We were heading in that direction in the 90's before the CR reset, and it looks like we're back to it again (based on the latest installment).

    I've always preferred a lower key, more suspense oriented & personal level of action (like in CR, FRWL, GE etc.) to the big explosion rubbish that we see in other franchises. Bigger is not necessarily better, and inevitably leads to more crappy CGI, which was painfully evident in DAD and more recently (at least for me) in SP. Moreover, CGI is cheaper than real stunt work, just as CGI locations are cheaper than real location work. Shame.

    Wholeheartedly agree here. And indeed, Russian and Chinese markets do everything for more and more and more action, without Fleming-esque dialogue, humour or other more complex storylines. That fact saddens me to be honest.

    The fact that the Chinese prefer the "Fast & Furious"-franchise more than the Bond-franchise is telling to that respect. So I do hope Bond #25 will be applauded as much as recent Bond installments like GE, CR and SF. At least Bond's market in Europe is insanely big as compared to other action franchises.
  • Posts: 11,119
    Do you think Bond #25 will be trendsetting again location-wise?
  • Posts: 231
    I think Bond 25 should actually avoid contemporary issues. Spectre was already sort of about globalism and there's no need to have another film on the same topic.

    Right now we're in an era that's full of hot and volatile emotions. People are angry, and passionate about their opinion, but it's impossible to have a completely objective insight on things now. It would be a mistake to solidify them into a movie that will look really dated 5 years from now.
  • Posts: 11,119
    M16_Cart wrote: »
    I think Bond 25 should actually avoid contemporary issues. Spectre was already sort of about globalism and there's no need to have another film on the same topic.

    Right now we're in an era that's full of hot and volatile emotions. People are angry, and passionate about their opinion, but it's impossible to have a completely objective insight on things now. It would be a mistake to solidify them into a movie that will look really dated 5 years from now.

    But isn´t it true that every Bond film, really every Bond film touches some topical geopolitical developments? The oil/energy crisis in TMWTGG for instance. Or the entire Cold War for instance. Right until TLD.
  • bondjamesbondjames You were expecting someone else?
    edited January 2017 Posts: 23,883
    I think it's ok to touch on contemporary issues of the day, as long as it's vague and opaque. That way it won't date the film if allegiances change in the real world, which they inevitably will given the fast changing pace of things these days, where friends and enemies swap places out of convenience.

    Even TLD (with the Afghani's) was ok to a degree, because Bond used them to go after a bigger threat. There was no expression of opinion on their cause. I realize it's fashionable to hate on the whole Mujaheddin thing nowadays, but at the time they served a geopolitical purpose, just like Turkey (FRWL - shortly after it became a NATO member) did during the cold war. The Taliban today may have restrictive practices, but their fight against the Soviets occupiers then and against the Americans now has some basis.

    The trick is not to get involved in holier than thou moralizing. That's where SP perhaps took it a little far. All it will take is another catastrophic attack on western shores for the public opinion towards defensive monitoring of electronic communication to increase. I'm quite certain that our lives will be increasingly overseen as connected technology becomes more prevalent anyway.
  • ThunderfingerThunderfinger Ostandia
    Posts: 39,983
    You forget that the Taliban fighting the legally elected government, because it was seen as un-islamic, was the sole reason the Russians were asked for help, much like in Syria today.
  • bondjamesbondjames You were expecting someone else?
    edited January 2017 Posts: 23,883
    Then the common thread 'then and now' appears to be radical "the word that cannot be said under the Obama administration" terrorism and the legenday CIA (ironic that they are being held up as a bastion of honesty these days domestically, even though they are in effect the American KGB).
  • Posts: 231
    There was a sense of unity in the west on issues like terrorism, energy and even the Cold War. I don't think the funding of the Muhajideen was nearly as hot button of an issue as Brexit is now, correct me if I'm wrong.
  • bondjamesbondjames You were expecting someone else?
    edited January 2017 Posts: 23,883
    M16_Cart wrote: »
    There was a sense of unity in the west on issues like terrorism, energy and even the Cold War. I don't think the funding of the Muhajideen was nearly as hot button of an issue as Brexit is now, correct me if I'm wrong.
    I think you're correct that the battle lines were more clearly drawn between the West and the East in the past. That has become somewhat blurred of late. That's why everything seems more nebulous in Bond films. I think QoS captured this new uncertain and worrisome dynamic best (far better than SP).
  • Posts: 11,119
    So, we shouldn't have used the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie and many other 'sensitive' plot elements that basically showed all the weakness of the Soviet Union in "Octopussy"? Moreover, can't we agree on the fact that history can repeat itself? So that populist chants like "The West is decadent! And divided!", uttered by General Orlov, actually become common knowledge again in today's geopolitical world?

    And all of that....we can't use in a future Bond film? We now should not continue to portray Russia like it is today. because James Bond 007 is foremost a protector of British interests, and indirectly those of Western interests?

    I say: No. Let's keep doing that like always. It's Commander James Bond of the British Secret Service. Not Comrade Bond of Putin's KGB.
  • bondjamesbondjames You were expecting someone else?
    Posts: 23,883
    The Bond films of yore didn't go out of their way to make political statements on Russia or the Soviet Union, other than to show them as a geopolitical rival. That's how they should continue to do it. Any attempts at overt contemporary political relevance (as opposed to incidental inferences) will fall flat and date future films. Keep in mind that the US & West just wants Putin out. It actually wants to work with Russia on common interests.
  • Posts: 11,119
    This recent news article in which Neal Purvis & Robert Wade openly talked about a certain loss of inspiration ever since Donald Trump became president, fits in this topic perfectly:

    http://metro.co.uk/2017/01/27/donald-trump-may-have-ruined-the-possibility-of-another-great-james-bond-movie-6410019/

    But it also angers me. Since WHEN have geopolitics become a burden and not an assett?? I mean really, look to the "Kingsman"-franchise, the "Mission: Impossible"-franchise and other spy films like "Jason Bourne". Ian Fleming would have LOVED to live in the current-day geopolitical environment. And it would have given him wings...from a creative point of view!

    Also, espionage is among us ALWAYS. We know how real-life espionage works these days, since former MI6-agent Christopher Steele's work about Russia and Trump have been leaked. THAT should give you plentiful inspiration to come up with another great Bond-spy-story in the vein of "FRWL", "OHMSS", "CR" and "SF"!

    Yet Neal Purvis & Robert Wade come across as a bunch of lacklustre screenwriters who've lost every bit of inspiration for the Bond franchise (Let's not forget what John Logan did for the past two Bond films). I say: Time to search for fresh new screenplay/story writers.

    Perhaps they can ask Dynamite Comics?? Or Anthony Horowitz?? I think the time has come to officially ask the creators of original new Bond stories to come onboard. Now is the time! And if you don't like that idea? Then at LEAST look to the wealth of stuff happening in geopolitics and let it inspire you!
  • QuantumOrganizationQuantumOrganization We have people everywhere
    Posts: 1,187
    I second Anthony Horowitz.
  • Posts: 11,119
    Perhaps this is the reason he will continue the Bond novels, like John Gardner and Raymond Benson did before him :-)? Would be awesome if they adapt "Trigger Mortis" in today's geopolitical setting. A bit like I did with "Murder On Wheels".
  • Anyone else think Neal Purvis & Robert Wade should completely quit the Bond franchise?
  • MurdockMurdock Mr. 2000
    Posts: 16,035
    I think so. We are in desperate need of new writers for Bond.
  • edited February 2017 Posts: 3,128
    I think my bona fides as a Trump opponent are fairly well established on this forum. I've also been a supporter of the efforts of Purvis & Wade on several threads at various times in the past. This time, I'm afraid I must agree with @Gustav & @Murdock: if the current political scene leaves P&W at a loss for ideas as to how to continue with plots for future Bond films, then they really need to step aside for awhile.

    Quantum of Solace gives us a good idea of one way to move ahead in the current political climate: Felix Leiter is under orders to proceed in a direction that he profoundly objects to. (We need to delve too deeply into who gives him those orders or why.) Ostensibly obeying the orders, he alerts Bond, who then moves to thwart this ill-considered direction by the Western powers. Again, Bond is opposed by all sides: his own as well as those of the clandestine bad guys. There: basic theme established and it's totally in keeping with the current CraigBond plot-lines. (Whether or not it's time to move on from those plots is beside the point. If Craig re-signs you can bet we'll be seeing more of the same. If he doesn't, all bets are off until the next Bond is selected.)
  • pking_3pking_3 Punting under the Bridge of Sighs
    Posts: 33
    Although American, not British, I would imagine today's interesting convolutions between executive office "bosses" and intelligence lifers would make for a fruitful playground for a Bond yarn. Particularly pump-primed if they stick with the current cast for one more go-around...

    Meaning Mallory's M has already been well-established as a bit of a fencewalker, torn between serving the public "duty" and the more traditional machiavillian shifty-spy impulses of his predecessor(s). What do we do given a PM or president that is actively hoping to prevent intelligence agencies from doing their jobs, or at least having credibility/potency...given that intelligence's job is quite possibly best done by dismantling/exposing their boss now?

    A bit of an echo of some QOS themes, I suppose...but could be tackled much less opaquely and satisfyingly, particularly given James perch within his stories and our pop culture as Jungian archetype rather than agent.

    At least, I could see that path being rewarding for the next storyteller.
  • DragonpolDragonpol The Crazy World of David Dragonpol
    Posts: 13,926
    Anyone else think Neal Purvis & Robert Wade should completely quit the Bond franchise?

    Yes, we are many I am sure.

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