Wednesday, March 6, 2013
How about Kathryn Bigelow to direct "Bond 24"?
I just read that director Sam Mendes has officially declared that he's not returning to do "Bond 24," the next entry in the James Bond series. This is a disappointment to fans of the series, who felt that he brought something unique to "Skyfall" (2012) that helped distinguish it as a superior James Bond film. Christopher Nolan is a name often suggested by fans to helm the next Bond movie. While I completely agree that he would make a great Bond movie, I think he would make a film that might be too similar to "Skyfall," if the tone of his "Dark Knight" trilogy of films is any indication. While that is not a bad idea at all to have another film similar to "Skyfall," I think the next Bond movie should continue to forge new paths for the series and not just imitate what came immediately before. I have a suggestion for someone who I think would also do a fantastic job and also bring a different perspective on the series. Kathryn Bigelow.
I realize Bigelow might be a controversial suggestion given the acrimony from political reactionaries surrounding her latest film "Zero Dark Thirty" (2012) and its depiction of torture. Perhaps Bigelow might be considered too risky to be associated with the Bond series. After all, it is a series that has always appealed to the widest demographic of moviegoers. But, in the last few years, producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson have made conscientious choices that demonstrate the extent that they are willing to take risks with the series. I hope the political controversy surrounding "Zero Dark Thirty" does not dissuade them from putting her on their short list of "Bond 24" directorial candidates. In fact, I suspect, given the way "Skyfall" was overlooked at Oscar-time, that they would welcome working with a filmmaker who evokes a strong reaction from a certain segment of the public in order to continue sending a clear message to Hollywood that they intend to keep pushing the envelope with Bond. Hiring Kathryn Bigelow would be another significant step by Broccoli and Wilson in their continuing, largely successful, efforts to bring legitimacy to Bond.
There are a variety of reasons why I think Bigelow would do a great job directing "Bond 24." She's an Oscar-winning filmmaker with an acumen for films with action and suspense. She's a visually-oriented storyteller who will ensure that "Bond 24" will continue the trend set by "Skyfall" of creating a film that will be absolutely stunning to look at. As reflected in the Oscar-nominations for actors Jessica Chastain (in "Zero Dark Thirty") and Jeremy Renner (for "The Hurt Locker"), she has sensitivity when it comes to directing actors and is the rare action filmmaker who knows how to emphasize story and character in her films. Her work on "Zero Dark Thirty" proves that she has immense confidence in knowing how to direct a large-scale, epic movie involving international locations and multiple elements, which is one of the trademark characteristics of a Bond movie. There's no doubt that she would be an effective ringleader in a three-ring Bond circus.
Even though "Zero Dark Thirty" became subject to wide debate about its factual accuracy, no one can doubt the earthy manner in which Bigelow portrayed the intelligence community in her film. She brought a unique perspective to a milieu and subject matter we've seen portrayed in countless other films and TV shows. And her interview with the New York Times, where she continually gave credit to key members of her crew for the artistic excellence of "Zero Dark Thirty," instead of focusing only on herself like other directors would, suggests that she is a very generous and effective leader on a film set. This is an important quality for anyone directing a Bond movie to have as they must skillfully guide the path of a major film involving hundreds of cast and crew members through a lengthy shooting and post-production schedule lasting up to a year. This also suggests that Bigelow would be able to build a strong, diplomatic relationship with Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson where she would be able to work with them to bring her own unique vision to "Bond 24," while at the same time acknowledge the iconic elements that define a Bond movie.
Bigelow also appears to have a strong relationship with Sony Pictures' co-chair Amy Pascal, who came to her defense when "Zero Dark Thirty" (which was distributed by Sony) was criticized by some reactionaries as purportedly advocating torture. This is important, as Sony Pictures is co-financing and distributing "Bond 24," and it's helpful that whoever is directing this film is someone that Amy Pascal has great faith in. Also, even though Bigelow has directed many films whose central characters are strong-willed men like Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson in "K-19: The Widowmaker" (2002), and is by no means a filmmaker who shows preferential treatment to women, she demonstrated in films like "Strange Days" (1995) and "Zero Dark Thirty" that she knows how to create good parts for women in her films. After the disappointingly small roles that Eve Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Severine (Berenice Marlohe) played in "Skyfall," it would be nice to know that there's a filmmaker at the helm of "Bond 24" who won't pay short shrift to the Bond Girls the way Sam Mendes did in "Skyfall." (Also, Ralph Fiennes--the new "M" in the Bond series, worked with Bigelow on "Strange Days," and that may help establish a strong working rapport between the two to ensure that the new "M" remains a vital element in the new film.)
I hope I am not being patronizing or condescending by calling attention to her gender, but I think having Kathryn Bigelow at the helm of "Bond 24" would also go a long way to help silence any of Bond's naysayers who continually characterize the series as sexist and misogynist. Anyone who has watched the series as a whole realizes that there are a variety of different portrayals of women on-screen in the Bond series, and so it doesn't deserve that unfair label that persists to this day. (Especially because there is already a strong female presence behind-the-scenes on the Bond series with producer Barbara Broccoli carrying on the family tradition set by her father Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli.) Since there was some criticism that "Skyfall" killed off Judi Dench's "M" and replaced her with a younger male (Ralph Fiennes' Mallory) who is now in-charge of MI-6, which was perceived as a patriarchal reassertion of authority in the series, I think Bigelow's participation would help to quiet any critics who feel the Bond series lost a strong female presence with the death of Dench's character in the last film. With Kathryn Bigelow on board, Bond would still be taking direction from a woman. But instead of it being a fictional female character on-screen playing Bond's boss, we would have a talented and authoritative woman in real-life directing the actions and activities of Daniel Craig's James Bond, and all the other characters, in "Bond 24."