‘Bond 25’: Out with the Old, In with the New

What to expect from Scott Z. Burns and his take on James Bond.
James Bond Casino Royale
By  · Published on February 21st, 2019

Filmmaker Scott Z. Burns, who just received tons of buzz at Sundance for his latest movie, The Report, has been brought in to rewrite the next James Bond movie, according to The Playlist. Having worked on such films as The Informant! and The Bourne Ultimatum, Burns is no stranger to the action and mystery genres relevant to the 007 franchise.

With the plan being for Burns to do a script overhaul, it’s no surprise that the latest installment of the series is being delayed, again. Breaking from the tradition set by the past eight films, Bond 25 is no longer scheduled for a late fall release date. The change in director previously delayed the film until February 14, 2020, and now the addition of Burns further postpones the release to April 8, 2020.

Although it seems like a random day in spring, April 8th was the US release date for From Russia With Love back in 1963. Arguably, that is one of the best films in the franchise and it wouldn’t be a stretch to consider this new release date as a way to pay homage to it. Being the 25th film in a franchise is a milestone accomplishment, period, and it deserves some sort of celebration. To some, this occasion should warrant multiple references to the older, successful predecessors beyond just the new release date. However, the question that remains is where to draw the line between having throwbacks to the classics and overpowering the new story Burns wants to tell.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with having Easter eggs since they are a way to connect with the dedicated followers of the franchise. The films with Daniel Craig as the iconic MI6 superspy have chosen to highlight the nostalgic elements more than the series had in the past. Take 2006’s Casino Royale, in which in a poker game Bond wins a 1964 Aston Martin DB5, better known as the car from Goldfinger, and there’s a moment where Craig emerges from the sea in a swimsuit as an homage to Dr. No‘s iconic bit with Ursula Andress (and its already redone bit in Die Another Day with Halle Berry), and later Bond is told to not “expect the cavalry to ride in and save you,” referring to the chaotic ending of the parodic 1967 version of Casino Royale. These references are clear but still subtle enough to not take away from the plot.

It’s unreasonable to expect everyone buying a ticket to Bond 25 has seen all of the previous films, and having too many references to them can confuse the newer viewers. The goal for the Burns version of Bond 25 should be to find the balance between satisfying the loyal viewers and appealing to a new crowd. With a franchise that is older than man’s first trip to the Moon, it needs to adapt if it wants to continue for another 25 films. What audiences wanted almost 60 years ago is completely different than what today’s audiences crave. It’s going to take more than references to expensive cars, neat spy gadgets, and a few shaken, not stirred, martinis to convince the next generation to keep James Bond around for another adventure.

The benefits for ignoring the temptation of filling the script with Easter eggs is to look at the most recent installments in the series, Skyfall and Spectre. Skyfall is the film that shines the brightest in the Craig-era both in its plot and its box office. Skyfall avoids having a reference in every major scene, and unfortunately, this technique was left out in the production for Spectre. There was Bond’s Day of the Dead disguise (see Live and Let Die), a wild boat chase (see The World is Not Enough), a fight on a train (see The Spy Who Loved Me or Live and Let Die), and the white tux and red carnation combo (see Goldfinger). Essentially, Spectre was fun for a James Bond trivia night but not as interesting for a viewer who’s never seen the spy in action before.

On the other hand, sometimes an Easter egg can help a film appeal to both old and new audiences. The intention with Craig was to reboot the franchise, so these Easter eggs could be a way to reassure the older fans that this is still the Bond, James Bond they know and love. One of the most notable Easter eggs from the film was that swimsuit scene in Casino Royale where a man gets objectified rather than a Bond girl. This twist of the classic Bond trope of oversexualizing women both refers to the original films and gets rid of something that would deter modern audiences. In a sense, the Easter egg helped satisfy fans dedicated to the franchise and allowed the film to progress as a whole at the same time.

Bond 25 is a milestone for the franchise, but it shouldn’t be limited as a way to recap on everything James Bond has done. Instead, the new film should look to doing things Bond hasn’t. Rather than a plethora of Easter eggs, the new script for Bond 25 should keep its focus on having a well put together storyline. Too many distractions for the sake of nostalgia could make this film feel like a collage of old good ideas with nothing new to entice an audience outside of the Bond-for-life fans.

Hopefully, the Burns script for Bond 25 sticks to its roots and gives us the action-driven mystery that has made James Bond the fourth highest-grossing film franchise worldwide. The new film has the potential to make a statement that the story of James Bond can connect to audiences without relying on allusions to successful predecessors. What audiences want is for Burns to focus on creating a new interpretation of the same character and not try to duplicate someone else’s. The only thing left to do now is to count the days until April 8, 2020, to see if Burns helped make a two-hour long James Bond clip show or an incredible action movie.

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