The James Bond franchise is one of the most enduring and successful in cinema history. Spanning over six decades and twenty-five films, the franchise has captivated audiences with its thrilling action sequences, exotic locales, and suave protagonist. However, in recent years, the franchise has faced criticism for its outdated tropes and lack of diversity.
In the wake of Daniel Craig’s departure from the role of James Bond, producer Barbara Broccoli has expressed a desire to modernize the franchise. In an interview with Variety, Broccoli stated that the producers are “not interested in doing a safe version of Bond” and that they are “looking for someone to come in and really make their own mark.”
Modernizing the Character of James Bond
One of the most significant ways in which the James Bond franchise can be modernized is by updating the character of James Bond himself. Bond is often criticized for being a relic of a bygone era, a womanizing misogynist who relies on violence to solve his problems.
In order to appeal to modern audiences, the franchise needs to create a Bond who is more in touch with contemporary values. This could involve making Bond more respectful of women, less reliant on violence, and more emotionally intelligent.
Some possibilities for modernizing Bond’s character include:
- Showing him capable of having meaningful relationships with women, not just using them for sex
- Developing his character beyond the womanizing playboy trope
- Making him reject violence as the default solution, using his wits more
- Portraying him as vulnerable at times, not just an unstoppable masculine force
- Giving him character growth and deeper emotions beyond the wisecracks and swagger
The key is balancing the essence of Bond’s appeal – the daring, physical confidence, style and swagger – while making him feel like a fully realized person rather than a masculine caricature. This would help the character resonate more with modern audiences who expect greater nuance and depth.
Diversifying the Cast and Crew
Another important way to modernize the James Bond franchise is to diversify the cast and crew. The franchise has a long history of casting white men in the lead role, and this lack of diversity has been increasingly criticized in recent years.
The producers have expressed a willingness to cast a non-white actor as the next James Bond, and this would be a significant step forward for the franchise. Additionally, the franchise should make an effort to hire more women and people of color in behind-the-scenes roles.
Specific ways the films could diversify include:
- Casting a person of color or a woman as the next James Bond
- Featuring more prominent female characters who are well-developed, not just eye candy
- Hiring more women and minority directors, writers, cinematographers, etc.
- Setting films in more international locations with local supporting characters
- Making diversity a goal not just in casting but in crafting nuanced stories that don’t rely on tropes
Diversifying the talent both in front of and behind the camera would help freshen up the franchise and shed its image as an outdated “old boys club.” The women and minority creators could bring exciting new perspectives to the iconic elements of the Bond films.
Updating the Storytelling
In addition to updating the character of James Bond and diversifying the cast and crew, the franchise also needs to update its storytelling. The Bond films have often been criticized for their reliance on outdated tropes, such as the damsel in distress and the evil mastermind.
In order to appeal to modern audiences, the franchise needs to tell stories that are more relevant to the contemporary world. This could involve exploring themes such as:
- Technology and cyberwarfare rather than far-fetched supervillain plots
- The ethical dilemmas of spywork in a complex geopolitical landscape
- More nuanced motivations beyond simple good vs evil
- Environmental threats and climate change as global dangers
- Personal stories about the toll of violence on Bond and the people around him
The core action and intrigue of Bond films can remain but be adapted to real-world issues that engage modern viewers. The films can still provide exciting escapes but ground them in stories more meaningful to the current social context.
Shaking up the standard Bond film structure could also help revitalize the storytelling. Experimenting with elements like nonlinear narratives, more ensemble casts, and high stakes beyond massive explosions could make the franchise feel fresh.
The James Bond franchise is at a crossroads. It can either continue to cling to its outdated tropes and risk becoming irrelevant, or it can embrace modernization and continue to be a successful and popular franchise for years to come.
The producers have expressed a willingness to modernize the franchise, and this is a promising sign. However, it remains to be seen whether they will follow through on their promises. Only time will tell whether the James Bond franchise can successfully adapt to the 21st century.
With some creativity and commitment to meaningful change, James Bond can retain his iconic appeal while shedding the aspects that make him feel outdated. The franchise has the opportunity to not just modernize but lead the way in showing that action blockbusters can reflect contemporary values and diversity while still providing thrilling escapist entertainment. If done well, a modern Bond could thrive for decades more on the big screen.