It’s not a controversial thing to say that Skyfall is one of the best James Bond films ever made. In reality, it’s almost becoming fact. The film makes brilliant use of absolutely everything we love about 007 while operating within a story that is both action-packed and cerebral. But perhaps what’s most exciting about the movie is just how excited it’s making everyone for the future of the franchise. The latest installment sheds new light on the character and shows him evolving for the modern world. But where does that leave the classic elements of the Bond we know and love?
One such important element is Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the villain long seen to be Bond’s greatest nemesis. After seeing so many elements celebrating what makes James Bond James Bond in Skyfall, some, including our own Sean O’Connell, are keen on the franchise going back and bringing the archrival into the modern day continuity. Others, however, like our own Eric Eisenberg, are against the idea, feeling that Sam Mendes’ film illustrates why the superspy has to evolve and move forward. Who is right? Let’s start the Great Debate!
SPOILER WARNING: You might not want to read this if you haven't already seen Skyfall.
Sean: By now, Eric, I think everyone who's seen Skyfall realize that Sam Mendes expertly blended the classic Bond elements -- the parts fans have always adored about the franchise -- with contemporary action touches. The movie debated Bond's place in the modern spy game, and England's need for his particular set of skills, but still made plenty of nods to the classic Bond bits that have made him an icon. And I'd like to see them roll one more classic Bond bit into Craig's next film. Blofeld should be the next villain.
Eric: My main problem with that idea is the "just one more" approach, though. You mention that the movie includes a bunch of the classic Bond references, but I think it's just as important to note how the movie also kind of makes a joke out of them. Q is a young guy who makes jokes about lab coats and exploding pens. Silva openly laughs at the idea of the cat and mouse chases and serving for Queen and country. It's even explained that the "golden age of espionage" is dead. Skyfall makes the point that in order to survive, James Bond needs to evolve and move forward. And bringing back Blofeld is nothing but a step in the wrong direction.
Sean: Maybe. I mean, I see what you mean. And if they kept Blofeld as cheesy and campy as he was back in Thunderball or You Only Live Twice (though that worked for the time), it would be a mistake. Although it's worth mentioning that Craig, himself, told EW in their recent cover story, "That villain with the cat on his lap, let's bring him back! Mike Myers took him, and we have to reclaim him!"
However, now that Craig has firmly established his tone as the "realistic" and "gritty" Bond, I think the producers can properly plan ahead by establishing Blofeld as a recurring threat who lords over Craig's revamped 007 universe without suddenly going campy in ways the Craig Bond movies have not had to do yet.
Bardem's performance as Silva tipped me off to the possibility. And if the folks at Eon were able to get an actor of Bardem's caliber to commit to a multi-picture deal to play a legitimate Blofeld -- trading scenes with actors like Craig, Ralph Fiennes and Naomie Harris -- that's a tantalizing proposition for a fresh take on the nemesis. You don't think that could work?
Eric: Well, I think it's worth mentioning that the rebooted bond with Craig already did try and go the SPECTRE route with Quantum in the last two movies, and clearly that didn't work out so well. But really, my bigger problem is just the idea of bringing something as specific as Blofeld back. Blofeld has been done, and now more than ever is the time for originality.
That said, I actually have no problem with the idea of an overarching villain in the general sense. Hell, The Avengers just did it with Thanos and I can't wait how that character fits into the larger Marvel Universe. But bringing back Blofeld specifically would be a mistake. Again, they blew up the Aston Martin for a reason.
Sean: Well, you are right that Quantum failed. Miserably. Yet it was a good idea and one that I think the producers could explore with Craig's next pictures. But what I think Craig's Bond can use now that Connery and Moore had) to their benefit) is the recurring foil. I remember, as a kid, how much fun it was to see "Jaws" return in Moonraker. He was such a good villain, and Moore's Bond enjoyed verbally sparring with him. I think a recurring villain could further establish Bonds foothold. Every hero needs a proper nemesis. I feel that if Craig keeps taking on single-serving villains that only last for one movie, it will weaken his "brand." That's why I was intrigued by that rumor that the next two Bond movies could bridge one big story (until Craig sort of shot that rumor down).
Eric: They really just have to be careful about how they do it. The idea of global terror organizations trying to take over the world is a very Cold War-era concept and really doesn't really apply much today. Of course there are still terror organizations, but they operate in a very different way. I think you can still have fun and elements of camp - I thought there were some very funny parts in Skyfall - but you don't want to push it too far. Bond is a rare character that has existed in movies for 50 years now and has seen the spy genre change to a ridiculous degree. I just don't think it makes sense to keep him pinned in the past.
Sean: But what about al-Qaeda?
Eric: It's a fair point, but can you really compare the motivations and ideologies of SPECTRE with those of al-Qaeda? They're related, absolutely, but their methods and operations aren't exactly similar Not that I profess to be an expert on the matter.
Sean: I see your point. Truthfully, I think that you could introduce a new global terrorist group that is contemporary, ripped-from-the-headlines, and dangerous. A group that is going to be a headache for MI6 and Bond for years to come. And you could call the head Blofeld, and Bond fans would be satisfied. But I do understand your point about letting go of the past and moving on. I'm a little afraid the Iron Man series is trying too hard to reference its past to please fans by bringing in The Mandarin, who does not look contemporary. Maybe Blofeld would look as out of place in a new Bond movie. You might be right.
Eric: It's somewhat strange that we've kind of flipped arguments here, but you can also look at a character like Moriarty on BBC's Sherlock and see how an updated villain can work - albeit that's a much simpler kind of thing to do.
It all comes down to the approach. If they try and recreate Blofeld exactly as he was it would be the biggest mistake they could possibly make with the franchise. I'm still not keen on the idea, though just because I think it goes against the point.