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Editorial | Zack Snyder and James Bond – Shaken and Stirred

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In April 2021, EON Productions will finally release NO TIME TO DIE, Bond’s 25th official movie and the last one to star Daniel Craig as secret agent Double-O Seven.

Following that, the producers will be looking at another reboot – with a new approach for a new era, with a new Bond actor and a new direction. I think Zack Snyder would be an excellent choice.

THE BOND EXPERIENCE

Bond fans expect certain conventions from a Bond movie. Think of the gun barrel shot, the pre-titles action sequence, the visually arresting titles. Then add guns, tuxedoes, cars, casinos, women and tremendous stunts. In a franchise that has survived nearly sixty years, multiple directors and six Bond actors, it is reassuring when the conventions are in place. Changes to the format can be hit or miss for audiences. (Although arguably Lee Tamahori’s Die Another Day took the Bond stereotypical Bond format way too far resulting in another unsatisfactory end-product).

CROSSING GENRES

Snyder’s movies have already crossed a few genres, from the horror of Dawn of the Dead, to the family adventure the Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole. His translation of graphic novels 300 and Watchmen to the screen, the unique blend of action and fantasy in Sucker Punch, and of course to the superhero movies of Man of Steel, Batman V Superman and the upcoming Zack Snyder’s Justice League are well loved.

Batman V Superman, like it or hate it, cannot be faulted for its ambition, and how it seamlessly crosses genres like superhero, fantasy, science-fiction, political thriller, and suspense drama.

So what is it about Zack Snyder that could be a good fit for Bond?

1.Shot composition and Lighting

Snyder is famed for his visuals, his shots meticulously planned and storyboarded. His work with his cinematographers shows that he creates wonderfully composed images which tell the story.

Sure, few people go to see James Bond because of the cinematography, but even a look at Daniel Craig’s films show gorgeous colours in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. The luxurious rich tones and composition of Skyfall and Spectre have shown that spy action movies can look good too.

2. Blistering Fight Choreography and Action

Snyder’s use of stylised action has been ground-breaking.  The visuals in the fight scenes in 300, his use of speed ramping (where the picture can speed up or slow down mid shot), and crash zooms have added dynamism to old-school shots of extras hitting each other with swords on a muddy battlefield. Such technical trickery might not suit Bond though – indeed the few moments of speed ramping in Die Another Day feel really out of place. But a director with expertise in blending practical and digital technology would definitely be of value.

Snyder’s execution of fight scenes in conjunction with his camerawork make them nerve-wracking to watch – and yet the choreography is so skilled that at no point are you disoriented.  Quantum of Solace is often criticised for moments of so-called “choppy” editing and shaky-cam like The Bourne Supremacy (creatives from the Bourne franchise worked on QoS), and while some found this an eye-opening shot in the arm for the fight scenes, many viewers were confused. It seems unlikely that Snyder would alienate the audience like that – one need only watch the Batman Warehouse fight scene in BvS to see a complex action scene so well crafted.

3. The Hero’s Journey

Snyder loves storytelling and in particular elements of Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero’s Journey” where the protagonist, on their journey to achieve their aim, must travel through adversity, deal with conflict, and perhaps despair, before finally rising to meet the challenge and triumph. Campbell’s writings have inspired many filmmakers (hello, George Lucas), and Snyder’s take on superheroes is steeped in that journey.

Man of Steel is a tremendous reboot of a classic character and Kal-el certainly has troubles on his journey.  The film shows the arrival of the alien and how he must learn how to be human, despite the despair he experiences.  He adopts the hero role but then meets resistance in Batman V Superman, and in the upcoming Zack Snyder’s Justice League, also premiering in Spring 2021, we will see the completion of that character arc.

The films are full of spectacle and adventure, but at heart, they are about individuals dealing with life, loss, and love, and trying to figure out who they really are.

THE PITCH

So here’s my pitch for Bond 26: adapt the unused opening of the novel The Man With The Golden Gun. Bond has been missing for a year, and returns to MI6 in London to explain himself – before attempting to murder his boss M.  Imagine a Snyder pre-titles sequence with the new 007 leading an action-packed attack, disarming goons, and about to assassinate his own chief.

Bond has amnesia and has been brainwashed, so he doesn’t recognise the face in the mirror.  He spends the rest of the film learning to be Bond again and earning his Double-O Seven status.  This hero’s quest for identity could be just the opening the new Bond and the new film needs to a whole new audience. And the audience would be on that journey with the unfamiliar Bond face.

4. The Talent

Bond movies have always tried to use the best actors to play both heroes and villains: Mads Mikkelsen, Jeffrey Wright, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Judi Dench, Robert Carlyle, Michelle Yeoh, Jonathan Pryce, Christopher Walken and many more.

A brief look at Snyder’s films shows excellence in casting.  For Man of Steel alone he had Russell Crowe, Diane Lane, and Kevin Costner in the supporting roles of the parents!  And Michael Shannon’s Zod is for many one of the best villains.

One legacy of Bond is that of the “Bond Girl”. While we may roll our eyes now at the very concept, it’s interesting to note that the Bond girls who contribute the physique of a swimwear model and little else are few and far between.  Most Bond females are extremely strong – Honey Ryder in Dr No has great scenes, Tatiana Romanova in From Russia with Love is a double agent, Pussy Galore in Goldfinger runs her own business and negotiates with the villains with confidence.  And in Thunderball we have one of the very best villains in Fiona Volpe.  That’s just the first four films. Weaker female characters creep in, especially during the Roger Moore 1970s movies, but the “Bond girl” is more of a marketing gimmick than an indicator of the females in the story.

Craig’s films have had engrossing and strong female characters by Eva Green, Olga Kurylenko, Judi Dench, Naomie Harris, Bérénice Marlohe, Monica Bellucci and Léa Seydoux.

Snyder’s Sucker Punch is unfairly bruised by Angry Film Twitter because some of the costumes are misinterpreted, but the story of empowerment is delivered by a great female cast.  Amy Adams makes for a non-traditional but very welcome Lois Lane and Snyder’s casting of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman is an ongoing triumph.

As Bond ladies can speak for themselves, then maybe a director with a gift for casting premier performers would be a gift to Bond?

TIME TO WEAR THE TUX?

Actors seem to love Zack Snyder, and many are vocal about how generous he is and how he nurtures a supportive environment.  He has also nurtured new talent.  Indeed, arguably the biggest break Henry Cavill had was his appearance as Superman in Man of Steel.  You may not be aware that Cavill was a contender for the part of Bond just before Daniel Craig won the role in 2005.  Bond composer David Arnold recently spoke of this on his Scala Radio show The Music of James Bond:

(Director) Martin Campbell and I had both enjoyed Henry Cavill’s audition, he had all the swagger and the physicality but maybe, as he was in his early twenties, felt just a little bit too young. We thought we had great presence and we weren’t at all surprised when he turned into Superman.

Today, Henry Cavill is the same age Daniel Craig was in 2005. He has demonstrated his fight ability in Mission: Impossible Fallout, as well as garnering praise for his performance in The Witcher.  Maybe the time is now right for him to don the tuxedo.  And maybe the director of his big break-out movie could join him.

5. Fanbase

It is clear from the #ReleasetheSnyderCut “movement” that Snyder has MANY fans across the world.  The determination of those fans to support the release of Snyder’s original four hour filmed version of Justice League (and not the very different theatrical release) has been a phenomenon.

Snyder also has his detractors, who claim he favours visuals over character or story. Some comic book fans are not happy with the direction he took with his modern mythos for Superman, Batman and the rest.

While some directors return to Bond multiple times, the franchise has also tapped fresh directors for their own particular skills.  A good-looking spy film from an actor’s director with a proven track records in action (and in rebooting a classic character) alongside a whole new and demonstrably loyal fan base could be just the ticket for future Bond.

BANANAS

Of course the decisions EON Productions must make over the next few years are their own. Zack Snyder, like most big directors will have his own projects. Neither of these huge players need my input.

I must note here that before Daniel Craig became Bond, I tipped him for the role after seeing Layer Cake. Sadly I never told anyone, but I called it. You can trust me on this, for I write blogs.

A while back Reel Anarchy’s John Aaron Garza had pondered the joy of seeing a Bond pre-title sequence directed by Zack Snyder.  It would be something that Zack Snyder fans, and Bond fans would relish.

In Garza’s words, it would be “bananas”.

I agree.

No Time To Die debuts in cinemas internationally in April 2021.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League will premiere on HBO Max in Spring 2021.

Teacher of Drama. And Media. Director of non-professional drama/musicals. Writer. Contributor to ReelAnarchy.com. Husband. Father. Ginger.

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