Virtue signaling

Cinematic Correctness

Sir Ian Fleming and Cubby Broccoli are probably rolling over in their graves. James Bond 007 has been a formula that has worked. It created a franchise around a suave, sophisticated, educated, debonair and witty womanizing British spy. Whether the dashing Sean Connery, the corny Sir Roger Moore, the rigid Jeremy Dalton, the one-trick pony George Lazenby, the slick Pierce Brosnan or the moody Daniel Craig – the formula has been a massive winner. The Bond franchise has grossed $14.7bn inflation-adjusted.

There are suggestions that James Bond will be replaced by actress Lashana Lynch. The first female Bond. There is probably absolutely nothing wrong with her acting at all. The question is will the producers flunk at the box office by ripping up the script of what has always worked? It is 100% their decision to toy with the tried and tested formula but as ever, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

To be honest, Idris Elba would make a good Bond. He fits all the stereotypes of the role and fans would watch it on his ability rather than his skin tone. The producers could celebrate being woke and the franchise would retain its (relative) believability quotient.

Political correctness seems to dominate Hollywood of late. Whether complaints that not enough actors of colour were represented in Dunkirk or JK Rowling copping flak from LGBT activists because Albus Dumbledore wasn’t openly gay enough in the Fantastic Beasts film, it seems there is a push to make writers and producers conform. Why can’t films just be those made as their writers intended without enforcing politically correct overtones? Surely if there is a market for “politically correct” movies, the champagne socialists of Hollywood will be the first to jump all over it.

Sadly, many of the Best Picture winners selected at the Oscars (with elements of political correctness) in the past decade have been flops with the paying customers. It is interesting that $100m+ box offices were a cert for an Oscar Best Picture award til 2004. Since 2004 it has been hit and miss. 10 films in the last 14 have failed to breach $75mn. Real-life stories – Argo, A Beautiful Mind, Titanic and The King’s Speech – all cleared $100m at the box office. Maybe audiences can gel to the real-life aspects?

Brokeback Mountain grossed $178m because it didn’t propose to be anything other than a story set around gay cowboys. Milk, grossed $55m because it was a factual story about known gay activist, Harvey Milk. A good film by the way. Bohemian Rhapsody, the story about Freddie Mercury, has raked in over $900m at the box office. It was a factual tale and representative of a period in time.

To keep up with the times, perhaps we should demand that Meryl Streep become the next Shaft and Samuel L. Jackson portray Hillary Clinton in a movie about the 2016 election? How about Jackie Chan portray Michael Jordan in a basketball film about the Chicago Bulls? Why not cast Charlize Theron as Adolf Hitler in the next WWII film and have Arnold Schwarzenegger roleplay her wife. At least he won’t struggle with language? Perhaps do a rerun of Star Trek with Capt. Jane T Kirk? The options to rewrite history or fantasy are endless.

Why did Apollo 13 with Tom Hanks, Gary Sinese and Bill Paxton rake in $350m but First Man starring Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong draw in only $45m in North America? Same space theme – two different results. Apollo 13 celebrated the pride in failure as American ingenuity was able to rescue the damaged spacecraft. Maybe home audiences repudiated Gosling’s film for deleting the pivotal moment the US flag was planted on the moon. Small stuff? Don’t play with audiences. They bite.

The lack of political correctness is a drawcard to the Bond franchise. We can laugh at the double entendre and innuendo. We can marvel at the spectacular car chases, death cheating moves, his Casanova-like charm and underdog victories against evil henchmen. Will audiences believe that a woman will be able to knock out a monster of a man 3 times her size with her fists? Will we want to see a poor defenseless woman stripped naked while tied to a chair while her privates are belted with a shipping rope by a Le Chiffre type character? Or will she be promiscuous to extract information from would-be villains? Perhaps she confronts Graham Norton as the villain this time?

Perhaps the new Mr. Moneypenny will have his heart skip a beat every time the new 007 tosses her Philip Treacy on the hatstand outside M’s office. Maybe Q will design a machine gun in a Hermes Kelly handbag? Perhaps a dart firing pump from Manolo Blahnik? Perhaps the Aston Martin will be replaced by a pink Tesla so we can tackle environmental issues as half of London is set ablaze?

People fell in love with Star Wars because it was all about lasers and space ships. Not because it ticked the diversity (although the Star Wars Bar was as diverse as one could imagine) and inclusion boxes. How dare the poor harmless Jawas or Ewoks be murdered by white supremacists aboard Imperial Battlecruisers. Were the Sand People just misunderstood? What about the animal cruelty that was inflicted on the poor tauntauns on Hoth?

Maybe the franchise is testing the waters by proposing Lynch. We’ve already had Halle Berry play Jinx, the NSA agent in Die Another Day. There have been countless female villains throughout the franchise too – Rosa Kleb, Xenia Onnatop, Miranda Frost, Elektra King, Fiona Volpe, Helga Brandt, Mayday, Bambi & Thumper. All added their own spice. Yet it was always James Bond that was the drawcard.

Ultimately the box office will tell the story. Die-hard Bond fans will likely be cringing at the thought. Maybe CM is just too much of a purist and detests change for the sake of it, especially if it is just about appeasing activism.