Over the past few years, the James Bond series, which is now approaching its 23rd installment, has begun to make some changes to the classic character. Some changes have worked amazingly, and others haven’t really changed much at all.
Now comes the most surprising change of all: Sam Mendes (“American Beauty,” “Away We Go,” “Revolutionary Road”) is slated to direct the next Bond film. This is a piece of news I am quite happy to report. Mendes is a very talented dramatic director, and even though trashing “American Beauty” is a hobby of most film critics, I still stand firmly stand by its side.
Anyway, Mendes might be the first Oscar winning director to helm a Bond film, and probably the most talented. There was once word that Quentin Tarantino was going to direct “Casino Royale,” but those unfortunately turned out to be just rumors (I guess Bond fans would’ve been a little turned off by hearing 007 talk about what they call a Big Mac in England).
What I wonder though is this: can Mendes handle the action? “Casino Royale,” which revamped the series, was directed by Martin Campbell. Campbell isn’t known for making amazing stories, but he did have experience on how to make a good action film. That might be why “Casino Royale” not only had one of the most interesting Bond stories, but it also gave us one of the most beautifully choreographed chase sequences ever put on film.
“Quantum of Solace” was put in the hands of director Marc Forster (“Finding Neverland,” “Monster’s Ball”). While the film’s plot was engaging, the action sequences lacked the sheer grace found in “Casino Royale.” The action here was too quick, sloppy, and unfocused to be thrilling. Even when Bond was in gravest danger, it was hard to feel too worried. There’s no way to enjoy a good thrill when you can’t even tell whether or not it’s going on.
This is the sole reason I worry about Mendes’ direction: will his inexperience in the action genre be problematic? He’ll definitely be able to conceive a well put together storyline and believable characters, but he might not be able to trigger that wow factor a well-made thrill ride can produce.
Hopefully, this won’t be true. Many directors have gone from art house to blockbuster with amazing results. Take for example, Christopher Nolan (“Memento,” “Batman Begins”) and Alfonso Cuaron (“Y Tu Mama Tambien,” “Children of Men”). Both managed to add their unique storytelling skills to films defined by action. Both these men would be fine future candidates.
For now, lets just hope Mendes can make another “Goldfinger,” and not another “Die Another Day.”
I originally intended to end this post with a joke about Mendes turning the next Bond film into a story about 007 going through suburban angst. Too bad every other film blogger beat me to the punch.