The James Bond movie Skyfall almost had a much different storyline and an ending that killed a major character in a shocking way. The third Daniel Craig Bond film, and 23rd Bond overall, remains a divisive series entry five years after its release. Many praise the film for bringing new life to the 007 franchise, but others think it simply strayed too far from the formula. The movie’s success can’t be argued, as Skyfall grossed $1.19 billion worldwide.
The Bond franchise, a warhorse by the early ’00s, was in dire straits after the cartoony excesses of the lamentable Pierce Brosnan era. Enter Craig and Martin Campbell, who brought new grittiness to Bond with 2006’s Casino Royale. After re-establishing the Bond brand with that hit film, the series stumbled once again with Quantum of Solace. Needing a change of pace, Eon turned to veteran director Sam Mendes for Skyfall. With Oscar-nominated photography from Roger Deakins, a memorable Adele theme song and strong action tied to a meaty story, Skyfall soared.
Skyfall in some ways reinvented Bond, and in other ways remained faithful to the original formula. But as Birth Movies Death recalls, producers almost went much farther in turning the Bond universe upside down. A 2015 Bond retrospective book called Some Kind of Hero detailed an early story treatment from writers Peter Morgan, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. In their treatment, a flashback shows a young M during the Cold War having an affair with a KGB agent. This leads to a modern day plotline in which the bad guys blackmail M. Stunningly, the story ended with Bond killing M to protect the service. Thankfully for fans of Judi Dench’s M, they scrapped that grim storyline – though, of course, M did die at the end of Skyfall.
Seldom in Bond history have we seen the franchise try a twist as major as Bond killing off M. The one big exception would be On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which broke with tradition by giving the caddish Bond a wife (played by Diana Rigg). Of course, writers quickly put things back to normal by bumping off the new wife. As Bond producers also realized with their M blackmail storyline, you can’t mess too much with the essential Bond formula.
Skyfall worked because it tweaked the formula, but didn’t substantially alter it. Unfortunately, after the lift of Skyfall, Bond fell back into a schlocky, Brosnan-era pattern with the over-the-top Spectre. Now the franchise feels again like it’s at a cross-roads. Daniel Craig will come back for Bond 25, but a director has not yet been named. Though fans would love Christopher Nolan to come aboard, that seems a remote possibility at best. Denis Villeneuve too says he won’t do Bond 25. Whoever takes over the reins of Bond will find themselves in the same dilemma facing producers ahead of Skyfall. How do you make something very old new again, without making it too new?
KEY RELEASE DATES
James Bond 25 release date: Nov 8, 2019