Monday, December 10, 2012

How To Write A James Bond Screenplay

Bond, doomed girl, supervillain, plucky assistant
I finally succumbed to peer pressure and went to see the James Bond movie Skyfall. I knew it was going to be boring and awful and I wasn't disappointed. It was silly and predictable and an insult to the intelligence of the general public and critics alike. How to explain the 95% favourable rating on Rotten Tomatoes then McKinty? Well clearly either I am the problem or you are. And by the looks of it, I guess it must be me. The critics loved this film and the public have made it the highest grossing Bond flick ever. I was so fed up with Skyfall that I began deconstructing it in my head and had at least the pleasure of figuring out which elements the screenwriters stole to write their latest Bond opus/hack job. I realise that anything said against Skyfall is going to alienate 95% of my audience but wouldn't you prefer me to tell you the truth as I see it rather than lie just to make you feel better? No? Well I'm going to do it anyway. And now that I have deconstructed Skyfall, as a service to my loyal blog readers, I'm giving you a free primer on what you must do if you want to write your own James Bond movie: 
1. Start with an action sequence stolen from The Bourne Identity ideally a kinetic roof top chase through an exotic Muslim country.  
2. Kill Bond and then run the titles like in You Only Live Twice. We all know Bond isn't dead so I don't really understand how this works to generate suspense but apparently it does because they've done it in two Bond films now. 
3. Do your first act info dump scenes in a moving car so they don't seem like info dump scenes. Introduce plucky female assistant who Bond must later embarrassingly seduce.
4. Make an aging Bond retake his training again like they do in Thunderball & Never Say Never Again. Its worked twice already so why not a third or fourth time. 
5. Fly to an exotic locale preferably one with a casino. Bond's been to Vegas and Monte Carlo a lot so the only gambling mecca left is Macau. Go there and arrive on a boat so we can see the lovely harbour (I did this in my novel Falling Glass and yeah it's a cheap trick). 
6. Introduce a beautiful brittle doomed girl in the casino who Bond will seduce and who then will be immediately killed by the supervillain. (I think this has happened in at least half a dozen Bond films beginning, of course, with Goldfinger.) So the next 5 steps are all inevitable:
7. Bond wins at cards or cheats at cards or otherwise acquires a lot of money.
8. Bond and the doomed girl make the beast with the two backs. 
9. Introduce supervillain. Supervillain kills doomed girl. 
10. Bond angry. "Now it's personal." Grrrr. 
11. Supervillain seemingly caught but manages to escape. (See Batman, Silence of the Lambs etc.)
12. Obligatory car/boat/a pied chase. (They've never had a cross town bicycle or skateboard chase so consider that for your screenplay although the product placement people always prefer a car.)
13. Now the interesting third act. Creative screenwriters can pretty much do anything they like here and I was pretty excited in Skyfall when they decided to go to Bond's childhood home in Scotland which we've never seen before (if you're not counting the David Niven Casino Royale). Alas in Skyfall Bond's early childhood story was the story we heard in Batman The Dark Knight and then the screenwriters decided that they were going to wrap up the film with the denouement of Witness (and a bit of Straw Dogs). The supervillian must survive every splosion and bullet until the drearily inevitable final fight with Bond (like in just about every single Bond or other Hollywood action movie of the last 30 years).
14. The 'emotional' ending where someone we don't care about dies. (Spoiler Alert: M dies in Skyfall (in a very protracted unBritish manner I thought).) 
15. The cute ending. (Spoiler Alert: In Skyfall we find out that the attractive curly haired agent is called Moneypenny.)
Go ahead and write your own Bond movie now and send it to MGM. I bet they'll take it and you'll become rich beyond the dreams of avarice. You dont even have to thank me. Meanwhile like the sucker I am I'm off to see MGM's The Hobbit which I've been waiting for since 1978 and which looks set to be even more of a grind than The Return of the King extended edition.