Is it Time to Consider Expanding the James Bond Universe?

With just about every major entertainment brand actively seeking ways to further monetize their respective properties, it rarely comes as a surprise when a spinoff, an expanded universe film, or a related TV series comes to fruition. Disney’s acquisition of Star Wars has heralded a slew of highly anticipated projects for fans of that particular franchise.  Not only is there a new sequel trilogy planned but there are also plans to give specific beloved characters their own spinoff films as well as multiple new live action television series along with their plans to continue to produce new animated series such as Star Wars Rebels.  For Bond fans, this must beg the question: Would a similar approach be appropriate for the James Bond franchise?

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An Image that will no doubt sicken Tom Sears

For a while there was talk about the character of Jinx played by Halle Barre in Die Another Day getting her own spinoff series (cue sounds of Tom Sears vomiting), but thankfully that never got off the ground.  Of course a lot has changed in the entertainment industry since 2002.  Back then, I think the major concern was that a spinoff series might somehow devalue the original brand.  EON obviously places a high value on James Bond not just as a film series but also as their family legacy. Just about every serious fan of the franchise knows that the Broccoli family has spearheaded the James Bond cinematic franchise since Cubby Broccoli partnered with Harry Saltzman to form Danjaq in 1962 acquiring the rights to almost all of the Ian Fleming books (except for Casino Royale at the time but that’s another story).  Danjaq ultimately formed the subsidiary company EON Productions, which produces the James Bond films.  Harry Saltzman eventually sold his half of the shares in the company to United Artist in 1975 leaving Cubby Broccoli as the sole producer until his death in 1996 when his daughter Barbara Broccoli and his step son Michael G. Wilson were left to carry on the mantle of the Bond cinematic franchise. Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson have each worked very hard to carry on Cubby’s legacy.  Almost everyone who has been involved in the making of the films recalls Cubby’s enormous generosity, care, and consideration for those who worked for him.  It stands to reason that both Barbara and Michael would most likely strive to emphasize the same values as Cubby when it comes to conducting the business of Bond. I imagine that to them Bond isn’t only about business, it’s about family as well as the legacy left by Cubby.

Cubby Broccoli and his daughter Barbara

Cubby Broccoli and his daughter Barbara

While Bond is obviously a very lucrative business on its own, it would stand to reason that the development of potential spinoffs or expanded universe projects might appear enticing from a business standpoint while at the same time it might also have tremendous appeal to the fans.  The question remains, however, if this franchise run essentially like a family business (albeit a large one) could maintain the same level of care and attention to detail if it delved into multiple projects.  I’m not just talking about the quality and viability of the projects in and of themselves but also about the intangible things that fans mostly don’t get to see.  Is there a danger in a brand or a franchise expanding too much or getting so large that the experience becomes diminished for the fandom? I suppose we will find out how Star Wars fans feel after they get accustomed to a new film every year and multiple TV series to have to keep up with.

Still, how would such an approach work within the Bond universe today? Could Naomi Harris and Ben Whishaw team up for a Bond spinoff film either without Daniel Craig or perhaps with Craig appearing in a limited cameo role?  Would that be something Bond fans would like to see?  Strangely enough, I think I would be intrigued.  Maybe Q and Eve Moneypenny must team up to thwart a dangerous plot while 007 is off on a faraway mission and the rest of the 00 section is off on holiday or unable to help for some extraneous reason.  With Harris’s Moneypenny character having had experience in the field it might actually make sense that she and Q could be embroiled in some sort of cyber terrorist plot with each character fulfilling their respective roles like Jack Bauer and Chloe from 24.  I think audiences might relish the twist of a female agent doing the heavy lifting while the male tech wizard supports her from the relative safety of his laptop.  I have no doubt that a clever plot scenario could be constructed to make this a thrilling entry worthy to stand alongside the Bond film franchise.

Andrew Scott, Naomie Harris, and Ben Whishaw. Peraps if Scott's character survives, he could be the main antagonist

Andrew Scott, Naomie Harris, and Ben Whishaw. Perhaps if Scott’s character survives, he could be the main antagonist.

Here’s another idea: Why not have a TV series about the 00 section?  Assuming Ralph Fiennes would want to be involved, we could watch as he oversees the 00 section of MI6.  Even with Fiennes attached in a very limited capacity, the series might still work if Rory Kinnear were available and interested in expanding the scope of the Bill Tanner character.  Think of the pre-credits sequence of The Living Daylights.  Would it not be absolutely fascinating to witness the various training exercises of the 00 section and invariably see them in action against dangerous foes? Unlike the casting of Bond, the casting of other 00 agents would be wide open for very many interesting opportunities for diversity without the controversy that might follow the decision to cast a black actor as Bond. Furthermore, the opportunity to see a female 00 agent in action would immediately make me want to watch such a series and I have to imagine it would be marketed to have enormous appeal with mainstream audiences.  Would a female 00 agent’s story play out like a modern day Mata Hari? Or might the series try to remain grounded by attempting to envision a more relatively accurate and realistic portrayal of what the spy game may be like today? Would it be challenging to maintain continuity within a franchise that is ultimately subject to change from film to film?  Although I haven’t watched Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., I imagine the approach to this kind of project would be very similar.  With strong writing, I think fans could potentially form a connection to new characters who could become a part of the universe they already know.

M. speaks to the 00 agents in the pre-credits sequence to The Living Daylights

M. speaks to the 00 agents in the pre-credits sequence to The Living Daylights

I’m sure there are other potential ideas for new projects I may have neglected, but these two possibilities I’ve described probably make the strongest case should EON decide to expand the Bond universe.  Of course, there’s no indication that they are even considering expanding in this way, but I have to imagine that Barbara and Michael must have at least given a fleeting thought to this kind of approach especially considering with what Disney has done with Marvel and what it intends to do with Star Wars.  Is the James Bond franchise the kind of franchise that could be expanded in such a way? Would such a move risk alienating the fandom? Would the Broccoli legacy be diminished in any way if Barbara and Michael consider moving the franchise in this direction? And would there be anything lost if Barbara Broccoli and Micheal G. Wilson decided to pursue this approach?

I’d like to know your thoughts about this as fellow James Bond Radio listeners. Please feel free to discuss, debate, and fantasize about the possibilities in the comments section below.

-Article by Jack Lugo

Jack-Lugo

  • Jeff Silence

    Good thought piece, Jack. I’ve always thought of what would happen if they did some kind of Bond spin-off. I would gladly watch or read any Bond material, but in another way I’m glad Eon/Danjaq never expanded the Bond universe the same way the Star Wars series did. If they did, then Bond would run into some of the issues the Star Wars and other expanded franchises run into: what is considered canon? What about timeline consistency? (some people believe in the Bond-is-a-code-name theory to explain the differences over the years) Which characters are considered “off limits” to anything outside the main movies? How to deal with conflicting stories from the different spin-offs? (even in the continuation Bond novels there are some conflicts)

    Then the big question: would additional series be too overwhelming? One of things I love about Bond is that you can start pretty much anywhere in the series without too much worrying about backstory or needing any prior information. People can enjoy a Bond film without feeling they need to be die hard fans. If people feel they need to read books, watch different TV series or cartoons, or become a “Bond geek” just to get all the references, then the brand is diluted.

    • Jack Lugo

      I mostly agree with you, Jeff. I think it would potentially dilute the original brand and I think that’s what will ultimately happen with Star Wars, but at the same time there is plenty untapped potential that could work to expand it if they ever decide to do it. Thanks for your thoughtful response.

  • Bryant Burnette

    Ugh. No.

    The reason why the Bond movies aren’t made on a more frequent schedule is that they are massive productions that require an extraordinary amount of effort from a production standpoint. The reason why the movies we get are (mostly) so good is that the producers do a (mostly) fantastic job with them.

    I would never want to see the movies suffer purely because the producers’ attentions are split making Felix Leiter movies or Q movies or whatever. All that focus should be going into Bond, not into spinoffs. And if somebody else was producing them, then they wouldn’t have the Broccoli/Wilson touch, which is crucial as far as I’m concerned.

    The series is doing just fine. There’s no need to spin it off into something else.

    • Jack Lugo

      I tend to agree. I think they should probably set themselves apart from the likes of Disney and other large brands and they have done exactly that so far. I just wonder how it might be done if they ultimately decided to pursue the risk because the monetary reward if it succeeds could be even more staggering than what they have already achieved.

      • Bryant Burnette

        The one and only Bond spinoff I’d like to see (although it wouldn’t technically be a spinoff at all!) would be a really good television series adapting the Ian Fleming novels faithfully. (As faithfully as possible, at least.) And that’s unlikely to ever happen.

        You make a good point about the Bond series setting itself apart by standing above the other types of franchises. There’s something special about the Bond movies, and I think if you do a little bit of looking, it’s pretty clear what that something is: the care the producers have been taking for literally over half a century. NO other series can make that claim. So for me, to dilute that would be an enormous mistake and a recipe for long-term failure.

        I’d probably still watch it, though. Christ, I own that sixties “Casino Royale” on Blu-ray, so I’m sure I would.

        • bondisdead

          An alternate universe reboot to vintage Fleming would be what I would like to see, as you suggested. Been dreaming of this for years. Keep it as a period based series, not contemporary. Problem is, there would be limited mass appeal. We fans would love it for sure, but … Can you imagine those stories brought to life?! Gives me chills!

          • Jack Lugo

            Faithful adaptations of the Fleming novels akin to the Granada ITV Sherlock Holmes series starring Jeremy Brett would be a phenomenal undertaking. I would love to see that happen. I just don’t know how much it would cost to produce because adding the period piece aspect to it automatically makes it a lot more expensive. It would definitely be worthwhile to see if it ever happens. I’d love to see faithful adaptations Moonraker and You Only Live Twice!

  • Grant Howard

    I’d like to see a Wai Lin (from “Tomorrow Never Dies”) movie. This could be made as a Hong Kong action film, just licensed from from EON (not removing their eyes from the important matters of Bond 25,26,27 etc). So it’s stand-alone but set in a shared universe with nods and cameos for increased fan enjoyment.

    • Jack Lugo

      Perhaps a character like Wai Lin or even Camille from QoS could carry their own film should EON decide to let someone develop them. It could work as you described.

  • pmerc2041

    I’d like to see a Bond movie that takes place in the 60s (think The Man from UNCLE movie, but Bond instead).

  • Ben Eslinger

    While I would enthusiastically watch either option if it ever occurred, I actually hope it never does, if only to prevent EON from being stretched too thin resulting in lesser quality/originality (a la Marvel). In all honesty I don’t think the Broccoli family has any desire to branch out. They seem content to put all their efforts into the single Bond brand, which I will be forever grateful for. If I was to wish for anything outside of the norm for the franchise, it would be what has been echoed below about creating Ian Fleming-faithful period-piece Bond movies. And even if they did that, I would hope it would be the sole project they are working on at the time…not a side thing.

    • Jack Lugo

      I agree. It’s good to know that many fans would like to one day see faithful Fleming adaptations. I don’t think it will be in the cards in the near future, but who knows. Maybe 10-20 years down the line, they might explore it if their research finds that fans are looking for them to do it.

  • Scott Cranidge

    Funny you say that, I’m writing a Comic series based on the Double-O Section right now. I need to find an artist that suits that world. The main characters are 001 and 008.

  • Stu Bell

    No, no, and indeed thrice no.

    I understand why this comes around every so often but I really think it’s a bad, messy idea. I’m already getting wary of Star Wars and E7 hasn’t even dropped yet. Rogue One, really? [spoiler: they succeed in nicking the plans]. What next, SW: Construction, set between E5 and E6, in which Luke Skywalker goes to Tattooine and builds a new lightsabre? Marvel are severely fumbling the ball at the moment, if they are yet to drop it fully. Age of Dulltron was a mess… SHIELD on tv is fun but borrows so heavily from The X Files it’s getting past a joke. As for Star Trek…

    So I think my point is that expanded universes always sound like a good idea and maybe start off promisingly, but usually end in tears. It’s like divorcing your wife to take up with a lass 20 years your junior. Sure, the sex is great while it lasts but before long you’re going to realise she’s totally vacuous and only interested in your money.

    Other Double-0s are the most interesting prospect I think. Scope for different types of stories to Bond, maybe with M / Q / Moneypenny / Felix cameos – but preferably just allusions. Do any of these aforementioned characters really have the depth to carry a picture? I’m not so sure. Part of their success is that they’re supporting characters, and they support very well. It could easily fail to spark over 100 minutes (or, since this is EON we’re talking about, more likely 200).

    I know a Fleming tv series is the Holy Grail, but let’s not forget, many of his novels are either preposterous (particularly later) or dull. The films work 95% of the time because they know which Fleming seam to mine.

    Ultimately, I couldn’t bear to get Bond exhaustion. I’m happy with a new film every few years, and a new Bond actor every decade and a bit. They’re events. They’re special. There’s enough material to revisit, and occasionally one turns up something new ( I uncovered a battered old paperback called For Bond Lovers Only recently, for example). Let’s keep the expansion limited to the continuation novels, which can go in any direction, and take our imaginations with them.

  • Stu Bell

    BTW Jack I didn’t mean to disparage your post, it was a good read… I’m just not sure it’s a direction for Bond to go in.

    • Jack Lugo

      No worries, Stu. Honestly, I’m not sure either. I was just just entertaining the idea and thought it might make for an interesting read. I was mostly just curious to see what other fans thought and what other possible scenarios people might think of just for the fun of it.