Today, class, we will be learning about success.

And no, I am not talking about 50 Shades of Ooh-Ow-You-Big-Bully-Billionaire.

The best way to create success is not with crappy fan fiction (no one will remember Shades in 5 years, and the film will be a disaster, yes I am a soothsayer, and yes, you can quote me on it).

The best way to create success is with a subject you know a lot about.

Ian Fleming, for instance, was educated (after Eton) at a school in Austria run by a former British spy, lived in Moscow in the 1930s reporting on Stalin’s show trials, worked for Naval Intelligence during WW2 liaising with the Secret Intelligence Service, the Special Operations Executive and the Joint Intelligence Committee.  Later in his career, he wrote a blueprint for the American government for an intelligence agency that eventually became the CIA.

Add to that some good writing (I know this a matter for dispute, but in my opinion the writing is clear, terse and wholly suited to its subject), a compelling character (Bond), a subject the world is fascinated by (spies), a bit of danger, sex, violence, intrigue, an excellent feel for exotic locations and a passion for a good villain.

Sadly, none of this will prevent people from making two-dimensional, rather silly action films from your books. Approximately twenty-three of them, to be precise.

In order to make a truly great James Bond film, a really good script, great actors, and most of all, a brilliant director are required.

Are you listening class?  Skyfall is not as good as it is because of Daniel Craig, though he is a good actor.  Or Judy Dench or Javier Bardem or Ben Whishaw. Or the $150 million spent on it. Or the stuntmen. Or the promotion budget. Or coincidence.

It is a fantastically successful and enjoyable film because Sam Mendes is a director who knows how to hire actors, how to use them creatively, how to make them work together brilliantly, how to spend a budget for maximum effect.

Mendes had a subtle, strong, irreverent vision and hired the right people to bring it to life. Only then did he give jobs to every genius stunt man in Europe.

Passion and talent. That’s why I loved the books so much in my teens. Reading them over and over. And over.

That’s why I’m going to see Skyfall a second time. Possibly even a third.



4 thoughts on “Let us now praise James Bond.

  1. Jane 6 years ago

    Hi Meg, Skyfall is not even out in little old New Zealand (no it is not part of Australia!). I love your books (am just re-reading The Brides Farewell). I recently discovered your blog. One word: brilliant. Thank you.

  2. Antony John 6 years ago

    Yes, yes, and yes. I was rather obsessed by these books as a late teen (as I’m sure many teen boys have been over the years). While I enjoyed them principally as escapism, there was no doubt that Fleming’s worldbuilding was as solid as it was because he, in essence, wasn’t really building a world at all, but rather presenting the world as he knew it.

    As for the films, I really enjoyed Casino Royale, and can’t wait for Skyfall. As you say, it’s a reminder that producing unimaginative, two-dimensional blockbusters is not an inevitability, but a sign of laziness. And no one will accuse Sam Mendes of that, I suspect.

  3. Sarah 6 years ago

    It’s perhaps also why Quantum of Solace didn’t work. The writers were on strike at the time and large parts were made up on set. All action and no depth makes a shallow film.

  4. Sue Ransom 6 years ago

    And let’s not forget the skill of the scriptwriters in making the whole thing happen. These recent films -including Skyfall – are out of their imagination….

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