Blofield and Goldfinger have nothing on "creative differences," as that dreaded Hollywood phrase just gave James Bond a major setback. News broke on Tuesday that Danny Boyle will no longer be directing the upcoming 25th James Bond movie, which is widely believed to be Daniel Craig's last outing as 007. It's a shocking development for a spy known for quick reversals of fortune, so maybe what James Bond needs is a little slow-mo.
What I'm saying is that Zack Snyder should direct the next James Bond.
Wait — hear me out.
Snyder gets a lot of hate from self-proclaimed film buffs on Twitter, and it's not entirely unwarranted. He's a director who has taken the dark and edgy aesthetic to its logical conclusion, especially with his handling of DC's cinematic universe. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) is an orgy of violence, the sort that kids imagine that every R-rated movie must be like. The Frankenstein-like seams where Snyder and the quip-happy Joss Whedon's versions of Justice League (2017) were stitched together are hard to miss and don't do either director any favors.
No matter what you think of his superhero movies, if you look back at Snyder's work before baby Kal-El's rocket crash-landed in a Kansas field, you'll see why Snyder was given the keys to DC's premiere franchise in the first place. His directorial debut, Dawn of the Dead (2004), was far more confident, successful, and terrifying than it had any right to be, given that it was a remake of one of the more acclaimed horror films of all time. Watchmen (2009) is uneven, but it has undeniable moments of brilliance, like that opening credits montage and Doctor Manhattan's origin story.
300 gets some flack today, but when it came out in 2007 its hyper-stylized look and indulgent slow-mo action were a welcome change from the quick-cutting, shaky-camera style of fight scenes that the Bourne movies, with their muted palette, had made in vogue. Gerard Butler's insanely buff abs glisten in the light of an impossibly vivid sunset as he thrusts his sword into a Persian's chest, the camera luxuriating in every moment of his arm's mighty arc. It was like nothing most moviegoers had ever seen — an epic painting, albeit one that might've been on the side of a sweet van rather than in the storied galleries of the Louvre.
Despite Snyder's distinctive artistry and clear devotion to his trademark craft, it feels fair to say that his work lacks a certain high-end, arthouse sophistication. Surely, Snyder's unapologetically edgy stylings have no place in James Bond's classy world, right?
Well, no, actually, because James Bond is actually of that same spirit and aesthetic. He just wears a more expensive tux. James Bond has always been a very certain sort of wish fulfillment, one that clings to a male archetype that's increasingly on the outs, even if there's still an undeniable stylish appeal.
Originally created by author Ian Fleming in the early '50s, James Bond is the ultimate secret agent. He's also the ultimate womanizer with an attitude that's charitably dismissive and more likely downright misogynistic. In the Bond series, women are trophies for Bond to bed (literally, in the case of Goldfinger's famous gilded lady). Audiences are meant to admire Bond for this and to cheer him on as he talks his way into bed with the same confident attitude as he shoots himself out of dangerous situations.
Bond has a license to kill, drinks heavily, saves the world, always gets the girl, and looks cool as hell while doing it, never once stopping to address his own feelings. He's suave as all get-out and the apex aspirational man… if you have a very dated or stunted understanding of what a man can be.
Bond movies are fun despite these more problematic aspects, and it's been interesting to see the Craig-era of movies tiptoe into exploring what's going on inside Bond's head, making him vulnerable to more than just supervillain lasers. But, for now at least, there is something core to the character's DNA that's based on a throwback idea of cool. It's the same sense of style that pervades Zack Snyder's work.
Zack Snyder can shoot an action scene, so there's no doubt that he could make James Bond kick all sorts of ass, but there's a deeper connection between the filmmaker and the franchise, one that could be fascinating if explored. Both Bond and Snyder's work speak to an old-school style of maturity, and the two are a natural fit. They would play off one another in productive ways, too. Bond's existing, classy aesthetic should keep Snyder from getting too dark and gritty, much the same way that the existing framework of the O.J. Simpson trial kept Ryan Murphy from indulging in his worst creative tendencies while making American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson.
There's another reason to think that Snyder could soar if he was the M of a James Bond film. It's a redemption story. Excluding the small army of fans who are clamoring for a Justice League Snyder cut, the director isn't especially well-regarded right now. Especially coming off of the heels of a devastating family tragedy, a Bond movie might be a way for the proven action director to change the narrative. He might pull back just a little bit on the stylistic tics that get him mocked and engage with the meaning of what this specific idea of cool means. James Bond is in many ways a blank, welcoming template that Snyder can throw himself at, perhaps reinventing both in the process.
Remember, people were over M. Night Shyamalan until, in a twist the director would've appreciated, Split came out and was celebrated as a return to form. Snyder is similarly talented, but the gifts that made him popular aren't working in the superhero world. He, like 007, needs to be back in the field.
If you're not sold on this Snyder pitch, that's okay. Michelle MacLaren should probably direct the next Bond anyway. But, it would be fascinating if Bond and Snyder, two fun but flawed toys, played together. Something wild might happen, so c'mon, Hollywood. You only live twice, after all.