The James Bond Formula

You’ve heard of movie formulas haven’t you? What I have compiled is the stock writing technique to any James Bond movie. Practically all of these events happen in every movie. The best example is Goldfinger, which really set the formula standard.

I’ve gathered this list from various sources and do not claim ownership to this idea or the ideas contained within. Frankly, much of this material has been grabbed off the net, from books such as the James Bond Bedside Companion and others. Don’t be too offended if something shows up here that you thought of first. I just think the list is a nice study in how a James Bond movie has traditionally been made.

Traditional Theme, Logo, Single Shot and Blood

The traditional James Bond theme is played as the logo (the inside of a gun barrel) bounces across the screen. The view centers in on Bond walking. Bond then shifts his pose, turns and shoots. Blood drips down the screen. Gun barrel logo staggers on screen and drops to a corner and then expands to the teaser sequence.

Bond Almost Dies/Teaser

His life is threatened by hook or crook and pulls of a fantastic stunt to save himself. This scene introduces key characters in the movie. Sometimes the teaser has Bond in it and sometimes not. Sometimes the teaser has some important information regarding the plot of the movie, sometimes not.

Opening Credits

Lots of silhouettes of naked women prancing around.

Movie Theme Song

This happens during the opening credits. The theme song scored just for this movie is played. It almost always has the movie title in its lyrics. Occasionally, it is played in other parts of the movie considering the mood of the scene.

Briefing of mission

Bond walks into the office of MI-6 and flirts with Moneypenny. Bond meets with M and gets briefed on the situation. The briefing usually occurs in M’s office, but not always. Case in point, Bond is briefed in a car in Tomorrow Never Dies.

Q Branch

Q gives Bond any special gizmos needed for the assignment. Lots of prop jokes. Most of the time occurs after the briefing, but occasionally has come at different points in the films.

After the Bad Guy

Bond goes to the exotic location of where he tries to contact the enemy. Sometime before next step, he gets a Martini that is “shaken not stirred.”

“Bond, James Bond”

This can happen anytime during the movie. He announces his name typically when talking with a lady. Classically, this is how he introduced himself to the Bond Girl but there have been variations in the later movies. When a new actor comes in to play Bond, it’s usually one of his first lines.

Casino Gamble

The casino scenes have been rare in the later movies. They typically happen at the start of the movie for character introduction. Whenever he gambles, he usually loses during the first gamble, but makes a comeback in the second bet. Bond’s most common game in this scene is baccarat, but of course this has been varied.

Fight with Bad Guy’s Henchman

Here is where the stunt men earn their pay. Lots of fights where Bond just barely wins. Makes easy transition into next step.

Meet Bond Girl

James comes into the circle of his female companion for the rest of the movie. The irony of all Bond movies is that Bond cannot complete the mission without the assistance of this lady!  The Bond Girl sometimes is the Bad Girl.

Company of the Bad Girl

Not common in all of the Bond movies, but has become very popular in the last few movies. This one lady is a senior henchman of the Bad Guy. She usually has a tryst with Bond and almost always ends up dead or incarcerated.

Sexually Hinted Female Name

There is a long streak of these going back to the very first Bond movie. Either the Bond Girl or the Bad Girl will have a name with a sexual connotation. Examples: Pussy Galore, Octopussy, Holly Goodhead, Plenty O’Toole (named after her father, I suppose…) and Xenia Onnatop. Even in the Bond parody Austin Powers, there was Lota Fagina as a Bad Girl and in the James Bondian episode “Our Man, Bashir” on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine there was Mona Lovesett (my personal favorite).

Help from Across the Pond

An American Agent, usually CIA, is around to help Bond. It can be the Bond Girl, a separate character of even a henchman working undercover. Felix Leiter has filled this position most of the time.

Enemy Spots Bond

Bond flaunts his presence in an unsecured environment. The Bad Guy and crew discover Bond’s presence following to next step.

Fallen Comrade/Sacrificial Lamb

This can happen anywhere in the film from beginning right to the end. Someone in Bond’s assistance will die at the hand of the Bad Guy’s forces. It affects Bond emotionally, usually to a point of avenging.

Chase Scene

Bond is in some exotic vehicle or location in a chase. Whether he is chasing or being chased or if the Bond Girl is with him or the bad guy’s henchmen (never the Bad Guy) change from movie to movie. Lots of vehicle stunts with theme music.

Bad Guy’s Headquarters Found

Bond finds HQ of the Bad Guy and infiltrates it.

Bad Guy’s Nasty Pet

Most movies have a sinister animal in owned by the Bad Guy. It could be sharks, lions, pythons or a killer attack cat.

Battle Armies

The large group assisting Bond gets into a huge battle royal with the forces of the Bad Guy. Most of the Bay Guy’s forces get killed.  Lots of explosions.

Bond and Company Captured

Bad Guy and crew capture Bond and Bond Girl inside the HQ. Instead of killing them right off, they are placed in some isolated situation where they will die if they didn’t do anything creative. See Austin Powers for a fabulous parody of this. A lot of times, Bond is beaten or drugged out.

Left to Die

Just before they are left to die, the Bad Guy explains his twisted reasoning of his own existence and actions. Occasionally, this happens before the Battle Armies step. Again, see Austin Powers.

Bond Saves Self and Bond Girl

Using a gizmo given by Q, he escapes and starts to screw up the Bad Guy’s plans of destruction.

Final Combat

Bond gets the advantage and a final combat with the Bad Guy ensues. Bond wins.

Destruction of Bad Guy’s HQ

Bad Guy defeated, usually dead, the whole of the Bad Guy’s HQ goes up in a huge explosion.

Secondary Combat

A minor, almost comical, fight ensues with the Bad Guy’s Henchman. Bond wins. Henchman is under his or her own accord now. Sometimes occurs before Final Combat.

Talking the High Road

Bond and Bond Girl are retrieved in some exotic and unusual manner. They never get out under their own effort.

Bond and the Bond Girl/”Ohh, James…”

This sometimes happens before the previous step usually with comical relief for the audience.

Ending Credits

Black and white text scrolls across the screen with the movie score playing.

Coming Soon

The end of the credits has in the text “James Bond will return in…” to start the promotion of the next movie.

 

The Lord of the Movies

I have just seen a masterpiece.  It will surely win the Oscar for best cinematography and may even win best picture. It has an incredible cast of relative unknown actors. It has one of the most beloved stories at its core. Finally, it has the added feature of two sequels already filmed.

The movie is of course, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

Having read the books several years ago and actually owning a BBC radio drama of The Lord of the Rings on CD, I can say that the movie is truly an amazing journey. One that I believe every moviegoer will truly admire and love.

Is it the books on screen? Well, no. It is director Peter Jackson’s vision of the books, but his vision is so closely associated with my own (and undoubtedly many others) that I can say that it is one of the best adaptation of a book to film in many a feature. It is even better than Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which is a pretty good adaptation itself.

I was quite afraid that the movie would suffer from bad CGI since there are several CGI monsters and the like in the movie. I was heartened that I felt that it was a Jurassic Park-style CGI movie instead of a Star Wars:SE-style CGI movie. One of the problems with Harry Potter is that I never felt the mountain troll in the girl’s bathroom was real, just a nice CGI element. However, the Balrog was fully realized and it seemed real and scary at the same time. Not quite as good as the raptors from JP, but good nonetheless.

This movie is going to be compared to Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. It is unfortunate I fear, because I can tell you this, AOTC will never win an Oscar for best cinematography. FOTR most certainly will. AOTC is all blue-screen work. FOTR is all real. Well, almost all real.

Let me explain, in FOTR they built Hobbiton a year in advance to facilitate a more weathered, lived in look. Actors filming AOTC were in blue rooms all day imagining they were conversing with aliens on alien landscapes. Different type of film making. I’ll let you be the judge of, which is more entertaining.

In addition, the core of The Lord of the Rings is the story. Now, I believe the Star Wars saga certainly has a grand story, but individual chapters sometime suffer. There will not be any suffering in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy is simply the first installment of a trilogy that has already been filmed. The events of the movie cover several months, so the characters really shouldn’t be totally different. It will make a viewing of all three movies back to back very enjoyable.

Star Wars will always be mired in miss-steps and “cuteness.” Ewoks were a mistake. Jar-Jar was a mistake. Midi-chlorians was a huge mistake. Casting an 8 year old to fall in love with an 18-year-old was a massive mistake. The romance of FOTR at least makes sense compared to The Phantom Menace. I do realize that it will be “fixed” in AOTC, but it’s still an 18 and 28 year old. That would be somewhat scandalous in the real world. She would be accused of robbing the cradle and he would be a freakin’ stud.

The FOTR is an adult movie. The Star Wars movies will forever be known as kiddie movies. I like’em both, but I know which is the better movie. Mark my words… we’ll see come Oscar time.

Star Trek for the New Millennium

Star Trek.

To many people those words evoke a level of excitement and adventure unmatched by any other medium. On the other hand, Star Trek is also a weird show with strange hand signals and people dressed up in odd makeup. While Star Trek is a cultural icon, the producers of the movies and television shows seem to have missed the reasons for the success of the series.

This essay is an attempt at figuring out what a new Star Trek show should do to bring back not only the core audience, but the general audience out there in TV land. It is an approach that should effectively snag the proverbial lightning in a bottle again.

1. The new Star Trek should take place in the future onboard a starship named Enterprise.

Ask anybody on the street when and where does Star Trek take place and the above is the answer. It’s not on a space station. It’s not on a ship named Voyager. The new show has to be on a ship named Enterprise and should probably be set 30 or more years in the future than Star Trek: TNG, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. In addition the ship should be familiar to the general populace. It has to have a distinct saucer section and warp nacelles. It has to have a circular bridge, the captain’s chair in the middle and two stations in front.

2. The new Star Trek probably needs to go back to basics and have a maverick, white, Americanized, male captain

Infinite diversity in infinite combinations works on Star Trek, not with Nielsens. We’ve had a bald (but hides it) Canadian who said he was from Iowa, a bald Englishman who said he was from France, a black guy who after shaving his beard and growing a head of hair for the role ultimately shaves his head and grows a goatee, and the most schizophrenic woman captain in Starfleet. What do the viewers want?

Someone to identify with.

We’ve had two white guys, one black guy and one white woman. I think we need an alien as captain, but one who looks just like a good looking American with say purple eyes. No change in skin color or wrinkle in the nose or points on the ears, thank you very much. I like the blue eye effect of Dune as an example, but I’m sure we are really talking contact lenses here. Oh yes, I realize that it’s just like Peter David’s character Captain Callhoun from the New Frontier books. It’s a damn fine idea!

3. The new Star Trek can kill two birds with one stone with a black woman first officer.

A black woman first officer would be great. It sets up interesting angles with the captain and the crew and should also provide a sexual component that is always needed in science fiction. It also balances out the white captain nicely. Don’t give me that crap about black roles in the realm of science fiction and fantasy. White Hating Coon, this ain’t. (obscure Chasing Amy reference)

4. The doctor/counselor should be a race we have seen before, but not on a Federation ship.

I was thinking that a Romulan would be cool. Romulans have not been explored like the Vulcans, and Klingons. An opportunity to explore the race means tons of story potential. Think what happened with Worf and Seven of Nine.

5. The engineer should have an ability unheard of before

My favorite idea is one in which the engineer has the capacity to create “duplicates” of himself. It doesn’t matter how; just that he/she/it can…

6. The head of security should be what Tasha Yar aspired to be.

A gruff, no-nonsense, yet pretty woman in this role would make the Xena: Warrior Princess fans’ hearts melt. She has to be kick butt tough and attractive as well. She can’t be butch. Just think of the crew reaction when she has to get dressed up!

7. The young fresh-faced ensign is an integral part of the cast.

Harry Kim is not exciting as a character or as a “fresh” face for the young teen market. Wesley was mostly annoying until he grew up a bit. Imagine what the Wesley character would have been if Ashley Judd were cast as “Leslie.” Let’s tap into the Dawson’s Creek/90210 stockpile for a real fresh face. One that can act, spout technobabble and get a cover on 16 magazine. This character isn’t super smart or super dumb, just inexperienced and damn sexy! The role I wish Katie Holmes, Jennifer Love Hewitt or Sarah Michelle Geller could fill.

8. The science officer – See Real Genius

The science officer role has to be shaken up. We have had cold emotionless Vulcans and androids, joined species and… well just who is the science officer on Voyager? I think we need an eccentric scientist type, but not one who just forgets to eat or wears the same socks everyday. Can you just see Val Kilmer’s character from Real Genius on the Enterprise? Thumbing authority, wearing out of regs clothes, has a strange fascination with the 20th century? Of course, he has to be utterly brilliant, just a little bit out there, but trustworthy, loyal and extremely quick witted.

9. Something that hasn’t been done before that can connect this series with the previous.

I see this character as a connection to the previous series with a twist. As long as they don’t kill off Data, I envision a sentient Enterprise sounding like Data. Brent Spiner could record his voice work each week or so and it would still free him up to do anything else he wanted. Guest starring would be a snap.

10. Stories, Stories, Stories.

Star Trek has a built in audience. This incredible army of loyal viewers will watch any and all incarnation of the basic premise. So, why not push the envelope? Talk about religion. Talk about sexuality. Talk about war. Talk about atrocities of all kinds. Talk about heroism of the basic kind. Talk about evil of the basest kind. Push the envelope as far as you can go. Get people talking about the show as more than just a kiddie space show. Make it mean something and years from now it just might.

My ideas here aren’t gospel, but I think they make a lot of sense. Looking over the science fiction landscape on television, I can see that the producers of Andromeda read this essay as well…

 

9/11 and Comics

September 11. Big day in the newspaper business.

I heard a snippet from the Bob and Tom radio show saying a plane had hit the World Trade Center a few minutes into my workday. We flipped on the TV in the Assistant General Manager’s office and watched in stunned silence. We saw the second plane hit the other tower. We saw the people jumping from windows. We saw the horror and the enormity of it all. And then we saw the towers collapse.

We were transfixed with the news reports. We were scared that something else was going to happen. Everyone was on edge. And then my employer, The News-Gazette,  received a call saying our building isn’t safe.

On that bright, sunny early September day, we were outside watching our building, talking on cell phones, muttering about the idiocy and the audacity of the caller and those that committed the acts in New York and Washington.

I went home and watched the news reports until the quiet hours of the morning. I was struck with the feeling that we had better make someone pay. If it is this Osama Bin Ladin terrorist, then we had better take him out and his whole network. The President mirrored my thoughts and feelings.

I was not as caught up in the patriotic fever as some of my fellow co-workers, but the feeling of unity and determination were undoubtedly there. I was grabbing newspapers, pictures from the internet and information as soon as it was available. I read and learned about this enemy. I feared for those in the armed forces and knew full well that they were preparing for war.

The United States has never been attacked like this in its entire history. At the time, people were evoking Pearl Harbor and sneak attacks, but this event was much larger than that. This event will reshape American policy at the cost of seven thousands lives. We have never been in a war such as this – a man of no country declaring war on the world’s only superpower. It is laughable, until you see the smoking ruins at ground zero.

“Awaken the sleeping giant” was the term used in the aftermath of Pear Harbor and that term works for me as well regarding this event. We are awake and like a bear being disturbed during hibernation, we are not happy. But unlike that over-emotional bear, The United States has been methodical in its pursuit of the terrorists.

At the time of this writing American forces have taken most of Afganhistan and narrowed the safe havens for bin Ladin down to a few miles. I imagine he will be dead before Christmas. I pray that he does not become a martyr to his insidious cause.

From September 11 to comic books. Bear with me. It will all make sense.

I like comics. I’ve liked them since I was a little kid, going through my father’s collection. Today I collect (and actually read them, too) several titles. I like Planetary, Powers and Queen and Country as well as some more mainstream stuff like Ultimate Spider-man, X-Men and JLA. I also read a book that lately has been the cause of some major controversy, The Authority.

If a comic book could be a wide-screen, all out action movie that doesn’t suck – it would be The Authority. There are no little stories in The Authority. It’s galactic invasion, major super-villain team, kill or be killed stories. The characters of The Authority don’t pull punches; they tend to go right on through the face and jaw. These characters say the outcome overshadows the way they got there. If some eggs are broken, look at the tasty omelet they created. People get killed and they don’t come back the next issue.

The controversy is the massive amounts of violence, justified or unjustified, in the book and is it now “appropriate” for this day and age of idiots thinking if they ram a plane into a building they will be rewarded in the afterlife with 70 virgins. The powers that be are scared that the violence is too much, too graphic, too intense for the readers.

I say, bullshit.

Put the damn book back out on the stands. Let the creators finish the story they wrote before the tragedy. People want to be entertained. People want to do something that doesn’t involve a lot of thinking. You ever wonder why Home Alone broke all those records? You think that maybe it was because Americans wanted to get away for awhile and not think about the Persian Gulf?

This is no different. It is entertainment pure and simple. I admit this isn’t a book for little kids, but it wasn’t before September 11 either. It’s an adult comic book, and by that I don’t mean there’s an abundance of sex. Just violence. Graphic violence.

Books, movies, and even comics, propel the participant into a world where heroes stop the villain from destroying the world. People want that escapism right now. I say, let the masses be entertained. Now, more than any other time, we want to feel good about our heroes. We want to identify with the character staring down the evil and maybe even smirking a bit. We want to see the villain get his come-uppance.

Let the silly funny book with all the ultra-violence be solicited again.