James Bond would have given his left kidney for a smoke, but the last time he’d tried to light a cigarette in his custom-made bachelor pad it had set off the alarm and M had sent round a team of experts to take the place apart and destroy every tobacco product they could find, including an old packet of Boyard Maïs he’d completely forgotten about. Then they’d made him wear a nicotine patch. The memory of it made his eyes prickle with humiliation, even now. He wasn’t in a hurry to go through that shit again. So, even though he was dying for a cigarette, he contented himself instead with chewing the end of his Montblanc Meisterstück with handcrafted gold nib.
He stared down at the checklist, and the printed words stared back up at him, as though challenging him to respond. PRE-CREDITS SEQUENCE. What the hell? He missed the old days, when he’d been able to offload all this boring paperwork on to Moneypenny. Awww. Somewhere exotic. Tibet? Bali? Mexico! But what did they do in Mexico? Drug cartels? Mexican Waves? Montezuma’s Revenge? Aha! He had it. DAY OF THE DEAD! Everyone loved dancing skeletons. He could be in Mexico during Day of the Dead to kill someone and blow up a building! That would work. BIG EXPLOSION! Tick! Then he could have a fist-fight in a spinning helicopter, just inches away from the heads of the crowd. That would take care of the first half-hour or so.
Phew. Bond sat back, relieved. It had everything – explosions, local colour, fisticuffs and dancing skeletons. What more could an audience want? This checklist lark wasn’t so hard after all. He couldn’t imagine why everyone always made such a fuss about it.
Then he noticed the other words staring up at him. CREDITS SEQUENCE + SONG. There was MORE? Oh, for heaven’s sake, what did they take him for? They would have to rope in the usual chanteuse, of course, or if there were no girls available how about a boy singer with an unnaturally high voice? Oh heck, how about a falsetto, or maybe even a castrato? He’d have a go at jotting down some sample lyrics later, but probably something along the lines of “Hey girl howdya like some fun With double oh seven and his gun?” Accompanied by a recurring octopus motif! Bond mentally patted himself on the back. His fans would adore that clever nod to one of his finest hours, The Case of the Fake Fabergé Egg.
DIALOGUE? Oh, anyone could cobble that together! Just have Moneypenny say, “It’s called life, James. You should try it sometime,” which would hint at all the tragic personal sacrifices he, James Bond, had made throughout his career, including being forced to give up smoking and cut out the smarmy sexist remarks.
Wait, what? There was more? Yet more categories to tick? Was there no end to this ticking nonsense? Well then, insert some boring scenes in London and the headmaster scolding him and threatening to remove his tuckshop privileges. Then drop in on Q and get some whizz-bang gadgets, like nailclippers which turned into a bazooka, or a seeing-eye dog which was really a panther in disguise, or…. or…. or… OK, an exploding watch. That would do.
Bond went back to chewing his Montblanc. The word BONDGIRLS stared up at him unblinking from the checklist. There had to be babes… Aha! How about he got to have sex with the widow of the guy he killed in Mexico? That would work. Yeah, have her played by an Italian sex-bomb. And she could tell him where the bad guys were meeting in Rome so he could eavesdrop on their evil plans for world domination! No need for any more scenes with the widow – she’ll have done her bit by showing her stocking-tops. Bond was getting excited now. This was easier than he’d expected. And to think they actually paid screenwriters to come up with this stuff!
No wait, why would he walk straight into the villains’ lair, where he would be heavily outnumbered by bad guys? Bond chewed his pen but he couldn’t think of a reason, so he forgot about it. No-one cared anyway. The days of booby-trapped chairs and the White Cat of Evil were long gone, but maybe show a minor henchmen having his eyes gouged out by another henchman, one with metal thumbnails, which will help take care of that NOVELTY WEAPON box further down the list, and have the chief villain say something suitable poetic, like, “You’re a kite dancing in a hurricane, Mr. Bond.” CRYPTIC VILLAIN TRASH TALK? Tick! Tick! Tick!
Then all the villains would stand aside, so gobsmacked by 007’s audacity that they would allow him to drive away in his customised Aston Martin DB10, maybe pursued by Metal Thumbnail driving a Jaguar C-X75. This would check the CAR CHASE box, easy-peasy. No need to work too hard here – just have lots and lots of shots of the two luxury cars speeding through Rome. The audience would be so thrilled by the sight of luxury cars going really, really fast they wouldn’t worry about whether or not they’d seen cars going really, really fast hundreds of times before, and any killjoys who hankered after something more exciting and original would just fall asleep. Voilà! Problem solved!
Besides, Bond had once seen a movie called La Dolce Vita, which had shown the Rome streets were completely deserted at night, so the producers could save money on extras and stuntmen; Bond had been told many times he had to watch the bottom line. No wait, insert a little old man puttering along in a Fiat 500 which would get in the way of Bond’s Aston Martin. Everyone knows Italians are mad about opera, so they could add local colour by having the old geezer singing along to Verdi, or Donizetti. Bond chuckled at his genius. High culture, with a touch of humour! Audiences would like that, the way they’d always enjoyed Roger Moore and his raised-eyebrow acting.
Hmm. Bond went back to nibbling the end of his pen. It seemed inspiration had deserted him again. Did anyone know what was going on here? Probably time to shoehorn in some heavyweight exposition, which he had absolutely no intention of delivering himself, so they could get that Danish actor to serve it up. And then have him blow his brains out, so they wouldn’t have to think up anything else for him to do. What was this? Another BONDGIRL? Bloody hell, whoever had compiled this checklist was SEX-MAD. OK, how about getting the widow back for seconds? No wait, how about the Danish actor’s widow? No wait, Bond had already rogered a MILF in this razor-sharp scenario, so how about the Danish actor’s daughter this time? And have her played by a French sex-bomb. Not too old, though. How about the starlet who had taken her kit off in that Palme d’or-winning lesbian romp Blue Is the Warmest Colour? That had certainly warmed Bond’s cockles, so a bit more cockle-warming wouldn’t go amiss.
But oh boy, what to do with a female character? This was a problem. Bond couldn’t just jump into bed and roger her straightaway. After some more pen-chewing, he came up with a brilliant idea. She could get kidnapped from her mountaintop clinic! And then Bond could chase her and her kidnappers down the mountain! Everyone had fond memories of the ski-chase in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, so now they could concentrate on getting down that mountain in the most boring way possible. No, wait! They could go one better and add a plane, which Bond could drive through a barn. As you do. Chickens? No, no chickens flying out from the barn as the plane ploughed through it. That would be silly.
Bond found himself with writer’s block again, so he reminisced about other highlights from his career which the film-makers could recycle. The meeting with Vesper Lynd on a train in Casino Royale had been hailed as a super-sexy battle of wits, so maybe another train scene, with the new Bondgirl wearing a super-sexy dress… Yeah, OK, the train-fight in From Russia With Love had been memorable too, so how about another fight on a train? With Metal Thumbnails this time. Bit of fisticuffs there. Metal Thumbnails was bigger than him, but Bond was smarter. A lot smarter. Also, he was the star, so they would have to let him win.
He was going great guns here, but it wasn’t long before Bond found himself once again staring blankly at unchecked boxes. Jeepers creepers, what did they want from him? How many bloody boxes did he have to tick? He needed to run into the villain again, but how on earth could that happen?
After downing a couple of Taliskers for medicinal purposes, Bond had another brainwave. He would voluntarily walk into the villain’s lair! Yes, he’d already done it once in the movie, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t do it again, plus now they could palm it off as a character trait. He, James Bond, could stroll into the villain’s lair any time he liked! He was that good! What was the villain’s name anyway? Mr. Big? Nasty Guy? IMPOTUS? Bond hummed and ha-ed and decided when in doubt, resurrect one’s nemesis. Ernst Stavro Blofeld! That could work. Also, have the villain’s second lair right in the middle of a desert. Just because. Nice cinematography and all that. Only this time, he would take the Bondgirl along with him as eye-candy, no, as an indication of his deepening relationship with her.
Bond was checking the boxes faster than the speed of light now. UNNECESSARILY COMPLICATED AND EASILY ESCAPABLE TORTURE CHAIR? Tick. WHITE CAT OF EVIL? Tick. MAD VILLAIN RANTING? Tick. Maybe some psychology here. Yep, Bond and Blofeld could be foster-brothers or something, and Blofeld could resent his father having saved all his fatherly feelings for the little Bond orphan. Tick! Plus they could shovel in a line or two about cuckoos, in homage to the original James Bond, a famous birdwatcher. It’s true they hadn’t mentioned the foster-brother thing in any of the other movies, but that could easily be explained away by its having slipped 007’s memory. He always had a lot on his mind what with the Bondgirls and car chases, so a little lapse like that would be understandable. While they were at it, they might as well have Blofeld take credit for having killed off all the previous Bondgirls, and say something like, “It was all me, James. It’s always been me. The author of all your pain.” That would make it really, really personal.
OK, now at last he could toss the exploding watch to stop Blofeld’s manic babbling, and blow up the vaillain’s lair, and escape into the sunset with the Bondgirl. BIG EXPLOSION! Tick. THE END!
What? WHAT? Still a lot of unticked boxes? They wanted MORE? Oh, for heaven’s sake. Bond tapped his foot impatiently. He just wanted all this to end now, and yet the torment went on and on and on. He decided to delegate some of the action to M, who could also take care of the rest of the pesky exposition. And then, oh what the heck, have that dumb Bondgirl get kidnapped again – female characters were always getting kidnapped in action movies, so no-one would worry about it happening a second time, and anyway they could pass it off as another character trait – and then tie her to a chair in a building about to be demolished with a… BIG EXPLOSION! Tick! LOTS OF BIG EXPLOSIONS! Tick tickety-boom! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! Followed by some pathetic grovelling from the humiliated Blofeld. Har-haar! Gotcha! What? Kill him? Nah, Bond decided he would rather leave his nemesis for M to deal with, so he could stroll off into the sunset with the French starlet, and then roger her senseless in a suite at the Dorchester or other luxury hotel. Though wasn’t it night time? OK then, they would stroll off into the sunrise together, whatever. Job done.
Anyway, his Montblanc had run out of ink, so it was definitely THE END.