As Skyfall soared towards and eventually surpassed the worldwide box office $1 billion mark, speculation mounted that director Sam Mendes would return to lend his talents behind the camera for the inevitable sequel, Bond 24 (working title).
After all, why wouldn’t producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli want the man who called the shots on the most successful Bond film in franchise history to take charge of the sequel?
But word has surfaced today, via Empire, that Mendes will not be back for Bond 24.
Mendes told Empire: “Directing Skyfall was one of the best experiences of my professional life, but I have theatre and other commitments, including productions of ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ and ‘King Lear,’ that need my complete focus over the next year and beyond.”
Some might scoff at Mendes passing on Bond in favor of something like ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,’ but you do need to admire his loyalty to projects he’s already committed to.
So, is this a death-sentence of sorts for Bond 24? Hardly. In fact, as an avid, avid Bond fan, I’m really not that disappointed in Mendes’ departure from the franchise.
I’m a big fan of Mendes’ films (American Beauty and Road to Perdition are two of my favorites), and while I do think Skyfall was beautifully shot (cinematographer Roger Deakins deserves heaps of praise for this) and crafted very well overall, I’m not sure Mendes is cut out for directing films that require significant levels of action and memorable fight sequences.
I need to be careful in my criticism here, as I can’t be entirely sure Mendes is the one who’s primarily responsible for the ho-hum action sequences we saw in Skyfall. Sure, it was cool seeing the excavator rip open the back of the train and Bond leap down, but beyond that, was there anything particularly memorable about the opening action sequence? There wasn’t a display of distinguishable hand-to-hand combat, a noteworthy car chase, or an exciting shootout.
Moving on to the mid-movie sequence in which Bond is chasing the escaped Silva, we run into the same problems. There was nothing exciting about these proceedings. I harped on it after Skyfall debuted, and I’ll continue to: Look back to Casino Royale and how intense and fast-paced every significant action sequence was in that film. The construction site chase is unbelievable, and even the Miami airport scenes have Bond in a full-sprint nearly the entire way when he’s not rolling away from oncoming traffic or smashing the terrorist’s face into the dashboard of the fuel truck. And what about the final sequence in the disintegrating building in Italy? He’s taking on three guys at once in a single shot, utilizing the elements of the room he’s in to bring them all down. There just seemed to be a greater sense of urgency in Royale with these different sequences and that’s what was sorely lacking in Skyfall.
Is any sequence in Skyfall on par with any of the ones from Casino Royale? Absolutely not. And I really don’t think there’s any debating this, though I would be happy to do so if any readers are taking exception to what I’m saying.
Mendes undoubtedly played a crucial role in Skyfall‘s success, but he didn’t appear capable of properly handling some of the most critical elements of a Bond film. I’m perfectly content with Mendes walking away for the time being and another mid-to-high profile director with a solid action resume under his or her belt coming in to help get Bond 24 back to the esteemed level Casino Royale still rests at.
Mendes passing on Bond 24 doesn’t mean he’s done with 007 forever, though. Much like Martin Campbell directed Goldeneye back in the mid-90s and returned to launch Daniel Craig’s Bond career in Royale in 2006, Mendes hasn’t ruled out a return to the 007 universe in the future, telling Empire:
“I feel very honoured to have been part of the Bond family and very much hope I have a chance to work with them again sometime in the future.”
He certainly has the support of Wilson and Broccoli, who said in a statement:
“We thoroughly enjoyed working with Sam, he directed our most successful Bond movie ever, Skyfall. We would have loved to have made the next film with him but completely respect his decision to focus on other projects and hope to have the opportunity to collaborate with him again.”
It’ll be interesting to see when and if a reunion really does come to fruition in later years, but in the meantime, let’s dry our not-completely-necessary tears and hope Broccoli and Wilson are already on the hunt for Mendes’ replacement. Allow me to offer my personal hope that whoever that is is more well-versed in action sequences than Mendes was.
For more on Skyfall, including a fun look at the various plot holes everyone likes to overlook, check out this Honest Trailer: