Think in terms of movies, not eras, Mr. Bond!

If the rumors are correct, James Bond franchise overlord Barbara Broccoli is closing in on a new actor to don 007’s tux. This, however, is an endless vodka martini swirl of rumors — with the main actor in question, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, just as tied to the role a year ago as he is now. Why the delay? It’s been two and a half years since Daniel Craig’s final Bond film, “No Time to Die,” bowed in cinemas.

Part of it seems to be a franchise tradition that, with each new actor in the role, there’s a bit of a rethink of the character: To tailor the role to the actor’s strengths and better fit the sensibilities of the moment. An awareness of the history of the franchise, of what era it’s currently inhabiting, has been part of Bond since the opening moments of “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” when George Lazenby, his car stolen by Diana Rigg, smirks at the camera and says, “This never happened to the other fella.”

Thinking in terms of eras is especially likely at this moment, since the franchise arguably had its most successful era since the ’60s, with Craig’s 15-year run over five movies. (It peaked with the $300 million domestic and $1.1 billion worldwide gross for 2012’s “Skyfall,” still not quite as impressive as 1965’s “Thunderball,” which, adjusted for inflation, was as successful in the U.S. as “The Dark Knight.”) Of course, Broccoli and her EON Productions, which has steered the franchise since the first Bond film in 1962, with her father, Albert, at the helm, would want to guarantee that the next 15-year era of Bond movies is just as successful.

That’s impossible in Hollywood in 2024. Even Heisenberg would have found the uncertainty and unpredictability of this moment in this industry to be jarring. How could you possibly expect any franchise to be operating exactly as it is now in 15 years?

Instead of thinking in terms of eras, Broccoli & Co. should simply be thinking in terms of movies. Make one really good movie. Not the kickoff for a slate of movies. Not an origin story to use as the foundation for further worldbuilding down the road. Dear God, definitely not whatever continuing storyline they attempted in the Craig films.

One movie.

If you think in terms of one movie at a time, it frees up what you can do tremendously. And there’s one idea that fans would love, probably more in 2024 than at any previous time:

Bring back Pierce Brosnan for a one-off Bond film, and make it a reteam with Michelle Yeoh, his co-star from “Tomorrow Never Dies.”

Yes, Brosnan is 70. There’s no guarantee at all he would want to do it, and he even just suggested Cillian Murphy for the role. But an “old man Bond” film could be fun, especially if it’s not going for the kind of dirge-like elegiac quality of “No Time to Die.” Bringing the fun back is essential for whatever Bond does next. And Brosnan was particularly suited to the dry wit of the character, which is what made his dynamic with Yeoh in “Tomorrow Never Dies” so much fun. Her Wai Lin is a spy, too, on behalf of China (though she exposes the corruption of a particular Chinese general in the course of the film, positioning her as a bit of an independent agent), and there’s a screwball element in their relationship: Are they going to compete with each other — maybe even swap bullets along with barbs? — or cooperate? There’s a little “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” gamesmanship there. And even though they only fall into each others’ arms at the very end of the movie, that professional tension throughout is undoubtedly sexual, too.

Is there a female character from the Craig films positioned as being on Bond’s level in any way comparable to Wai Lin? Naomie Harris’ Moneypenny comes close, but based on five decades of knowing Moneypenny and Bond will never quite get together, it’s hard to say they have tremendous heat. Eva Green’s Vesper certainly does generate major chemistry with Bond onscreen — she is as much a professional as Bond in every sense — but it’s hard to say that her death and its impact on Bond over the next four films isn’t ultimately the defining feature of the character.

“Tomorrow Never Dies” is a film worth Broccoli & Co. watching again. It’s the last film before the writing duo of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade took over, co-writing every other Bond film to date, and arguably introducing some of the weaker elements of the Craig era in their first Brosnan film, “The World Is Not Enough.” Convoluted backstories (Elektra King’s story of her traumatic youth in “World” seems an obvious early stab at what they did with Léa Seydoux’s character in “No Time to Die”), operatically overwrought relationships, more grounded action, putting humor on the backburner — the Purvis and Wade style gave Bond some of its greatest moments ever in “Casino Royale” and “Skyfall,” and… some not great moments either.

“Tomorrow Never Dies” was by contrast clearly engineered as a one-off — something much easier to do back in the day when it was thought you’d have a new Bond movie literally every two years. The pure one-off Bonds could result in some really funny cash-ins on whatever was happening in pop culture at that moment: “Live and Let Die” was an obvious blaxploitation riff, “Moonraker” Bond’s attempt at having his own “Star Wars,” “A View to a Kill” was about a Silicon Valley tech goon, “Licence to Kill” (yes, British spelling intentional) a post-Reagan Era response to the War on Drugs. These are all exploitation films (exploiting particular elements in a sensationalized, marketable way) in a manner that no Bond movie really has been since “Tomorrow Never Dies.”

In this film, Brosnan and Yeoh team up to take down a media mogul, Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce, giving the kind of go-for-broke scenery-chewing performance this franchise really needs more of), who’s obviously a stand-in for Rupert Murdoch. His plot is to engineer a crisis between Britain and China — it’ll look like China sank a British warship, when in fact Carver, in possession of a “stealth ship,” did that himself — to bring the planet to the brink of World War III. He’s creating the news that his media properties, including the eponymous “Tomorrow” newspaper and a new 24/7 cable channel, will cover. His endgame? Be involved in negotiating a truce that will somehow result in Carver Media Group having exclusive broadcast rights in China for the next 100 years.

Yes, media conglomerates have been trying to figure out how to make ever-more money off the Chinese market for decades, and here’s a Bond movie from 27 years ago literally about that!

“Tomorrow Never Dies” is ahead of its time in other ways as well: Carver conducts his edit meetings remotely via the 1997 version of Zoom (is his derogatory greeting of his senior edit staff, “Good morning, my golden retrievers!,” really more offensive than the town hall meeting behavior of many media startup CEOs?); his racism is called out more pointedly than that of any other character in a Bond movie since, when he pantomimes some kung fu moves to make fun of Wai Lin (every Bond movie since has been weirdly colorblind); there’s even a presentation of Bond as representing the kind of surgical strike in a conflict zone that feels extremely needed in this age of imprecise carpet bombing and drone warfare, especially in the pre-credits sequence.

About that opening scene: It feels eerily similar to the third act of “Top Gun: Maverick.” And oh wait, there’s a HALO jump later on in “Tomorrow Never Dies” that’s just like the HALO jump in “Mission: Impossible — Fallout.” And a motorcycle chase through Saigon that’s very similar to the motorcycle chase in “Fallout” also. You can argue that Tom Cruise and Joseph Kosinski and Christopher McQuarrie are infinitely greater action stylists than “Tomorrow Never Dies” director Roger Spottiswoode, but the raw ideas of some of these scenes are there.

Sadly, this movie was very much overlooked. Sure, it made $333 million worldwide — pretty good for 1997 dollars — but it had the misfortune of opening on December 19, 1997, the same day as “Titanic.” It’s due for rediscovery. And it’s such a charmer that a follow-up with a 70-something Brosnan getting entangled with Yeoh’s Wai Lin on another adventure would provide a hit of nostalgia while being different and unusual enough to actually shake up the Bond formula.

Brosnan himself has always expressed some regret about how abruptly his tenure as 007 ended, including in a fantastic YouTube live commentary he provided for “GoldenEye” during the early days of COVID lockdown. This could be a way to tie up his era with a bow.

And for Yeoh, whose star has never been hotter following her Best Actress Oscar win for “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” it feels like she personally would help inject a new degree of relevance for Bond. Projects have been created for her following that “Everything” triumph — just look at the “Section 31” movie for Paramount+ built around her Philippa Georgiou character from “Star Trek: Discovery.” You’re telling me there wouldn’t be even way more interest in her reprising her Bond character that all but introduced her to U.S. and British audiences in the first place?

“They’re looking for us, James,” Wai Lin says at the end, when Bond wants to canoodle with her a bit on the open water before being rescued. Let’s hope audiences can find these two again.

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