Over the past several weeks, there has been quite a lot of net-chatter about Idris Elba’s suitability for stepping into the role of James Bond. Former Bond, Roger Moore — who, arguably, starred in some of the worst films in the franchise — was against against it; other folks were for it, and current keeper of the literary portion of the franchise, Anthony Horowitz, stated that he felt Elba was “too street” and that Adrian Lester would be a more appropriate Bond.
I love Lester, and Hustle is one of my favorite shows. But there is something about Lester that screams “safe enough for a certain kind of white person.” He is suave and dapper and all that, but there is nothing about him that screams I can drive this Aston Martin off a cliff, roll out of it, get into a hand-to-hand battle with multiple opponents, and romance the enemy agent — all this done while wearing a fly suit. No diss, but Elba looks like he can do all of that, and then go deejay at the club when he’s done. And I am not alone.
There are thousands of folks (just check the comments section on this topic, on any site) who think that Idris Elba would make the perfect Bond. They reference his physicality, the way he wears a suit, his sexiness and gravity, and his damn near super-heroic charisma. And he is a badass. With this all being said, the James Bond franchise doesn’t deserve him.
[Not to mention the whole English colonial mentality that continues to permeate the series that he should steer clear of.]
While I am all for bringing more people of color into the action movie realm — especially Spy-Fi — there has to be a limit to the: how many Black, Asian, Arab folks can we shoehorn into established white-helmed and starred franchises? It is also kind of a diss to Daniel Craig, who is the best Bond — yep, even better than Connery — we’ve seen. We’ll just omit Quantum of Solace, okay.
Craig is amazing as Bond and I cannot wait for Spectre to drop. He brings a level of intensity and thuggishness that Bond needed. Craig’s Bond films aren’t as empty calories as the Mission Impossible series (which I dig) or as little boy lost as the Bourne series (which I dig more) — Craig’s Bond run is satisfying on so many levels that I get giddy when rewatching them. Let Craig continue to do what he does, and we will all be better for it. Daniel Craig’s portrayal of Bond is as defining as Connery’s and it is going to be damn near impossible to find someone who can step into the tuxedo and hold the Walther. Elba is not the person to attempt this.
I read a very good article stating that Elba should take over the The Transporter series. If The Transporter: Refueled is any indication of the state of the series, not even Idris could save it. We may just have to let it go… let it run out of gas and roll to the side of the road, and then abandon it. I cannot even write how horrible that film was. I want my popcorn, Junior Mints, parking, and bottled water money back. All of it.
I have a radical idea. How about an original franchise built around Idris Elba’s considerable talents and presence? It can happen. There were elements of Vin Diesel’s XxX that proved it can be done. The only problem with this franchise is that they wanted so hard to be anti-Bond that it came across more cartoonish than thrilling. There was even the symbolic ritual offering up of Bond at the beginning of the film. How heavy handed did you need to be?
Matt Damon is killing the Bourne franchise — but we’ll just put that Jeremy Renner version in the same place as the second and third Matrix films, Godfather III, and the second and fourth Indiana Jones films. But Bourne had the benefit of years of novels to draw on. Same with Bond. This is why we should start from scratch with Elba.
I get that there is ridiculous amounts of money poured into films and that rehashing/resurrecting preexisting properties seems to be a sure way to make back that investment. That is great business sense, but lousy creative sense. While I won’t go as far as Spielberg and predict the demise of a type of film, I will say that these huge spectacle films may become too expensive to make, unless it is familiar and recognizable content. Or you’re James Cameron and everyone loves your vision and you can do whatever the hell you want. So, with half a mind thinking that an original franchise created specifically for Elba won’t happen — unless this is a start — I will backtrack my earlier statement and offer two franchises I believe that Elba would be uniquely suited for: Buckaroo Banzai and Remo Williams.
Let’s get this out of the way: Buckaroo Banzai is crazy. Lectroids, the overthruster, interdimensional travel, a smart action hero who is a renaissance man, wonderful supporting characters, and the best theme song in life. I feel that this would be a cinematic slam dunk. It is a beloved film that didn’t do too well at the box office, but has since become a cult film. There is a fondness for the film, but I don’t think there is a whole lot of fan baggage attached to it. The world is virtually a blank slate. He could do with it what he pleased. Get a decent action director behind it, and it would be golden. Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (or Unarmed and Dangerous, depending on where it was released) is another one of those ’80s films that just didn’t care. It was so off the rails. Based on the The Destroyer novels by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir, it is perfectly suited for Elba who can come across as either mysterious stranger or everyman, depending on a raise of an eyebrow, or a change in posture. A soldier who has his death faked by a crime-fighting/espionage organization, only to train him as an assassin who does not use a gun?
Imagine that: A major action/espionage film franchise where the protagonist did not use a gun. I’d be there on opening night. Rework the problematic Chiun character and characterization, and this has trilogy (or more) written all over it. I heard that Shane Black is in charge of the franchise and will relaunch it as The Destroyer. Hey, Shane. Holler at Idris. Tell him I sent you.
Idris Elba is one of our finest actors. He’s done major Sci-Fi, and was the best part of two of the best television programs in the history of television.
While James Bond is a venerable film series, it seems too small, too trapped in the clothing of a particular brand of whiteness for Elba to truly shine. Idris deserves to be on the big screen, more than he is. He also deserves to lead a franchise worthy of his talents. I just don’t think James Bond is it.