Nov 18 2013 5:00pm

Why Skyfall Part Deux Might Really Become Thunderball: Reloaded

Life Magazine Thunderball Sean Connery James BondIf you tell strangers in a bar that Kim Basinger was in a James Bond film, most will be shocked, and not just because after three rum and cokes you’re randomly talking about Kim Basinger. (Again!) Instead, the confusion comes because poor Kim occupies a quasi-fake 1983 James Bond movie called Never Say Never Again, which, outside of Highlander 2, is the saddest Sean Connery performance in our dimension. (Though somehow directed by Irving Kershner!) Never Say Never Again is also randomly a remake of the “real” James Bond film Thunderball, and came into existence because a guy named Kevin McClory kind of owned aspects of the story, and 007, too. Over several decades, an epic legal battle between McClory and MGM was waged, which as of just last week has been seemingly, finally, resolved. Thunderball is now totally owned by the “legit” James Bond studio, MGM.

So, with director Sam Mendes coming back for a sequel to Skyfall, could MGM’s recent Thunderball acquisition mean Daniel Craig’s James Bond is headed back underwater?

Either in spite of, or precisely because of its totally ridiculous title, Thunderball contains perhaps the most iconic James Bond elements of any of the classic Connery films. To put it in terms everyone can understand: without Thunderball, Austin Powers and Archer would never exist. To a person who has never seen a James Bond film and only see the parodies, Thunderball might actually feel funnier than the spoofs which ape it. The film contains a bad guy named Largo who has an eyepatch and feeds his enemies to his pet sharks; Bond begins the film by zipping around in a rocket pack; stolen nuclear missiles are involved; plus there’s a 100 million dollar ransom which sets the movie’s plot ticking. Thunderball is simultaneously everything wrong and wonderful about James Bond.

Thunderball Largo James BondBecause Kevin McClory co-wrote an early draft of Thunderball with Ian Fleming, he, and later his estate, held onto aspects of the story rights and James Bond himself for years. Now with all of those rights back in one place, the idea that aspects of Thunderball could be incorporated into the next Daniel Craig outing seem fairly likely. Ben Bussey, writing on Yahoo Movies speculates that the reacquisition of Thunderball could mean the return of 007’s infamous arch-nemesis, Blofeld. While Blofeld’s face isn’t seen in Thunderball (remember that hand petting the cat?) he is referenced, and the character himself was in Never Say Never Again. Personally, I think rebooting Blofeld seems like a bad move, if only because if handled poorly, the character will likely come across more like Dr. Evil than an actual, real, character. But, it could be done. (Though I vote NOW that Cumberbatch is banned from playing Blofeld.)

The real interesting prospect, to me, is some kind of contemporary kooky underwater extravangaza. Though the Craig films are noted for their attention to realism and rejection of previous James Bond camp, Mendes does seem to have an affection for the style of the older films. Hopefully, this means Daniel Craig will be suiting up in a futuristic wet-suit, while swallowing special pills which allow him to grow gills and breath underwater. And if an eye-patched villain is around, count me in.

But the number one reason why a pseudo- Thunderball remake would be exciting is for the aforementioned shark tank action. If you start to think about all the wonderful things pop culture has given us over the years, we’ve oddly been denied one specific, beautiful thing:

Daniel Craig punching a shark!

Ryan Britt is a longtime contributor to and thinks this never happened to the other fellow.

Steve Oerkfitz
1. SteveOerkfitz
Never thought Never Say Never was that bad. Better than most of the Roger Moore Bond films. Connery's worst performance had to be in Zardoz were he walked around wearing some sort of futuristic version of a adult diaper.
Doug from Tally
2. Doug from Tally
I thought Never Say Never was pretty cheesy, even by the standards of Bond films of the time with Roger Moore. I figured Connery must have needed the money pretty badly for something at the time to have stooped so low.

On the other hand, I rather prefer Daniel Craig's Neo-Bond without all the overly-crazed plot lines, Bond girls, gadgets and double-entendres, which means a return to the 60's Thunderball movie plot would be an utter disaster in my opinion. It still isn't the "Hoagy Carmichael-look alike" Bond of Fleming's, but sure better than the bloated Bond of the post-From Russia With Love era.
Doug from Tally
3. Capt B
If handled correctly, a re-imagining of Blofeld would be welcome in my eyes. We still have the organization Quantum lingering from the first two Craig films. It was never really dealt with, only one plan foiled, and one member interrogated (who got away after the opera scene in Quantum of Solace). Perhaps Mendes could actually fill in that major gap by introducing Blofeld as the leader of Quantum, and make Quantum the recurring adversary for Bond. Similar to SPECTRE in the early films.
Doug from Tally
4. Jeff R.
I'll take "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" in the "actual saddest Connery performance" pool.
Blair Bussey
5. cbbussey
Also, I would love to see Mark Strong as Blofeld.
Doug from Tally
6. Action Kate
If they remake Thunderball with Daniel Craig's Bond (and I for one would be perfectly happy if they did), then every single person who complained that Star Trek Into Darkness was just a cheap ripoff of The Wrath of Khan and Cumberbatch's character should have been someone else will need to shut up, forever.
Mike Conley
7. NomadUK
Action Kate@6: Actually, only if the Thunderball remake winds up being as crap as STID was.
Chris Nelly
8. Aeryl
@6, Not when Craig's Bond has actual original stories in his history, unlike Abrams' Star Trek, which riffed off both Voyage Home then Wrath of Khan.
Doug from Tally
9. a1ay
It still isn't the "Hoagy Carmichael-look alike" Bond of Fleming's,

Let's not forget that Fleming's Bond wasn't exactly a paragon of gritty realism. At the end of "Doctor No" he has to wrestle a giant squid. (Making "Doctor No" possibly the only Bond film to be less silly than the book on which it was based.)
Doug from Tally
10. emily anne
I vote NOW that Cumberbatch is banned from playing Blofeld.
Tom Smith
11. phuzz
In the ''weird cameos in Bond films" dept, watching Goldeneye the other day I realised I'd completely forgotten about Minnie Driver's cameo singing a (presumably) deliberately mangled version of 'Stand By Your Man'.
Odd cameo.
Doug from Tally
12. big K
I'd like to see them re-do the entire "Blofield Trilogy", Thunderball, On Her Majesty's Secret Service and You Only Live Twice, with faithful adaptions of the novels. Following competion of those 3 films, Daniel Craig could retire from the series with reboot to follow.
j p
13. sps49
>Thunderball is simultaneously everything wrong and wonderful about James Bond.

What do you mean, wrong?! Nothing is wrong with Thunderball!

Seriously, though, I believe Thunderball is one of the best 007 films, safely made before the silly got out of hand with the later Roger Moore films (and I don't blame Moore for that).

Doctor No was pretty good, but it feels like the budget was kept down because the suits were unsure how this Bond character would translate from the novels. But From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, and You Only Live Twice are the essence and foundation of what a Bond movie should be. To a lesser extent including Doctor No and The Spy Who Loved Me, I feel anyone who wants to be part of making a James Bond movie should watch these, just as I say anyone wanting to make a Star Trek movie should watch the original TV series.

Fun, drama, spectacle, and soul! Although I have them all on DVD, I still stop whatever I am doing when I come across one on TV.
George Jong
14. IndependentGeorge
Or, Cumberbach can reprise his role as Peter Guillam to unify the Fleming and LeCarre branches of fictional British espionage...

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