Why Skyfall Part Deux Might Really Become Thunderball: Reloaded

If 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.

Because 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 Tor.com and thinks this never happened to the other fellow.


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