New James Bond director Cary Fukunaga is an exciting choice, if producers let him make the film he wants

craig_royale.jpg

Danny Boyle dropping out of the next James Bond film — often referred to as “Bond 25,” since the project doesn’t have an official title yet — was a disappointing setback for fans eager to see what a director of Boyle’s talents would do with such a property.

However, Eon Productions — the producers of the Bond series — appears to have recovered nicely with Boyle’s replacement. According to multiple outlets, Cary Fukunaga will direct Bond 25, providing the next 007 movie with one of the brightest young filmmakers currently working.

This is a surprising pick, considering directors like Bart Layton (American Animals) and Yann Demange (White Boy Rick) were perceived as front-runners. Besides Fukunaga’s body of work, what makes him a notable choice is that he’ll be the first American filmmaker to direct a James Bond film. Will that irritate some diehard Bond fans, who feel that Agent 007 is a distinctly British property and should have an English caretaker? Maybe. But that’s probably more of an aesthetic concern.

Fukunaga is probably best known for directing every episode of True Detective’s first season. (Season 2 really seemed to miss him, if for no other reason than the season lacking a cohesive vision behind the camera.) TV viewers can sample more of Fukunaga’s work when the 10-episode series Maniac debuts on Netflix this week.

Additionally, Fukunaga has directed the films Beasts of No Nation, Jane Eyre, and Sin Nombre, demonstrating his variety of interests in subject matter and storyline. At one point, Fukunaga was attached to direct It, but eventually left the project due to creative differences. (By the way, that’s the same reason cited for Boyle leaving Bond 25. In both cases, there were disagreements over the movie’s script.) Yet adapting Stephen King’s novel showed the director’s interest in taking on larger projects with devoted fanbases.

On the second episode of the Amusement Park Podcast, we discussed whether or not this development ultimately mattered to James Bond fans. Chris is more of a “mainstream” moviegoer who just wants a good Bond film. I’m more of a “film snob” who gets excited about accomplished filmmakers taking on iconic characters and genre stories.

We’ll likely talk about this on the next podcast, but I presume Chris would probably tell you that he has no idea who Fukunaga is and the choice won’t influence whether or not he sees a James Bond movie. I’ll also see the next Bond flick regardless of who directs it. I love those movies, particularly Daniel Craig’s version of 007.

fukunaga_tux.jpg

The Bond series hasn’t been known for utilizing a variety of A-list filmmakers. Sam Mendes — who directed the last two films, Skyfall and Spectre — is a notable exception as an Academy Award-winning director. Michael Apted, Marc Forster, Martin Campbell and John Huston are also relatively known to diehard movie fans. But Eon apparently wants to continue hiring acclaimed directors for the Bond films, rather than journeymen who might know how to helm an action movie.

Since Fukunaga has previously dropped out of a mainstream project when he and a studio couldn’t agree on a story direction, it’s worth questioning whether or not he’ll eventually run into the same problem with Eon and producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson.

Will they let Fukunaga take some chances and follow a more unconventional approach? Or will they lean on the director to stick with a typical formula for these movies? That could be the difference between Craig’s final Bond film being merely good or possibly great.

Bond 25 is scheduled for a Feb. 14, 2020 release, pushed back from the Oct. 25, 2019 date that was scuttled once Boyle left the project. Production is expected to begin next March.