5. Kenneth Branagh
For some reason, no one ever brings Kenneth Branagh up in these discussions about Bond directors. He’s supremely British, he’s been directing for quite some time (and has gotten more and more accomplished as a visual filmmaker since his humble beginnings filming Shakespeare adaptations), and he has shown he is quite adept at jumping into the popcorn genre field with movies like “Thor” and “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.” He’s also a very literary man, as his Shakespeare works bear out, as does his work on the recent “Murder on the Orient Express” adaptation.
So even if he doesn’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of Bond, he would almost definitely read up on it and try to figure out how to take what makes the books work and how they can influence the movies, and how to bring the series back to its roots in a way that “Skyfall” indicated it would be.
His work as an action filmmaker may be the weakest on this list by a long stretch, but this series is such a beast that he can hire some fantastic second unit guys to help bring the fire. He can bring class to the proceedings and make it light and fun. Which, again, is something very much needed after the dour proceedings of “Spectre.”
4. Edgar Wright
Edgar Wright is one of the most talented and inventive filmmakers working today, a technical marvel who makes some of the best and most candy-colored entertainment with a brain today. His work has shown that he has a deep understanding of cinema and the movies he loves, each entry in his filmography owing a deep debt to movies of the past while being its own beast.
“Shaun of the Dead” clearly loves Romero films while not being a carbon copy of that man’s work. “Hot Fuzz” is a love letter to the overblown action movies of the 80s and 90s while never being the deeply problematic and deeply brain-dead pieces of work they are. Hell, it even has the best performance a certain Bond has ever given.
Just last year he made a movie that shows how much he loves car movies of the 70s, in particular Walter Hill’s work, with “Baby Driver.” Again, it is more deeply human and poppy than those works. His mastery of telling his stories through whiz-bang editing is second to none. His knack at action filmmaking was always great, but it keeps getting better. And he has shown to have a real drive for practically driven action. All of this is a great mix for a Bond helmer.
If tasked to helm it, it would have to a more serious affair than his usual output since the Craig movies are by default a more hardcore affair than the past Bonds. But “Baby Driver” showed he can tackle more weighty narratives with real stakes. Hell, all of his movies have never shied away from the weight of their stakes.
Tonal balance has been a real talent of his, something the Bond movies need in this more serious era of Bond, especially after the almost schizo nature of “Spectre.” The problems he had with Marvel with regards to “Ant-Man” may have sullied big-brand filmmaking for him for some time, but he would be a pretty killer filmmaker to handle this beast of a series.
3. MJ Bassett
Maybe the most deep-cut choice on this list, but MJ Bassett delivered one of the most underrated films of the last 20 years with “Solomon Kane.” It was a movie that took a big hit and was released with minimal marketing because of the studios financial issues, holding it up for years. Based on the works of Robert E. Howard, it is the truest example of Howard’s work ever.
It may not be the outright classic that is the original “Conan the Barbarian,” but that was much more a Milius movie than a Howard movie. This gets Howard down pat. And it does so with fantastic filmmaking chops in a way that hides how much smaller its budget was than Conan. Especially in tandem with the recently released Jason Momoa redo of “Conan” at that time, “Solomon Kane” is a masterclass and it deserves more love.
Bassett has essentially stuck to TV since then, with only the briefest of sojourns in film with the second ‘Silent Hill’ movie. Which is a damn shame since “Kane” shows so much chops, but it at least shows that she can mold into an active property with ease.
To go back to a point that was brought up in the MacLaren entry, she would bring a different perspective to the proceedings while being able to get to the heart of the story. Howard is a hard nut to crack, and she did it. Bond has a long history to pull from, as well as the current era of the franchise to help build a finale for Craig that would honor all that had come before it while being its own beast. “Solomon Kane” should have been a bigger calling card for Bassett, but industry nonsense hurt her a bit. It would be a good time to bring her back.
2. Danny Boyle
Danny Boyle has become the frontrunner for the Bond job, and for good reason. He’s one of the best directors working today, an inventive visual stylist who can jump into a story that may seem bland or unoriginal and give it a big ole shot of adrenaline to the heart. Just look at his career for the last 20 years or so – “28 Days Later,” “Sunshine,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” “127 Hours,” “Trance,” “Steve Jobs” and “T2 Trainspotting.”
He came into these projects and did some unreal, original work with them to make some wild rides. Excluding “Slumdog,” which is just bland wannabe “Forrest Gump”-ian Oscar bait, but it won an Oscar so that can’t be excluded. His last two works are damn near masterpieces and they weren’t genre fare, and he is great with genre. He is such a 180 from Sam Mendes that that in and of itself has to be a big pro for the producers, but it’s that wild style and that fresh eye for story that has to put him right at the top of the list for the director’s chair.
1. Shane Black
There is nobody better suited to handle James Bond than Shane Black. His encyclopedic knowledge of pulp novels and his love for the genre infuses all of his stories. He can make movies that are all essentially similar but so different from one another that you never feel any lethargy watching his stuff. And his work on “Iron Man 3” shows off how well he can situate himself into a well-oiled franchise while offering up his own unique spin on things. His work on that movie, really getting to the heart of Iron Man and delving deep into his psyche after the events of the Avengers, is still top tier Marvel work.
With every movie he gets better as a director, his confidence with a camera finally matching his screenwriting abilities and his ability with actors. Bond could use that magic. End off the Craig era with someone who has a love for the past Bond works and the pulp world while being able to dive into Craig’s Bond’s psyche, all the while delivering a pop masterpiece that expertly balances comedy and high stakes. Black is a master and should always be at the top of the list for these kinds of jobs.