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The Gritty James Bond Movie We Never Got To See

In 2006, the world lost its collective mind with excitement over Daniel Craig's debut as 007 in Casino Royale. The reviews pointed congratulatory fingers at many aspects of this hip new James Bond, but the overall vibe was, basically, "It's dark and gritty, and therefore good." 

This response, in all likelihood, came as something of a shock to Timothy Dalton, whose short tenure as the British super-spy, about twenty years prior, was generally met with outraged cries of, "It's dark and gritty, and therefore bad."

Dalton, who played Bond in 1987's The Living Daylights and 1989's Licence to Kill, is generally remembered as the double-0 agent that got the shortest shrift (if only because George Lazenby is generally not remembered at all). The eighties were a strange time for Bond: Roger Moore's exit after A View to a Kill left Eon Productions grasping for a rebrand. The goofier aspects of Moore's films were abandoned, to be painted over with sleek, sexy, modern stories about a secret agent with death in his eyes and bad guys that skewed less "space station laser beam" and more "killing DEA agents to maintain a cocaine empire." What resulted was a mixed bag — part big-budget action adventure, part 120-minute episode of Miami Vice. Dalton had signed on for a three picture deal, but a complicated legal battle put the franchise on ice after Licence to Kill, and the actor announced in 1994 that he'd be stepping down from the role.

Now, a new book titled The Lost Adventures of James Bond is exploring the 007 movies that could have been — scripts that were pitched and passed over, or abandoned early in production. One entry, in particular, stands out as a fascinating look into the Timothy Dalton Bond movies that could have been.

James Bond nearly kickstarted Hollywood's gritty sequel years

"Timothy Dalton was a tremendous Bond, and a third film would have been an important element in defining his era and solidifying his legacy," The Lost Adventures of James Bond author Mark Edlitz told SyFy Wire in a recent interview. "Bond producers were preparing to make another film with Dalton. However, external issues with the studio prevented that film from going forward."

A few alternate universe 007 stories are outlined, but one of the more interesting concepts is a script called Reunion in Death. Edgy title aside, the story itself was apparently grim to its core, opening with Bond killing a competing spy in a New York hotel before slaughtering his way through Japan, with nods to You Only Live Twice throughout, including the introduction of a descendant of Tiger Tanaka. It would have been a tonal successor to License to Kill, which saw Bond hellbent on revenge following a bloody attack on classic series sidekick Felix Leiter

Far removed from the slide-whistle car jumps and wacky pigeon double-takes of the Moore era, Reunion in Death appears to have scared the studio away. Edlitz describes the script as "a spy thriller that attempts to reveal more qualities of Bond's character without undermining its appealing mystery," which would have likely been more warmly welcomed by fans than Spectre's big Blofeld reveal.

The bad news is that we'll likely never see an adaptation of Reunion in Death. The good news is that we'll always have the undisputed best Bond movie ever, Die Another Day. Right?