Mission: Impossible 7 (and Bond) questions

The trailer for Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One is out. For understandable reasons, fans of the James Bond films are interested.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

Is Tom Cruise’s M:I series ripping off Bond? You might not want to throw bricks from inside a glasshouse.

Live And Let Die evoked “Blaxploitation” films of the early 1970s. The Man With the Golden Gun evoked kung fu films from the same period. Moonraker evoked Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (even using the same musical notes from John Williams’ score from the latter movie). Moonraker also has similarities to the 1966 movie Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die.

So how would you phrase it?

It depends on how well the ideas are executed.

Movie audiences, generally, don’t care about what ideas are borrowed from whom. They care about whether they like the movie or not.

What makes Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible films different from the most recent Bond movies?

The most recent M:I movies (2011, 2015, 2018) are, for the most part, more fun than the Bond installments of the same period. According to Barbara Broccoli, No Time to Die was a “cinematic masterpiece” (source: No Time to Die official podcast).

No Time to Die enthusiasts would agree. Others may or may not say they had a better time viewing the three M:I films of the 2010s.

That’s all a subject for debate. The seventh M:I film won’t be out for more than a year. We’ll see how it goes.

Mission: Impossible 7 trailer officially released

Paramount released the trailer for Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One today after it had leaked out over the weekend.

The trailer for the seventh film in the M:I series starring Tom Cruise contains some homages to James Bond films such as:

–Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt driving a car with its doors knocked off, similar to Daniel Craig’s Bond in Quantum of Solace.

–Cruise/Hunt driving a small yellow car in a chase, similar to Roger Moore’s Bond driving an extremely small car in a chase in For Your Eyes Only.

–A fight on top of a train, with the participants having to duck when approaching tunnels, a la Octopussy.

–Cruise/Hunt riding a motorcycle off a cliff similar to Pierce Brosnan’s Bond in GoldenEye.

The trailer has some striking images, including an Osprey aircraft in flight and a train locomotive going off a cliff.

Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One is scheduled for release next year, with the following installment coming out in 2024. Originally, the two movies were to have been filmed back-to-back. That was before delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The trailer is below.

Mission: Impossible 7 trailer leaks

Tom Cruise

A trailer for Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One leaked for a time on social media before being yanked by Paramount.

A version of the trailer for the movie had been shown last month at CinemaCon. An official trailer hasn’t been released. The existence of the leak was reported by The Hollywood Reporter and other outlets.

A website called The Digital Fix quoted David Ellison, a producer on Top Gun: Maverick and the M:I movie, as saying the trailer will “drop next week.”

The video for the seventh Mission: Impossible film starring Tom Cruise that circulated on social media appears to have homages to the James Bond film series. They include scenes that evoke For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, and GoldenEye.

Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One is scheduled for release on July 14, 2023. The eighth film will be released in 2024.

Observations of a No Time to Die rewatch Part II

No Time to Die poster

The family theme: James Bond traditionally wasn’t known as a family man. But No Time to Die makes a big deal about a family theme.

That’s not me talking. Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli played up that idea in a podcast interview with The Hollywood Reporter. She talked about Bond’s “MI6 family” and “his real family.”

Rewatching the movie, that comes through. Safin’s villainous scientist refers to Madeleine Swann and her daughter as “your family” to the villain. Bond (according to the closed captions for the movie) refers to them as his family.

Revisiting the SPECTRE scripts: There were some drafts of the script for SPECTRE (2015) where Bond shot Blofeld in the head. One draft (completed shortly before filming began) ended with Bond telling Madeline, “We have all the time in the world.”

Neither made it into the final film. But with No Time to Die, Eon doubled down.

In the pre-credit sequence of No Time to Die, Bond tells Madeline that, “We have all the time in the world.” Toward the end, just before Bond is blown to smithereens, Bond tells her, “You have all the time in the world.” And, of course, just before that, Bond blasts Safin away.

Scooby Gang gets to emote: It’s not just Bond (Daniel Craig) who gets a big death scene. Lea Seydoux as Madeline gets to emote. So do the Scooby Gang: Ralph Fiennes’ M, Naomie Harris’ Moneypenny, Ben Whishaw’s Q, and Rory Kinnear’s Tanner.

“You promised”: Just before he dies, Bond tells Madeline he’s not going to make it. She replies: “You promised.”

At this point, Bond has apparently lost a fair amount of blood and isn’t moving around very well thanks to a few bullet wounds courtesy of Safin.

Did Bond really have to die? That’s almost irrelevant. The whole movie was designed to have Bond die. Quibbling about nanobots (couldn’t Bond’s EMP watch rid him of the nanobots?), etc., etc. doesn’t really matter. Bond was going to die. The question was how.

Observations of a No Time to Die rewatch Part I

One of the many No Time to Die posters

The movie has some nifty image composition/photography.

In the pre-titles sequence, Madeline Swann (Lea Seydoux) writes a secret, burns it and sends the embers into the night air. The camera follows it until the Matera landscape turns to day. Very classy.

Bond isn’t very bright, is he?

Let’s face it, Bond has never been the sharpest knife in the drawer. In Dr. No, he has no real plan for when he gets to Crab Key. In From Russia With Love, he’s easily taken in by Grant’s less-than-sophisticated set up of Kerim and a Soviet agent supposedly killing each other. In the film, Kerim has a knife in his side, hardly the easiest way of killing oneself.

But in No Time to Die, Bond falls for Blofeld’s frame of Madeline. This propels the plot through much of the movie.

That curious music title card

“Music by Hans Zimmer, Score produced by Steve Mazzaro.”

Zimmer, on mulitiple occasions, said the score was a collaboration between himself and Mazzaro. One thinks the the title card should have had a footnote. “Sorry, Steve. We know you did half or so of the score. This is the best we could do.”

Bond knows his Jamaican home has been invaded. Does his outside shower and toothbrushing lead to Safin getting his DNA?

The scene around the 47:00 mark (the scientist who has been working for Safin) suggests so. Then against the scientist substitutes a sample of all the SPECTRE leadership. Hard to tell.

Which M made the bigger mistakes? Judi Dench in Skyfall or Ralph Fiennes in No Time to Die?

Judgment call.

“Come on, Felix. we’ve been in worse than this. Let’s go.”

How many times have Bond and Felix Leiter been in jeopardy *at the same time*? Not many in either the first 20 Eon films or the Craig era. Going back to Kevin McClory’s first Thunderball scripting efforts, there were more attempts to go give Felix more to do.

About getting around WGA writing credits

No Time to Die poster

No Time to Die already had four credited screenwriters. A fifth, Scott Z. Burns, didn’t get a credit despite a lot of publicity when he joined the project. A sixth, John Hodge was brought on during director Danny Boyle’s short-lived tenure.

And, less noticed, a seventh writer, Nick Cuse, got a “consultant” credit for No Time to Die.

Cuse had worked on projects with Boyle’s successor, Cary Joji Fukunaga. Cuse has since gone after Fukunaga on social media, claiming the director stole credit for Cuse’s work, although the scribe did NOT specify the project involved.

The Writers Guild of America is supposed to have the final say on writer credits on films and TV shows released in the U.S. But, on occasion, projects try to get around those rules.

Example: With the first two Superman movies starring Christopher Reeve, there were serious drafts (courtesy of Mario Puzo) and campy drafts (courtesy of David and Leslie Newman). Tom Mankiewicz was assigned the job of melding these, similar to how James Bond films balanced drama and humor.

For his work, Mankiewicz got a “creative consultant” credit (part of the main titles) but wasn’t part of the screenplay credit.

Another example: the 1990 Dick Tracy movie. When the film’s novelization by Max Allan Collins came out, the title page said it was based “on a screenplay by Jim Cash & Jack Epps Jr. and Bo Goldman & Warren Beatty.”

The problem: The Cash-Epps writing team filed an arbitration with the WGA. They won. They got the sole writing credit on the finished film.

Beatty was already star, producer and director, so he was fine. But Beatty slipped in an alternative credit for Goldman in the end titles.

NTTD crew member criticizes Fukunaga, MI6 HQ reports

Cary Joji Fukunaga

Nick Cuse, a writer and producer who received a consultant credit on No Time to Die, has criticized the film’s director, Cary Joji Fukunaga, for stealing credit on projects, the MI6 James Bond website reported.

Cuse made a post on Instagram that included the following:

Cary Fukunaga is the worst human being I have ever met in my life. He didn’t groom me to fuck me but he did use a lot of the same tactics to get me to write his scripts for him. Which he would then put his name on. One time, after spending three weeks on a script, he made me open up the cover page and type his name under “Written By”. I had to literally type the stolen credit with my own fingers. 

The post doesn’t specify the project or projects involved. Cuse and Fukunaga worked on the television series Maniac. In addition to directing No Time to Die, Fukunaga was one of four credited screenwriters.

The Cuse criticism occurred after three actresses — Rachelle Vinberg and twins Hannah and Cailin Loesch — accused Fukunaga of predatory behavior. The accusations have been written about at sites such as The Wrap and Jezebel.

The Times provides a preview of Horowitz’s new Bond novel

Cover for With a Mind to Kill

The Times, one of publisher Rupert Murdoch’s “respectable” U.K. publications (as opposed to his trashy tabloids), has provided a preview of Anthony Horowitz’s third James Bond continuation novel, With a Mind to Kill. The novel is scheduled to be published at the end of this month.

Horowitz’s new story begins with a funeral. After a botched attempt to kill M by a brainwashed 007 in Golden Gun, M’s “burial” is now arranged and faked to fool the Russians, allowing Bond, who has now got his patriotic senses back, to go back behind the Iron Curtain to collect intelligence.

Bond must ingratiate himself with evil Colonel Boris, an expert in mind control with a place called “the magic room” in his lair, where 007 has already endured isolation, psychedelic drugs and torture.

Horowitz told The Times he penned the tale “long before the invasion [of Ukraine] began. And I’m just aware that I don’t want to be, as it were, promoting it on the back of what’s happening. It’s difficult, but it is timely, that’s for sure.” 

Russian leader Vladimir Putin is a former official in the KGB. He is suspected of ordering the murders of his opponents.

Horowitz’s continuation novels are based on the timeline of Ian Fleming’s original Bond novels. Trigger Mortis took place in the middle of the Fleming timeline (after the events of Goldfinger) while Forever And a Day took place before Fleming’s debut novel Casino Royale.

With a Mind to Kill occurs toward the end of the Fleming literary timeline. Various Bond websites have already received their advance copies so expect a surge of reviews at the end of this month.

Danny Boyle talks about Bond 25

Danny Boyle

Danny Boyle, as part of an Esquire profile, said his version of Bond 25 would have been “all set in Russia, which is of course where Bond came from, out of the Cold War.

“It was set in present-day Russia and went back to his origins, and they just lost, what’s the word… they just lost confidence in it,” the director told Esquire.

This isn’t entirely surprising. Thanks to an interview that production designer Mark Tildesley did, it was known that a Russian gulag set was being constructed in Canada. Also, during the Boyle period of Bond 25, a replica rocket was built.

Boyle also said his screenwriter, John Hodge, also introduced a Bond’s child character.

“The idea that they used in a different way was the one of [James Bond’s] child, which [Hodge] introduced [and which] was wonderful,” Boyle told the magazine.

Boyle also expressed to Esquire a stronger misgiving about becoming involved in a franchise movie.

“I remember thinking, ‘Should I really get involved in franchises?’ Because they don’t really want something different,. They want you to freshen it up a bit, but not really challenge it, and we wanted to do something different with it.”

Bond 25 (eventually titled No Time to Die) began pre-production in 2017 with Neal Purvis and Robert Wade as writers. Then, Boyle and Hodge figuratively raised their hands with their idea. In May 2018, it was announced Boyle would direct from a Hodge script.

Before the end of the summer of 2018, Boyle and Hodge exited. Purvis and Wade returned, with Cary Fukunaga directing (and writing also). The switch helped delay the project by about six months. COVID-19 then caused additional delays. No Time to Die didn’t come out until fall 2021.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: First attempt at a Thunderball script

Kevin McClory's cameo in Thunderball

Kevin McClory’s cameo in Thunderball

Adapted from a 2015 post

Bond collector Gary J. Firuta loaned us a copy of the first script in what would eventually become 1965’s Thunderball — but it’s an uneven effort at best.

The script was Jack Whittingham’s first draft, titled Longitude 78 West for producer Kevin McClory. It’s dated as being completed on Feb. 15, 1960. The title page specifically refers to it as a “first draft screenplay” that’s “Based on a story by Ian Fleming.”

The villains belong to the Mafia and are led by Giovanni “Joe” Largo. Except we’re told in the second half of the script that name is an alias. Nevertheless, he is identified as Largo throughout the script in both lines of dialogue and in stage directions.

Aside from the hijacking of two atomic bombs, there’s no other action in the script’s first half. It begins with a short pre-credits sequence where U.S. President Harry S. Truman comments about how, one day, civilization could be destroyed by atomic weapons.

“It is hoped that we may be able to persuade Mr. Truman to record this scene,” the stage directions read. “If not, it’s (sic) intention and content can be expressed quite easily some other way.”

Bond doesn’t appear until page 26. The rule of thumb is that one page of script equals a minute of running time. So 007 wouldn’t be seen until almost a half-hour into the movie. He’s on the shooting range at headquarters, in a scene similar to the opening of Fleming’s Moonraker novel.

Bond is summoned to M’s office. Here, the secretary to the MI6 chief is named simply Penny, not Moneypenny. The British government has been notified by the Mafia it has the atomic bombs and it wants 100 million pounds.

We also see things unfold in the Bahamas. Largo’s mistress is Gaby. It’s clear she’s not particularly enthusiastic about the arrangement. He wants her for, in effect, decoration at an upcoming meeting of delegates to a supposed union meeting (of course they’re fellow members of the Mafia, or the Brotherhood). “I’ve got a lot of entertaining to do, and I want you around,” Largo tells Gaby.

Bond meets Gaby at a hotel on page 38. It turns out Largo’s group is meeting there as well. Bond orders a planter’s punch from a bartender and buys a vodka martini for Gaby. They talk until page 41, when Bond first gets a look at Largo and 007 meets the villain on the following page.

Shortly thereafter, Bond meets up with the CIA’s Felix Leiter. After a meeting with the governor of the Bahamas, the agents have lunch. Bond talks a lot about food. When Bond asks the waiter for a wine list, Leiter replies: “Not for me thanks. Bring me a glass of water.” Bond says, “Of course, I’d forgotten!” What he forgot is never explained.

In the story, there’s a sequence that goes back and forth between Bond romancing Gaby and Leiter keeping tabs on Largo’s group. There’s also a scene where Gaby talks to Johnni, a young boy who’s a crew member on Largo’s yacht. Bond wonders why Gaby is so interested in children. She replies because she can’t have any.

The action picks up in the second half. Largo is mad about Bond being with Gaby, and the agent gets beaten up. Eventually, the Mafia makes its move and is ready to bring one of the bombs to Miami.

Bond plays Largo in a game of baccarat. Presumably, this is an homage to Fleming’s Casino Royale and the scene is more important that a similar scene in Thunderball; in that version, the card game is where Bond and Largo first meet. Bond tries to win Gaby to his side and instructs her how to deactivate, or activate, the bomb.

Meanwhile, Leiter, while not an equal to Bond, is more of a participant in events than he’d be in Thunderball. He gets captured by Largo and is on the villain’s yacht.

In the climax, Bond is involved in an underwater fight with the Mafia (though not as expansive as would take place in Thunderball). Largo shoots Leiter, after the CIA agent had gotten free. Largo takes Gaby and the other bomb in an airplane.

Bond tends to Felix and watches the plane getting away. Then, the aircraft goes up in an atomic explosion. “She’s done it…She had the guts…She’s done it!” Bond says as the story ends.

Besides the downer ending, which 007 audiences wouldn’t experience until 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the script is unusual in other ways. It’s very chatty. VERY chatty. Scenes go on and on. Bond comes across as a social worker where he quizzes Gaby about her fondness for children.

Granted this is a first draft, but one suspects if this version had gone before the cameras, the cinema 007 might have ended right there.