Family model vs. corporate model Part II

Avengers: Age of Ultron poster

Avengers: Age of Ultron poster

We’re on the verge of the newest chapter in the family model vs. corporate model of filmmaking. Once more, some big numbers are being discussed.

Weeks before it opens, there are already box office projections for Avengers: Age of Ultron, the latest entry from Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel Studios, representing the machine-like corporate model of predictability. A story at the DEADLINE entertainment news website says the new Avengers film is “tracking a little better than (2012’s) The Avengers at the same point in the cycle…and is expected to be one of the highest — if not the highest — opening in history.”

Marvel’s The Avengers movie in 2012 had a U.S. opening weekend of $207 million on its way to an eventual $1.5 billion worldwide box office.

The family model is represented by Eon Productions, which makes the James Bond film series. Eon is controlled by Michael G. Wilson (stepson) and Barbara Broccoli (daughter) of Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli.

Eon’s most recent offering, 2012’s Skyfall, scored $1.11 billion at the box office.  Things were closer outside the U.S. where The Avengers had a box office of $895 million while Skyfall had at $804 million, according to the Box Office Mojo website.

The projections cited by Deadline tend to set expectations within the movie industry. If you meet or exceed the projections, you’re doing great. If you fall short, even if the numbers are still substantial, it’s seen as disappointing.

“Geez, what will Disney/Marvel do if they only open to $200M on this one?” Deadline’s Anita Busch wrote.

Eon’s newest 007 installment, SPECTRE, is due out in November. It will also have high expectations when its tracking numbers begin to appear. That’s because of Skyfall’s success as well as SPECTRE’s $300 million budget, which became known because of the computer hacks at Sony Pictures, which is releasing SPECTRE.

Dissecting the SPECTRE teaser trailer

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

This post originally appeared in Portuguese on the Pipoca Gigante website. People who consider trailers as spoilers should not read.

The arrival of the teaser trailer is one of the most awaited moments for James Bond fans every time a new film is produced. It’s the first actual glimpse of the upcoming film and it gives you an idea of what awaits.

On the evening of Friday, March 27, the countdown on the official James Bond site reached zero and fans from around the world got the first look at SPECTRE, set for a November release.

The tradition of the 007 teaser trailers has changed as much as the movie plots. Back in the 1960s and 1970s we had the high-sounding coming attractions shouting JAMES BOND IS BACK, showcasing much of the action sequences of the film and the name of the star, SEAN CONNERY or ROGER MOORE in big and bold capital letters, as well as many of the members of the cast being mentioned.

This tradition slowed down by the times of Pierce Brosnan, whose James Bond era started with GoldenEye in 1995. Teaser trailers were less extravagant, yet they focused in the action scenes, the witty lines and –- in a more discrete way –- the name of the actor playing Bond either had a credit or was mentioned in the narrations.

One of the key elements of the Brosnan era teaser trailers were the narrations: “Some men want to rule the world, but for one man… The World is not Enough,” claimed the trailer for the 1999 blockbuster directed by Michael Apted.

As Daniel Craig took over the role in 2006 with Casino Royale, a grittier approach was taken with shots of the film’s action sequences or Bond’s emotional reactions. 2012’s Skyfall gave little away about the film’s plot and its highlight was 007’s admission test with a therapist who provokes a stone-faced reaction of the spy when he mentions the film’s title during a word-association exercise. That, of course, led to the usual flashes of action sequences.

SPECTRE is particularly interesting because the teaser trailer breaks a tradition. There are no action scenes at all.

The focus is on the mysterious past of James Bond and a few ties with the Skyfall case: personal effects on found on the ruins of 007’s childhood residence show he had a secret. “something you can’t tell anyone, because you don’t trust anyone”, in the words of Naomie Harris’ Miss Moneypenny.

We can see 007 exploring some papers including an authorization of guardianship when he was 12 (dated January 21, 1983 – so we assume Bond was born in 1971) and a photo of him in a snowy place with an elderly man and another older stepbrother whose face isn’t clearly seen since the photo survived the lodge’s explosions.

We’re meant to believe this is also related to the film’s villain, Oberhauser, played by Cristoph Waltz. In the short story Octopussy, Ian Fleming specifies a man called Hannes Oberhauser taught James Bond to ski during his teens and as a matter of fact the secret agent is sent to settle the score with the man who apparently shot him, one Major Dexter Smythe (this is also briefly mentioned and modified in the 1983 film with the same name).

As many Bond enthusiasts know, screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have always borrowed Fleming materials since they started working on the series in The World is not Enough, so it won’t be strange something of this material would make an appearance in SPECTRE.

The following shots, besides highlighting Hoyte van Hoytema’s cinematography, contain quite a few references to the previous Bond films.

As 007 enters an abandoned cabin two crows quickly fly next to him, a quick reminder of director John Glen’s trademark every time a dove disturbed Bond when climbing a building or a mountain (see For your eyes only and Licence to Kill). Then the spy meets an old enemy, Mr. White, the character Jesper Christensen played in two previous Daniel Craig films, Casino Royale and his follow-up Quantum of Solace.

The man, leader of the Quantum criminal organization and responsible of the suicide of Bond’s short-time girlfriend Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), is seen in the misery: beardy, tired and ragged. He’s playing chess, apparently alone, which could be considered as a reference to 1963’s From Russia with Love where SPECTRE agent Kronsteen (Vladek Sheybal) is a chess master and uses his intellect to plan Bond’s assassination.

“You’re a kite dancing on a hurricane, Mr. Bond”, says White as 007 shows him a more discreet version of the classic octopus ring that identified the organization the film is named after.

We understand, as many sources pointed out, that this movie would tie the stories and sub-plots started in the three previous films, such as Vesper’s death (Casino Royale), the Quantum organization (Quantum of Solace) and the passing of Judi Dench’s M (Skyfall).

The very last minutes of the teaser trailer are a clear reference to the SPECTRE meeting in Thunderball (1965), where Ernst Stavro Blofeld leads a meeting of his operatives in Paris. The image of Oberhauser, with his face hidden in the shadows, echoes the days where Blofeld’s face wasn’t seen leaving the audiences only with a shot of his hands stroking the white cat.

“Welcome, James. It’s been a long time. But finally, here we are,” Oberhauser says during an Illuminati-esque board meeting of the organization that Bond seems to infiltrate after –- or before -– attending a funeral where Monica Bellucci’s character Lucia Sciarra is seen. Curiously enough, in Thunderball Blofeld mentioned to his agents the death of another SPECTRE member, Colonel Jacques Boitier. Would be that a SPECTRE funeral, maybe?

As the countdown to the film’s release starts, producer Michael G. Wilson told reporters he aimed to construct this teaser trailer as “a puzzle”. Without doubt, he accomplished this effect with great success.

Nicolás Suszczyk is editor of The GoldenEye Dossier.

Here’s the trailer if you haven’t seen it:

Literary 007 location: St. Petersburg, Florida

Cover to a U.S. paperback edition of LIve And Let Die

Cover to a U.S. paperback edition of LIve And Let Die

In the novel Live And Let Die (1954), St. Petersburg, Florida, wasn’t exactly James Bond’s type of town.

In Chapter 13, “Death of a Pelican,” at one point “Bond caught a whiff of the atmosphere that makes the town the ‘Old Folks Home’ of America. Everyone on the sidewalks had white hair, white or blue, and the famous Sidewalk Davenports that Solitaire had described were thick with oldsters sitting in rows like the starlings in Trafalgar Square.”

Author Ian Fleming goes on to describe “the stringy, collapsed chests and arms of the men displayed to the sunshine in Truman shirts.” Women had “fluffy, sparse balls of hair” while the men had “bony bald heads.”

As Bond takes all this in, American agent Felix Leiter says, “It makes you want to climb right into the tomb and pull the lid down.”

By the late 1980s, Pinellas County, Florida, part of the Tampa Bay metro area which includes St. Petersburg, was bustling with development. Downtown St. Petersburg, however, wasn’t seeing as much of that development.

In 2015, it’s doubtful Fleming would recognize the place.

On March 7, there were several weddings taking place in downtown St. Petersburg, including an outdoor ceremony. Not a strand of blue hair to be seen. The downtown area now is jammed with with various new restaurants.

It’s also awash in money. There’s a large sign promoting a condo project for units priced from $500,000 to more than $1 million. A major St. Petersburg pier project is planned. It’s a long way from what Leiter described to Bond as “pawnshops stuffed with gold watches and masonic rings.”

For more information about St. Petersburg, CLICK HERE for Wikipedia’s entry about the city.

Alan J. Porter discusses his James Bond Lexicon project

Promo for The James Bond Lexicon

Promo for The James Bond Lexicon

Writer Alan J. Porter is coming out with a new reference work, The James Bond Lexicon. He’s also at work on a similar project concerning The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Porter discussed both projects in an e-mail interview. The Bond project is further along and within a few months of being published.

QUESTION: Please describe the format and organization of The James Bond Lexicon and The Lexicon Affair about U.N.C.L.E. About when will each be published?

PORTER: The Lexicon series from Hasslein Books (http://www.hassleinbooks.com) are encyclopedia style references guides related to various pop-culture franchises. They already have volumes on The Planet of the Apes, Back to the Future, and Red Dwarf. My wife, Gill, and I will be adding volumes on James Bond and U.N.C.L.E.

First up will be “The James Bond Lexicon” which will cover the world of 007 across all media, movies, novels, TV, and comics. The manuscript is currently with the publishers for copy-editing, and given it’s size (about 700 pages in total) we are discussing the possibility that it will be published as a two-volume set. Publication is slated for end of September, early October this year — around the same time that SPECTRE hits the movie screens.

While the Bond book is in production we have started writing “The Lexicon Affair: A Guide to the world of U.N.C.L.E.” This will cover both Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Girl from U,N.C.L.E. in TV, movies, novels, short stories, and comics. As we are relatively early in the writing stage we don’t have a publication date set just yet.

QUESTION: What do The James Bond Lexicon and The Lexicon Affair bring to the table compared with other books such as Raymond Benson’s James Bond Bedside Companion or Jon Heitland’s Man From U.N.C.L.E. Book or Cynthia W. Walker’s Work/Text Investigating The Man From U.N.C.L.E.?

PORTER: I believe that these will be the first books to comprehensively cover the franchises in detail across the full range of media. Plus they will be as up to date as possible. For instance the Bond Lexicon includes entries from the recent Stephen Cole authored Young Bond novel, Shoot to Kill.

The U.N.C.L.E. book will cover the upcoming movie reboot along with the classic series. The book style is more of an encyclopedia reference rather than a critical review style, although there will be a few supporting essays touching on items such as series continuity (or lack of) and the enduring popularity of the two franchises.

QUESTION: Did your encounter any surprises while researching each book?

PORTER: I think the biggest surprise from working on the Bond Lexicon was just how many different officially sanctioned interpretations of James Bond there has been over the years. I’m not talking about between actors, but distinctly different back-stories, ways of operating, time periods etc.

We grouped various Bonds together by loose continuity; for instance we considered that the Connery-Lazenby-Moore-Dalton-Brosnan Bond was a single Bond, while the Craig Bond was a completely new Bond.

Similarly, we counted the Fleming, Gardner, Benson Bonds as being three separate incarnations and so on. In the end we counted 18 different James Bonds. And I’m sure not everyone will agree with the way we defined those different Bonds either.

It’s early days on the U.N.C.L.E work so I can’t say that we’ve discovered any major surprises yet (although I’m sure we will). One initial observation is the appalling lack of consistency, often even within the same story. It’s making for some interesting discussions around how, and where, certain entries will go in the book.

QUESTION: What are the similarities, as you see them, between James Bond and Napoleon Solo? The differences?

PORTER: It’s often been stated that Ian Fleming designed Solo to be “Bond for the small screen” with the same basic traits and attitudes of a “suave sophisticated secret agent” with an eye for the ladies. But I think it’s fair to say that beyond that superficial description the two characters clearly diverged over the years.

Bond has that rougher edge, the underlying truth that he is a violent man, a “blunt instrument,” out to do a dirty job. In many ways Bond is the archetype lone stranger who arrives, sorts out the problem, and leaves.

Solo (ironically given his name) became the opposite of that, he is a team player, and part of double act where the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. Solo is less of the blunt instrument and more of the protector.

QUESTION: Who were you a fan of first? Bond or Solo? How did you become a fan of each? (Or are you a fan of each?)

PORTER: I can clearly date the start of my interest in Bond to the winter of 1965 and playing the Thunderball board game at a friends house, but with U.N.C.L.E. it’s always been more of a case of general awareness that probably started around the same time. I had both the Corgi Aston-Martin DB5 and the THRUSH buster toys, read Bond comics in the newspapers and U.N.C.L.E. comics in TV Tornado each week. Obviously U.N.C.L.E. faded into the background and Bond became more prominent because of the franchise’s continuing presence in the public eye, but I never forgot the guys in the secret headquarters behind the tailor’s shop.

QUESTION: Both Bond and Solo will have a film adventure in 2015, SPECTRE and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. What are you looking for from each one? What needs to happen for each film to be considered a success?

PORTER: Wow – the answer to that could be an essay all of its own.

I will say I was disappointed that they actually used SPECTRE as the title of the next Bond movie. I would have much preferred that the revelation about the return of SPECTRE would have come from the plot and been a surprise (much like the fate of M in Skyfall). Having said that, like most people I believe, I’m hoping for a return to some of the good old classic Bond movie tropes we’ve been missing for a while. The end of Skyfall hinted at it, I just hope they follow through with something that has the same vibe as movies like From Russia With Love, or On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

With the U.N.C.L.E. movie my underlying hope is that they respect the source material, unlike certain recent Hollywood abominations (Green Hornet for instance). It looks like they have the tone and period right from what we’ve seen in the trailer so far although I was disappointed not to hear the classic TV show theme used. My fingers are crossed that it will be a fun ride and one that reinvigorates interest in the franchise bringing more people back to discovering the TV show. Then maybe I can wear my U.N.C.L.E. logo t-shirt without people asking me what it stands for.

QUESTION: Daniel Craig is now filming his fourth Bond film. What is your analysis of his tenure?

PORTER: I’ll be honest I’m still not sure. I thought Casino Royale was great, and loved his portrayal of Bond in that, although he was too old to be a Double-O at the start of his career. Hated Quantum of Solace, but I think that was more to do with the weak story and the frantic style of direction.

Skyfall left me conflicted, loved it at first but on each rewatch I dislike it more and more. Craig definitely plays the aging agent well, but, to put it bluntly, his Bond in Skyfall is simply incompetent. I’m looking forward to SPECTRE being the movie when the Craig era redeems itself in my eyes.

QUESTION: Henry Cavill, the new Solo, lost out to Craig to play Bond. How do you think he may do as Solo? (Right now, all we have to go on is a trailer.)

PORTER: From the short glimpses of him in the trailer he looks well suited to the part (much more so than he is to the Superman role). He’s an actor I’ve enjoyed watching over the years, although I’m not sure he would have worked as Bond either, and hopefully Solo will be his breakout franchise role.

QUESTION: A book is always hard work, but has either, or both, been fun to do?

PORTER: There is always a point about midway through any book project where you think, “What the hell am I doing this for.” The Bond Lexicon turned out to be a much bigger project than we first thought and ended up taking about three years to find everything and do the research. There was a point when we never wanted to look at anything Bond related again, but it didn’t last long. We’ve had so much support and interest from friends and fellow fans in the Bond community that it’s been a wonderful experience. We can’t wait to share the results of all that work later this year.

The U.N.C.L.E. book is great fun to do, and as we haven’t seen most of the material in decades, and in some cases this is the first time we’ve read many of the spin-off stories, it’s like rediscovering the franchise all over again.

For more about The James Bond Lexicon, CLICK HERE. For more about The Lexicon Affair, CLICK HERE. For Alan J. Porter’s website, CLICK HERE.

 

Book Bond: No U.S. print edition of Young Bond novel

The Book Bond website, IN A POST BY JOHN COX, reports there are no plans for a U.S. print edition of Shoot to Kill, the first Young Bond novel written by Steve Cole.

According to the website, a reader contacted Cole’s literary agent, Curtis Brown. The agent advised there weren’t plans “at the moment” for Shoot to Kill to be published in the United States and that getting a British edition was the best way to proceed.

Cole took on the assignment of writing Young Bond stories after five novels by Charlie Higson. Cole’s story line was described thusly by IAN FLEMING PUBLICATIONS: “Expelled from Eton and determined never to trust again, James Bond’s plans for a solitary summer are dashed by the discovery of a gruesome film reel – a reel someone is willing to kill for.”

To read The Book Bond post, CLICK HERE.

Eon vs. Marvel: the sequel

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

In April 2013, we contrasted the corporate model of movie making, as done by Marvel Studios, with the family model, as embodied by Eon Productions, which produces James Bond movies.

Since then, the differences have only gotten sharper and more defined.

Marvel, owned by Walt Disney Co., has laid out a slate of movies for the rest of the decade. It’s a movie assembly line.

Eon, controlled by the heirs of Albert R. Broccoli, isn’t so machine like. After a big hit with 2012’s Skyfall, it delayed production of SPECTRE, its current production, to ensure the participation of director Sam Mendes.

As a result, we’ve updated and expanded that 2013 post. To read the new version, CLICK HERE. It’s archived at the new SPY COMMAND FEATURE INDEX.

That site is a place to find longer feature stories written by Bill Koenig, editor of The Spy Command, that originally appeared on a now-inactive website.

Canada may change copyright laws

"I may not be in the public domain in Canada afterall?"

“I may not be in the public domain in Canada afterall?”

Canada may change its copyright laws as part of trade negotiations, which could squelch publication of new, unauthorized James Bond stories.

Here’s an excerpt from a Feb. 7 story in THE HUFFINGTON POST.

The U.S.’s controversial “Mickey Mouse Protection Act” — the name given by critics to a particularly strong copyright term law — may be coming to Canada thanks to a new trade deal.

There’s plenty we don’t know about what’s been agreed to in the negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, largely because of a monolithic veil of secrecy surrounding the talks (although many of Canada’s lobbyists have reportedly been given access).

But according to a news brief from Japan’s NHK, negotiators working on the 12-country TPP trade area have come to an agreement on the copyright chapter of the trade deal. Under the agreement, copyright terms would be extended to the life of the creator plus 70 years.

You can view view the NHK item BY CLICKING HERE. It’s short and vague, referring to how trade negotiators “are a step closer” to change.

The literary 007 is controlled by Ian Fleming Publications, managed by the heirs of James Bond creator Ian Fleming.

In Canada, the literary Bond entered public domain on Jan. 1. Under copyright law there, protection lasts 50 years after the author’s death. That prompted the announcement of AN UNAUTHORIZED ANTHOLOGY OF JAMES BOND STORIES CALLED LICENCE EXPIRED to be published in that country. The copyright law may endanger that project. For more, you can view THIS STORY on the MI6 James Bond website.

A couple of questions, though, to keep in mind: If Canada changes its copyright laws, when would it take effect? (Immediately? Some future date?) Depending on that answer, is still possible the unauthorized Bond stories could see print before the law changes? If the answer to that question is yes, the anthology could become a bit of a Bond collector’s item.

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