‘Jane Bond’ gets some pushback

Atomic Blonde poster

Over the past few years, there have been occasional stories suggesting this actress or that would make a great female James Bond.

Of late, there has been some pushback against that notion.

In April, Rosamund Pike told the Uproxx website she was against the idea of a female James Bond, sometimes referred to “Jane Bond.”

“I’d just say write a new story,” Pike was quoted by Uproxx. “I mean James Bond is a character that Ian Fleming created. I mean, you know of course the brand has become bigger and whatever, but take one of the Bond Girls and give her her own story. I think the character of James Bond is a man. He is really.”

Pike, of course, was in 2002’s Die Another Day. So being a former Bond woman gives Pike a platform that others don’t have in addressing the subject.

This week, a writer for Forbes.com took things a bit further.

Scott Mendelson, who writes about films and the box office they generate, said audiences haven’t supported movies with strong women characters.

His article was titled, “You Don’t Deserve A Female James Bond Or A Lady Indiana Jones.” Here’s an excerpt.

We wouldn’t need a gender swap for Indiana Jones or James Bond if you, dear moviegoers, would actually spend your time and money on the female-led action movies we already get. We actually had a pretty great female James Bond flick last summer. It was called Atomic Blonde, and most of you missed it.

Atomic Blonde’s worldwide box office totaled $95.8 million, according to Box Office Mojo. That was less than the $109.8 million for 2015’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E., widely seen as a flop. Despite that, there’s talk we may get a sequel to Atomic Blonde.

Another example cited by Mendelson was the recent Tomb Raider reboot, starring Alicia Vikander (who also appeared in the 2015 U.N.C.L.E. movie). Tomb Raider’s global box office was $272.5 million,  with $215.3 million of that coming from outside the United States.

The thing is, Mendelson isn’t a “get off my lawn” guy. Here’s one more excerpt.

When you champion gender-swapped variations of traditionally male franchises (that’s good) while ignoring the female-led movies that already exist (that’s bad), you do two things. You show Hollywood that there isn’t a “go to the theaters” interest in female-led action movies and thrillers, and you place a higher value on older white and male franchises versus newer franchises or standalone movies that began with a female lead. You essentially tell women that cosplaying as a famous white dude hero is the ultimate aspiration.

Once upon a time (as the blog was reminded by reader Stuart Basinger in 2016), when the film rights to Casino Royale were first acquired, producer-director Gregory Ratoff wanted to change James Bond into a woman.

Recent pushback against the idea suggests fans of “Jane Bond” are no closer today than in Ratoff’s time.

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Atomic Blonde comes in at No. 4 this weekend

Atomic Blonde poster

Atomic Blonde, the spy movie starring Charlize Theron, finished fourth at the U.S. and Canada weekend box office, according to data compiled by the Box Office Mojo website.

The film generated box office of $18.6 million, finishing behind Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan’s World War II drama in its second weekend ($28.1 million); The Emoji Movie ($25.7 million); and Girls Trip ($20.1 million).

Atomic Blonde is based on a graphic novel titled The Coldest City. It had a 75 percent “fresh” rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website that aggregates critic reviews.

The movie was also the third consecutive spy movie to get a release date in the final weekend of July. Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation had the spot in 2015 and Jason Bourne did last year. Each finished No. 1 in their opening weekends.

Mission: Impossible 6, currently in production, will be slotted in the final July weekend in 2018.

A Sampling of Early Atomic Blonde Reviews

Atomic Blonde poster

Atomic Blonde, this summer’s spy movie, has received mostly positive back in March when the film was shown at the South by Southwest film festival.

The film, starring Charlize Theron, had a Rotten Tomatoes score of 81 percent because of those reviews. It remains to be seen how the score may change with newer reviews that come in ahead of its opening this week.

Regardless, here are some non-spoiler excerpts of reviews.

ERIC KOHN, INDIEWIRE: “The first solo effort by ‘John Wick’ co-director David Leitch, ‘Atomic Blonde’ exists in the same realm of hyperstylized action built around the cold ferocity of an unstoppable action star. It only falters when attempting to tie more story around her….Oscillating between the relentless energy of ‘John Wick’ and the dense plotting of a John Le Carré novel, ‘Atomic Blonde’ never quite finds a happy medium between the two. But when Theron goes back to kicking ass, nothing else matters.”

JOHN DEFORE, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: “The more obvious comparison, of course, is with the latest, earthily violent incarnation of James Bond. As enjoyable as Atomic Blonde can be at times, its main utility may be its demonstration that Theron deserves better than this. If not a reincarnation in which James becomes ‘Bond, Jane Bond,’ then at least something with more staying power than this actioner, which looks good and gets some things right, but is as uninterested in its protagonist’s personality as its generic name suggests.”

ANDREW BARKER, VARIETY: “Lifted from Antony Johnston’s graphic novel ‘The Coldest City,’ ‘Atomic Blonde’s’ heroine is a blank slate of emotionless efficiency. A master of cold stares and even colder line readings, (Theron character) Lorraine’s entire diet appears to consist of frozen Stoli on the rocks…Leitch seems uninterested in developing relationships between his characters, leaving them to scamper about on parallel tracks until the hazy machinations of the plot conspire to bring them together.”

JOANNA ROBINSON, VANITY FAIR: “In Atomic Blonde, (Theron’s) Cold War-era spy character, Lorraine Broughton, brutally dispatches Russian and German agents without ever losing an inch of style. She’s the captivating eye of a rather messy plot storm, and you won’t be able to keep your eyes off her for a second. The film had a triumphant, ecstatic debut at SXSW on Sunday night, but won’t debut in the U.S. until July 28. All other summer blockbusters should just surrender now.”

MEREDITH BORDERS: BIRTH. MOVIES. DEATH:Atomic Blonde gives us so little to actually care about, an exercise in style over substance where even the style starts to grate after a time.”

Late July: The new hot spy movie release date

Atomic Blonde poster

Through a series of unrelated events, the last weekend of July has emerged as a hot release date in the U.S. for spy movies.

This year’s entry is Atomic Blonde, with Charlize Theron as Lorraine Broughton, an operative adept at both gunplay and hand-to-hand combat. It opens in the U.S. on July 28.

Atomic Blonde is the third spy film in a row to open during the final July weekend.

The streak began with Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, the fifth installment in star-producer Tom Cruise’s film series.

Rogue Nation originally was set to open on Christmas Day 2015. However, Paramount moved up Rogue Nation’s release to get it out of the way of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which had a Dec. 18, 2015 release date.

The strategy worked. Rogue Nation ended up with a box office of $195 million in the U.S. and Canada and $682.7 million globally.

Rogue Nation also affected another spy movie, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which came out just two weeks later. Rogue Nation was still going strong and U.N.C.L.E. was No. 3 its opening weekend.

In 2016, both star Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass returned to the Bourne franchise with Jason Bourne. Universal slotted the movie for a July 29 release date.

Jason Bourne didn’t do quite as well as Rogue Nation, with a U.S.-Canada box office of $162.4 million and $415.5 million worldwide.

Regardless of Atomic Blonde’s box office results later this month, the July spy movie streak already is guaranteed to continue. Paramount has Mission: Impossible 6 scheduled for July 27, 2018. The movie currently is in production.

To a degree, this makes a lot of sense. The “summer” movie release in the U.S. begins in May. Many of the biggest summer films already have been in theaters and late July is a chance for spy films to find an audience.

If you haven’t seen it, here’s one of the trailers of Atomic Blonde.