About that No. 1 spoiler for No Time to Die

No Time to Die poster

YES, there be spoilers. So if you’re spoiler sensitive, stop reading now. This is your last warning. To make what seems like an obvious point to me, spoilers are necessary for this post. I gave this post the most bland title to avoiding giving things away.

No Time to Die wraps up a five-movie arc featuring Daniel Craig as James Bond. It’s a self-contained Bond universe that (mostly) doesn’t concern the previous 20 Eon Productions movies.

Eon Productions got the idea in the middle of the arc (in between Skyfall and SPECTRE). Still, it’s now official these films are their own thing. That’s much the way that Christopher Nolan’s three Batman movies are their own thing, not related to any other Batman films.

Whether Eon wants to admit it or not, the makers of the Bond film series are following the same path set by Fox and Marvel movies featuring Marvel comic book characters

With 2015’s SPECTRE, Eon specifically adapted interconnected storytelling featured in movies made by Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel Studios. With No Time to Die, Eon has doubled down on that concept.

2017’s Logan (made by Fox before it was absorbed by Disney), we had the final Hugh Jackman adventure as Logan/Wolverine. In 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, we had the concluding tale of Tony Stark/Iron man (Robert Downey Jr.), ending an arc of more than a decade.

The concept, of course, is The Hero’s Last Stand. The hero falls, but falls heroically. The audience weeps.

When executed well, it works.

To be clear, The Hero’s Last Stand goes back a long time. It was included in genres as diverse as Biblical epics (Samson and Deliah) and Westerns (Ride the High Country and The Shootist). But Bibical movies and Westerns aren’t popular anymore.

But comic book films are.

For example, Tony Stark makes the ultimate sacrifice to save those who matter the most to him. Sound familiar?

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron about to make the ultimate sacrifice in Avengers: Endgame (2019)

You may respond that’s a coincidence. No, it’s not.

The tabloids ran stories in 2018 and 2019 speculating about whether Bond 25 would kill off Craig’s Bond. They also had stories asking whether Eon or Danny Boyle, No Time to Die’s original director wanted to kill Bond off.

The Sun said in August 2018 that Boyle quit because he did not want to kill off Bond. The Daily Star said in April 2019 that it was Boyle who wanted Bond “to die in the arms of returning Bond girl Lea Seydoux in the 25th spy movie Shatterhand.” (Oops.)

Regardless, we now know that somebody did. The notion of Bond dying has been in plain sight for more than three years.

To be sure, movies can have similar themes and still be good. High Noon and Rio Bravo featured western lawmen who were outnumbered by the bad guys. But the two movies had considerably different takes on the same notion.

Many Bond fans despise Marvel films. Many fans are in denial that Bond has been adapting Marvel film concepts (including Eon boss Barbara Broccoli).

Of course, it also works the way around. Both Nolan’s Batman movies and Marvel’s film output have been influenced by Bond. Example: Look at casino scenes in 2012’s Skyfall and 2018’s Black Panther, for example.

Regardless, all still comes down to execution. So how does No Time to Die’s version of The Hero’s Last Stand compare?

When I finally saw it, I’d have to say very well. The ending had been spoiled for me. Not in a, “I stumbled it while surfing the internet” way but hearing it presented to me full on. Nevertheless, watching it for the first time, it felt genuinely emotional.

You may disagree. And that’s fine. The thing is, Bond’s exit in No Time to Die is not brand-new territory.

Chadwick Boseman dies

Black Panther poster

Chadwick Boseman, who brought to life real-life figures such as Jackie Robinson to life as well as the Stan Lee-Jack Kirby character Black Panther, has died at 43, according to The Associated Press.

Boseman played Jackie Robinson in the 2013 film 42 (referring to Robinson’s uniform number), James Brown in Get on Up (2014) and Thurgood Marshall in Marshall (2017).

The actor also played the title character in Black Panther (2018). He had earlier played the part in Captain America: Civil War (2016) and did an encore in Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2019).

Black Panther was the first Marvel Studios film to receive a Best Picture nomination. It was seen as a sign that comic book-based movies could reach beyond their humble origins.

When the film came out in 2018, it had a big impact. Black audience members embraced the phrase “Wakanda Forever!”

T’Challa, the Black Panther, was introduced in 1966 in an issue of the Fantastic Four. The character was the head of an African country with advanced technology. Black Panther ever since has been one of the major characters of Marvel Comics.

News of Boseman’s death was shocking to fans. The actor was diagnosed with colon cancer four years ago, AP reported.

UPDATE (Aug. 29): Here is a tweet on Chadwick Boseman’s Twitter feed announcing his death:

 

Black Panther wins Marvel its first Oscars

Black Panther poster

Marvel Studios, which has had a major impact on movies since it began making its own films in 2008, won its first Oscars thanks to 2018’s Black Panther.

The superhero film won Oscars for costume design, production design and its score. Black Panther was set in the fictional African nation of Wakanda, which had technology unknown to most of the most of the world.

Wakanda and its ruler T’Challa were introduced in a 1966 issue of Fantastic Four by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

The film version of the Black Panther character (Chadwick Boseman) was introduced in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. The Black Panther film was released in February 2018, generating worldwide box office of $1.35 billion.

The movie was also nominated for best film. It lost to Green Book.

Separately, Stan Lee, who died last year at age 95, was included in the In Memoriam segment of the Oscars show.

Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War was nominated for best visual effects but lost to First Man.

Also of note:

–Daniel Craig and Charlize Theron presented the Oscar for best supporting actor. The James Bond Theme played as they came on stage. Mahershala Ali won in the category for Green Book.

–An instrumental version of Live And Let Die was played following an early commercial break on the broadcast. The title song for the eighth James Bond film was nominated for best song but didn’t win.

–Rami Malek, who reportedly is of interest to Eon Productions to play the villain in Bond 25, won the Oscar for best actor in Bohemian Rhapsody.

Black Panther receives Oscar Best Picture Nomination

Black Panther poster

Black Panther was one of eight films to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, the Academy for Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced today.

Marvel Studios and its parent company, Walt Disney Co., had promoted the 2018 film heavily during the nomination process. Black Panther also received other nominations, including best score, costume design, song and production design. It received no acting, writing or directing nominations.

Still, it was a big moment for Marvel, whose films have had a huge impact on the box office. Black Panther was No. 1 grossing U.S. film last year at $700 million, according to Box Office Mojo.  Worldwide, it was No. 2 at $1.35 billion, behind Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War at $2.05 billion.

The Black Panther character made his debut in 1966 as part of a Fantastic Four comic book by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The story introduced Wakanda, a technologically advanced African nation. The film drew also drew upon later stories by various writers and artists that expanded the Panther mythos. Director Ryan Coogler also said last year that the movie drew inspirations from James Bond films.

The other films nominated for Best Picture were BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, A Star Is Born and Vice.

Also, Rachel Weisz, wife of 007 actor Daniel Craig, was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for The Favourite.

Marvel’s Feige to get BAFTA’s Albert R. Broccoli award

Kevin Feige of Marvel Studios

Kevin Feige, head of Marvel Studios, will receive the Albert R. Broccoli Britannia Award for Worldwide Contribution to Entertainment at the 2018 British Academy Britannia Awards, the Los Angeles arm of BAFTA announced.

Under Feige, Marvel has produced 20 films the past decade, including three this year. Two of them, Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, each generated global box office in excess of $1 billion. The Avengers movie surpassed $2 billion.

According to BAFTA, Broccoli award winners “are that rare type of iconic and trail-blazing individuals whose innovative approach has had a profound, lasting impact on the global industry.”

Broccoli, co-founder of Eon Productions, began the James Bond film series. He was associated with the first 17 007 films. Feige is scheduled to receive the award Oct. 26.

Avengers: Infinity War sets U.S. box office record

Avengers: Infinity War poster

UPDATE (April 30): Avengers: Infinity War did better than-expected business on Sunday. Its final weekend figure was $258.2 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

ORIGINAL POST (April 29): Superhero fatigue? Not yet.

Avengers: Infinity War is generating an estimated opening domestic weekend of $250 million, Exhibitor Relations, which tracks box office data, said on Twitter.

That broke the record of almost $248 million for Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015.

Meanwhile, Avengers: Infinity War’s estimated global weekend is $630 million, according to the Box Office Mojo website.

The previous highest domestic opening weekend for a Marvel Studios film was $207.4 million for Marvel’s The Avengers in 2012.

Infinity War is the first of two movies intended as concluding story lines that began with 2008’s Iron Man. The next film, currently known as Avengers 4, is scheduled for May 2019.

Avengers: Infinity War features not only Avengers-related characters but also Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, Black Panther and the Guardians of the Galaxy. The movie’s villain, Thanos, has been teased for years in Marvel films but this is his first time as the primary antagonist.

Marvel already had a huge 2018. The Walt Disney Co.-owned studio in February came out with Black Panther, which generated global box office of $1.3 billion. Marvel has another film, Ant-Man and the Wasp, coming out this year.

Footnote: Kings, a drama with Daniel Craig and Halle Berry, had an opening U.S. weekend of $173,000, Exhibitor Relations said in a separate tweet.

Here are Avengers tweets from Exhibitor Relations.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

 

Critics weigh in on Avengers: Infinity War

Avengers: Infinity War poster

Marvel Studios, with one $1 billion-plus hit this year already (Black Panther), is looking for another one with Avengers: Infinity War.

The third Avengers film is intended as the beginning of the end of what we’ve come to know in the film franchise that began in May 2008. Following the movie’s premiere this week, reviews are coming off embargo. So here’s a non-spoiler sampling.

ALONSO DURALDE, THE WRAP: “If you’re a viewer who binges TV dramas because you can’t wait a week to find out what happens, the implied ‘to be continued’ at the end of ‘Infinity War’ may drive you batty. But if you’ve been solidly along for the Marvel ride up to this point, you’ll enjoy this leg of the journey even if it hasn’t yet reached the terminal.”

OWEN GLEIBERMAN, VARIETY: “So is the movie a jumbled, top-heavy mess of cynical franchise overkill? Sort of like the bloated and chaotic ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ taken to the second power? Far from it. It’s a sleekly witty action opera that’s at once overstuffed and bedazzling. The directors, Anthony and Joe Russo, as they proved in the two ‘Captain America’ sequels, are far more stylish and exacting filmmakers than Joss Whedon, who made the first two ‘Avengers’ films.”

ADAM GRAHAM, THE DETROIT NEWS: “‘Infinity War’ quickly turns unruly. It’s like if ‘We Are the World’ had to squeeze in three more verses to give Prince, Van Halen, Duran Duran, Phil Collins, Elton John and Madonna time to shine.”

A.O. SCOTT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: “‘Infinity War’ is a chunk of matter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a vast entity that long ago expanded beyond the usual boundaries of sequelization and brand extension.”

MARK HUGHES, FORBES.COM: “Avengers: Infinity War is the most ambitious, most audacious, most mindblowing superhero film ever produced. It is visually sumptuous, spectacularly entertaining, emotionally shocking and resonant. It is the perfect fulfillment of a promise Marvel made 10 years ago, and everything fans are hoping it could be.”

 

Bond 25: The passionless 007?

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Bond 25 is progressing. Nobody knows how quickly. Nobody outside Eon Productions know exactly what’s happening..

Despite questions this blog has raised (including how nobody knows the distributor who will actually get the movie to theaters) , chances are the next James Bond film will still come out in the fall of 2019.

Why? Well, somebody is likely to step up even if Skyfall and SPECTRE generated small profits for Sony Pictures, the distributor for those two 007 films. Bond, at least for now, still generates a lot of global attention.

Bond still is a way to promote other, more profitable movies for studios that may become involved in Bond 25’s distribution.

The question remains whether Bond 25 will generate passion for global movie audiences.

Marvel Studios’s Black Panther, the newest member of the billion-dollar movie club, generated passion. It was viewed as a breakthrough for a vast audience that finally got to see sympathetic movie characters who looked like them.

That’s passion.

James Bond movies, of course, have been around for more than 55 years. There have been a half-dozen actors who’ve played Bond in the films.

Yet, the lack of Bond passion goes beyond familiarity.

The two custodians of the 007 franchise (Barbara Broccoli, 57, and Michael G. Wilson, 76) have spent the bulk of their lives in Bondage. That’s both a tremendous achievement (keeping such a franchise going) and, one suspects, a tremendous burden.

Broccoli and Wilson operated for years under the watchful eye of Eon Productions co-founder Albert R. Broccoli (1909-1996) and his wife Dana Broccoli (1922-2004).

Since then, Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson have pursued non-Bond projects for many years now. Bond is lucrative. The other projects have provided variety. Maybe even provided passion.

In the coming months, there likely will be many stories generated about Bond 25.

But the larger question is whether Bond 25 will generate passion — for Broccoli and Wilson as well as the larger 007 audience.

Maybe it will. Maybe it won’t. But it’s something to keep in mind as the Bond 25 story unfolds.

Not a good weekend for movies not titled Black Panther

Black Panther poster

The March 2-4 weekend wasn’t kind to movies not titled Black Panther.

The Marvel Studios film, in its third weekend release in the U.S., is generating an estimated box office of $65.7 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

Black Panther is nearing the $900 million mark globally, according to the website.

A distant second is Red Sparrow, a spy movie with Jennifer Lawrence, at an estimated $17 million.

Third is a remake of Death Wish, with Bruce Willis subbing for Charles Bronson. It’s estimated to bring home $13 million for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

It’s the first film to be released through a new joint venture between MGM and Annapurna Pictures. That joint venture will release films for both MGM and Annapurna under their respective company names.

The producer of Death Wish is Roger Birnbaum. He and Gary Barber became co-CEOs after MGM initially came out of bankruptcy in 2010. But Birnbaum later dropped out and accepted a producer’s deal at the studio. Since then, Barber has been the sole CEO at MGM, which controls half of the 007 film franchise.

How Black Panther may be the future of Marvel films

Black Panther poster

UPDATE (Feb. 19): Black Panther’s U.S. box office for Friday-Sunday ended up at $201 million, Exhibitors Relations said on Twitter. 

ORIGINAL POST (Feb. 18): Black Panther, the newest Marvel Studios film, is being celebrated as a huge moment for black America. Examples include The New York Times Magazine (“a vivid re-imagination of something black Americans have cherished for centuries”) and The Guardian (“The film is already being regarded in the US as a positive force for social change”),

It may also be a sign of Marvel’s future.

Black Panther’s estimated Friday-Sunday U.S. box office is $192 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

That figure would be (unadjusted for inflation or higher ticket prices), the No. 2 U.S. opening for Marvel. Here are the other movies in Marvel’s top five (all of which eventually topped $1 billion at the worldwide box office):

Marvel’s The Avengers (2012): $207.4 million.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015): $191.3 million.

Captain America: Civil War (2016): $179.1 million.

Iron Man 3 (2013): $174.1 million.

Of the Marvel top five, Black Panther (starring Chadwick Boseman) is the only one not to include Robert Downey Jr. playing Tony Stark/Iron Man.

It was 2008’s Iron Man where Marvel began making its own films, instead of licensing the rights to others. The movie became the building block upon which Marvel built is movie universe. Four years later, with Marvel’s The Avengers, the notion of a “shared universe” became big business.

Some have wondered whether Marvel could withstand Downey’s eventual departure. The actor turns 53 in April and it’s not the kind of thing you can keep doing forever. Other major Marvel actors such as Chris Evans (Captain America) and Chris Hemsworth (Thor) have reached the end of their contracts.

What’s more, the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War and an unnamed Avengers film in 2019 is intended as a kind of finale for Marvel films up to now. So, a decade after its first movie, Marvel Studios has reached a transition point.

Black Panther already is a popular and critical (a 97 percent “fresh” score on the Rotten Tomatoes website) success.

Beyond that, Black Panther shows that Marvel is capable of extending itself beyond its first decade of making movies. Black Panther seems destined to join Marvel’s billion-dollar club (it’s at $361 million globally as of this weekend). The movie also is broadening Marvel’s appeal. We’ll see what happens.