Bond 21-25 questions: Assessing the Craig era edition

Daniel Craig in Quantum of Solace

The Daniel Craig era of the James Bond films is drawing to a close. A thoughtful reader drew my attention to an August 2020 article by the Screen Rant site assessing Craig’s tenure.

Still, until No Time to Die comes out, there’s only so far you can go. Or is that correct? Naturally, the blog has questions.

Was the Craig era really that different? Absolutely.

Ian Fleming’s Bond novels referenced how his creation had relationships with married women. In the Eon film series, M lists “jealous husbands” as a possibility for hiring $1 million-a-hit-assassin Scaramanga in 1974’s The Man With the Golden Gun. But 2006’s Casino Royale was more explicit.

Anything else? The tone often was more violent, in particular a killing Bond performs early in 2008’s Quantum of Solace.

Quantum also had a more political point of view courtesy of director Marc Forster.

Did the Craig era follow earlier Bond films in any way? Yes. The Craig films, like earlier Eon Bond entries, adapted to popular trends in cinema.

In the 1970s, Bond films followed blaxploitation movies (Live And Let Die), kung fu (The Man With the Golden Gun) and science fiction (Moonraker).

In the 21st century Craig movies, the series followed Jason Bourne films (Quantum, including hiring a Bourne second unit director), Christopher Nolan Batman movies (Skyfall) and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (SPECTRE, moving to tie all of the Craig adventures together).

Anything else? Some Bond fans argue Craig is the best film James Bond. No Time to Die (apparently) is the final chapter. No doubt there will be more debate once No Time to Die can be viewed.

A ridiculously early list of possible Bond 26 directors

Susanne Bier

British bookmakers love to set odds on who the next James Bond actor will be to generate bets. The blog decided, instead, to ponder who the director for Bond 26 — whenever that happens — will be.

So here’s a look at some possibilities. It’s far from a comprehensive list.

Susanne Bier: Bier directed The Night Manager, a television adaptation of a John le Carre novel. In mid-2016, The RadioTimes outlet reported Bier was on a shortlist of candidates to direct Bond 25, later No Time to Die.

That, of course, didn’t happen. First, Danny Boyle was hired to direct, then after “creative differences,” Cary Fukunaga came aboard.

Still, if Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli wants to make more James Bond history, hiring Bier as the franchise’s first woman director would accomplish that. Bier also has admirers who cite The NIght Manager as a significant work.

Denis Villeneuve: In 2017, Villeneuve’s name was reported to be a leading contender to direct Bond 25. The Daily Mail even had a report that Bond 25/No Time to Die star Daniel Craig wanted Villeneuve.

The director told a podcast the possibility came up but he was already busy working on a new version of Dune.

 “It’s a matter of timing, I guess,” he said on the podcast. Will the timing be better for Bond 26?

Christopher Nolan: This is a perennial possibility. Nolan is a Bond fan. He’s done homages to Bond movies in his own films. A Bond fan site in 2017 claimed Nolan was “more than likely” to direct Bond 25. That got shot down pretty quickly, including by Nolan himself in a BBC interview in February 2018.

The main question concerns how Nolan works. He typically gets complete control over his projects with his Syncopy company handling production. Can Syncopy and Eon egos co-exist?

Guy Ritchie: Ritchie’s name also came up as a Bond 25 director possibility in 2016, thanks to a Mirror story. There’s no sign Ritchie actually met with Eon.

Ritchie’s box office success the past decade has been mixed. However, Eon has a history of signing directors who haven’t had a hit in a while (Michael Apted and Sam Mendes). So who knows?

Cary Fukunaga: Eon has a history of every so often bringing directors in for consecutive films: Terence Young for Dr. No and From Russia With Love, Guy Hamilton for three consecutive films, Lewis Gilbert for The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, John Glen for five straight films and Sam Mendes for Skyfall and SPECTRE.

Does Fukunaga rate similar treatment? He certainly took on a daunting task directing No Time to Die after Danny Boyle exited the project.

To read more about how these four came up during the development of No Time to Die, check out PART ONE of The Bond 25 timeline.

About that Christopher Nolan directing a Bond film thing

Christopher Nolan

There are a number of Hollywood types upset with Warner Bros.’s plans to debut its 2021 film slate simultaneously on the HBO Max streaming service as well as theaters, according to The Hollywood Reporter. And one of the most prominent is writer-producer-director Christopher Nolan.

Nolan directed a financially successful trio of Batman movies released by Warner Bros. He also shows up as a favorite among some James Bond fans to direct a Bond film at some point.

After all, he’s worked in Bond-inspired bits among his Batman films as well as 2010’s Inception and this year’s Tenet. Meanwhile, Bond films such as Skyfall (2012) and SPECTRE (2015) had Nolan influences. A marriage made in heaven, right?

In a statement to THR, Nolan made clear how unhappy he is about the HBO Max news. The streaming service will show the Warner Bros. movies for 31 days. It’s a way to boost HBO Max.

“Warner Bros. had an incredible machine for getting a filmmaker’s work out everywhere, both in theaters and in the home, and they are dismantling it as we speak,” Nolan said. “They don’t even understand what they’re losing. Their decision makes no economic sense, and even the most casual Wall Street investor can see the difference between disruption and dysfunction.”

So here’s the question: Does this mean that Nolan is looking for the exit from his long-standing Warner Bros. relationship?

If so, does this make it more likely he might direct a Bond movie in the future? Or does it show he’s more than willing to bite the hand that feeds him?

Nolan had a pretty good deal at Warners. Nolan’s Syncopy company produced his movies. Nolan’s wife, Emma Thomas, gets a producer credit on his films.

That’s a lot to walk away from. Bond fans who clamor for Nolan to direct Bond say he likes Bond so much he might well turn away such perks. He’d surely be happy to work for Eon Productions, so the thinking goes.

Who knows? It’s still early days of the shakeup that’s going on in the movie business. And when might Bond 26 get off the ground?

Bond 25 questions: The new delay edition

No Time to Die teaser poster that needs updating.

So, No Time to Die has been delayed. Again. Naturally, the blog has questions.

We saw a marketing blitz this week, including a title song music video, putting the soundtrack album available for pre-order (again), even listing the titles of the various tracks, a new six-part promotional podcast and other tie-ins. What happened?

A lot of that activity was handled by companies that did deals with Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Universal. They have deadlines based on a release date. Evidently, those companies didn’t get the word from Eon, MGM and Universal to hold back.

Isn’t that crazy?

As the saying goes, there’s no business like show business.

Enough with the jokes! Isn’t that inconsiderate to the fans?

It absolutely is. But, typically, business comes before fan relations.

And what business considerations caused yet another delay?

One consideration was the same thing that caused a delay from April to November: The novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Movie theaters in New York and Los Angeles remain closed because of the virus. COVID-19 is still a problem in the U.K. and Spain. There are new surges in some U.S. states such as Wisconsin. And the president of the U.S., Donald Trump, has come down with the coronavirus, putting even more attention on the disease.

What’s more, other major film releases have reacted to COVID-19. Tenet, the latest Christopher Nolan-directed film was released by Warner Bros. The movie has generated a global box office of almost $285 million, according to Box Office Mojo. But only $41.2 million of that was in the U.S.

Meanwhile, other films, including Marvel’s Black Widow was pushed back for a second occasion, this time to May 2021. F9, newest entry in the Fast and the Furious franchise, already delayed once by a year, was further pushed back to May 28, 2021.

In announcing the delay, a statement from Eon Productions and its studio partners, said the move was made to ensure No Time to Die can ” be seen by a worldwide theatrical audience.” Essentially, the Bond camp is saying that won’t be possible in November.

Are you confident No Time to Die will make that April 2021 release?

Color me skeptical. As usual, we’ll see.

About No Time to Die saving cinema

Last shot of No Time to Die spot on Saturday Night Live last spring.

The past few weeks, there’s been a repeated trope saying that No Time to Die will save cinema.

The 25th James Bond film had been set to be released in April. But it was delayed until November because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Recently, a new trailer was released again saying the movie would be out in November. That, in turn, generated the idea that James Bond was coming to the rescue of the traditional movie theater.

The thing is, the Christopher Nolan-directed film Tenet was also supposed to be saving cinema. It was the first major movie to come out during the pandemic.

At the moment, Tenet is the only major new movie out in theatres. Its global box office total as of midday Sept. 12 is $152.3 million, according to Box Office Mojo. 

For a movie with a production budget of $200 million (with additional marketing costs), that’s not so great. But these aren’t ordinary times. Tenet shows that some people will show up at a theater, pandemic, or no pandemic.

Still, saving cinema? Here in the United States, movie theaters are closed in New York and Los Angeles, the two biggest movie theater markets. They’re still closed where I live, in southeastern Michigan.

The U.S. accounts for about 25 percent of the global audience for a James Bond movie. If No Time to Die really makes that November release date, there may be big chunks of the country where theaters aren’t open.

Perhaps there will be enough international markets open where No Time to Die will do OK. Perhaps.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros., Tenet’s studio, has delayed Wonder Woman 1984 again, this time from Oct. 2 to Dec. 25. That’s not the biggest vote of confidence.

Will No Time to Die follow suit? Who knows?

Another possibility: Cinema won’t be saved until people feel comfortable going to the theater again. That includes those with pre-existing health conditions (diabetes, etc.) or those 60 or older. Or both.

All of that will depend on a lot more than a single movie.

Tenet’s U.S. box office debut is mixed

Tenet poster

Tenet, the new Christopher Nolan-directed film, had a mixed debut in the COVID-19 stricken United States.

For the Labor Day weekend, Tenet will generate an estimated $20.2 million in the U.S., according to Box Office Mojo in 2,810 theaters. (Box Office Mojo listed that figure for both the regular Sept. 4-6 weekend and including the Labor Day holiday.)

This comes after Tenet had an international opening weekend last weekend of about $53 million.

The spy-fi/sci-fi move is now up to an estimated $146.2 million internationally, according to figures compiled by Box Office Mojo.

The question is whether ticket sales are enough in the U.S. to support an expensive “tentpole” movie.

Warner Bros. has been supporting Nolan’s desire that Tenet get a full theatrical experience amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Other studios have been watching Tenet closely concerning their own tentpole releases.

Last week, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, James Bond’s home studio, reactivated its marketing efforts for No Time to Die. A new poster and trailer were released, both emphasizing how the 25th James Bond film was sticking with a planned November 2020 release.

What does all this mean for Bond? We’ll see.

10-second teaser released for new NTTD trailer

No Time to Die poster released Sept. 1.

A 10-second teaser was released today ahead of a Sept. 3 release of a new No Time to Die trailer.

The teaser includes previously unreleased footage of a ship firing missiles, a jet firing missiles, an evening dress-clad Ana de Armas kicking a thug and a Land Rover in the midst of a chase.

The teaser was included in a post by Eon Productions’s official Twitter feed.

On Monday, a new No Time to Die poster was released along with the disclosure of the impending trailer release.

In the Monday announcement, Eon said No Time to Die was still on track for a November release.

The 25th James Bond film had been set for an April release following a March 31 world premiere. But the release got postponed because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Many Bond fans have been bolstered by the international release of Tenet, the newest Christopher Nolan movies that combines spy fiction with science fiction.

Here’s the Eon tweet with the teaser:

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

UPDATE (1:35 p.m.): The teaser is now on YouTube.

Mixed tea leaves for No Time to Die

New No Time to Die poster

Let’s face it. James Bond film fans are anxious. They want to know if No Time to Die will make its current November release date.

The tea leaves are a bit mixed.

Good news! Tenet is moving full speed ahead!

Director Christopher Nolan’s new spy-fi/sci-fi film is rolling out in various markets.

Tenet is billed as the movie that can save movie theaters amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Famously, Mission: Impossible star Tom Cruise made a point of letting everybody know he was watching Tenet in a theater.

So if Tenet can do it, can’t No Time to Die?

Bad news! The King’s Man has been delayed to early 2021

The King’s Man, the prequel to the first two Kingsman films, which was delayed once already, now won’t be out until February 2021.

The prequel stars Ralph Fiennes, who played M at the end of Skyfall and in SPECTRE and No Time to Die. It tells the story of the earliest days of the Kingsman organization.

The delay for The King’s Man shows not all studios are enthusiastic about releasing a movie in the fall of 2020.

As usual, we’ll see.

Tenet reviews note film’s James Bond vibe

Tenet poster

A lot is riding on Tenet, Christopher Nolan’s combination spy-fi and sci-fi movie. It will be a test whether people are willing to return to movie theaters amid the continuing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Critics have now had a look and writing reviews. Some note how director Nolan, a Bond fan, channels 007 in the film.

What follows are non-spoiler excerpts.

DANNY LEIGH, FINANCIAL TIMES: “Bond gets a subscription to New Scientist. For all the cryptic packaging, Tenet is really an action spy movie of the oldest school, built on supervillains, plutonium and holiday brochure photography in world tour locations.”

LESLIE FELPERIN, HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: “Altogether, it makes for a chilly, cerebral film — easy to admire, especially since it’s so rich in audacity and originality, but almost impossible to love, lacking as it is in a certain humanity.”

JESSICA KIANG, NEW YORK TIMES: “(Tenet star John David) Washington is basically James Bond, forward and backward, a kind of 00700, right down to the occasional wry one-liner. And if it takes megastar charisma to be able to memorably inhabit so vaporous a role, he is also blessed to be playing off an equally unflappable (Robert) Pattinson.”

JAMES MOTTRAM, SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST: “Laced with references to theoretical physics, Tenet comes across like a tentpole movie with a PhD. Fan forums will be unpicking the intricacies of the plot for years to come, while Nolan’s narrative daring leaves other spy movies looking infantile.”

GUY LODGE, VARIETY: “Like ‘Inception,’ which used the essential language of the heist film as an organizing structure for Nolan’s peculiar fixations of chronology and consciousness, “Tenet” tricks out the spy thriller with expanded science-fiction parameters to return to those pet themes.”

Nolan’s Tenet is delayed again; what it means

Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan’s latest movie, Tenet, has been delayed yet again, according to Variety. The move may have significance beyond that.

Tenet originally was scheduled to come out on July 17. It was pushed back a couple of times, most recently to Aug. 12. Warner Bros., in effect, was gambling it could get people back into theaters amid the pandemic stemming from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Steven Zeitchik, a writer for The Washington Post, suggested the latest development may be a twist in how studios have been releasing films in recent years.

Warner Bros. left the door open for the movie to come out in other countries by the end of the summer — before it is released in the U.S. But that too will depend on conditions overseas.

The postponement scuttles Hollywood’s plan for a mid-summer reopening and is likely to delay other entertainment-reopening plans across the country.

Why should James Bond fans care about this?

No Time to Die was made during a pre-pandemic time. The notion was you’d roll out a movie as soon as possible globally.

With COVID-19, that may not be possible. The coronavirus appears to be under control in much of Asia and much of Europe. But there are major breakouts of COVID-19 in the U.S., including some of the country’s most populated states (Florida, Texas and California).

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (Bond’s home studio) and Universal (which is handling No Time to Die’s international distribution) have to take all of this into account. For now, No Time to Die is scheduled to come out in November.