Should 007 aspire to be a $1B a film franchise?

Skyfall teaser poster

The motion picture industry has always been about money. Sometimes art mixed with money. Sometimes a message mixed with money. But money is always part of the equation.

When you’re dealing with money, round numbers are always nice. The current fixation is with $1 billion worldwide box office.

The James Bond film franchise met that standard (on an unadjusted basis) once with 2012’s Skyfall. It was a big deal at the time. The movie came out on Agent 007’s 50th anniversary and demonstrated the series can play with the “big boys.”

Since then the roster of movies with $1 billion global box office has expanded to 29. Skyfall is ranked 15th of those 29 films. The Fate of the Furious, which opened this weekend, the eighth film in the Fast and the Furious series, may end up making it an even 30. It’s certainly not going to stop there.

It’s gotten to the point that, for some franchise films, not making it to $1 billion comes across as a disappointment.

That was certainly the case with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. That 2016 movie that was the first cinematic joint appearance of the three biggest DC Comics characters (Wonder Woman was in it, even if she didn’t figure in the title).

Though no one will admit it publicly, that was probably the case for SPECTRE, the most recent 007 film. You can’t help but wonder if Eon Productions and studios Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Sony Pictures thought something like, “If Skyfall made $1 billion, this movie will surely make $1.5 billion.” Certainly, some fans were talking like that before the movie came out in fall 2015.

Here’s a question to mull over: Should the Bond franchise actively be attempting to crank out $1 billion blockbusters?

Some fans will reply: “Of course!” If you adjusted for inflation, Thunderball would have a $1 billion-plus box office.

Still, today, to play in the $1 billion club, often requires a lot of money.

Skyfall’s estimated budget was $200 million, which was less than the $230 million or so Quantum of Solace.

An MGM memo that became public because of the 2014 Sony hacking, said SPECTRE’s spending was tracking to go well above $300 million. The final, unofficial estimate was $245 million, after various product placement and tax credits got factored in.

The production cost went up in part because Eon said the movie had the biggest explosion in motion picture history and a car chase sequence estimated to cost about 24 million British pounds, or $36 million at the time. “It’s one of those scenes that’s going to be very iconic,” SPECTRE co-star Dave Bautista said in a promotional video for the film.

Whether either sequence made that much of a difference is up for debate. But the increased cost isn’t. Only the accountants know the final figures.

The ante is going up to play in the $1 billion box office club. There’s speculation that Marvel’s third and fourth Avengers movies that are being filmed at the same time may cost a combined $1 billion (or $500 million each).

This stemmed from remarks by the top executive of Pinewood Studios Atlanta that the studio was home to the “largest film production ever.”  He didn’t specify, but the two Avengers movies are being filmed there.

Bringing this back to the world of James Bond: Should 007 try to keep up with this? Or is it time to re-evaluate, scale back and proceed in a different direction?

Unfortunately, no answers here. For the moment, there’s no studio to actually release Bond 25. Sony’s most recent two-picture deal expired with SPECTRE. But it’s something to keep in mind.

Advertisements

Why Sam Mendes directing Bond 25 isn’t a good idea

Sam Mendes

Sam Mendes

A major non-007 Sam Mendes project, a movie adaptation of The Voyeur’s Hotel, has evaporated, according to the Deadline: Hollywood website. That’s because of a documentary coming out concerning the person who is the the same subject as the non-fiction book.

That has gotten some James Bond fans wondering if Mendes could be available to direct Bond 25 (whenever it gets made) after helming Skyfall and SPECTRE.

To quote a retired comic, “Oh, I hope not.” Here are some reasons why.

He’s never sounded enthusiastic about directing a third Bond film: In July 2015, he told the BBC that, “I don’t think I could go down that road again. You do have to put everything else on hold.”

In May 2016, according to a story by The Associated Press, he said: “I’m a storyteller. And at the end of the day, I want to make stories with new characters.”

Directing a Bond film is a big undertaking. If he has even the slightest doubt (and it sounds he has big doubts), he shouldn’t attempt it.

Enough with the homages: Skyfall had homages to past Bond films, including bringing back the Goldfinger version of the Aston Martin DB5.

That continued with SPECTRE. The DB5, despite being blown to smithereens in Skyfall, is miraculously put back together in SPECTRE. A fight between Bond (Daniel Craig) and Hinx (Dave Bautista) seemed modeled after a similar scene in From Russia With Love. The Independent published a story listing other homages.

Mendes can’t help himself. The next movie, when ever it may come out, needs a break from homages.

No more boasting:  In an April 2014 interview on The Charlie Rose Show, Mendes said he cast all the major supporting characters, including Tanner.

Problem: Tanner was played by Rory Kinnear, who first portrayed the character in 2008’s Quantum of Solace, a film Mendes had nothing to do with.

Mendes also claimed that in Skyfall “for the first time characters were allowed to age.” Problem: He’s wrong, it happened a number of times in Bond films.

Enough already.

If Mendes comes back, that means Thomas Newman comes back as composer: Newman is Mendes’ guy. Fans have mixed opinions about Newman’s work on Skyfall. He did get an Oscar nomination but didn’t win.

However, with SPECTRE, it was clear that Newman had run out of ideas. He recycled a number of Skyfall music bits in SPECTRE. That’s true not just of the compositions, but the sound and orchestration.

John Barry used the 007 theme in five Bond films (From Russia With Love, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, Diamonds Are Forever and Moonraker). But it had different arrangements and orchestration each time. The repeated music in SPECTRE sounds the same as it did in Skyfall.

What’s more, based on his other work, it’s clear that smaller-scale dramas (such as Bridge of Spies) are more in Newman’s wheelhouse. He’s a talented composer with such films. Bond films just aren’t his strength.

Let someone else have a try on Bond 25. But that won’t probably won’t happen if Mendes is back as director.

SPECTRE’s Oscar campaign gets underway

SPECTRE LOGO

Sony Pictures has kicked off its campaign for promoting SPECTRE for Oscars.

If you CLICK HERE, you’ll see a Sony website aimed at members of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Scientists who nominate and vote on the Oscars.

Sony’s website lists “for your consideration” basically all the major SPECTRE cast and crew members. Among them: Daniel Craig for Best Actor; Christoph Waltz, Ben Whishaw, Ralph Fiennes, Dave Bautista and Andrew Scott for Best Supporting Actor; and Lea Seydoux, Naomie Harris and Monica Bellucci for Best Supporting Actress.

One change of note, compared with Skyfall’s Oscar campaign. Here, Sony suggests SPECTRE’s scribes of John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth as worth of “Best Original Screenplay” consideration.

Three years ago, Logan, Purvis and Wade were promoted for “Best Adapted Screenplay” for Skyfall.

Skyfall ended up with five nominations, the most for any Bond film. It won two, including Best Song.

Sony’s contract to distribute Bond movies for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer expires with SPECTRE. MGM will either reach a new agreement with Sony or sign with another studio.

A shout out to “Gustav Graves” on the message board of the MI6 James Bond website for pointing out the website.

Our final SPECTRE accuracy checklist

SPECTRE promotional art

SPECTRE promotional art

SPECTRE has been out since Oct. 26, so we decided to do one final checklist of the accuracy of various reports about the 24th James Bond film.

Naomie Harris’ Moneypenny would be “more of a sidekick” as reported by Baz Bamigboye in the Daily Mail in September 2013.

The scribe wrote that, “Director Sam Mendes, Craig, and producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson are all big fans of Naomie’s and don’t want her to be too desk-bound, as other Moneypennys have been.”

In the climax of the movie, Moneypenny, M (Ralph Fiennes) and Tanner (Rory Kinnear) do assist Bond and at personal risk. Sidekick is too strong a word, but Harris certainly wasn’t desk-bound. Check.

Christoph Waltz would play Blofeld.  The Mail on Sunday, a sister publication to the Daily Mail, REPORTED LATER IN NOVEMBER 2014 that Waltz would play Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the new movie but be announced as portraying “an unknown character called Franz Oberhauser, son of the late Hans Oberhauser, a ski instructor who acted as a father figure to Bond.”

Waltz denied it. But it was true. Check.

–Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, not originally part of the crew, were brought back as writers. The Daily Mail’s Bamigboye reported that in JUNE 2014. It was confirmed in December 2014, at a media event where the title of the movie was disclosed. Check.

–David Bautista would play the movie’s henchman: First reported in LATINO REVIEW in October 2014. Check.

–Hoyte van Hoytema would be the director of photography: This was reported on the evening of Sept. 16, 2014, ON THE HITFIX WEBSITE and the morning of Sept. 17, 2014 at JAMES BOND MAGASINET, a Norwegian 007 publication. Check.

–Hilary Swank would be in the cast: The Independent, IN A NOVEMBER 2014 STORY</a>, said, “Recently, the web has spawned wild rumours that she will be the next Bond girl, starring opposite Daniel Craig in the forthcoming Sam Mendes-directed 007 film.”  Didn’t happen.

–Monica Bellucci would be in the cast: The possibility was mentioned in passing  IN A DEC. 2, 2014 POST ON THE DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD WEBSITE</a>. Bellucci’s participation in the movie was announced two days later. Check.

For earlier examples, CLICK HERE for a Dec. 5, 2014 post on this blog.

 

MI6 comes out with a SPECTRE issue

SPECTRE LOGOMI6 Confidential has come out with its second issue in a month’s time, this one focused, understandably, on SPECTRE.

Issue 33 includes interviews with Lea Seydoux, Monica Bellucci and Dave Bautista, according to an MI6 Confidential promo.

The issue also has a non-SPECTRE  story about the Steven Spielberg-directed film Bridget of Spies.

The publication urges readers to “be sure to watch the film before you dive in,” which sounds like there are spoilers to those who haven’t seen the 24th James Bond film yet. The issue will ship around the time of SPECTRE’s U.S. release on Friday. That’s about a month after issue 32.

The price is 7 British pounds, $11 or 8.50 euros. For more information, CLICK HERE.

The Chronicles of SPECTRE Part II: From Russia With Love

From Russia With Love's poster

From Russia With Love’s poster

By Nicolas Suszczyk, Guest Writer
The second James Bond film, From Russia With Love, excelled over the first 007 movie, Dr. No, in many areas.

Featuring solid source material from Ian Fleming’s 1957 novel, which pitted the Russian organization SMERSH against James Bond, the film version brought a more realistic approach to the then-emerging film series: a classic Cold War spy thriller compared with Dr. No’s escapism.

The 1963 film, again starring Sean Connery as 007 and directed by Terence Young, provides the viewer a proper introduction to SPECTRE, the criminal organization of which the late Dr. Julius No (Joseph Wiseman) was a member.

“Let his death be a particularly unpleasant and humiliating one,” SPECTRE’s Number One instructs his operatives Col. Rosa Klebb (Number Three, played by Lotte Lenya) and Kronsteen (Number Five, played by Vladek Sheybal).

The leader of SPECTRE is, of course, referring to James Bond and the possibility of avenging the doctor’s death, as part of Kronsteen’s plan to lure the British agent into a trap with the Russian decoding machine Lektor, and a young female Russian clerk, as bait.

To avoid political conflicts, From Russia with Love’s script replaced the Soviet Union for the apolitical SPECTRE for the villains. This was less than a year after the Cuban Missile Crisis, a major event of the Cold War.

Here, the criminal organization would pit the Russians and the British against each other and the patriotic Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi) aka the bait, would follow Klebb’s orders, without knowing she’s not working for Russia but for SPECTRE.

The SPECTRE leader, known as Ernst Stavro Blofeld and played by “?”, according to the end titles (actually Anthony Dawson, voiced by Eric Pohlman) is introduced in the shadows. We only see his hands stroking the white cat that is now part of popular culture and a cliché in every spy spoof around. He is located on a vessel and has a meeting with Klebb and Kronsteen.

Klebb defected from the Russians to join SPECTRE. Kronsteen is a stone-faced chess champion. Also employed by SPECTRE is Morzeny (Walter Gottel), who executes those who fail, and henchman Donald “Red” Grant (Robert Shaw), a convicted murderer trained to terminate any obstacle with the group’s plans.

The second Bond film shows the audience how the organization usually works: a leader, a planner, an executioner and an assassin.

There is much debate whether Cristoph Waltz’s character Oberhauser in the upcoming Bond film will be (or eventually “become”) Blofeld or if he is someone close to Blofeld. Two months before the film’s release, he appears to be the shadowy leader of the new (rebooted) SPECTRE and has a personal vendetta with Bond –- even more personal now than the 1963 Blofeld.

In From Russia With Love, the leader of SPECTRE appears to us as a mysterious and threatening man. In the upcoming film titled after the organization, there’s still the possibility he has a high rank à la Dr. No.

In the 1963 film, there’s planner Kronsteen, whose apparently “foolproof” plan fails when Tatiana really falls for Bond. That’s where executioner Morenzy comes in and eliminates him. The assassin in From Russia With Love is a physical imposing challenge for Bond or anyone: Red Grant, who stalks 007 throughout the mission to “heat up” the Cold War.

We are meant to think Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista) will play both an “executioner” and an “assassin” as in the trailers we can see him terminating a SPECTRE subordinate and battling Bond aboard a train, very much like the memorable Bond vs Grant fight in From Russia With Love.

If Dr. No introduced us to the name of SPECTRE and the organization’s values by the good doctor, From Russia With Love goes a little further by showing us a glimpse of its leader, the organization’s inside, and the particular roles of its members. There’s a demonstration of their training field, too – where they use live targets as well!

Wait for the next entry on The SPECTRE Chronicles with Thunderball, where the organization will expand, acquiring a “business” status, to put it mildly.

Nicolas Suszczyk is editor of The GoldenEye Dossier

SPECTRE unveils trailer emphasizing action

Added an update that some might consider a spoiler. Update is in the 7th paragraph below.

The first regular trailer for SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film, was unveiled today and it emphasized action.

The 2:30 trailer included scenes from the movie’s pre-titles sequence in Mexico City, a car chase filmed in Rome, and a sequence where an aircraft gets separated from its wings during another chase sequence.

The movie’s teaser trailer in March didn’t emphasize action, depicting a meeting between Bond (Daniel Craig) and Mr. White, last seen in 2008’s Quantum of Solace. White is back in this trailer, but only briefly.

Also featured in the new trailer: Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista) dispatching someone viciously, and Christoph Waltz’s Oberhauser proceeding over what appears to be some kind of SPECTRE meeting (the name is uttered at one point in the trailer by Lea Seydoux as Madeleine Swann).

There’s also a new sight for the Daniel Craig era of James Bond movies, with 007 in a white dinner jacket. Besides Craig, we see brief bits from Naomie Harris’ Moneypenny, Ralph Fiennes’s M and Ben Whishaw’s Q.

Finally, around the 1:45 mark, there’s a John Barry musical piece from the past, a new rendition of the main theme from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

UPDATE: “Gustav Graves,” a member of the message boards of the MI6 James Bond site, spotted the following at 0:40 mark — a glimpse of the Aston Martin DB5. You can see it in the background behind Q’s left shoulder. The car had appeared to be destroyed in Skyfall. But photos of it emerged during filming of SPECTRE. Also, Sony Canada put out AN APRIL 2 TWEET that appeared to be confirm the DB5 was back. The trailer seems to confirm it also.

Take a look for yourself: