Family model (Eon) vs. corporate model (Marvel): Update

Avengers: Endgame poster

Chalk up one for the corporate side.

After less than two weeks, Avengers: Endgame has generated almost $2.2 billion in worldwide box office.

What’s more, the mammoth production wraps up story lines from more than 20 Marvel Studios movies going back to 2008.

The inter-connected extended fictional universe has affected how films — at least “popcorn,” escapist movies — are made.

Warner Bros., the studio that’s home to DC Comics characters, has tried to follow Marvel’s path. It has had mixed results.

Some were big successes (Wonder Woman, Aquaman). Others, such as Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League, had decent box office but didn’t match the success of Marvel’s four Avengers films.

Meanwhile, in Jamaica, the family-led Bond 25 began filming late last month. The franchise is coming off a hiatus. In the words of lead actor Daniel Craig in 2016 at an event sponsored by The New Yorker, “(E)verybody’s just a bit tired.”

By the time the untitled movie debuts in April 2020, more than four years will have passed since the last 007 entry, SPECTRE.

The series has embraced inter-connectivity that Marvel has popularized. Skyfall originally was to have nothing to do with Quantum, the villainous organization in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. “It’s its own story,” Skyfall director Sam Mendes said at a 2011 press conference. “It doesn’t connect with the last two movies.”

Never mind. When SPECTRE was made, that was “retconned” (retroactive change in continuity).

Quantum was now SPECTRE (after the Eon side got back the rights to the organization and its leader Ernst Stavro Blofeld in 2013). Silva (Skyfall’s villain played by Javier Bardem) became part of the conspiracy. The new Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) was now “the author of all your pain” for Daniel Craig’s 007.

Director Cary Fukunaga has said that Bond 25 will continue the character arc for Bond that began with Casino Royale. Lea Seydoux, who played Dr. Madeline Swann in SPECTRE, is back. So the inter-connectivity appears to be continuing.

As the blog has stated before, both the family and the corporate model can be successful. But both are different. As Marvel moves into a new era, we’ll see next spring how Eon has adapted.

Bond 25: Murdoch’s tabloids strike back

Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corp. owns tabloids The Sun (U.K.) and New York Post (U.S.)

Tabloid papers belonging to News Corp., run by Rupert Murdoch, a possible inspiration for the media mogul in Tomorrow Never Dies, have weighed in with dire depictions about Bond 25.

What’s more, one of their targets is Bond 25 star Daniel Craig, making his fifth film as Bond.

To be sure, Bond films have always gotten lots of attention from tabloids. Nevertheless, two Murdoch tabloids — The Sun in the U.K. and the New York Post in the U.S. — have published stories with a common theme. Namely, according to the Murdoch publications, all is not well behind the scenes with Bond 25.

On April 25, the same day as the Bond 25 media event in Jamaica, the Post’s Page Six gossip operation runs a story headlined, “There’s already trouble in paradise on new James Bond set.”

A sample of the prose:

A source close to Bond 25 said, “They don’t have a script, there’s no title, it is nearly five years since the last Bond. It starts with a retired Bond living in wedded bliss, but the rest of the script is still being worked over. They rolled out the cast this week at Ian Fleming’s villa in Jamaica because if they wait much longer Daniel Craig, who is 51, will be too old, and then he really won’t do the film.”

As Jack Benny used to say: “Well!” The story also said there would be cameos by Grace Jones (who played May Day in A View to a Kill) and Christoph Waltz, who played Blofeld in SPECTRE.

Not to be outdone, The Sun publishes a story on April 26 with the headline, “James Bond 25 chaos as Daniel Craig is given creative control amid fears he wants spy to be PC.”

Among other things in the story:

Bond head honcho Barbara Broccoli, 58, and makers E-on (sic) Productions were desperate for Craig to make a U-turn.

So they handed him a £18.4million pay cheque and complete creative control, meaning he has a say on casting, scripts, locations, costumes, technical team — and even the role of director.

(snip)
A Bond insider said: “The move has got people’s backs up. Some are expecting constant arguments, as whatever Craig wants, he gets.”

If Jack Benny were still with us, he’d be saying “Well!” a lot.

Not to be outdone, the Post came back with another a column today headlined, “How whiney Daniel Craig killed James Bond.”

Another sample:

Since Craig first donned the spy’s tuxedo in 2006’s “Casino Royale,” the franchise has turned increasingly homogeneous, dreary and frankly skippable. The granddaddy of super-spy films is now one of the most mediocre action series out there — and Craig is largely to blame for it.

(snip)
During his reign, 007 has become a bitter curmudgeon who jets ‘round the world pouting and going rogue in seemingly every film. Huh, kinda sounds like Craig himself.

Yikes! Is this a coordinated assault by the House of Murdoch? Or does Murdoch’s News Corp. simply employ a lot of like-minded people?

Oh well. We’ll see how it goes. Principal photography on Bond 25 is scheduled to begin Sunday, April 28, in Jamaica.

Bond 25 questions: Eve of the announcement Part II

Everyone is getting revved up for the April 25 Bond 25 announcement.

So, according to Eon Productions’ official Twitter feed, there’s going to be an online Bond 25 announcement on April 25. But, of course, the blog has more questions.

What time is the announcement again?

The text of the tweet says it will be “13:10 BST/05:10 PST.” But the tweet embeds a video that says it will be “13:10 GMT/5:10 PST.”

BST refers to British Summer Time. GMT refers to Greenwich Mean Time. They’re not the same thing. This website refers to GMT as currently an “inactive zone” and to use BST.

BST is akin to Daylight Saving Time in the United States. GMT is akin to standard time in the U.S.

Right now, BST is five hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time (i.e. eastern time in the U.S.) So 13:10 BST would be 8:10 EDT. It would also be 5:10 Pacific Daylight Time (PDT). But that’s not the same thing as PST (Pacific Standard Time).

Oh my. What do you suggest?

You might want to be ready to go an hour earlier just in case. Given how many 007 film fans are starved for Bond 25 news, that’s probably not much of a stretch.

I see. Any other observations?

Here’s one: 007 & Co. did deals with Good Morning Britain in the U.K. and Good Morning America in the U.S. for Bond 25-related programming on April 25 and 26. The British morning show started doing promos last week, and the U.S. program began promotions this week.

So those programs were, more or less, setting the media agenda for Bond 25 over the past few days. It wasn’t clear whether there’d be an actual announcement or no.

Then, today, Eon put out the aforementioned tweet. It looks like this:

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

OK, so now we know there is an actual announcement coming. But things were a little uncertain for a while. Admittedly hindsight is 20-20. But perhaps Eon should have made its advisory first, with the two morning shows following. Just a thought.

UPDATE: I have a pretty strong feeling, re: time zones, they mean BST (British Summer Time). So perhaps you shouldn’t worry and get up too early. NEVERTHELESS, this is why public announcements require care, especially when it comes to references to time of day and time zones.

Why Bond 25 may not economize much

Daniel Craig in Skyfall

Bond 25 production got underway last week with some filming in Norway. There’s a lot we don’t know (including a title). But there are some signs that the film isn’t traveling in Economy Class.

Delays in production: Eon Productions began renting space at Pinewood Studios last year. But filming there has been delayed at least five months.

Eon couldn’t just give up that space. Demand for space at Pinewood is high. So that’s a few months without any footage actually being shot. That makes it harder to economize.

An expensive script doctor: Scott Z. Burns recently spent four weeks working on Bond 25’s script. He’s a well-regarded scribe and he’s moving into directing. His services are in demand. It’s likely his Bond 25 services didn’t come cheap.

The star may have gotten a raise: Variety last year reported that Daniel Craig will receive $25 million for his fifth 007 film. The truth is known to Craig, Eon boss Barbara Broccoli, Craig’s agent and the various studios backing Bond 25. Still, it’s unlikely Craig’s services are receiving discounted rates.

The Mission: Impossible franchise means now isn’t the time to economize: This is a favorite fan theory/speculation. During the 2010s, the Mission: Impossible films starring and produced by Tom Cruise have cranked out three entries while Eon’s 007 series will have two.

Moreover, the M:I films have gotten a lot of attention for their stunts, big set pieces and international intrigue — things the 007 films are known for.

Paramount recently announced the Cruise M:I series will produce two more entries back-to-back, coming out in 2021 and 2022. By the time the latter entry is out, Cruise will be 60 and Christopher McQuarrie will have written and directed four films.

Jamaican government confirms Bond 25 talks

The government of Jamaica on March 29 confirmed it’s in “advanced” talks about having Bond 25 shooting on the island nation.

The Jamaica Information Service published a story saying that government officials are scheduled to meet with Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Government will be meeting with the producers of the 25th James Bond movie in England next week, with a view to having some parts filmed in Jamaica.

Speaking to JIS News, Tourism Minister, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, confirmed that he and Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Minister, Hon. Olivia Grange, will be travelling to Pinewood Studios to meet with Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson.

The studios have been the base for a number of productions over the years and are well-known as the home of the James Bond franchise.

Minister Bartlett explained that the discussions with the producers are very advanced.

Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail had a two-paragraph Bond 25 item on March 7 saying the movie will be photographed in Jamaica. It didn’t offer many details.

Both Dr. No (1962) and Live And Let Die (1973) were filmed in Jamaica (it doubled for the fictional San Monique in the latter movie). Ian Fleming also wrote the first drafts for his 007 stories while in Jamaica during the winter.

Boyle-Eon: The lack of due diligence

Danny Boyle

Last August, the blog asked whether Danny Boyle and Eon Productions did proper due diligence before Eon decided to hire Boyle to direct Bond 25.

Boyle, seemingly, has confirmed the answer was no.

Empire magazine has a feature story about Boyle in its May issue. The story isn’t online, but Boyle comments about Bond 25 have been summarized, including a story at the MI6 James Bond website.

There’s a passage where Boyle says he left Bond 25 after Eon wanted to bring in other writers to rework what John Hodge had done. (Cary Fukunaga would be hired to replace Boyle.)

“We were working very, very well, but they didn’t want to go down that route,” Empire quotes Boyle as saying. “What John Hodge and I were doing, I thought, was really good. It wasn’t finished, but it could have been really good.

“You have to believe in your process and part of that is the partnership I have with a writer. It’s like saying ‘Hey, we are going to give you a different editor…’ Those fundamental partnerships are vital.”

It sounds like Boyle learned his lesson the hard way. If he had done a little research, maybe a half-hour using Google, he’d have discovered Eon often brings in multiple writers to work on Bond films. In some cases, the more the merrier. 

To be fair, Boyle would not be the first auteur director to have difficulties working in a blockbuster film environment. The 2015 Marvel Studios film Ant-Man originated with Edgar Wright. But, in the end, Wright bowed out while retaining a screenplay credit.

Nevertheless, Eon had plenty of chances to check Boyle out. Boyle and Hodge reportedly pitched their idea. How did they think Boyle would react after telling him Hodge’s work needed to be reworked by other scribes?

“Oh sure, Barbara. Whatever you say.” Not likely. They call it auteur for a reason.

This whole affair likely is more complicated. Regardless, neither side did their proper due diligence. And both sides are to blame. That’s as obvious as how the sun rises in the East.

UPDATE (March 21, 2019): Empire has posted an online excerpt of its Danny Boyle story that contains his comments about Bond 25.

MGM looks to expand film-based consumer products

MGM’s Leo the Lion logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer wants to expand consumer products based on its films, including James Bond, Variety reported.

The home studio of the 007 film series hired Robert Marick as executive vice president of global consumer products and experiences, the entertainment news outlet said. Marick has worked at various studios prior to joining MGM.

Marick will supervise “expansion of MGM’s traditional merchandise, interactive and consumer products business,” Variety said. Besides Bond, the executive will deal with film franchises and TV series such as The Handmaid’s Tale, The Pink Panther and Legally Blonde.

In recent years, Bond-related merchandise has been mostly high-end, such as a Lego Aston Martin DB5 and replica DB5s made by Aston that cost 2.75 million British pounds each and aren’t street legal.

The 007 series was once an active generator of video games but that’s fallen off. In the 1960s, Bond-related merchandise included lunch boxes, puzzles, liquor and clothing. The official Eon James Bond site has a section that includes various goods.