GoldenEye: How a 007 film became an icon for video games

GoldenEye's poster

GoldenEye’s poster

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

By November 1995, GoldenEye proved that James Bond was still alive as a film franchise.

Almost two years later, in August 1997, GoldenEye would become something different. That title formed by two different words, that came from Ian Fleming’s house in Jamaica and a book from Carson McCullers, would have some impact withthe video game industry.

In these days there are gamers, or even Facebook pages, claiming “when I was your age, we had GoldenEye, not Call of Duty”. The game is still a legend, almost 20 years of its release.

The Rareware game made for the then popular console Nintendo 64 lead many people to GoldenEye the movie and, therefore, to James Bond. It is very unlikely that if you played the game you would ignore the movie, or vice versa.

GoldenEye 007 was first conceived as an on-rails shooter in the style of Virtua Cop, but Martin Hollis, the director of the project, was the one who went by the 3D environmental game we have now.

The developers took the job very seriously. They visited Leavesden studios to take photos of the sets and requested the blueprints used in the 1995 film to build the digital environments. Stills of the cast were also obtained to make a faithful adaptation of each character to the models of the Nintendo 64 engine.

The game meant a revolution among the Bond video games produced since 1983 and among the world of gaming. Unlike most titles of that time, you had to do much more than to kill people or reach goals unharmed. You were meant to accomplish a mission that included destroying computers, recovering documents, avoid killing civilians and meet your allies.

GoldenEye 007 had the same concept of a film. As we turn on the old console with the game cartridge inside, we see the a screen imitating the BBFC classification notice from the U.K. videotapes, right then, after the logos and before the main menu, a digitalized and polygonal version of the gunbarrel sequence welcomes the player. It’s the Bond film we are going to star in.

Funnily enough, during the game credits we get a cast list where, for example, James Bond was playing “007” and Natalya Simonova was playing the “Computer Programmer.”

The game structure is very similar to the film and most of the film scenarios are there: Arkangelsk Dam, Facility and Runway; the Severnaya plateau and the subterranean Space Weapons Control Center (this time, Bond visits it and meets Natalya there); and the Frigate in Montecarlo, the Streets of St. Petersburg (of course, you can drive the tank!), the Train and — of course — Trevelyan’s Antenna.

To please nostalgic 007 fans, the most successful players were awarded with other two missions inspired by Moonraker and Live and Let Die.

The first one (Aztec) featured Hugo Drax’s hidden launch platform and Jaws, while in the other (Egyptian) the ace players would have to recover Scaramanga’s Golden Gun from a temple before a final showdown with Baron Samedi. GoldenEye 007 was the first game to directly relive previous James Bond films.

Easter eggs and cheats were awarded by passing time trials to assure the amout of fun and the replayability: unlimited weapons, invincibility and slow or fast animation.

A nice homage is also paid by the developers to the original movie in the Bunker mission, where a CCTV tape the player (Bond) has to recover is, in fact, a VHS tape with the film’s poster as a cover.

Far from the Bond film series and the source film, GoldenEye 007 with its multiplayer mode brought some colloquial expressions to the youth such as “bitch slap” (defeating someone with your bare hands) and “No Oddjob” because the Goldfinger henchman was a character available in that mode and it was wrongfully represented as a midget (probably a confusion with Nick Nack?) making him tough to shoot at close range.

In the world of video games, GoldenEye seemed to have his own “franchise”: in 2004, Electronic Arts produced GoldenEye: Rogue Agent, where the player controlled a renegade MI6 agent that teams up with Goldfinger. More recently, in 2010, a remake of the 1997 game by Activision for Nintendo Wii was released and the story re-imagined with Daniel Craig as James Bond.

Image from the 2010 remake of the original GoldenEye video game

Image from the 2010 remake of the original GoldenEye video game

The 2004 title didn’t please people. Activision’s version was more successful, but it lacked the “sandbox” spirit of the original, that left you alone in the field (no radar, hints, etc.) and allowed you to have an unlimited amount of enjoyment and fun even if you failed the mission objectives.

GoldenEye 007 was a great way to introduce James Bond for the video game lovers and for those who had their childhood in the 1990s. It was the toys of their generation, a coveted price as Gilbert’s Aston Martin racing sets from the 1960s.

It may sound shallow to make such remarks of a video game considering the success of James Bond in the world of literature, moviemaking and music. Yet, it helped to keep the 007 flame buring after a few years where Ian Fleming’s character had almost disappeared of the map.

And it also helped to boost the popularity of Pierce Brosnan as the new James Bond, in the same year where his second Bond film, Tomorrow Never Dies, was about to be released.

SEQUEL: 007 movies listed by number of tickets sold

Skyfall's poster image

Skyfall’s poster image

Last year, this blog published a post about how the last eight James Bond movies performed in number of tickets sold in the U.S. and Canada, 1995 to present.

Since that post ran, we now have the final figures for SPECTRE. No major changes in the conclusion. Bond movies  during this period — featuring two different Bond actors, Daniel Craig and Pierce Brosnan — sold between 23 million and 27 million tickets each.

The one exception was Skyfall with Craig, which was much higher.

Here’s the information again, with one change. Before, we listed the movies sequentially. Here, they’re listed highest to lowest, along with the average ticket price during the year of release. The information is from the BOX OFFICE MOJO website.

Skyfall (2012): 37,842,000/average ticket price $7.96

Die Another Day (2002): 27,584,000/$5.81

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997): 26,911,200/$4.59

Casino Royale (2006): 25,428,700/$6.55

The World Is Not Enough (1999): 24,853,800/$5.08

GoldenEye (1995): 24,403,900/$4.35

Quantum of Solace (2008): 23,449,600/$7.18

SPECTRE (2015): 23,001,900/$8.43

 

Remembering Cubby Broccoli’s racehorse

Brocco (foaled 1991)

Brocco (foaled 1991)

Saturday was the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby, which got us to thinking about the time James Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli had a horse in the race.

That horse was Brocco, foaled in 1991. The stallion raced in the 1994 Derby, finishing fourth, or just out of the money.

Previously, Brocco had won the 1993 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and 1994 Santa Anita Derby. His parents were Kris S. and Anytime Ms.

At the time, the co-founder of Eon Productions had more visibility in his horse racing endeavors. No Bond film had come out since 1989’s Licence to Kill.

Broccoli had been in a legal fight with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which in turn was mired in financial problems. The two sides eventually reached a settlement. However, a new 007 film was still some time from becoming reality when Brocco competed in the 1994 Derby.

Later than year, Eon Productions secured the services of actor Pierce Brosnan, Cubby Broccoli’s final Bond actor choice, as the new 007. Pre-production geared up on GoldenEye, which came out in the fall of 1995.

Like most racehorses, Brocco retired from racing to be a stud horse.

UPDATE: Here’s a video of the 1994 Santa Anita Derby, won by Brocco. After the win, ABC broadcaster Jim McKay notes that Albert R. Broccoli had just celebrated his 85th birthday.

The Ballad of James and Madeleine

SPECTRE promotional art

SPECTRE promotional art

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

“As the daughter of an assassin, she can understand Bond in a way others cannot.”

This is how the official SPECTRE synopsis describes Madeleine Swann, the female lead character of the 24th James Bond adventure, about to hit the stores in DVD and Blu Ray home video formats.

Played by French actress Léa Seydoux, known for movies like Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and the acclaimed Blue is the Warmest Color, her character was built by scribes Jez Butterworth, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan to –- apparently –- give Daniel Craig’s James Bond the first and only happy ending he’s ever had in the series.

The first encounter 007 has with Madeleine Swann is at the Hoffler Klinik in Austria. Posing as a patient, Bond visits her and suspects that Swann, a doctor in psychiatry graduated in the Sorbonne who worked with Medicine Sans Frontiers, is hiding from someone in the clinic. Of course, the secret agent was led there by her disgraced father, none other than his previous Quantum nemesis Mr. White, who took his life right after Bond promised to protect her of the tentacles of SPECTRE.

She first resists to Bond, but ultimately she sees he’s the only one who can keep her alive after her hideout clinic is discovered by SPECTRE agent Mr. Hinx.

Much in the way of previous Bond girls Natalya Simonova (from GoldenEye) and Octopussy, she dislikes 007’s violent life, seeing him as a man who is the same kind as her father: determined to leave him right after he returns for a final assignment to stop Denbigh, the mole placed at the British Intelligence by the organization leader Franz Oberhauser, aka Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

There is, in contrast to the previous affairs of Craig’s Bond, a happy ending this time as 007 opts to leave the wounded Blofeld alive instead of shooting him. As the Special Forces arrest the SPECTRE leader, the happy couple walk together -– holding hands — across the Westminster Bridge.

Madeleine Swann is no match for Vesper Lynd, Tracy Di Vicenzo or even Paris Carver when it comes to exploring Bond’s human side. Yet, the idea of Madeleine’s persona was originally very good and sadly more of her connection with 007 would have been explored a lot better.

“Is this really what you want? Living in the shadows, hunting, being hunted, always looking behind you? Always alone?” the doctor asks a white tuxedo-clad Bond as they have a soft-light dinner travelling in the Oriental Desert Express trough Morocco.

In one of the first drafts of the (leaked) script, the couple had a conversation that included Vesper, Eva Green’s ill-fated character from Casino Royale, the film that opened the arc that SPECTRE has apparently closed.

“You’re not like my father at all. He was cold, but you’re wounded,” the doctor said. As she asks him if he has ever been in love, he replies “Once. She died.” Quickly, he tells her he “dealt with it.”

The Bond-Swann relationship would have had a bigger emotional impact if more deep dialogue was added as the first draft shows. If Vesper Lynd and her death were the main subjects of the first two films of Craig era, the girl who makes him move on should have deep-delved into his emotions.

Show the audiences how Vesper was important then and why Madeleine is important now. A contrast between the two characters and how Bond slowly recovers what he lost during that black day in Venice nine years before. In the same way the connection between SPECTRE and the previous villains isn’t fully explained, the importance of Madeleine can’t overshadow the image of Vesper in an emotional context.

The barn scene between Bond and Tracy in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, or the Pierce Brosnan-Izabella Scorupco scene at the Cuban beach in GoldenEye, or Bond’s love declaration to Vesper at the Lake DiGarda in Casino Royale, just to name a few scenes. These are wonderful examples on how to explore Bond’s feelings.

SPECTRE is a celebration of all things Bond in terms of excitement, perhaps the closest one to “a classic one” so far. Daniel Craig is a wonderful actor and the role now fits him as a tailored Tom Ford tuxedo. Léa Seydoux also has great acting talents as she proved in movies such as The Lobster, Blue is The Warmest Color and La Belle Personne.

The James Bond and Madeleine Swann relationship is not wasted at all. But, surely, should have been better exploited and contextualized.

007 movies listed by number of tickets sold, 1995-present

Skyfall teaser poster

Skyfall teaser poster

The BOX OFFICE MOJO website has tools that let you look beyond unadjusted movie box office. You can also, for example, get a listing (for the U.S. and Canada, at least) of the estimated number of tickets sold.

There are various formulas for adjusting box office figures for inflation. But tickets sold is basic. So we decided to take a look back at the number of tickets sold for the eight 007 films of the past 20 years. Home video was firmly established, as opposed to the early years of the Bond series, where it didn’t exist and movies could get re-released.

Using this measure, 2012’s Skyfall, by far, sold the most tickets among 007 films in the region. After that, there’s less difference that the unadjusted box office figures might suggest.

What follows is each movie’s total U.S.-Canada tickets sold, with the number in parenthesis the number for its opening weekend. The average ticket price for each year is also listed. The total figure for SPECTRE is through Nov. 23.

GoldenEye (1995): 24,403,900 (6,024,100); average ticket price, $4.35

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997): 26,911,200 (5,477,800); average ticket price, $4.59

The World Is Not Enough (1999): 24,853,800 (6,991,900); average ticket price, $5.08

Die Another Day (2002): 27,584,000 (8,101,900); average ticket price, $5.81

Casino Royale (2006): 25,428,700 (6,234,100); average ticket price, $6.55

Quantum of Solace (2008): 23,449,600 (9,405,100); average ticket price, $7.18

Skyfall (2012): 37,842,000 (10,977,000); average ticket price, $7.96

SPECTRE (2015): 18,085,500, through Nov. 23, (8,176,900); average ticket price, $8.34. UPDATED FIGURE: 22,996,5000 through March 27, 2016.

UPDATE: Out of curiosity, we went back to the earliest days of the series. Remember, these movies had re-releases, in some cases several re-releases. But in the cases of Goldfinger and Thunderball, you get an idea that Bond was a *very* big thing in the U.S. in the mid-1960s. Also, there was a big decline, relatively speaking, when You Only Live Twice came out. At the same time, Twice sold almost as many tickets in the U.S. and Canada as Skyfall did. Anyway, here’s a sampling:

Thunderball (1965): 74,800,000 (no opening weekend figure available)

Goldfinger (1964): 66,300,000

You Only Live Twice (1967): 35,904,000

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969): 16,038,400

Diamonds Are Forever (1971): 26,557,300

Live And Let Die (1973): 19,987,500

Moonraker (1979): 28,011,200 (2,832,000 opening weekend)

Octopussy (1983): 21,553,500 (2,826,200)

Licence to Kill (1989): 8,732, 200 (2,210,300)

UPDATE II: To give that Thunderball figure some perspective, the top box office movie in the U.S. and Canada so far this year has been Jurassic World. It sold about 79 million tickets, according to Box Office Mojo. While comparisons that far apart are dicey, it’s fair to say Thunderball was in the same general league in its day. But before Bond fans brag too much, The Sound of Music (released the same year as Thunderball and also re-released several times), sold more than 142 million tickets.

GoldenEye’s 20th anniversary: 007 begins anew

GoldenEye's poster

GoldenEye’s poster

GoldenEye, the 17th James Bond film, had a lot riding on it, not the least of which was the future of the 007 franchise.

It had been six years since the previous Bond film, Licence to Kill. A legal fight between Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had kept 007 out of movie theaters. In 1990, Danjaq, the holding company for Eon, was put up for sale, although it never changed hands.

After the dispute was settled came the business of trying kick start production.

Timothy Dalton ended up exiting the Bond role so a search for a replacement began. Eon boss Albert R. Broccoli selected Pierce Brosnan — originally chosen for The Living Daylights but who lost the part when NBC ordered additional episodes of the Remington Steele series the network had canceled.

Brosnan’s selection would be one of Broccoli’s last major moves. The producer, well into his 80s, underwent heart surgery in the summer of 1994 and turned over the producing duties to his daughter and stepson, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. Broccoli himself would only take a presenting credit in the final film.

Various writers were considered. The production team opted to begin pre-production on a story devised by Michael France.

His 1994 first draft was considerably different than the final film. France’s villain was Augustus Trevelyan, former head of MI6 who had defected to the Soviet Union years earlier. Bond also had a personal grudge against Trevelyan.

Other writers — Jeffrey Caine, Kevin Wade and Bruce Feirstein — were called in to rework the story.  The villain became Alec Trevelyan, formerly 006 and now head of the Janus crime syndicate in the post-Cold War Russia. In addition, the final script included a new M (Judi Dench), giving Bond a woman superior. Caine and Feirstein would get the screenplay credit while France only received a “story by” credit.

In the 21st century, many Bond fans assume 007 will always be a financial success. In the mid 1990s, those working behind the scenes didn’t take success for granted.

“Wilson and (Barbara) Broccoli already knew that GoldenEye was a one-shot chance to reintroduce Bond,” John Cork and Bruce Scivally wrote in the 2002 book James Bond: The Legacy. “After Cubby’s operation, they also knew the fate of the film — and James Bond — rested on their shoulders.”

GoldenEye’s crew had  new faces to the 007 series. Martin Campbell assumed duties as the movie’s director. Daniel Kleinman became the new title designer. His predecessor, Maurice Binder, had died in 1991. Eric Serra was brought on as composer, delivering a score unlike the John Barry style.

One familiar face, special effects and miniatures expert Derek Meddings, returned. He hadn’t worked on a Bond since 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. GoldenEye would be his last 007 contribution. He died in September 1995, before the film’s release.

In the end, GoldenEye came through, delivering worldwide box office of $352.2 million. Bruce Feirstein, who had done the final rewrites of the script, was hired to write the next installment. Bond was back.

 

Caveat Emptor (Cont.): Future 007 films to be set in ’60s?

Jack Lord, Ursula Andress and Sean Connery relaxing on the Dr. No set

Jack Lord, Ursula Andress and Sean Connery during production of Dr. No in 1962

A British tabloid, the Sunday Express, HAS A STORY saying that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer plans future James Bond films to be set in the 1960s.

The change would occur after current 007 Daniel Craig departs the role, according to the story.

The tabloid quotes an MGM executive it didn’t identify as saying, “We’ll go forwards by taking 007 back to the era in which we believe he fits most.” The film series started with 1962’s Dr. No.

If true (a major qualification), such a move would be an even bigger change than 2006’s Casino Royale, which hit the reset button and started the series all over. Even with the reboot, Bond films such as the upcoming SPECTRE continued to be set in the present day, rather than as period pieces.

However, the story hints at the possibility of an even bigger change.

According to the Sunday Express, MGM has asked Matthew Weiner, creator and executive producer of Mad Men, “to head a new team to oversee Bond’s return to his heyday 1960s.”

The story doesn’t mention current 007 producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, who’ve headed up the Bond production team since 1995’s GoldenEye. Wilson, 73, and Broccoli, 55, have been involved with the franchise for decades.

What’s more ownership of the 007 franchise is split between the Wilson-Broccoli family and MGM. That’s a pretty major detail that’s not even mentioned in the story. Do Wilson and Broccoli agree with this? It’s a point that’s not addressed at all.

At this point, caveat emptor — let the buyer beware — applies even more than usual with Bond-related items.

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