Bond 26 (!) questions: The Pinewood deal edition

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Over the weekend, Pinewood Studios announced that Walt Disney Co. had signed a deal to lease almost all of the revered London-area studio sound stages and production facilities.

Terms weren’t disclosed, but the deal may run for 10 years.

Given that Pinewood is the traditional home to James Bond film productions, the blog has questions how this may affect future James Bond films, starting with Bond 26.

OK. What does this mean for Bond 26?

There’s a good chance that Bond 26 — whenever that goes into development — may have to look for another home studio base.

But, couldn’t Disney sub-lease space at Pinewood to Eon Productions for Bond 26?

It could. But then again, why would Disney do so? Disney wouldn’t have cut such a deal unless it had production plans where it would need all that Pinewood space.

Put another way, Disney has never been known for sentimentality, even when “Uncle Walt” was running the place.

After Disney animators went on strike in 1941, some were fired. The Magic Kingdom may be part of Disney. But the Magic Kingdom is, in the end, a fairy tale.

Some of the Disney strike participants were among the founders and contributors of United Productions of America (UPA). UPA went on to win some Oscars and created characters such as Mr. Magoo and Gerald McBoing Boing.

Is there back story we should be aware of?

Pinewood is exiting Pinewood Atlanta, a joint venture. Pinewood is selling out to its partner. That operation will retain the Pinewood Atlanta name for up to 18 months.

Pinewood Atlanta has been the home base of some major productions by Disney-owned Marvel Studios, including the last two Avengers films. But that appears to be a things of the past.

What happens next?

No Time to Die, aka Bond 25, still is in production. We won’t know about Bond 26 for a long time, perhaps years.

With the increasingly long time in-between Bond films, Eon Productions will have plenty of time to look for a new home production base.

If something bigger happens — some kind of sale that would shake up the Bond status quo — that will have to play out before a search for new studio quarters. If Bond became part of the Disney fold, then presumably it could again film at Pinewood.

Meanwhile, Pinewood has just secured rent for the 007 Stage, the Roger Moore Stage and other studio facilities for years. That’s business.

UPDATE (11:35 a.m. New York time): The BBC has weighed in with a story about the deal. It has this line:

“Despite the Disney deal, it is believed that there is a possibility that, given its history, future James Bond films will still be filmed there.”

First of all, who believes this? Secondly, “a possibility” is less than definitive. Possibilities are not certainties.

UPDATE II (Sept. 11): This slipped by me at the time. In July, Netflix reached an agreement to lease almost all of the space at Sheppterton Studios (owned by Pinewood’s parent company). A July story in The Guardian has details. In effect, there’s now an arms race to lock up U.K. studio space.

Marvel, Sony snatch defeat from the jaws of victory

Spider-Man: Homecoming poster from 2017

Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures entered in a partnership which included, among other things, the highest-grossing (unadjusted) film Sony history while Marvel featured its best known character in its own movies.

What next? Perhaps end the partnership.

That’s apparently what’s happening. This week saw numerous reports about the split. (See THIS STORY from Variety, THIS STORY from The Hollywood Reporter and THIS STORY from The Wrap, among others.)

Essentially, Marvel film boss Kevin Feige produced two Spider-Man movies for Sony while Marvel got to use the Tom Holland version of Spidey in three Marvel films (Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame).

All of the films were enormously successful. Spider-Man: Far From Home, released earlier this year, passed Skyfall in unadjusted worldwide box office for Sony. Still, things apparently not successful enough.

Marvel, owned by Walt Disney Co., reportedly wanted to co-finance Sony’s solo Spider-Man films. Sony issued a statement on Twitter that Feige is getting overextended because of the studio’s “newly added Marvel properties.”

Marvel has gotten control of the X-Men and Fantastic Four as a result of Disney acquiring most of the assets of 20th Century Fox. It’s also launching new TV series on Disney’s new Disney + streaming service.

Whatever the specifics, Sony is saying in effect it doesn’t need Marvel’s Feige to make successful films. Marvel seems to be signaling it still wants a better deal regardless of past success.

We’ll see what happens. The collaboration with Marvel was a shot in the arm for Sony’s Spider-Man franchise. Having Spider-Man in Marvel films was a boost for Marvel.

What’s more, Holland’s Spider-Man had been in position to be the “the face” of future Marvel films with the departure of Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and Chris Evans’ Captain America. Nothing last forever, but this partnership may have reached a premature end.

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.

Avengers: Endgame, an epic about second chances

Avengers: Endgame poster

Only the mildest of spoilers but the super-sensitive to spoilers should go somewhere else.

The three-hour epic Avengers: Endgame is, in the end, a story about second chances. Not only in its extravagant story but it also appeals to the human desire for do-overs.

As a result, it’s an epic with a heart, frequently punctuated by emotional scenes. For a genre attacked by detractors as a lot of CGI (which it has), there are many human moments.

In last year’s Avengers: Infinity Wars, the superheroes had been beaten by Thanos, who wiped out half of living beings in the universe.

The story utilizes time travel as a plot device for the Avengers to try and undo their defeat. But it also becomes a way for key members of the team to address personal setbacks and regrets.

The result is a film that keeps topping itself in terms of spectacle. Just when the viewer thinks the stakes can’t get higher, they do. Just when it seems there can’t be another twist, there is.

The movie, directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, also is self-referential to the 11-year, 22-movie Marvel Cinematic Universe. If you’ve seen all of the entries, it’s easier to follow along. But things move swiftly enough, late comers can enjoy the ride and go to Google later to catch up.

In the meantime, virtually every actor who’s had a significant role in any of the Marvel films gets to make an encore.

Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame were filmed back-to-back. Together, they comprise a mammoth $500 million (at least) undertaking. I had some misgivings about Avengers: Infinity War. They were all wiped away with this film.

It’s a cliche, but true. Things will never be the same for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Marvel Studios will face challenges where to go from here, although it has the laid the foundation for ways to proceed.

But that’s a discussion for another day. The film, its huge cast and creative personnel have delivered what seemed impossible: A spectacle with a heart and emotion. GRADE: A.

Captain Marvel’s political subtext

Captain Marvel movie poster

If you haven’t seen Captain Marvel, there are spoilers in this post.

Captain Marvel is the latest film from Marvel Studios and it’s cruising to a $1 billion global box office.

But the movie also has a political subtext that isn’t getting discussed much.

Background: The Skrulls, a race of alien “shape shifters” were introduced all the way back in 1961 in issue No. 2 of The Fantastic Four by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

The Skrulls were classic bad guys. In a later issue, the FF took on the Super Skrull, who could mimic the powers of all four members of the super team.

The Kree, were introduced in 1967 when the FF encountered the Sentry (essentially a giant robot) stationed on Earth by the Kree, another alien race. In the next issue, the FF encountered Ronan the Accuser, a Kree character who’s mad at the FF for what happened to the Sentry.

Some years later, Marvel had a long story arc in The Avengers comic book called the Kree-Skrull War. This story line established that Marvel’s two major alien races were at odds.

How it plays out in the movie: The Skrulls are depicted in the 2019 movie as considerably more sympathetic than they were in their early comic book appearances.

The Kree (the more human-looking characters), it is revealed are the oppressors of the Skrulls. The Skrulls, as it turns out, are simply looking for a homeland/home planet.

It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to view the Kree-Skrull conflict in the prism of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Middle East.

According to the Palestinian side, they are a people looking for a homeland. Detractors say the Palestinians are terrorists.

In the new Captain Marvel movie, the Kree describe the Skrulls as terrorists. The Skrulls say they’re simply looking for a home.

Movies don’t settle long-running disputes. Still, it looks like Marvel has used real-life conflicts in tweaking the source material in its latest production. Your mileage may vary.

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.