Bond 25: The passionless 007?

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Bond 25 is progressing. Nobody knows how quickly. Nobody outside Eon Productions know exactly what’s happening..

Despite questions this blog has raised (including how nobody knows the distributor who will actually get the movie to theaters) , chances are the next James Bond film will still come out in the fall of 2019.

Why? Well, somebody is likely to step up even if Skyfall and SPECTRE generated small profits for Sony Pictures, the distributor for those two 007 films. Bond, at least for now, still generates a lot of global attention.

Bond still is a way to promote other, more profitable movies for studios that may become involved in Bond 25’s distribution.

The question remains whether Bond 25 will generate passion for global movie audiences.

Marvel Studios’s Black Panther, the newest member of the billion-dollar movie club, generated passion. It was viewed as a breakthrough for a vast audience that finally got to see sympathetic movie characters who looked like them.

That’s passion.

James Bond movies, of course, have been around for more than 55 years. There have been a half-dozen actors who’ve played Bond in the films.

Yet, the lack of Bond passion goes beyond familiarity.

The two custodians of the 007 franchise (Barbara Broccoli, 57, and Michael G. Wilson, 76) have spent the bulk of their lives in Bondage. That’s both a tremendous achievement (keeping such a franchise going) and, one suspects, a tremendous burden.

Broccoli and Wilson operated for years under the watchful eye of Eon Productions co-founder Albert R. Broccoli (1909-1996) and his wife Dana Broccoli (1922-2004).

Since then, Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson have pursued non-Bond projects for many years now. Bond is lucrative. The other projects have provided variety. Maybe even provided passion.

In the coming months, there likely will be many stories generated about Bond 25.

But the larger question is whether Bond 25 will generate passion — for Broccoli and Wilson as well as the larger 007 audience.

Maybe it will. Maybe it won’t. But it’s something to keep in mind as the Bond 25 story unfolds.


Not a good weekend for movies not titled Black Panther

Black Panther poster

The March 2-4 weekend wasn’t kind to movies not titled Black Panther.

The Marvel Studios film, in its third weekend release in the U.S., is generating an estimated box office of $65.7 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

Black Panther is nearing the $900 million mark globally, according to the website.

A distant second is Red Sparrow, a spy movie with Jennifer Lawrence, at an estimated $17 million.

Third is a remake of Death Wish, with Bruce Willis subbing for Charles Bronson. It’s estimated to bring home $13 million for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

It’s the first film to be released through a new joint venture between MGM and Annapurna Pictures. That joint venture will release films for both MGM and Annapurna under their respective company names.

The producer of Death Wish is Roger Birnbaum. He and Gary Barber became co-CEOs after MGM initially came out of bankruptcy in 2010. But Birnbaum later dropped out and accepted a producer’s deal at the studio. Since then, Barber has been the sole CEO at MGM, which controls half of the 007 film franchise.

How Black Panther may be the future of Marvel films

Black Panther poster

UPDATE (Feb. 19): Black Panther’s U.S. box office for Friday-Sunday ended up at $201 million, Exhibitors Relations said on Twitter. 

ORIGINAL POST (Feb. 18): Black Panther, the newest Marvel Studios film, is being celebrated as a huge moment for black America. Examples include The New York Times Magazine (“a vivid re-imagination of something black Americans have cherished for centuries”) and The Guardian (“The film is already being regarded in the US as a positive force for social change”),

It may also be a sign of Marvel’s future.

Black Panther’s estimated Friday-Sunday U.S. box office is $192 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

That figure would be (unadjusted for inflation or higher ticket prices), the No. 2 U.S. opening for Marvel. Here are the other movies in Marvel’s top five (all of which eventually topped $1 billion at the worldwide box office):

Marvel’s The Avengers (2012): $207.4 million.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015): $191.3 million.

Captain America: Civil War (2016): $179.1 million.

Iron Man 3 (2013): $174.1 million.

Of the Marvel top five, Black Panther (starring Chadwick Boseman) is the only one not to include Robert Downey Jr. playing Tony Stark/Iron Man.

It was 2008’s Iron Man where Marvel began making its own films, instead of licensing the rights to others. The movie became the building block upon which Marvel built is movie universe. Four years later, with Marvel’s The Avengers, the notion of a “shared universe” became big business.

Some have wondered whether Marvel could withstand Downey’s eventual departure. The actor turns 53 in April and it’s not the kind of thing you can keep doing forever. Other major Marvel actors such as Chris Evans (Captain America) and Chris Hemsworth (Thor) have reached the end of their contracts.

What’s more, the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War and an unnamed Avengers film in 2019 is intended as a kind of finale for Marvel films up to now. So, a decade after its first movie, Marvel Studios has reached a transition point.

Black Panther already is a popular and critical (a 97 percent “fresh” score on the Rotten Tomatoes website) success.

Beyond that, Black Panther shows that Marvel is capable of extending itself beyond its first decade of making movies. Black Panther seems destined to join Marvel’s billion-dollar club (it’s at $361 million globally as of this weekend). The movie also is broadening Marvel’s appeal. We’ll see what happens.

The Black Panther’s 007 vibe

Black Panther poster

No meaningful plot spoilers but the extremely spoiler adverse should skip.

Black Panther, which is debuting this weekend in the United States, also has a James Bond vibe.

Director Ryan Coogler, was quoted in stories appearing in January like this one and this one as saying Black Panther was intended to be the Marvel film universe’s version of 007.

Black Panther features Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, the new king of the technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda.

The country is the only source of vibranium, a material with various properties which is the reason why Wakanda is so advanced. Wakandan leaders have long kept the country’s technology a secret. All of this is established in a short prologue that takes the form of a story being told a child.

T’Challa’s sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) develops weapons and gadgets. Shuri is clearly this movie’s Q.

Because the movie is dealing with a fictional material, Shuri’s devices are more science fiction that what you see in a Bond movie.

What doesn’t work in a Bond movie (Die Another Day’s invisible car) is kid’s stuff compared to Black Panther, including a uniform with vibranium for T’Challa that stores kinetic energy that can be redirected against his opponents.

It’s similar to what director Christopher Nolan, a Bond film fan, did with his trilogy of Batman films.

In those films, Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox kept Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne supplied with devices. Some of the Freeman-Bale scenes played very similar to their 007 counterpart sequences, where Wayne can’t wait to play around before Fox completes his briefing.

More broadly, Black Panther has espionage undertones. Because Wakanda is trying to keep its technology advances secret — and keep control of its vibranium — it employs a large network of spies deployed throughout the world. As a result, there’s an element of international intrigue. The movie has a lot more going than that, but it makes an interesting subtext.

UPDATE: I should have noted this earlier. At the very end of the film, after the final post-credits scene, there was something displayed that would warm the heart of old-time Bond film fans.

“BLACK PANTHER will return in AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR.” It’s not the first time Marvel has done this sort of thing, but first-generation Bond movie fans probably appreciate it. In this case, the next Avengers film will be out in less than three months.

Black Panther gets raves as critics weigh in

Black Panther poster

Black Panther, the newest Marvel Studios film, received a surge of positive reviews as critics began to weigh in on the movie.

The character, the ruler of a technologically advanced African nation, was introduced in a 1966 issue of the Fantastic Four by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) became part of the Marvel movie universe with 2016’s Captain America: Civil War.

What follows is a non-spoiler sampling. The movie is due out Feb. 16.

TODD MCCARTHY, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER:  “With uncanny timing, Marvel takes its superheroes into a domain they’ve never inhabited before and is all the better for it in Black Panther…(T)his entry sweeps you off to a part of it you’ve never seen: a hidden lost world in Africa defined by royal traditions and technological wonders that open up refreshing new dramatic, visual and casting possibilities.”

MANOHLA DARGIS, THE NEW YORK TIMES: “Part of the movie’s pleasure and its ethos — which wends through its visuals — is how it dispenses with familiar either/or divides, including the binary opposition that tends to shape our discourse on race. Life in Wakanda is at once urban and rural, futuristic and traditional, technological and mystical.”

IRA MADISON III, DAILY BEAST: “To describe Black Panther as a black superhero film doesn’t do enough to praise how utterly disinterested it is in appealing to a white audience. At its core, (director Ryan) Coogler’s film feels like a love letter to every black person who will step into the movie theater to see it, be they of American or African descent. It is a film that honors the history of black bodies on our entire continent, from the kingdoms they built, to the bondage they were shackled in, to the world that has treated them with cruelty at every possible turn.”

PETER DEBRUGE, VARIETY: “Coogler makes good on the landmark project’s potential by featuring a predominantly black ensemble, casting some of the best young actors around — from Chadwick Boseman (who proved his dramatic chops playing James Brown, Jackie Robinson, and Thurgood Marshall in recent years) to Michael B. Jordan (even more buff, and twice as charismatic, than he appeared in the director’s two previous features, “Fruitvale Station” and “Creed”) — as well as such legends as Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett. But historical significance aside, what superhero fans want to know is how ‘Black Panther’ compares with other Marvel movies. Simply put, it not only holds its own, but improves on the formula in several key respects, from a politically engaged villain to an emotionally grounded final showdown.”

JIM VEJVODA, IGN: “It may utilize the mix of action and humor that now defines the Marvel movie formula, but Black Panther refuses to blend into the crowd of superhero films. It stands out boldly, in part by opening up a beautiful new corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but also with its topical themes. Not everything works across the board, but when it sets this fantastic cast of relatable heroes on one side of real-world ideological debates and the MCU’s most compelling and dimensional antagonist in years on the other, a huge amount of it works wonderfully.”

Get ready for a new era with Disney-Fox deal

Walt Disney Co. logo

UPDATE (7:10 a.m., Dec. 14): Walt Disney Co. announced this morning it was acquiring the 20th Century Fox studio and other Fox assets for $52.4 billion in stock.

Among the bullet points in the press release: “Popular entertainment properties including X-Men, Avatar, The Simpsons, FX Networks and National Geographic to join Disney’s portfolio.

Disney also said CEO Robert Iger, 66, who has postponed retirement once already, will remain in the post through 2021. It was under Iger that Disney acquired Marvel and Lucasfilm (Star Wars), deals dwarfed by this latest one.

ORIGINAL POST (Dec. 13): Walt Disney Co. reportedly is about to buy 20th Century Fox and other major assets from 21st Century Fox. (Both CNBC and The New York Times have said the deal may be announced Thursday.)

Many entertainment and fan websites have concentrated on how major Marvel characters such as the X-Men and Fantastic Four, now controlled by Fox, would come under Disney and its Marvel Studios unit.

The business media (such as this CNBC story) has focused on how the deal would bolster Disney with its plans to start a streaming service to challenge Netflix.

However, such a deal would cut the number of major studios releasing movies. 20th Century-Fox probably would become another brand for Disney and be involved in fewer movies overall. As the Daily Beast put it last month, “A Disney-Fox Merger Is Bad for Everyone But Disney.” Also, such a transaction may spur additional deal making and consolidation.

Fox currently handles home video distribution for James Bond films, with its current deal lasting through June 2020. It’s uncertain how or when a Disney acquisition of Fox assets would affect that. Disney may have its hands full dealing with Marvel characters and streaming issues that the 007 home video situation may have to wait.

Meanwhile, if a Disney-Fox hookup spurs more consolidation, it’s possible the Bond franchise may be affected. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 007’s home studio, is a relative runt.

MGM is just now — seven years after exiting bankruptcy — taking steps to distributing its own movies again by forming a distribution joint venture with Annapurna Pictures. Could MGM get gobbled up at some point?

In any case, the anticipated Disney-Fox deal means things won’t be the same.

Beginning of the end: Avengers trailer unveiled

Marvel Studios today unveiled the first trailer for Avengers: Infinity War, the third Avengers film due out in May 2018.

The movie, combined with a fourth (and still untitled) Avengers film in May 2019, is intended to represent a finale for the various interconnected movies Marvel has produced since 2008.

At least that’s what Kevin Feige, the head of Marvel Studios, told Vanity Fair. “There will be two distinct periods,” Feige said. “Everything before Avengers 4 and everything after. I know it will not be in ways people are expecting.”

Avengers: Infinity War includes Thanos, a villain who was teased during sequences in the end titles of 2012’s The Avengers and 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. There has also been speculation the third and fourth Avengers movie may cost a combined $500 million.

Anyway, the trailer is embedded below. Things look pretty dire at times.