Evolution of spy entertainment 1960s-present

Sean Connery in an insert shot during the pre-titles sequence of Thunderball (1965)

In the newest episode of James Bond & Friends, Dr. Lisa Funnell raises the question whether spy entertainment has evolved beyond James Bond.

You could make the argument that things have regressed since the 1960s spy craze.

In 1965 alone, you could go to a movie theater and see the likes of Thunderball (the fourth James Bond movie and definitely on the escapist end of the spectrum) as well as The Ipcress Files (produced by Harry Saltzman with Bond film crew members along for the ride) and The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (based on a John le Carre novel).

That’s a lot of variety for a single year.

On British and American television, you could see series either affected by Bond (The Avengers and Danger Man) or started because of the spy craze (The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Get Smart, I Spy and Mission: Impossible).

Today? Well, Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman series was influenced by early Bond movies as well as U.N.C.L.E. and The Avengers.

Le Carre novels continue to be adapted but they often appear on TV mini-series.

The 1960s was the decade of the spy craze. The 1970s was a barren time for spy TV. It has waxed and waned since then.

Bond 26 questions: The ‘next iteration’ edition

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

No Time to Die still isn’t out but there has been some news related to Bond 26. Naturally, the blog has questions.

What do you make of recent Broccoli-Wilson comments?

In a July 6 story in The New York Times, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions spoke up in support of two current Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film executives.

“Mike and Pam understand that we are at a critical juncture and that the continuing success of the James Bond series is dependent on us getting the next iteration right and will give us the support we need to do this,” the Eon duo said in a statement of Michael De Luca, chairman of MGM’s Motion PIcture Group, and his deputy, Pamela Abdy. (emphasis added)

Until late September 2020, Broccoli wouldn’t publicly acknowledge that No Time to Die would be Daniel Craig’s final James Bond movie. ““It is the fifth and final one that Daniel Craig is going to be doing,” Broccoli said on an episode of the official No Time to Die podcast that would soon go into hiatus because the movie got delayed.

Evidently, Eon likes how De Luca and Abdy are managing MGM’s film unit. But their future is uncertain with Amazon’s pending $8.45 billion acquisition of James Bond’s home studio.

Eon controls creative matters related to the cinema Bond. The Broccoli-Wilson statement looks like a strong suggestion to Amazon to not shake up MGM’s film operation when the Bond franchise is on the verge of another transition and yet another new film Bond.

Did the list of possible new film Bond actors just go down by one?

Over the past few years, entertainment outlets and websites have speculated about who might take over Craig’s shoulder holster. One name that comes up a lot is British actor Henry Cavill.

However, this week, it came out that Cavill will be in a new Matthew Vaughn-directed spy film, Argylle.

Once upon a time, when Cavill was in his early 20s, he tested for Bond. He came in behind Craig.

Since then, Cavill’s ability to anchor film franchises has been a so-so affair. He was in one solo Superman movie and appeared as the Man of Steel in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League. But his future as Superman looks dicey. Cavill starred in 2015’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E., but that movie didn’t resonate with audiences and no additional U.N.C.L.E. films followed.

Cavill was a supporting player in a Mission: Impossible movie and has starred in a popular streaming show, The Witcher.

The actor is now 38, the same age Craig was when he was cast as Bond. But Cavill’s chances of being cast as Bond may be running out — assuming he ever had a chance in the first place. Would Eon want to cast a Bond actor who has been in two different spy movies? I wouldn’t go banco on that.

Matthew Vaughn heads to the spy well — again

Teaser poster for Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Director Matthew Vaughn has had spies on his mind since at least 2004. And he’s going to that well once more with a new project titled Argylle.

Here’s an excerpt from The Hollywood Reporter about Vaughn’s newest project:

Based on the soon to be launched spy novel Argylle, from author Ellie Conway, the film — being produced by Vaughn’s Marv banner — follows the world’s greatest spy Argylle as he is caught up in a globe-trotting adventure. It’s expected to be the first of at least three films in the franchise and is set in America, London and multiple locations across the world.

The large cast is to include Henry Cavill, Sam Rockwell, Dallas Bryce Howard, Bryan Cranston, Samuel L. Jackson and others.

Vaughn’s interest in spy entertainment goes back more than 15 years. In 2004, Vaughn was reported to be in talks to direct a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. That didn’t happen and an U.N.C.L.E. movie didn’t come out until 2015, with Henry Cavill in the cast.

Vaughn, in the meantime, directed 2011’s X-Men: First Class, which included Michael Fassbender engaging in some James Bond-style tropes as the future Magneto.

But the director’s big spy genre activity has been the Kingsman series — Kingsman: The Secret Service, Kingsman: The Golden Circle and a prequel, The King’s Man. The latter has been on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cast members of Kingsman: The Secret Service said in 2014 the movie had elements of early Bond films, U.N.C.L.E. and The Avengers.

Concerning Vaughn’s new project, The Hollywood Reporter quotes Vaughn as saying, “This is going to reinvent the spy genre.”

That’s quite a boast, particularly the rummaging around Vaughn already has done in the spy genre. We’ll see.

Kingsman prequel gets delayed seven months

The King’s Man, the prequel to two Kingsman films, has been pushed back seven months to Sept. 18, 2020 from Feb. 14, 2020, Exhibitor Relations Co. said  Friday in a Twitter post.

The change was one of a series of moves by Walt Disney Co. that also included setting dates for five untitled movies from Marvel Studios, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

20th Century Fox, now part of Disney, put out a trailer for The King’s Man in late September. The movie depicts the origins of “the first independent” intelligence agency and stars Ralph Fiennes. It’s directed by Matthew Vaughn, who helmed the first two Kingsman movies.

Exhibitor Relations tracks box office data and business developments in entertainment. The company, in a separate Twitter post, noted Disney “just dropped a boatload of FOX UNTITLED dates.”

There has been speculation whether Disney would maintain Fox as a separate brand, including its iconic 20th Century Fox logo and accompanying 20th Century Fox fanfare. That music was originally composed by Alfred Newman in 1933, and then expanded when Fox introduced CinemaScope, a wide-screen format, in 1953.

In any case, here’s the original trailer for The King’s Man.

Kingsman prequel trailer is out

The trailer for the Kingsman prequel, The King’s Man, is out. A familiar face for James Bond film fans, Ralph Fiennes, is prominent in the proceedings.

After two Kingsman movies, director Matthew Vaughn’s new effort concerns the origins of the Kingsman organization, “the first independent” spy agency.

One major change has occurred since the first two Kingsman movies. Walt Disney Co. acquired the bulk of 21st Century Fox assets, including the 20th Century Fox film studio. The latter released the earlier Kingsman films. The new movie still has the 20th Century Fox label. But The King’s Man may help determine how much Disney will put into Fox-branded films.

The King’s Man is scheduled to come out on Feb.14 (at one time the release date for No Time to Die). Here’s a look at the trailer.

Kingsman sequel: ‘More everything!’

Teaser poster for Kingsman: The Golden Circle

In 1968, there was a trailer for a Thunderball-From Russia With Love double feature that promised more thrills, excitement, etc. Finally there was this promise: “More everything!”

Kingsman: The Golden Circle, the sequel to 2015’s Kingsman: The Secret Service. more or less makes and delivers on the same promise.

With The Golden Circle, there’s more violence, more swearing (the f-bomb is a favorite) and more cynicism compared with the original.

However, the Matthew Vaughn-directed movie at times actually provides actual emotion. But don’t worry. If that’s not your thing, it’ll pass before long and you can enjoy more mayhem.

In a way, the movie is almost review proof. People who liked the original (also directed by Vaughn) are going to enjoy the sequel and won’t care about reviews. Those who didn’t care for the 2015 movie, more or less, aren’t part of The Golden Circle’s intended audience anyway.

Just to keep the plot summary to a minimum (what follows are shown on trailers so the spoiler adverse needn’t fear): The secret Kingsman organization is almost entirely wiped out although Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and gadget master Merlin (Mark Strong) survived.

They meet up with Statesman, a U.S.-based secret organization much like Kingsman except its front is a distillery. Julianne Moore is this movie’s lead villain, who is going to kill millions of people unless she gets what she wants.

Vaughn (who co-wrote the script with Jane Goldman) is a skilled director who knows exactly what he’s doing. The occasional emotional scenes demonstrate that. It’s more or less up to the viewer whether it’s what you want.

The movie is long (141 minutes). Still, it has its moments. For me, though, not as many as the first half of the original film. While there are plot twists, there’s nothing that surprising.

By this time, you know exactly what you’re getting. “Manners maketh man” of the original film is given lip service but mostly is gone. Grade: C-Plus.

Kingsman sequel gets mixed reaction from critics

Logo for Kingsman: The Golden Circle, sequel to 2015’s Kingsman: The Secret Service

Kingsman: The Golden Circle isn’t off to a fast start with critics.

The movie, a sequel to 2015’s Kingsman: The Secret Service, currently had a 57 percent “fresh” rating Tuesday evening on the Rotten Tomatoes website, which collects and scores reviews.

Here are some non-spoiler excerpts from reviews published after the movie’s premiere this week. The movie comes out this weekend in the U.S.

PHIL NOBILE JR., BIRTH.MOVIES.DEATH: “(Director Matthew) Vaughn’s new film suffers from a kind of Observer Effect: it knows what we loved about the original, is kind of self-satisfied by what mortified us about the original, and endeavors to give us more of both.  Everything is scaled up, and the end result is too much of a good thing, too much of some bad things, and just too much of everything.”

SCOTT MENDELSON, FORBES.COM: “Kingsman: The Golden Circle is surface-level entertaining and offers enough colorful diversions and solid action to merit a viewing. But it focuses too much of its energies on undoing its own narrative while letting everything else of value fall by the side or get outright written out….It feels less like The Spy Who Loved Me and more like James Bond Jr.”

MIKE REYES, CINEMABLEND: “Thankfully, I can say that Kingsman: The Golden Circle keeps the action cranked, the laughs fresh, and even injects more confidence into its proceedings, making for what Eggsy (Taron Egerton) himself might call a fucking proper blast.”

TODD MCCARTHY, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: “There is, then, an endearingly goofy method to the writers’ fervid madness that serves the material well and, as ever, Vaughn puts it all up on the screen with boisterous but carefully calibrated enthusiasm….Vaughn actually seems to prefer character, dialogue and humor to chases and explosion, and he makes mostly very good use of his almost invariably well-chosen actors by identifying their appeal and drawing out their humor.”

ROBERT ABELE, THE WRAP: “It took the Bond series 15 years and 10 movies to get to the ridiculed “Moonraker.” The laddish spy franchise “Kingsman: The Secret Service” series, based on Mark Millar’s comic book, has done it in one leap with the bloated, inexplicably un-entertaining follow-up “Kingsman: The Golden Circle.”

(Note from The Spy Commander: Actually 17 years and 11 films. Moonraker, 11th in the series produced by Eon Productions, came out in 1979, Dr. No in 1962.)

Sky News says time for 007 to retire

Logo for the Kingsman sequel due out in September.

Earlier this week, the Sky News website HAD A STORY declaring that, “James Bond is dead, long live the Kingsman!”

Essentially, writer Duarte Garrido argued that Bond’s day has passed because he’s a sexist character as well as “his covert racism and weird taste in beverages.”

The new king of spies, we’re told, is Eggsy, played by Taron Egerton, from The Kingsman: The Secret Service.

“Bond was a spy for post-war veterans. Eggsy is a spy for enlightened millennials,” Garrido wrote. “Every generation has its heroes, it’s time for the old ones to retire.”

This is interesting on a number of levels.

A Bond-inspired poster for Kingsman: The Secret Service

–Kingsman: The Secret Service made homages not only to 1960s Bond movies, but Harry Palmer films as well as The Avengers and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television shows. That’s not the blog saying it. Star Colin Firth, who played Eggsy mentor Harry Hart, said it at the 2014 San Diego Comic Con.

So, it’s not exactly like Kingsman is blazing a trail. Rather, it’s more like a new take on a familiar genre.

–What about the ending of Kingsman: The Secret Service?

Sky tells us Kingsman is enlightened unlike that old sexist Bond. Remember, with Kingsman, we’re talking about a film ended with an anal sex joke.

Director Matthew Vaughn told the Cinema Blend website in 2015 that joke was another 007 homage.

It ends [on that joke] for a very strong reason. A lot of Bond movies used to end on things like Bond trying to ‘attempt re-entry,’ or ‘keeping the British end up.’ So I just thought, ‘We’ve pushed the boundary on every sort of spy cliché.’ We’ve got to end it on The Big One. And there’s only one way of doing it, taking it to the next level!

Meanwhile, Kingsman isn’t showing its superiority over Bond. It’s taking a Bond meme and taking it further. Doesn’t seem particularly enlightened.

–What about the connection between Sky and the Kingsman franchise? That would be Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox.

The company a 39 percent stake in Sky and wants to buy the rest. It also owns the 20th Century Fox studio, which released the 2015 Kingsman and its upcoming sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle.

That connection probably should have been noted in the Sky story.

Kingsman sequel gets pushed back to fall 2017

kingsman2-logo

The sequel to 2015’s Kingsman: The Secret Service has been pushed back to the fall of 2017 from June, Exhibitor Relations said on Twitter.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle now has a release date of Oct. 6, 2017, instead of June 16, according to Exhibitor Relations, which provides box office and release date information to clients. The company’s customers include Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, according to its website.

The June 16 date had Walt Disney Co.’s Cars 3 for competition, according to the release schedule maintained  by The Numbers website.

Kingsman: The Secret Service was based on a comic book by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons. The film, which incorporated memes from 1960s spy entertainment, generated worldwide box office of more than $414 million.

The results spurred studio 20th Century Fox to approve a follow-up movie. Both the original and sequel were directed by Matthew Vaughn with Taron Egerton as Gary “Eggsy” Unwin. Also, despite his character being killed in the first movie, Colin Firth is back as Harry Hart in the new film.

The change in the Kingsman sequel’s release date was one of several made Wednesday and listed on the Box Office Mojo website.

Here’s the Exhibitor Relations tweet:

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Kingsman’s opening U.S. weekend: $35.6 million

kingsman logo

Kingsman: The Secret Service will have an estimated $35.6 million opening weekend in the United States, according to the BOX OFFICE MOJO website.

That was well above projections for $20 million for the Feb. 13-15 weekend, according to DEADLINE: HOLLYWOOD. It’s also near the $39.2 million opening weekend of Taken 3, the year’s first major spy film, which debuted in January.

Kingsman was a distant second to Fifty Shades of Grey, where the estimated three-day figure is $81.7 million, according to Box Office Mojo. 20th Century Fox essentially marketed Kingsman as an action alternative to Fifty Shades.

Kingsman is based on a comic book by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons. Matthew Vaughn’s movie changed the spy organization from the comic book’s MI6 to a privately financed international group. It also added memes from The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and The Avengers.