SPECTRE promotional art
By Gert Waterink,
SPECTRE while one of the most popular movies of the year, won’t be as profitable as 2012’s Skyfall. SPECTRE cost more to make and appears headed to fall short of Skyfall’s $1.11 billion box office.
Part I looked at some factors that may have contributed to this. What follows is an examination of additional issues.
Too liberal producing style?
Current Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson seem to apply a more liberal working ethos as compared to their father/stepfather Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli. The creative control over the Bond franchise has become much more a “shared responsibility” between the producers and the biggest cast- and crew members involved.
Daniel Craig is now a co-producer, a title no other Bond actor achieved. Connery wanted to be a full partner, but Cubby Broccoli resisted. Directors seem to have gotten more freedom with their desired cast and crew choices. And now bigger (and more expensive) stars have joined the Bond family and their wishes seem to have become more important too.
The Bond producers had to take some radical measures to rejuvenate the Bond franchise. With Skyfall and Casino Royale, this more liberal producing style really helped. But it does have its flaws, too. Creating the “perfect Bond film” has always been precarious.
With a more liberal producing style, you make that notion prone too much to more different interpretations. One actor wants the film to become a perfect closure in case he leaves the franchise after SPECTRE whereas a producer is adamant on continuing the Bond franchise.
The ambition to make a “perfect Bond film” with SPECTRE was there. For the most part it worked (I gave it 4 out of 5 stars! 7th out of 24 on my ranking list now!). But in the process, the different interpretations of such resulted in a slightly less coherent film near the last 20 minutes of the film.
The Sony leaks
The Sony leaks are a perfect example of a very unwanted bit of publicity. They created a strong narrative that was driving the attention away from the actual film.
Once actor Idris Elba was mentioned by former Sony executive Amy Pascal, the questions from movie journalists shifted away from the actual production of the film. Idris Elba became the “main object of desire” as opposed to current Bond actor Daniel Craig. And perhaps this facilitated some of the negative remarks made by Daniel Craig himself (“I’d rather slash my wrists”).
Secondly, the entire writing process of SPECTRE became public. While this shouldn’t be directly damaging to a film – the production crew of Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation started principal photography without a finished script — it didn’t help the publicity of SPECTRE. Within the movie journalism community, “unfinished draft screenplays” were easily read as or changed into “final screenplay is all over the place.”
No one can prove if the Sony leaks damaged the publicity of the film, but it did shift the attention away from the tightly scripted Publicity & Advertising campaign that Sony/MGM/EON envisioned, making the P&A budget more prone to risk.
The Sony leaks also made its way to review aggregate sites like Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes. It is not hard to find some reviews in which the narrative of the Sony leaks are part of the reviewer’s arguments for the quality of the finished film. Simply put: The ongoing narrative of the leaks made its way into reviews. Make no mistake, P&A departments take great pride in good reviews. They are especially important during award screenings.
It is only logical now that the next Bond film won’t and can’t be as expensive as SPECTRE. With such high cash investments ($350 million) and in comparison low box office returns ($820 million through this weekend), the factual, real profits will be simply too low.
Bond films are an A-brand in the movie business, so financial flops are out of the question. But they can become worrisome investments. The Bond producers know that and have downscaled the production budgets on numerous occasions. Take for instance the movies that followed You Only Live Twice and Moonraker, This will happen now with Bond 25. The rumors that director Guy Ritchie, who is now quite cheap in the market, comes onboard, should therefore be taken seriously.
Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson need to be careful with using (older) Bond films as a template for future success. The Bond film series is 53 years old. So what may look very familiar, and fun, to Bond fans, might look bland or unimpressive to general audiences. Every new Bond adventure therefore needs to feel entirely fresh. It needs to be a good Bond film but also a good film regardless of the franchise tag.
In an era where movies have shorter cinema runs, it should especially appeal to non-fans. Skyfall has proven that. Although it seems difficult to produce such a movie, I think it’s easier than certain filmmakers want us to think.
Also, the Bond films don’t have the advantage of an extended cinematic universe. It needs to be an instant hit every three years. Unlike Marvel, the Bond franchise can’t get publicity assistance from, let’s say, a Felix Leiter spin-off. With a tighter focus on the above factors, –-original/fresher action, focus on hit scoring anthems and music, tighter creative control & perhaps downscaling on casting/crew budgets -– one can better fight off those unwanted external factors like these ghastly Sony leaks.
PS: I do think it’s a very good idea to include Ian Fleming’s “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” in the negotiating process if MGM and EON Productions will sit together with Warner Bros. for a co-financing/distribution deal. There’s no harm in sharing financial risks between Napoleon Solo and James Bond. :-)
Filed under: James Bond Films | Tagged: Barbara Broccoli, Casino Royale, Daniel Craig, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Michael G. Wilson, Skyfall, Sony Pictures, SPECTRE, Warner Bros. | 1 Comment »