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.

Some (not really) wild guesses about 007’s film future

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

We know a bit more about Daniel Craig’s acting future. With that in mind, here are some wild guesses about the cinema future of James Bond.

If Craig returns for Bond 25, expect to hear about the agony of playing James Bond.

Why’s that, you ask? Because Craig, 48, has always talked as if the role is a burden and he can’t wait to rid himself of it. CLICK HERE for a sample. (“I’ve been trying to get out of this from the very moment I got into it, but they won’t let me go, “)

If a new new actor is cast as Bond, expect Eon Productions to say it is “going back to (Ian) Fleming.” Why? It’s standard operating procedure. Why change now? As far back as 1972 and 1973, Harry Saltzman claimed in interviews promoting Live And Let Die that Roger Moore was really, really the first choice to play James Bond (but was unavailable) and perfectly embodied Ian Fleming’s depiction of 007.

If a new actor is cast, expect somebody in charge to say that actor was the first choice all along. In 1986, Timothy Dalton was the first choice all along (according to the publicity machine) even though Pierce Brosnan had been approached and signed. Dalton only got the job because NBC exercised its rights for more Remington Steele episodes.

In the 21st century, it doesn’t matter whether Tom Hiddleston, Adian Turner, Henry Cavill or whoever gets the job. They’ll always be described as the “first choice” all along.

Expect somebody in charge to say, “all the money’s up on the screen.” Admittedly, that well-worn trope didn’t come up during the buildup to 2015’s SPECTRE. But we have faith.

 

Should Daniel Craig stay or should he go?

Daniel Craig in 2012 during filming of Skyfall.

Daniel Craig in 2012 during filming of Skyfall.

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

Should he stay or should he go?

It seems like yesterday when Pierce Brosnan was dismissed from the role of James Bond, Martin Campbell announced as the director of Bond 21 aka (the official version of) Casino Royale and the thousands of candidates tipped by the press to replace him: Heath Ledger, Ewan McGregor, Henry Cavill and Daniel Craig.

It also seems like yesterday when Daniel Craig was finally announced to the doubtful worldwide press as “The New James Bond.”

I was 15 then. I can even recall a newsflash in Argentina reading, “Doubts, many doubts” when showing the footage of the Chester-born actor, posing next to producers Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli for a photo call that seemed to say it all without a single caption describing it.

In 10 years that passed as 10 seconds, Craig seems to be leaving the role.

I don’t know if he will and I don’t believe in the gossip British and American tabloids, whose headlines are almost copied-pasted throughout the rest of the world, where the James Bond phenomenon has expanded since 1962. But, I have to admit, when people such as Graham Rye, the 007 Magazine editor, provides information on the subject, I may actually think about it.

So, without saying if he stays or if he goes (because I clearly don’t have that information, and maybe very few people do) or the real reasons on why he’s leaving or has been ditched, according to the sources we’ve heard, I want to offer my opinion on his future. And it’s going to be a very heartfelt opinion, because Craig was the Bond of my teens and adult life.

I want him to come back, but I think he should leave.

I’m not too much convinced on the tipped “replacements” and, of course, Craig can do one more Bond film at 48.

He still looks the part and showed a cool side of Ian Fleming’s spy: tough and brutal, but still fresh and humorous. But I honestly think he gave us all he had to give and “his” Bond found what he was looking for.

CinemaSins jokingly said that none of Craig’s Bond films can get over Casino Royale in their “sin count” of SPECTRE, and beyond the puns intended, that is indeed true. Because the 2006 film presents us the main conflict of the character: his emotions shattered after the induced suicide of the girl he loved, his purpose to avenge her (yes, to go behind the man “who held the whip” but with a slight desire of settling the score) and the need of getting over her and run away from that world of violence he belongs to because, apparently, it was “better than the priesthood.”

In Casino Royale, Craig/Bond loses Vesper; in Quantum of Solace, he finds a way to make justice; in Skyfall, an apparently “unrelated” story arc movie, he fails to protect Judi Dench’s M, who dies in his arms; and in SPECTRE we learn everything was connected to his foster brother Ernst Stavro Blofeld who operated from the shadows to make him lose the ones he loved.

007 defeats the villain, but instead of shooting him at point blank he decides to leave him to MI6 and sign off for a better life next to his new love, Madeleine Swann.

The end of the movie is a bit reminiscent to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, where Bond and his new wife Tracy left on an Aston Martin and then she was shot dead by a machine gun attack led by Blofeld and his henchwoman Irma Bunt. Even the last sentence of the 1969 film was, at one point, in SPECTRE’s script: “We have all the time in the world.”

In the finished film, the line was dropped and a smiling James Bond drove the DB5 next to Madeleine right through the London streets as Monty Norman’s trademark theme sounded.

I was incredibly happy when I saw that scene and I immediately thought it’s the best farewell Craig’s Bond could have.

Incredibly enough, after my first watching, a friend told me: “Hey, but she’s going to die in the next one,” connecting that scene to the tragic climax of the only 007 movie starring George Lazenby.

I wouldn’t like that again for two reasons: one, it would be way too repetitive that Bond loses two women close to his heart in four movies. It would be expected. It would be repeating a past, an exclusive past that is not compared to have many villains plotting WWIII or extravagant liars.

SPECTRE poster

SPECTRE poster

Two, Craig’s portrayal of the role has been so special, unique and different to the other five actors (the whole creative process for this era was different and continuity, in a way or another, mattered) that I feel he deserves this happy ending.

It’s a far cry for Connery/Bond next to a hussy Tiffany Case asking for the diamond-made satellite in the sky, Moore/Bond taking a shower with the clingy Stacey Sutton, a tuxedo-clad Dalton/Bond kissing the self-reliant Pam Bouvier in a swimming pool or Brosnan/Bond throwing diamonds on NSA agent Jinx’s belly during lovemaking.

Only George Lazenby’s final scene as Bond had the tragic ending of the hero crying over the dead body of his bride.

And SPECTRE’s ending is the perfect “revenge” to that scene: James Bond finally gets to be happy with the girl he loves and not with a fling, and they can have a happy future: a future that will not be known to us.

How could Bond and Madeleine fell for each other so quickly is still a subject of debate and I agree the relationship needed more development. Yet Léa Seydoux’s character can make a judgment call on 007 and make him throw the gun away right before he shoots Blofeld dead.

Minutes before, the villain lured Bond into the soon-to-be-demolished ruined MI6 building, now decorated with photos of Vesper and M. “This is what left of your world, everything you stood for, everything you believed in, are in ruins.”

When 007 opts not to kill his “brother,” he embraces Madeleine. They kiss and walk away of the crowded Westminster street where a wounded Blofeld lies before being arrested. Bond walks out of that world of violence and destruction the mastermind wanted for him.

The film’s proper ending is a Bondian epitaph for the Daniel Craig era. He is now the James Bond we all know and love, he’s there again, but keep “being Bond” would mean the end of his happy life: another Vesper. So, he says goodbye.

In 1615, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra decided to kill of Don Quixote so that no other author could continue writing about him, because he wanted to “own” him. The same should happen to this version of James Bond, because Daniel Craig “owned” the character, from that brutal black and white bathroom fight (at the start of Casino Royale) to the stylish Aston Martin ride with a girl.

So, to summarize this article – or extensive dilemma– should Daniel Craig’s James Bond stay or go? I want him to stay, I would love him to stay.

But he should go.

UPDATE (June 23): “Versión en español en Bond en Argentina” (to read a version in Spanish on the website Bond en Argentina), CLICK HERE.

 

Before you get too excited about bookies and 007…

Colin Salmon: at one point in 2005 he was a 13-4 favorite

Colin Salmon: at one point in 2005 he was a 13-4 favorite

For the past few months, many stories have been generated by the changing odds from bookies about who the next James Bond will be.

The problem: Their track record wasn’t so great last time, after Pierce Brosnan’s license to thrill wasn’t renewed by Eon Productions co-bosses Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson.

The BBC, on Jan. 18, 2005, posted a story saying that U.K. bookmakers Ladbrokes and William Hill had installed Hugh Jackman as a 2-1 favorite.

Other contenders at that time, according to the BBC: Ewan McGregor (7-2 at William Hill), Colin Ferrell (7-2 at Ladbrokes), Clive Owen (4-1 at William Hill) and Chris Feeney (4-1 at Ladbrokes).

Two months later, The Atlantic’s website delved into the subject, using SportsInterAction.com as its main source. The favorite was actually a familiar face, Colin Salmon, who appeared as aide to M in three 007 films with Pierce Brosnan.

Ewan McGregor was the favorite until an Internet rumor sparked fervent betting that Colin Salmon, Brosnan’s costar in Die Another Day, would be cast as the first black Bond.

As a result, Salmon’s odds were put at 13-4. Other high ranking favorites included Ewan McGregor at 4-1, Christian Bale at 9-2, Colin Ferrell at 9-1, Orlando Bloom at 11-1 and Jude Law at 11-1.

Of course, the part went to Daniel Craig, whose casting for Casino Royale was announced in October of that year.

We’ll say this again: Bookies don’t know what’s going to happen. Their odds are based on the activity of bettors, who don’t know know what’s going to happen.

Having said that, there is an amusing passage in the BBC story near the end.

The betting for the next Bond comes amidst a reported power struggle between the Broccoli family – who produce the films – and studio MGM.

“Who takes on the role could well depend on who comes out top in the power struggle behind the scenes,” said the Ladbrokes spokesman.

“If the Broccoli family win we could well see an unknown actor, while if the money men have their way we could see a top star in the role.”

Still, when it comes to the wisdom of bookies, caveat emptor.

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

 

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.

 

‘Writing’s on the Wall’ is the new ‘Only Myself to Blame’

SPECTRE poster

SPECTRE poster

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

Sam Smith’s awaited main title song for SPECTRE, titled “Writing’s On the Wall,” was finally released last Friday.

As expected, the Bond fandom was divided between those who called it “an instant classic” and the ones who opened a petition drive to banish it to the end credits.

Still, even when Smith’s voice may not be the most appropriate, the orchestration and lyrics excel in examining James Bond’s feelings and emotions, something only given before by a discarded end title song, Scott Walker’s “Only Myself to Blame,” put away from 1999’s The World Is Not Enough in favor of the triumphant James Bond Theme.

“I walked way past midnight, I’ve driven for days I tried to forget in so many ways,” the vocalist sang Don Black’s lyrics. “From city to city, I still see your face… it follows me ‘round, all over the place. I shouldn’t look back, but I do just the same. And I’ve only myself to blame,” the song continues.

The composition, still available on track 19 of David Arnold’s soundtrack, was the first song to narrate the misfortune of a heartbroken Bond, far away of the “Nobody does it Better” or “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” fanfares.

The World Is Not Enough poster

The World Is Not Enough poster

As a vocal version of Elektra’s Theme (Black told composer Arnold “there was a song” hidden in it), it laments the ill-fated romance between James Bond and the young oil tycoon played by Sophie Marceau: an innocent girl, corrupted after being kidnapped, turning into a criminal mastermind capable to use both Bond (Pierce Brosnan) and her former kidnapper/lover Renard (Robert Carlyle) as fools.

As we know, the story ended with the cold shot of a 007 who “never misses,” but also takes a minute to caress her dead body.

Much like “Only Myself to Blame,” Sam Smith’s song “Writing’s On the Wall” tears miles away of the triumphalist conception of James Bond and dives into his biggest weakness: his inability to enjoy a lasting relationship due to the hazards of his violent job.

Times had been tough for Daniel Craig’s version of 007: in Casino Royale, his love interest Vesper Lynd commits suicide. That leads him, in Quantum of Solace, to Mr. White and subsequently to ecologist Dominic Greene to unravel a secret criminal organization while seeking the help of the vengeful Camille, who barely kisses him before walking away after the mission is over.

In Skyfall, all this story arc seems put away but Bond still has to face another challenge to his emotions: Judi Dench’s M dies on his arms after being wounded during the attack led by former agent Silva.

“I’ve been there before, but I always hit the floor,” Smith sings, evoking these fateful events between 2006 and 2015: the deaths of a love interest and a mother figure, facts that are supposed to come back with a vengeance in SPECTRE.

“If I risk it all… would you break my fall?” Smith powerfully sings, referring to Bond’s relationship with Madeleine Swann, apparently the first character to aim to his emotions and “analyze” him for the first time since Vesper told him that “because he’s done something doesn’t mean he has to keep doing it.”

Back at the beginning of September, Smith described his song for the film as “a love song,” a category that could very well fit older pieces such as “From Russia with Love”, “You Only Live Twice” or “We Have all the Time in The World”. Yet, Jimmy Napes’ lyrics go one step further by revealing the inner feelings of 007 facing the possibility of putting his heart at stake once more.

More than a love song, “Writing’s On the Wall” proves to be a declaration of love. The song goes: “But I feel like a storm is coming if I’m gonna make it through the day. Then there’s no use in running, this is something I gotta face.” Is it insinuating that, even if a disaster occurs again, he can’t run away of his feelings?

The title sentence seems to confirm it: “For you, I have to risk it all… ‘cause the writing’s on the wall.”

The expression “writing’s on the wall” refers to an imminent disaster coming, but it looks like, even if this disaster occurs, he’s willing to go all in. Compared to “Only Myself to Blame,” Bond (or the performer getting inside his inner thoughts) isn’t offering a retrospective reflection, and despite the negative connotation of the song’s title the vibe of Smith’s song proves to be more positive than Walker’s: “When all hope begins to shatter, know that I won’t be afraid.”

There’s almost a month to wait until we see if, this time, Daniel Craig’s Bond will have a happy ending with Léa Seydoux’s character. So far, it’s interesting to see “Writing’s On the Wall” as the comeback of an idea put away from a 1999 Bond film, a nostalgic song that wouldn’t have fitted the victorious ending of that story and would have raised the eyebrows of the fans, in a historical context where Pierce Brosnan’s 007 was meant to win.

Now, as Daniel Craig’s 007 ran away of many emotional battles that didn’t seem to be healed, an introspective Bond song will get the main titles treatment. We don’t know if this will turn out to be good or bad, but interesting for sure.