Eon’s new normal, the sequel

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Almost three years ago, this blog had a post titled Eon’s new normal which said, “The new normal: A Bond film maybe every third year (Bond 24, the next movie is scheduled for the fall of 2015), with various other projects in-between.”

In March of this year, Gary Barber, the CEO of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, in effect confirmed that was the case concerning Eon, the company that makes 007 films and is a partner with MGM in the Bond franchise.

The 007 films have “been on a cycle of every three to hour years and I anticipate it will be on that same three-to-four year cycle,” Barber said on a conference call with investors and analysts. (MGM reported second-quarter 2016 results on Wednesday but had no 007 news.)

Essentially, Eon can’t make Bond films without MGM and vice versa. This goes back to the early 1980s when MGM acquired United Artists. UA, in turn, had acquired Harry Saltzman’s share of the 007 franchise in the mid-1970s.

Since our 2013 post, it has become evident that Eon, and its co-boss Barbara Broccoli, do not want to be rushed into making James Bond films. Eon’s current production is Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, a drama about American actress Gloria Grahame.

In the “old days,” Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli, the Eon co-founders, pursued non-Bond projects while cranking out classic 007 films on a regular schedule.

In the second decade of the 21st century, not so much. There was a four-year gap between Die Another Day and Casino Royale (2002-2006). Quantum of Solace came just two years later. But another four-year gap followed, mostly because of an MGM bankruptcy (2008-2012) between Quantum of and Skyfall.

Skyfall was a huge hit, and the first (and so far only) Bond to crack the $1 billion club. An executive of Sony (which released the movie for MGM) said the next film would be out in two years. However, Broccoli and star Daniel Craig told Collider.com in 2012, in effect, that exec didn’t know what he was talking about.

Broccoli won out. SPECTRE, the most recent 007 film, came out three years later, in 2015.

Some fans, to this day, insist that three-year gap was because Eon was waiting on Sam Mendes to direct another film. But it’s very clear that Barbara Broccoli does not want to resume an every-other-year schedule, including comments she made in a 2012 interview with the Los Angeles Times.

On internet message boards, 007 fans debate whether Daniel Craig will come back or not for another Bond film. The real debate is whether Bond movies will come out three times a decade, or just twice.

A related question: Is the 007 fan base growing or static? Skyfall, in a way, was helped by its four-year gap. Fans were anxious to finally see another James Bond film. Is that the right approach for the future?

Regardless, as we said three years ago, there’s a new normal for Eon. The details are still being hammered out.

 

Eon vs. Marvel by the numbers, 2006 to present

Iron Man's Hulkbuster armor vs. the Hulk, a highlight of Avengers: Age of Ultron

“James Bond?” Tony Stark asked. “Who’s that?”

With no actual James Bond news to report, we take another look, via statistics, at the family model (Eon) vs. the corporate model (Marvel).

Appearances by your most popular actor, 2006-present

Eon:  Daniel Craig, four (4), Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall, SPECTRE. Note: You could say five (5) if you count this 2011 public service announcement for International Women’s Day produced by Barbara Broccoli, co-boss of Eon Productions.

Update: The James Bond Dossier asks whether we should up the count to six (6) by including Craig’s appearance in the opening ceremonies  of the 2012 Summer Olympics. That was part of a television show.

That was also similar to how Roger Moore played James Bond in a 1964 variety show, years before he became the actual film Bond. Doing that would raise Sir Roger’s 007 count to eight (8). Though the Spy Commander knows some Bond fans (who really, really don’t like Moore in the role) who’d argue it should be zero (0).

Meanwhile, the organizers of the 2011 public service announcement said their spot said was “the first film featuring Bond to be directed by a woman.” (Sam Taylor-Wood). Is a commercial considered a “film”? Details, details.

Marvel: Robert Downey Jr., seven (7):  Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk (cameo),  Iron Man II, Marvel’s The Avengers, Iron Man Three, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War.

Biggest box office movie: Marvel’s The Avengers (2012), $1.5 billion (worldwide); Skyfall (2012), $1.11 billion (worldwide).

Next movie to be released in theaters: Dr. Strange (Marvel), Nov. 4, 2016 (U.S. and Canada). Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (Eon), 2017. Bond 25 (Eon), who knows?

Trivia: Bond 22, aka Quantum of Solace, was originally scheduled to be released on May 2, 2008, in the U.S. and Canada. After that movie was delayed to November, Iron Man got the May 2 release date.

 

Gene Colan: The Bourne Precursor

Gene Colan self portrait, circa 1970

Gene Colan self portrait, circa 1970

The big movie this weekend is Jason Bourne. Like previous entries in the film series, it features a “shaky cam” technique intended to make the audience feel as if it’s in the middle of the action.

However, some of that concept was pioneered by the work of comic book artist Gene Colan (1926-2011).

Colan worked for both Marvel and DC, including a six-year run (1966-1973) on Daredevil as well as brief runs on the title later in the 1970s as well as the 1990s.

In a documentary for the home video release of the 2003 Daredevil movie, Colan described his approach to the many action scenes he drew.

“If there was a fight scene, I would try to do it in such a way to confuse the reader,” Colan said. “Because in real life, very often you don’t see the details. You’d just see action.”

Colan said you would see “arms and legs and people sailing over tables. But you don’t see the details. And very often it’s done in a dark room where you can see even less. But it’s exciting. It’s more dramatic that way…I wanted the story to be mystifying and sinister.”

As a result, Colan-illustrated stories emphasize movement in their action sequences. Colan drawings simulate the blur of a punch or a kick or other mayhem.

With 2008’s Quantum of Solace, Eon Productions embraced the approach of the Bourne film series. Eon hired Dan Bradley as Quantum’s second unit director, where he’d be in charge of the movie’s action scenes. Bradley was a Bourne film veteran.

Here’s how Bradley described his approach, according to a 2008 post on the Commander Bond website:

“One of the things I really believe is that we shouldn’t try and make everything feel perfectly staged. I’m always saying to my crew, I want to feel like we were lucky to catch a glimpse of some crazy piece of action. I don’t want it to feel like a movie, where everything is perfectly presented to the audience.”

Of course, comics and film are different. Colan drew mostly 20-page stories where action scenes took up only part of the story. Jason Bourne employs “shaky cam” for much of its running time, even when actions scenes aren’t occurring.

Still, the notion of disorienting the audience remains a strong one, given the box office reception, so far, for Jason Bourne. It’s just worth remembering others, including Gene Colan, took a similar path before.

Colan, of course, drew more than just Daredevil. CLICK HERE and HERE and HERE to see his take on Dr. Strange, the mystic character created by Steve Ditko. The good doctor will be the subject of a Marvel Studios movie in November.

Jason Bourne shakes off critics on its opening weekend

Jason Bourne poster

Jason Bourne poster

UPDATE (July 31) — Jason Bourne is now projected for an opening weekend of $60 million in the U.S. and Canada, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER said.

ORIGINAL POST (July 30): Jason Bourne’s amnesia is extending to critical reviews as the year’s major spy movie appears on its way to being the No. 1 movie this weekend in the U.S. and Canada.

The movie, which reunited star Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass, is on a pace to generate more than $60 million in ticket sales in the region on its opening weekend, according to the Deadline: Hollywood entertainment news website. The film’s global opening weekend may exceed $100 million, Deadline reported.

That was despite a “fresh” rating of only 57 percent on the Rotten Tomatoes website. Early in the week, the movie’s score was 68 percent. But more negative reviews came out as the week progressed, dragging down the film’s score ahead of its debut.

It appears that won’t matter, at least as far as box office is concerned. Jason Bourne was forecast to open at $60 million in the U.S. and Canada while studio Universal was being more conservative at $40 million-plus, according to a July 26 story at TheWrap entertainment news website.

SPECTRE, the most recent 007 film, had a U.S.-Canada opening weekend of $70.4 million in November 2015. The biggest Bond opening was 2012’s Skyfall at $88.4 million.

Jason Bourne was the fourth movie in the series starring Damon and the third helmed by Greengrass. Both have criticized 007 films, which rankles some Bond film fans. Jason Bourne was the first Bourne entry since 2007 for both Damon and Greengrass. The Bourne Legacy, released in 2012, featured Jeremy Renner as another agent.

The gritty style of the Bourne films — including more intense and violent action scenes — had an impact in the 2000s on the 007 series made by Eon Productions.

Bourne was a factor in recasting the Bond role with Daniel Craig, The New York Times reported in 2005. And 2008’s Quantum of Solace employed Dan Bradley as second unit director. Bradley had worked on the Bourne films in the same capacity.

 

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.

 

How to change continuity and play fair with audiences

A 1960s Captain America story explaining how the Red Skull was still alive.

A 1960s Captain America story explaining how the Red Skull was still alive.

As readers of this blog know, the Spy Commander has written about how Quantum of Solace, in terms of continuity doesn’t match up with Casino Royale.

Essentially, we’ve argued that Quantum of Solace didn’t bother to be consistent with Casino Royale.

Eon Productions co-boss Michael G. Wilson said during production that Quantum took place “literally an hour” after Casino but in that time it appears M (Judi Dench) has gotten a new office and agent Mathis has gone from being “sweated” to having a villa with a live-in girlfriend. Also, Casino took place in 2006 while Quantum took place in 2008.

Unless Q found a way to tamper with the space-time continuum…on wait, there was no Q in either movie!

Readers who dispute this say the two movies could have taken place two years apart. Except, cell phones act as a GPS device. So, at the end of Casino, it wouldn’t have taken Bond (Daniel Craig) very long to track down Mr. White.

The script for Casino certainly didn’t suggest that. As written, it makes it sound as if Bond dealing with Vesper’s death took place only a short while before he caught up with Mr. White.

203 UNDERWATER

The laptop shorts out and the last image of Bond and Vesper disappears. It lands on the bottom of the rock bay.

204 ON BOARD THE YACHT

Bond watches it disappear. He looks down at the few personal items of Vesper’s that remain and wonders if he has the strength to throw them in as well.

Then he picks up her cell phone, hits a button, checks the address book…and understands why she left the phone, and is overcome with emotion.

205 EXT MEDIVAL VILLA — day

Through the stand of cypress trees we spy a car pull up into the courtyard of a villa. A man steps out with a briefcase, Mr. White. His cell phone rings, he answers it.

When Mr. White answers, he’s shot in the knee and is confronted by Bond. The script indicates the two scenes took place a short while apart.

Reader Craig Arthur offered the following:

Obviously when CR was made that scene wasn’t set two years later but we have to accepted the revised timeline once QOS was made – just as we have to now accept that le Chiffre and White were working for SPECTRE even though that wasn’t the intention back in 2006 and 2008.

Except, Quantum made no attempt to explain the change or even say there had been a change.

Meanwhile, in SPECTRE, there is an explanation that the four Daniel Craig 007 films were connected. The audience is told this by Q (Ben Whishaw) who’s had the chance to analyze a ring Bond has recovered.

That’s called playing fair with the audience. It’s similar to comic books. Popular villains appear to have been killed, so there has to be an explanation when they come back.

Here’s an example: In Tales of Suspense 79-81, in stories by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the Red Skull made his first “modern” appearance in Captain America. Until then, stories involving the villain took place in World War II.

At the end of TOS 81, it sure looks like the Skull is gone for good.

Except….It’s hard to keep a good villain down. In Tales of Suspense 88-91, the Red Skull returned. In issue 89 (by Lee and Gil Kane) there’s an explanation on page 2 of the story how the villain survived after all.

In other words, Stan Lee & Co. played fair with the audience. Quantum, on the other hand, totally disregarded the film that preceded it.

Normally, Bond films don’t rely on continuity much. But Eon hyped the movie as the first “direct sequel” in the Bond film series. To make that boast, you’re asking for more scrutiny than usual.

Quantum doesn’t hold up to such scrutiny. Director Marc Forster and others on the Eon team would have been better off if they had studied some comics if they wanted to play the continuity game.

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