The canard that haunts the Bond franchise

The prototype for the “reveal” of SPECTRE (2015)

Last week, a website called The Ringer became the latest outlet to repeat the canard that the James Bond films were forced to change in tone to be more serious.

The article was called “Austin Powers Still Haunts the James Bond Franchise.” Here’s an excerpt:

But as excellent as some of (Daniel Craig’s) Bond films have been, fun probably isn’t the first adjective that comes to mind when describing Craig’s take on the character; that was a point unto itself. “Mike Myers fucked us,” Craig told the Bond fan site MI6 Confidential Magazine in 2014. “I am a huge Mike Myers fan, so don’t get me wrong—but he kind of fucked us.”

He’s referring to—what else?—the Austin Powers franchise, Myers’s iconic spoof of Bond and the larger spy genre.

The problem with this often-repeated trope is Austin Powers was hardly the first to poke fun at Bond’s expense.

As early as 1964, future Bond Roger Moore played 007 in a variety show skit.

In 1965, The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-71), a wildly successful, if improbable, situation comedy, featured man-child Jethro Bodine returning from the theater after seeing Goldfinger. Jethro recites the plot to his rich uncle Jed Clampett, who has lost none of his common sense despite his sudden wealth.

After listening to Jethro, Jed has one question: “Why didn’t he just shoot him?” Jethro, who had been smiling moments before, is crestfallen.

Despite that, Jethro decides that being a “double-naught spy” is his life’s calling because double naughts engage in a lot of “fightin’ and lovin’.” Jethro takes the Clampett family truck and adds a bulletproof shield (a meta tub), defensive weapons (two rifles that can be fired when Jetro pulls on strings tied to the rifles) and an ejector seat. Naturally, the latter figures into the episode’s final gag.

In fact, Jethro’s quest to be a “double naught” became a running gag for multiple episodes. There was a follow-up story the next season as Thunderball was coming out.

The Beverly Hillbillies wasn’t the only show to poke fun at 007. It happened all the time during the 1960s. Another example: A 1966 episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show titled “The Man From My Uncle,” in which Godfrey Cambridge played a character named Harry Bond. (“Yeah. Please no jokes. I’m not 007.”)

And, of course, there was Get Smart, a parody of Bond and the spy craze that ran for five seasons (four on NBC, one on CBS).

So, the Austin Powers series, consisting of three movies, was hardly plowing new ground in making light of Bond. Indeed, the Austin Powers series ended (for now) with Austin Powers in Goldmember in 2002, the same year as Die Another Day.

The first new serious, Daniel Craig film, Casino Royale didn’t come out until 2006. Casino Royale had been influenced (in terms of a more serious tone) by the Jason Bourne films starring Matt Damon. With 2008’s Quantum of Solace, the Bond series went full Bourne, bringing in Dan Bradley as second unit director, who had the same job on the Bourne films.

By Casino Royale, and certainly by Quantum of Solace, Austin Powers was receding into memory.

Meanwhile, with 2015’s SPECTRE, the Bond series embraced one of the Austin Powers tropes. It had been revealed that Austin Powers and his arch-enemy Dr. Evil were really brothers. In SPECTRE, it was revealed that Craig/Bond and Blofeld were foster brothers. And SPECTRE came out more than a decade after Austin Powers in Goldmember.

In the words of Daniel Craig, if Austin Powers “fucked us,” it was self-inflicted.

Coronavirus snaps Marvel’s release date stranglehold

Poster for Black Widow

The coronavirus and the worldwide pandemic it caused have broken Marvel Studios’ hold on the late April/early May release schedule.

Black Widow, the newest Marvel movie, has been delayed from its long-planned May 1 release date, Variety reported.

The move was inevitable. Across the globe, movie theaters are being shut down to combat the virus. The virus can spread quickly and authorities are breaking up large gatherings of people.

Early this month, No Time to Die’s release date was pushed back to November from April, with a March 31 world premiere event canceled.

Since then, a number of movies have seen their release dates delayed. The ninth installment of The Fast and the Furious series was pushed back to April 2021 from May 2020. At this point, a movie can’t be shown in a theater in many markets, including the U.S., France, China, and Italy.

Regardless, the announcement is an end of an era for Marvel.

Marvel, now owned by Walt Disney Co., began producing its own movies starting with 2008’s Iron Man. Originally Quantum of Solace was scheduled for the May 2, 2008, date in the U.S. but was delayed. Iron Man grabbed the date and things weren’t quite the same after that.

In 2009, Marvel had no films. But since 2010 (starting with Iron Man 2), Marvel characters have dominated the last weekend of April or first weekend in May. That includes 2014 (when Sony’s Amazing Spider-Man 2 had the date).

In 2016, Warner Bros. initially challenged Marvel for the first weekend of May date with Batman v Superman. Marvel then said it’d come out with the third Captain America movie (later Captain America: Civil War) at the same time. Warners retreated and brought out Batman v Superman on Easter weekend.

In 2018 and 2019, Marvel moved up two Avengers movies (Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame) to the last weekend in April

All of this is a reminder of how real-life overcomes entertainment. As stated before, Marvel/Disney had no real choice. Regardless, it’s the end of an era.

Documentary about Craig 007 films in the offing

Daniel Craig in Skyfall

A documentary about the Daniel Craig era of James Bond films has been produced, it was announced at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

MoMA held an event where the documentary was referenced.

Marcos Kontze, webmaster of the James Bond Brasil website, published a post on Twitter that included a short video.

According to that post, the documentary titled Being James Bond would include Craig’s screen test for 2006’s Casino Royale, the first of his five Bond films. The Arts Commented blog had another post on Twitter that said the event included a short clip from the documentary.

There were no details how soon the documentary would be available.

Bond 25 questions: The potpourri edition

New No Time to Die poster

We’ve had a few No Time to Die developments recently. Naturally, the blog has a couple of questions.

Will the gunbarrel be at the beginning?

Hard to say, but this week’s Cary Fukunaga video suggests it’s a strong possibility.

“The white dots on the screen…the adrenaline starts pumping,” Fukunaga’s voiceover says, accompanying the Daniel Craig gunbarrel from SPECTRE. “Settle in and get ready for a ride.”

That sounds like a description of the first 20 Bond films when the gunbarrel was at the start of the movie. Things got changed up with 2006’s Casino Royale, which began a new, rebooted timeline. The gunbarrel appeared at the end of the pre-titles sequence.

Then, for Quantum of Solace and Skyfall, the gunbarrel appeared at the end of the film. There was some pushback from fans. That generated pushback to the pushback where other fans questioned how dare fans question the artistry of the films. The comments section of this 2012 post demonstrates both sides of the argument.

The gunbarrel was back at the start of SPECTRE, although it wasn’t the best executed, including having Daniel Craig swinging his arm wildly showing he’s holding a gun.

In any case, Fukunaga at least sounds more appreciative of the gunbarrel logo than his Bond directing predecessor Sam Mendes. We’ll see.

Why didn’t Scott Z. Burns get a script credit?

Supposedly, the ace Hollywood “script doctor” in early 2019 was on his way to save No Time to Die’s script. Certainly, The Playlist website made it sound that way in a February 2019 story.

To give credit where credit is due, The Playlist was the first to report Burns participating in the writing of the film. Saving the script? Not so much. Burns ended up not getting a credit while Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, director Fukunaga and scribe Phoebe Waller-Bridge did.

Ultimately, script credits are decided by the Writers Guild of America. The rules are a bit complex but in general favor the early writers over those who rewrite. There is also a cap on the number of credits available. In this case, Burns had no seat when the WGA musical chairs of writing credits ended.

NTTD roundup: Add to music team, running time questions

Daniel Craig/James Bond character poster

Here’s a quick roundup of No Time to Die developments:

Music team adds a recruit: Musician Johnny Marr will work with Hans Zimmer on the No Time to Die score, NME reported, citing comments from Marr.

“Part of the legacy of the Bond films is iconic music, so I’m very happy to be bringing my guitar to No Time to Die,” Marr told NME.

Marr has worked with Zimmer on previous films, including Inception, where Marr was a guitarist and Amazing Spider-Man 2, where Marr contributed to the score along with Zimmer.

A three-hour Bond? The MI6 James Bond website examined recent developments that may (or may not) point to the 25th James Bond film having a running time of almost three hours.

@ImAFilmEditor tweeted back on Dec. 4 that No Time to Die may end up being the longest Bond film but there weren’t any details beyond that. He reminded people of that in a Jan. 16 tweet.

This week, @antovolk did some more detective work. He provided caveats that the movie is still in post production and that a final running time isn’t locked down.

Bond films during the Daniel Craig era have tended toward longer running times, except for 2008’s Quantum of Solace, which had a 106-minute running time. SPECTRE’s running time was 148 minutes, the longest so far for the film series.

Broccoli says Eon resisting doing Bond spinoffs

Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions

Eon Productions chief Barbara Broccoli says in a recent magazine story that the production company has been pressured to make James Bond spinoffs but is resisting such a move.

“We’ve been under a lot of pressure to make spinoffs,” Broccoli told Total Film, whose 2020 movie preview issue went on sale this month.

“Bond is Bond, she added. “We want to make these theatrical films. We want to make them one at a time, and create an anticipation for them, and deliver films of a very high standard.”

Broccoli didn’t specify where the pressure was coming from. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Danjaq (Eon’s parent company) share custody of Bond.

Marvel Studios, which has produced more than 20 inter-connected movies since 2008 is branching into TV series for the Disney + streaming service.

The entire Total Film article is not online but scans of it are showing up on internet bulletin boards. There is a preview of the story online.

Eon has avoided planning long story arcs. Quantum of Solace was always intended to be a “direct” sequel to Casino Royale. But Skyfall director Sam Mendes said at a 2011 news conference that his movie wasn’t tied to the two earlier Daniel Craig films.

Then, with SPECTRE, the filmmakers did a “retcon,” making Skyfall connected to Casino and Quantum after all. Skyfall villain Silva became part of SPECTRE/Quantum after the fact. Now, all four are connected to the upcoming No Time to Die.

In the 2000s, Eon developed a proposed Bond spinoff movie featuring Jinx, the character played by Halle Berry in Die Another Day. Nothing came of the project.

Meanwhile, Eon has stepped up its production of non-Bond movies, including the upcoming The Rhythm Section being released by Paramount in January.

Bond 25 questions: The miscellaneous edition

Daniel Craig/James Bond character poster

We seem to have completed a wave of No Time to Die marketing that included the release of the film’s first trailer. However, as is often the case, the blog has some questions.

How long will the movie be?

The Daniel Craig era of the James Bond film series has been known for long movies.

2006’s Casino Royale came in at 144 minutes, edging out On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (142 minutes) for the longest film in the series up to that time.

Six years later, Skyfall came in at 143 minutes, according to its IMDB.com listing. Then, in 2015, SPECTRE seized the crown of longest-running Bond film at 148 minutes.

The one exception in the Craig era was 2008’s Quantum of Solace at a slender106 minutes, the shortest movie in the series made by Eon Productions.

Based on recent history, it would seem a longer movie is more likely than a shorter one. But how long? Two-and-a-half hours? Longer? Is three hours a possibility? There’s no way to know, obviously, at this point.

Who will do the title song?

To be honest, this isn’t something I personally get excited about. It used to be the title song was an integral part of the movie. Now, it seems to be little more than part of the marketing.

The last time a Bond film composer helped write a title song was Casino Royale’s You Know My Name, where David Arnold collaborated with singer Chris Cornell. When that happens, the composer can weave the title song into the movie’s score.

Now? Music from the song does show up in the underscore, but it doesn’t sound particularly smooth.

When No Time to Die’s title song composer is announced, it’ll get a lot of attention. But, speaking only for myself, it’s hard to get that excited. Which leads up to the next question….

Who is scoring the movie?

In July, IndieWire reported that Dan Romer, who had worked with director Cary Fukunaga on some projects, was the composer. Romer put out a tweet that appeared to confirm the report.

Then, in November, fansite James Bond Radio said it heard Romer had left the production.

Nothing has been heard of since then. There has been no announcement about a No Time to Die composer. So who knows at this point?

Broccoli talks Bond’s emotional travails

Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions

In Empire magazine’s 2020 preview issue, Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli talks about the emotional stress James Bond is under in No Time to Die.

The issue is due out Thursday, Oct. 31. However, @corneelvf obtained an image of the short article.

“We always like to have a very personal trial for him emotionally, put him up against something that he finds difficult to deal with emotionally,” Broccoli told Empire.

Emotional travails have been a big part of the Daniel Craig era of Bond films. Craig’s run began with an adaptation of Casino Royale, Ian Fleming’s first novel. Bond falls in love with Vesper Lynd, who betrays him and commits suicide. That’s followed up by Bond seeking revenge in Quantum of Solace. Other emotional highlights include the death of M (Judi Dench) in Skyfall.

Meanwhile, Eon’s Michael G. Wilson said it really is possible this will be the end of Craig’s run.

“It looks like the end of this era,” Wilson told Empire.

Finally, Empire said “it’s rumoured” the 25th James Bond film will have “the biggest explosion in cinema history.” Part of the publicity for 2015’s SPECTRE boasted that movie had the biggest explosion in cinema history.

Bond 25 questions: The lead character edition

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

With less than nine months before the 25th installment of the James Bond film series, the blog had a few basic questions about James Bond, agent 007 (?, at least where Bond 25 is concerned).

Is Bond a hero or anti-hero?

This is a subject the blog has explored before and the answers remain murky.

Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions, maker of the Bond film series, said seven years ago that Bond was an antihero.

Barbara Broccoli, Wilson’s half-sister, said the same year that Bond is “a classical hero, but he’s very human.”

That makes for a split vote by the two principals of Eon.

An anti-hero is defined as “a central character in a story, movie, or drama who lacks conventional heroic attributes.”

Is Bond a misogynist or a male chauvinist?

A misogynist is defined as “a person who dislikes, despises, or is strongly prejudiced against women.” Woman hater is a synonym.

A male chauvinist is defined as ” a male who patronizes, disparages, or otherwise denigrates females in the belief that they are inferior to males and thus deserving of less than equal treatment or benefit.”

Since 1995, the Bond film series has gone with misogynist. In Judi Dench’s debut as M in GoldenEye, she calls Bond (Pierce Brosnan) a “sexist, misogynist dinosaur.

Brosnan’s successor, Daniel Craig, said in 2015 that Bond is “actually a misogynist.”

Well, that would seem to settle the issue, wouldn’t it? If the guy who plays the character calls the character a misogynist that would seem to trump what a fan thinks.

How smart is Bond?

Bond doesn’t always show signs of being a strategic thinker.

In Dr. No, Bond (Sean Connery) brings Quarrel with him to Crab Key to see what happens. He brings along a Walther PPK.

In the novel From Russia With Love, Bond knows a trap has been set. But he decides to stay on the train to see what happens.

In The Man With the Golden Gun film, his plan (such as it is) is to fly to Scaramanga’s isolated island and see what happens.

In Quantum of Solace, he brings along his trusty Walther to take on Dominic Greene and his many thugs at the hotel powered by fuel cells (apparently filled with Explodium). He’ll see what happens.

In Skyfall, Bond takes M (Dench again) from London (where she has been guarded ineffectively) to stately Skyfall manor (which has no security, though Bond & Co. manage to cobble together some traps). Bond is able to kill Silva (Javier Bardem) moments before M dies.

Bond 25 questions: The SPOILER edition

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

If you haven’t guessed by the headline (where “SPOILER” is in all capital letters), this post has spoilers. If you’re spoiler adverse, scram. I don’t care how much shows up in the preview image on Twitter, Facebook, etc.

So, it seems pretty certain that Christoph Waltz will be in Bond 25 again playing the BROfeld version of Ernst Stavro Blofeld (i.e. Blofeld is Bond’s foster brother).

Naturally, the blog has a few questions.

Is this trip really necessary? Not really. But it seems as if Eon Productions and its army of screenwriters is going to double down on one of the worst aspects of 2015’s SPECTRE — namely that Waltz’s Blofeld was Bond’s foster brother and has a personal reason to torment Bond.

What would you have done? Ignore SPECTRE and move on with a new story. Instead, it would appear we will get a version of SPECTRE Part II. It won’t be called that, of course.

Are you serious? All we need now is a “reveal” that Dave Bautista’s Hinx will be back as Hinx, the lead henchman in SPECTRE. At this point, he might as well be. Remember, he appeared to be lobbying for that to happen.

It’d be natural for him to join Jeffrey Wright (last seen in a 007 film in Quantum of Solace) and Lea Seydoux (as Bond’s supposedly everlasting love). Hey, let’s have Eva Green (Vesper in Casino Royale) appear in a flashback sequence while we’re at it.

Any other thoughts? Yes. It’s perhaps time to finally dispense with the trope that the Daniel Craig Bond films are the “closest” to Ian Fleming.

Craig started out with Casino Royale, based on Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel. Since then, we’ve seen the death of Mathis (not in a Fleming book).

Mathis may have been a double agent (at least that’s the implication of his Quantum of Solace death scene), which wasn’t in any Fleming book.

And, of course, we have Blofeld/BRO-feld as Bond’s foster brother in SPECTRE, which wasn’t in any Fleming book.

Even if you love all these films, they’re not what Fleming had in mind. Bond 25 may end up an entertaining film. (That’s my inner optimist speaking out). Just don’t bring Fleming into the discussion.

Any suggestions for Bond 25? Perhaps some new character could “reveal” that himself (or herself) was the real Blofeld all along and the “foster brother” nonsense was a way to mess with Bond’s mind. But I wouldn’t go banco on that.