007 questions now that Skyfall has finished filming

Skyfall wrapped up production this week, with the official 007 Twitter account uploading one last clapperboard shot as the second unit finished work in Turkey. As the movie enters the editing and post-production phase, we had a few questions.

001. Will there be a gunbarrel at the start of the movie? For all of the talking points from Daniel Craig & Co. about how Skyfall will be a classic James Bond movie, “Bond with a capital B,” etc., the subject of the traditional gunbarrel logo (Bond as seen from inside a killer’s gunbarrel, the agent turning and firing, etc.) never seemed to come up. The gunbarrel was used in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace but not at the start of either movie.

The gunbarrel is a prominent part of the teaser poster but that’s not a guarantee it will be used at the very start of the film (i.e., the traditional or classic way).

002. What is Thomas Newman going to do musically with the film? Newman is the first new composer to the series in 15 years. His track record consists mostly of dramas, including some with Skyfall director Sam Mendes. The composer recently said he’s “just brainstorming right now” on the Skyfall score.

003. Was the hiring of Roger Deakins as director of photography worth all the fuss? Based on the teaser trailer, a qualified yes. There were some striking images and colors. (One of our readers disagreed, so this is not a unanimous opinion.) Still, it should be noted that You Only Live Twice was photographed by Freddie Young, one of the best British directors of photography ever, and Twice rarely shows up in lists of best 007 movies. Photography is obviously important (it’s a movie, afterall) but you still need an engrossing story.

004. Will Skyfall really have more humor than recent Bond films? The notion that Skyfall will have a lighter tone has been one of the most frequent talking points during production. Whether that’s true remains to be seen. The teaser trailer didn’t have a hint of humor. The final trailer to the Christopher Nolan-directed The Dark Knight Rises had more humor (i.e. one joke) than the Skyfall teaser trailer.

005. How much Ian Fleming content will Skyfall have? Based on some of the spoilers that have come out, noticeably more than, say, Quantum of Solace. To put it in a non-spoiler way, screenwriters Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan have tapped into Chapter 21 of Fleming’s 1964 You Only Live Twice novel, where the author presented background about his hero. The Skyfall principals really only talked about Fleming in detail once, at an April 29 news conference in Turkey. Until then, the subject hadn’t come up very much. It remains to be seen whether the movie incorporates more Fleming material or mood.

006. Was hiring of Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes and Albert Finney worth all the fuss? There’s absolutely no way to know for sure at this point. The teaser trailer doesn’t provide an answer. An anxious Fiennes looks at Judi Dench’s M and there’s a silouhette of what may be Bardem’s villain. Bardem and Fiennes did some media interviews but didn’t say much. Some fans (as in this this HMSS editorial) have said it’s the best cast ever for a Bond movie. We won’t know until the fall whether that’s the case of if Skyfall becomes another example of The Missouri Breaks Syndrome.

007. So are you optimistic or pessimistic? We’re trying to avoid the extremes. Some fans argue you can’t criticize the movie until you see it. OK, but you can’t assume it’s great until you see it, either.

The Missouri Breaks Syndrome

Like other James Bond fans, we sample what other enthusiasts are saying about Skyfall on various Internet message boards. And there’s a school of thought that the 23rd James Bond film is a can’t miss proposition.

You’ve got a prestigious director (Sam Mendes), prestigious actors (Javier Bardem, Albert Finney, Ralph Finnes, Judi Dench and, of course, Daniel Craig as James Bond). You can bet your mortgage that this film will be a huge critical and commercial hit, this school of thought goes. This will transcend a mere genre film (spies) and be art!

Maybe it will. Still, it might be wise to keep in mind what we call The Missouri Breaks Syndrome.

What’s that? Well, if you dig back a ways, there was a film called The Missouri Breaks, released in 1976. It had a prestigious director (Arthur Penn). It had prestigious cast (Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando, each who had recently won Oscars for Best Actor). And it was going to transcend a mere genre film (westerns) and be art!. You could bet your mortgage that it would be a critical and commercial hit.

Something happened on the way to that success. The film generated a mere $14 million at the U.S. box office. Bear in mind, when 1974’s The Man With the Golden Gun scored only $21 million at the U.S. box office many people were wondering whether 007 was washed up. Thus, The Missouri Breaks, with 33 percent less ticket sales, was considered a bomb.

Before anyone objects, we’ll be the first to say that past events aren’t necessarily a predictor of future events. Still, before some 007 fans get too smug, movies are full of examples of unexpected hits and flops. Skyfall, of course, is part of an ongoing series, not a one-off like The Missouri Breaks. ‘

Maybe Skyfall will be an enormous hit. We suspect it will be. But nothing is ever for certain. The Missouri Breaks was approved by the same United Artists executives who in 1961 cut a deal with Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman to bring 007 to the screen. Were they geniuses one day and idiots the next? No. Sometimes your winning streak ends. Sometimes good things come out of nowhere.