Civil War is like You Only Live Twice, the book and film

Spectacle phase of Captain America: Civil War

Spectacle phase of Captain America: Civil War

No real spoilers, but your mileage may vary.

To use a James Bond reference, imagine a movie that had both the sprawling spectacle of You Only Live Twice, the movie, plus the personal elements of Ian Fleming’s You Only Live Twice novel.

That’s what you get with Captain America: Civil War.

The film, directed by Anthony and Joe Russo and scripted by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, goes through a progression:

–More or less standard super heroics with serious undertones.

–Expansion to a spectacle phase, fueled by the introduction of Spider-Man into the proceedings.

–A surprisingly personal climax, which ties up plot threads dating back to when Marvel started producing its own movies eight years ago.

With You Only Live Twice, there has been a half-century fan debate whether Fleming’s 1964 novel could actually be filmed versus a disappointment of fans of the novel there wasn’t an actual attempt.

Civil War walks a similar tightrope with style. Marvel is drawing upon multiple stories (but especially a 2006-2007 story line that crossed over various titles), rather than a single novel. So perhaps it’s not the fairest comparison.

Regardless, Civil War traverses that tightrope in style. Truth be told, the Spy Commander was wondering whether Marvel could maintain its momentum heading into its “Phase III.”

As it turns out, Civil War launches Phase III into new territory.

Civil War has the equivalent of two 007 pre-title sequences, one a short period piece, the other a more elaborate one set in the present day. In the latter, there have been some collateral casualties, spurring a move among United Nations members to rein in the Avengers, the team led by Cap (Chris Evans).

Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is in favor but Cap isn’t convinced.

So far, so good. Along the way, the audience meets a new character, T’Challa, the Black Panther, who becomes the ruler of the advanced African nation of Wakanda after his father his killed during a terrorist attack during a U.N. ceremony.

As a result, a big conflict breaks out, with the two heroes recruiting allies. It’s here where the latest Spider-Man (Tom Holland) makes an appearance and he immediately ramps things up. The scene where Tony Stark recruits a teenage Peter Parker is one of the highlights of the film.

The major fight, as impressive as it is, only sets up the climax, where we get into intense personal conflict (albeit with super heroics) delivered with a wallop.

One criticism of the movie (from Los Angeles Times and NPR reviewer Kenneth Turan) is that it’s harder for viewers who aren’t hard-core Marvel fans to get up to speed. Perhaps so.

Still, the Russo brothers get the audience’s attention from the beginning. By the end of the two-and-a-half hour movie, Marvel fans will be especially pleased but there’s something for everyone. To again use a 007 reference, it’s like seeing Thunderball or You Only Live Twice (or later film) as your first James Bond film. It’s easy enough to get up to speed.

One more thing: There are *two* scenes in the end titles. The first wraps up things from Civil War, the latter sets up a future Marvel production. The very last image of the end titles utilizes a page from the playbook of the early Bond films, something the 2011 Thor and Captain America movies did as well.

GRADE: A

Ken Adam, who created 007’s film world, dies

Ken Adam

Ken Adam (1921-2016)

Ken Adam, who helped create the film world of James Bond, has died at 95, ACCORDING TO AN OBITUARY BY THE BBC.

Adam’s official title was production designer, a duty he held on seven 007 films, starting with Dr. No in 1962 and concluding with Moonraker in 1979.

Part of Ken Adam's handiwork on Dr. No

Part of Ken Adam’s handiwork on Dr. No

With Dr. No, a modestly budgeted film, Adam’s set designs made the movie look more expensive than it really was. An example was a large room where Professor Dent (Anthony Dawson) converses with an unseen Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman).

In a John Cork-directed documentary, Adam described the style as “slightly ahead of its time.” Dr. No’s lair looked fantastic, yet had antiques.

Dr. No was no fluke. The Adam-designed interior of Fort Knox in Goldfinger was attention grabbing. Ian Fleming’s novel never made it inside the U.S. gold depository. Adam made it almost dream like. You could understand why Auric Goldfinger lusted after gold.

Sean Connery may have breathed film life into Fleming’s creation. Ken Adam gave the film Bond a world to inhabit.

Also, over time, Adam altered his style. His early Bond films had rectangle-shaped sets. With The Spy Who Loved Me, he introduced more curved shapes.

Finally, as the Bond films expanded in scope and budget, Adam’s job took on aspects of a construction boss.

The SPECTRE volcano base in You Only Live Twice cost as much or more than all of Dr. No. Its construction at Pinewood Studios caused “hardened” film professionals to give up their lunch hours to watch it being built, sound man Norman Wanstall said in one of the Cork-directed documentaries.

Even more ambitious was The Spy Who Loved Me, featuring the inside of a tanker that swallowed nuclear submarines. Spy got Adam an Oscar nomination. He probably would have won if the movie had come out in 1976. Instead, it came out in 1977 and was up against the first Star Wars film, which got the Oscar in the category.

Adam’s style had a huge impact, not only with other spy films of the 1960s, but well into the 21st century. 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness had an homage to Adam’s “War Room” set from 1964’s Dr. Strangelove Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

A giant in his field has left us. But Adam leaves behind an enormous legacy, not only with the Bond series but many other films.

UPDATE: Here’s the tweet Roger Moore sent out about Ken Adam’s passing.

UPDATE (March 13): It took a few days but The New York Times has come out with A VERY DETAILED OBITUARY for Ken Adam.

Also, here’s the tweet from the official 007 account that announced Adam’s death.

About that whole ‘Blofeld Trilogy’ thing…

SPECTRE teaser image

SPECTRE teaser image

This blog’s recent post about suggestions for Bond 25 included the idea that it may be time to let the “Blofeld Trilogy” idea pass. But many don’t want to let go. So here’s a closer look.

What is it? The phrase was popularized by Raymond Benson in his 1984 book The James Bond Bedside Companion, referring to Ian Fleming’s novels, Thunderball, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and You Only Live Twice.

The term “Blofeld Trilogy” isn’t mentioned in the index. On page 123, the author introduces his analysis of Thunderball thusly:

The ninth James Bond novel, Thunderball, is a terrific book. It is the beginning of what could be called the Blofeld Trilogy, which also includes On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and You Only Live Twice. Thunderball also marks the change from the earlier novels to the later, more mature books.

Anything wrong with that? Not wrong, but perhaps more complex.

How so? First, Fleming almost certainly didn’t plan a trilogy. The Thunderball novel was Fleming’s way of recouping time spent on the unsuccessful film project spearheaded by Kevin McClory. McClory sued after the novel came out. In the resulting settlement, future editions of the novel indicated it was based on a screen treatment by McClory, screenwriter Jack Whittingham and Fleming.

Second, Fleming wrote four novels during this period. He also penned The Spy Who Loved Me, published in 1962, written from the perspective of a woman who encounters Bond in the last third of the novel. Bond is on the trail of SPECTRE but this only is mentioned in passing. Again, a sign this wasn’t a planned thing.

An important part of the Blofeld Trilogy: At the end of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Bond’s new bride, Tracy, is dead. Early in the You Only Live Twice novel, we’re told how Bond has fallen apart and is about to get his walking papers. He’s given a last chance to salvage his career. The unlikely mission leads to Blofeld and a final confrontation.

Yeah, so? The 007 film series adapted the novels out of order (as hard-core fans know all too well), so the Blofeld Trilogy, per se, wasn’t done. However, Eon Productions already has clearly cherry picked from the Blofeld Trilogy.

Example: In Skyfall, Bond has fallen apart after being shot by Moneypenny (Naomie Harris). He’s a shell of former self when he finds out MI6 has been attacked. Even then, it takes quite a bit of screen time before Bond is back to his former self.

I repeat, yeah, so? Some fans would like Bond 25 to adapt the setup of the Blofeld Trilogy, have Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux) killed and have 007 have a proper “revenge” story.

Initially, SPECTRE was a bit of a remake of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. During the scripting process, there was a henchwoman named Irma Bunt and the last line of the movie was Bond saying, “We have all the time in the world.” Both were deleted from the final film.

A couple of things, regarding Bond 25:

1) Do we really want Bond to fall apart for the second time in three movies? Remember, it’s not the Blofeld Trilogy if he doesn’t fall apart.

2) We’ve had either revenge story lines or elements of them in Licence to Kill, GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, Die Another Day and Quantum of Solace. Does the film series really cry out for another revenge story?

Nobody is going to change their mind based on this post. Just something to think about.

Our modest proposals for Bond 25

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Since the British tabloids are stirring the pot, what better time for this blog to weigh in with some Bond 25 ideas? So here goes.

Consider adapting one of the better continuation novels: For years, Eon Productions has resisted this path. Michael G. Wilson, Eon’s co-boss, has bad mouthed the John Gardner novels.

However, Eon itself opened the door with SPECTRE. The 24th James Bond film includes a torture scene based on the one in 1968’s Colonel Sun novel. So much so, there’s a “special thanks” credit for “The Estate of Kingsley Amis” in the end credits.

Generally speaking, it’s easier to use a novel as a starting point. The movie You Only Live Twice didn’t have much in common with its namesake novel, but characters, names, situations, etc. did figure into the movie. Given the soap opera of SPECTRE’s scripting process, any step to simplify the process would be a help.

At this point, there are plenty of continuation novels to choose from.

Worry about the script first, actor second: Various “making of” documentaries about 007 films discuss how scripts are tailored to their lead actor.

How about this? Write a James Bond story first, tweak it later after your actor has been cast. James Bond is the star. The series has seen six different actors play Bond. Some day, there will be a seventh.

Albert R. Broccoli, co-founder of Eon, always felt 007 was the star, the rest came later. Words to live by.

Or, put another way: story, story, story.

If you have a good story but it conflicts with continuity, go with the story: Let’s be honest. Continuity isn’t a strong point for the Bond film series. Michael G. Wilson said Quantum of Solace took place “literally an hour” after Casino Royale.

Yet, Quantum couldn’t be bothered with the slightest effort to tie together with Casino. Casino took place in 2006. Quantum in 2008. Did it really take Bond *two years* to track down Mr. White? Only if Bond and Mr. White are idiots.

Continuity isn’t in Eon’s wheelhouse. If you have a great Bond story but it doesn’t match up with earlier films? Go with the story. If fans exit the theater thinking, “That was one of the best Bond movies I’ve ever seen,” nobody will really care about the continuity.

Have a great Bond 25 idea that doesn’t immediately tie in with SPECTRE? Go with the great idea. You can always bring Blofeld back later, even if he’s not played by Christoph Waltz.

But what about the “Blofeld Trilogy”?: That ship has sailed. It was a lost opportunity. Meanwhile, you might find the part of the You Only Live Twice novel that Albert R. Broccoli, Harry Saltzman and their cohorts didn’t use might make for difficult filming. Don’t twist yourself into a pretzel trying to recapture the past.

Put yet another way: How many people leaving the theater after seeing SPECTRE really thought Daniel Craig’s Bond loved Lea Seydoux’s Madeleine as much as George Lazenby’s Bond loved Diana Rigg’s Tracy in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service? This blog’s guess: Not many.

Some early fan suggestions for Bond 25

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

As SPECTRE winds down its run in theaters, there have been some fan suggestions for what should come next.

The James Bond Dossier, IN ITS SURVEY of 007 bloggers and website editors included prescriptions from participants for Bond 25.

Here are some excerpts:

Anders Frejdh (From Sweden With Love): Fingers crossed for a continuation of the Blofeld saga with a twist. And an older woman as his sidekick.

Marcos Kontze (James Bond Brasil): My bet: Irma Bunt will be back as Blofeld’s allie, they will kill Madeleine in the PTS at some beach location, and then Blofeld you’ll be hidden in the Amazon Jungle in Brazil, and we’ll be seeing the Garden of Death from YOLT’s novel. Yes, BOND 25 is Shatterhand 😀

Some background: At one point in the scripting process, SPECTRE was a bit of a remake of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  The script even specified that the main titles have images from the earlier Daniel Craig films.

As late as Dec. 1, 2014, the last line in the script was Bond saying, “We have all the time in the world,” before he and Madeleine Swann drive off. Also, in earlier drafts, there was an Irma Bunt henchwoman. Both ideas weren’t in the final film.

Some fans are looking for Bond 25 to be a de facto adaptation of the You Only Live Twice novel (the 1967 movie had characters from the 1964 novel but dumped the plot). After Tracy’s death in the On Her Majesty’s Secret Service novel, Bond went to pieces but unexpectedly gets another shot at Blofeld in Japan.

Jeffrey Westhoff, author of the novel “The Boy Who Knew Too Much,” suggested a different path IN AN ESSAY HE WROTE on his Culture Spy page.

Here’s an excerpt, where he argued against having Swann killed at the start of Bond 25:

Murdering her also would undercut Bond’s decision to not kill Blofeld on the bridge. The moment was supposed to point out Bond’s sense of morality. So what point would it prove if Bond’s sense of morality gets his girlfriend killed?
(snip)

Finally, I go back to wish No. 1 on my list (for Bond 25). I don’t want to see any more James Bond revenge stories. They have become tired. I read fans saying that Bond 25 finally could be what Diamonds Are Forever should have been, or the movies finally might bring the themes of Fleming’s You Only Live Twice to the screen. I say it’s too bad Diamonds Are Forever turned into a cartoon and that You Only Live Twice was filmed out of order. They were blown opportunities, but the time to correct them is long past.

To read more, CLICK HERE for The James Bond Dossier post. (This blog was a participant, but didn’t provide a plot idea for Bond 25). CLICK HERE for Jeffrey Westhoff’s essay titled, “My Seven Wishes for the Next James Bond Movie.” It covers quite bit of territory and is worth a look.

SPECTRE global box office at about $750 million

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE’s worldwide box office is now at about $750 million, according to a tweet by Exhibitor Relations, which tracks movie ticket sales.

The 24th James Bond film has been out since Oct. 26, when it premiered in the U.K.

SPECTRE added an estimated $12.8 million to its U.S.-Canada box office this weekend, according to Box Office Mojo.

The 007 adventure, after four weekends in release in the U.S. and Canada, has generated about $176 million in ticket sales in the region.

The results for the Nov. 27-28 weekend — part of a long holiday weekend in the U.S. — represented only a 15 percent decline from the previous weekend’s $15 million. A decline of 50 percent is considered normal.

SPECTRE was No. 4 for the weekend behind The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, the animated movie The Good Dinosaur and Creed.

Skyfall, the previous 007 film, had a worldwide box office of $1.11 billion, including $304.4 million in the U.S. and Canada.

SPECTRE has sold an estimated 20.4 million tickets in the U.S. and Canada, according to Box Office Mojo. That’s line with with most 007 films of the past 20 years, which sold between 23.4 million and 27.6 million each.

The one exception was Skyfall, which sold 37.8 million tickets in the region. That was the most for a Bond film in decades. You Only Live Twice sold 35.9 million tickets in the U.S. and Canada in 1967.

Here’s the tweet from Exhibitor Relations. Meanwhile, a bit later, Box Office Mojo came out with a figure of $749.6 million.:

UPDATE (Nov. 30) — The final SPECTRE figure for the Nov. 27-29 weekend was $12.9 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

 

007 movies listed by number of tickets sold, 1995-present

Skyfall teaser poster

Skyfall teaser poster

The BOX OFFICE MOJO website has tools that let you look beyond unadjusted movie box office. You can also, for example, get a listing (for the U.S. and Canada, at least) of the estimated number of tickets sold.

There are various formulas for adjusting box office figures for inflation. But tickets sold is basic. So we decided to take a look back at the number of tickets sold for the eight 007 films of the past 20 years. Home video was firmly established, as opposed to the early years of the Bond series, where it didn’t exist and movies could get re-released.

Using this measure, 2012’s Skyfall, by far, sold the most tickets among 007 films in the region. After that, there’s less difference that the unadjusted box office figures might suggest.

What follows is each movie’s total U.S.-Canada tickets sold, with the number in parenthesis the number for its opening weekend. The average ticket price for each year is also listed. The total figure for SPECTRE is through Nov. 23.

GoldenEye (1995): 24,403,900 (6,024,100); average ticket price, $4.35

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997): 26,911,200 (5,477,800); average ticket price, $4.59

The World Is Not Enough (1999): 24,853,800 (6,991,900); average ticket price, $5.08

Die Another Day (2002): 27,584,000 (8,101,900); average ticket price, $5.81

Casino Royale (2006): 25,428,700 (6,234,100); average ticket price, $6.55

Quantum of Solace (2008): 23,449,600 (9,405,100); average ticket price, $7.18

Skyfall (2012): 37,842,000 (10,977,000); average ticket price, $7.96

SPECTRE (2015): 18,085,500, through Nov. 23, (8,176,900); average ticket price, $8.34. UPDATED FIGURE: 22,996,5000 through March 27, 2016.

UPDATE: Out of curiosity, we went back to the earliest days of the series. Remember, these movies had re-releases, in some cases several re-releases. But in the cases of Goldfinger and Thunderball, you get an idea that Bond was a *very* big thing in the U.S. in the mid-1960s. Also, there was a big decline, relatively speaking, when You Only Live Twice came out. At the same time, Twice sold almost as many tickets in the U.S. and Canada as Skyfall did. Anyway, here’s a sampling:

Thunderball (1965): 74,800,000 (no opening weekend figure available)

Goldfinger (1964): 66,300,000

You Only Live Twice (1967): 35,904,000

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969): 16,038,400

Diamonds Are Forever (1971): 26,557,300

Live And Let Die (1973): 19,987,500

Moonraker (1979): 28,011,200 (2,832,000 opening weekend)

Octopussy (1983): 21,553,500 (2,826,200)

Licence to Kill (1989): 8,732, 200 (2,210,300)

UPDATE II: To give that Thunderball figure some perspective, the top box office movie in the U.S. and Canada so far this year has been Jurassic World. It sold about 79 million tickets, according to Box Office Mojo. While comparisons that far apart are dicey, it’s fair to say Thunderball was in the same general league in its day. But before Bond fans brag too much, The Sound of Music (released the same year as Thunderball and also re-released several times), sold more than 142 million tickets.

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