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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Is James Bond dead?

Just a couple of weeks ago, we were discussing whether Christopher Nolan should take over the James Bond franchise, as was rumored. I wondered then, too, whether perhaps it was just a better idea to “put 007 aside altogether.”

Now, Entertainment Weekly is suggesting, in its latest issue, that the Bond franchise may indeed be dead:

These are dark days for James Bond fans. It will likely be years before 007 returns to the screen, thanks to money troubles at MGM, Bond’s longtime studio, which has been up for sale since November. Even Daniel Craig seems to have moved on, signing up for the lead in a different potential franchise, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The last time the Bond series was put on this sort of “indefinite” hold was back in the early 1990s, after a series of legal battles (and Timothy Dalton) nearly wrecked the series. It took six years to get it up and running again. And in Hollywood today, six years is an eternity. “No franchise can afford to be away from screens for that long anymore,” says a former MGM exec. “You lose too much momentum. Even for Bond, it could be deadly.”

Sort of an unfair swipe at Timothy Dalton, and I’m not sure that six years is too long for Bond to be away. It seems to me that Bond, by the very nature of his premise, is infinitely adaptable to whatever is happening geopolitically in the world: Casino Royale proved that, by updating who he is fighting, and why, and how, for the 21st century. Unless the planet collapses back into a medieval-level dark age in the next decade — which, for all our troubles, is probably unlikely — there will be a pertinent bad guy for Bond to go up against. (I’m thinking China will keep Hollywood in all sorts of clichéd bad guys, from mobsters to corporate assholes, for at least the next couple of decades.)

What do you think? Is James Bond dead? What would bring it back to life? Is there another fallow franchise from cinematic history that could be resurrected to replace 007?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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  • They can’t give up on a franchise that guarantees a good opening weekend with a solid fanbase. This is just an attempt to get whomever is interested in buying MGM “motive” to put money in a profitable franchise. If it does take another 6 years (well, 4 more years it’s been 2 years since Quantum) it’ll just mean we’ll get another reboot franchise with a college-age James Bond (Daniel Radcliffe) fighting an evil Yale-based fraternity (The S.K.U.L.L.) over the supply of cheap beer at spring break…

  • Unless the planet collapses back into a medieval-level dark age in the next decade

    I think an alternate-history Bond film set in the Middle Ages could be interesting. Bond could be a secret agent for the Empress Matilda (whom he refers to discreetly as “M”), working to undermine the forces of Stephen of Blois, her cousin and rival to the throne. And of course he’d be very particular about his mead: “Spring water, made blood-warm, with enough honey dissolved to float an egg, with eight blades of mace, three nutmegs, twenty cloves, four sticks of cinnamon, three roots of ginger, a quarter-ounce of Jamaica pepper, a sprig of rosemary and a sprig of sweet-briar; boiled for an hour, taking off the scum as it rises*; shaken, not stirred. Have you got that, barkeep?”

    (I’m thinking China will keep Hollywood in all sorts of clichéd bad guys, from mobsters to corporate assholes, for at least the next couple of decades.)

    With the inevitable racial stereotypes and casting issues, I’m sure. Good times.

    I hope the Bond movies are revived soon enough to be able to cast Daniel Craig in ’em. He’s the best one, I think.

    *mangled from Wikipedia. :-)

  • another reboot franchise with a college-age James Bond

    I suppose they could always adapt the Young Bond series. The first book, SilverFin, isn’t bad at all.

  • Anne

    In the current movie scene I think a “James Bond: sulky vampire spy” series would be more succesful.

  • Becky

    Hmmm… I think that the Mark Twain quote is likely to be very *appropriate* here.

    I note that there is no mention of EON productions (the Bond Producers) in the aforementioned quote. Until they call it, I ain’t believing a single word of 007’s obit.
    Because let’s be honest – if they can get the rights *any* studio in their right mind will hand over the budget for the next film because they know they’ll get a good return on their investment. In the UK certainly if not the US.

    So Daniel Craig is starring in another series – and? Christian Bale has done it (for better or worse) and no one is querying his involvement in the next Batman film as have other actors so… I doubt there is much of a story here.

  • Kate

    Cheap shot at Dalton, indeed. He had the “look” (tall, dark, handsome, masculine), the charm, the polished swagger.

    In fact, Connery, Dalton, and Brosnan all did. Craig rebooted the series and Casino Royale was impossibly good.

    The franchise can’t die; it’s too valuable.

    If all else fails, reboot #2 may be necessary. It could even give credence to the fanboy theory that “James Bond” is not the name of a particular spy, but rather a code name assigned to a new MI6 agent every few decades. Which would explain how James Bond has been fighting everyone from Russians to modern-day terrorists.

  • RyanT

    In a land full of remakes, reboots, and sequels, getting another Bond movie down the line is almost a certainty. Will it include Craig? Possibly not, which is sad. I would’ve wanted at least a trilogy of sorts for him.

    Really I’m more worried about The Hobbit if anything…

  • Althea

    Agreed, all the sentiments – obviously as long as there is a ruggedly handsome actor with a commanding voice out there, they can sell Bond, however long between incarnations. For heaven’s sake, they just remade “The A-Team” after how many years? Hell, they could grow their own Bond.

    Bluejay, your take excites me more than you can imagine.

  • Funwithheadlines

    As long as people enjoy making money, they will make Bond films. That six-year gap after Dalton? Goldeneye was extremely lucrative. It will happen again. After almost 50 years of these films, it’s not going to suddenly stop.

    These stories are just behind the scenes negotiations designed to get the sale process moving. Either EW knows this and is cynically using this to push sales, or they are idiots.

  • Bluejay, your take excites me more than you can imagine.

    LOL! Thanks, Althea. I have to admit, I was half-thinking of Neil Gaiman’s Marvel 1602, which imagines versions of Marvel superheroes in the Elizabethan era. Sir Nicholas Fury, head intelligence officer for the Queen, could easily be remade into a medieval Bond, I think.

  • RogerBW

    Casino Royale promised (and delivered) a brutal Bond, but Quantum of Solace just gave us a generic action-hero Bond. Between those two, nobody really knows what a Bond film is going to be like any more. And you can make a generic action film without paying huge amounts for the Bond rights.

    I don’t know what a twenty-first century Bond would look like, but I’m sure it’s not like either the original or the reboot.

    All the book titles have been used anyway. Time to let it go.

    (I rated The Living Daylights quite high, but wasn’t impressed by Licence to Kill.)

  • I_Sell_Books

    Bring on Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider series – he wrote it as “James Bond for teenagers”. And they’re well written, too!

    Having said that, I’ll be sad to see Craig go. He was awesome.

  • I think an alternate-history Bond film set in the Middle Ages could be interesting. Bond could be a secret agent for the Empress Matilda (whom he refers to discreetly as “M”), working to undermine the forces of Stephen of Blois, her cousin and rival to the throne. And of course he’d be very particular about his mead: “Spring water, made blood-warm, with enough honey dissolved to float an egg, with eight blades of mace, three nutmegs, twenty cloves, four sticks of cinnamon, three roots of ginger, a quarter-ounce of Jamaica pepper, a sprig of rosemary and a sprig of sweet-briar; boiled for an hour, taking off the scum as it rises*; shaken, not stirred. Have you got that, barkeep?”

    Bluejay, that idea is awesome. So awesome that I’m almost embarrassed to admit that the one idea I ever had that even came close was that of an Arthurian Bond in which M stands for “Merlin” and instead of fighting against SMERSH and SPECTRE, 007 fights against the forces of Mordred and Morgan le Fey. Of course, that idea was supposed to be a joke but even at that…I like yours better.

    Besides, “A British Secret Agent in King Arthur’s Court would make for a rather awkward title, don’t you think?

    In the current movie scene I think a “James Bond: sulky vampire spy” series would be more succesful.

    Well, British author Kim Newman has already given us a vampiric 007 in one of his vampire novels and American author Gordon Linzer gave us an obscure novel entitled The Spy Who Drank Blood in which the title character is a Bond-like CIA agent who was converted to vampirism while on assignment in Romania. (No, seriously!)

    However, both novels have been around a while so if they were going to influence the franchise, they would have done so by now.

  • I_Sell_Books: They already did Stormbreaker in 2006 and no one seemed to notice. At least I got to see it on a flight I took to the UK that year…

  • Martin

    And of course, the people that have been absolutely opposed to Daniel Craig being Bond will say that it’s all failed because of him.

    I’ve long since stopped marvelling at how idiots can warp reality to match their views.

  • Look, if MGM is having problems funding the next Bond, just get them my email and have them reach me and we’ll talk. Worried about the budget? Hell, I can work minimum wage. I can get a screenwriter, film and sound editor, and set designer lined up in no time. All I’ll need are some camera crews, a solid cinematographer, a stunt team, twelve racing cars, 3 Harleys, nine camels, 1000 gallons of water, 3 hills of clay, a skyscraper in Orlando that needs demolishing, Kat Dennings in a cat-suit outfit, and a pot of tea thanks. And I can get it all done under $20 million.

    Oh, and Daniel Craig (Bond), Judi Dench (M) and Jeffrey Wright (Leiter). Now, for the villain… leave that open for the moment, but the Dragon/Lead Henchman can be Vin Diesel.

  • @Tonio: Hey, Bond fighting for King Arthur’s court against Morgan le Fey is no sillier than Iron Man doing the same thing–a storyline I loved. So it could work!

  • Barb

    Casino was the first and only Bond movie I ever purchased. Bond, while it has survived decades needs to constantly reinvent itself if it wants to continue. Look at when True Lies was released and they were saying how much better it was in many respects than the last couple of Bond movies.

  • I_Sell_Books

    @Ken: well, darn. Might have to check it out – was it any good?

  • Jammer

    China as the bad guy? Yeah if MGM wants to go bankrupt again. Didn’t you hear according to the Financial Times MGM’s troubled sale has to do with China. MGM was about to release their big movie remake Red Dawn with the Chinese as the bad guys. Then Avatar made 200 million USD in China alone. China is going to be the biggest box office in the future. All of the sudden the MGM sale went south. Why, because every potential buyer saw if MGM released Red Dawn into the theaters the Chinese would be pissed and ban all MGM movies from ever being shown in China. And that’s including any other studio’s movies that was thinking of buying MGM. No money from the Chinese box office for The Hobbitt and no money for James Bond. So what happened? Red Dawn is now shelved and is unlikely to be ever released into theaters. So do you think they’re going to make China the bad guy now?

  • Mo

    It’s James freaking Bond.

    In the long term I predict that a thousand years from now should humanity still be around, there will be James Bond stories. His character and possibly name may have been warped beyond recognition by that point to suit the centuries of changing politics and customs, and goodness knows what medium the stories will be told in by then, but if King Arthur and Sir Gawain can survive in some distorted form for more than 1500 years and Robin Hood for nearly 1000, James Bond can too. He’s so embedded in everyone’s consciousness that even people who haven’t seen the movies and wouldn’t want to can grasp his essence.

    The only way that characters like that can ever die is if they are completely and utterly forgotten in every form they have ever existed in. All you need even after an apocalypse is one surviving person coming across an old surviving Ian Flemming text in a demolished basement somewhere and remembering long ago before it all when their mom told their dad that a suit made him look like James Bond. Then Bond will live again. He’ll probably outlive us all which makes any talk of his death ridiculous, at least if you aren’t evilly stroking a white cat at that moment.

    In the short term, (and preferably sans apocalypse) I really want more Daniel Craig. So do enough others that box office gold is more or less guaranteed. Even if Inception changes things in Hollywood, we’re still looking at a two-year backlog of crap because of how destructively conservative the studios have been lately. By the end of that, if audiences are still fed up, the money will come. The studios will be fighting tooth and nail for one of the last things with a guarantee. Otherwise, how long till the copyright expires?

  • Paul

    I sometimes suspect that reporters need a story so they write about a flap like this, making a minor problem like switching a lead actor into a major crisis. Sure, Craig was a great Bond, but he’s not the only actor who could pull it off.

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