2017 has come and gone, and for Bond fans anticipating Bond 25, it was at times a frustrating and relieving year. Daniel Craig is back, although the news was only made official after months of pointless non-committal comments. In July it became public knowledge that Bond 25 is to come out theatrically in November of 2019, although even that has a strange ring to it considering that, as of this blog post’s publication, significant distribution questions remain unanswered.
One of the more intriguing stories that emerged, one that dabbled more in rumour and speculation than fact, was that franchise custodians Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson could potentially sell off their rights following Bond 25. Shocking! How could they?!? Bond is a family business, granted, one that runs in the hundreds of millions of dollars, but it has in fact remained quite ‘within the family’ since its inception in 1962.
My reaction to this new addition to the rumour mill was not overtly dramatic. I’m not claiming to be the only level headed 007 aficionado out there, but it certainly felt as though for many, the immediate reaction was suspicion and disappointment with this potentiality. Ideas raced through my head, not all of them positive. My heart felt several emotions, not all of them good either. Despite that, the thoughts my mind conjured were not exclusively of doom and gloom for the beloved 007 franchise. It was a bizarre thing to think about; Barbara and Michael no longer calling the shots, and yet, there was and remains a part of me that doesn’t take umbrage with that possibility.
Funnily enough, at around this time last week, I engaged in an extremely interesting back and forth on Twitter with an online acquaintance, Dave Bond, co-host of the Do You Expect Us to Talk? movie podcast, which itself took place a few days after I had listened to one of their latest episodes in which Dave himself essentially articulated 80% of the thoughts that had been percolating in my brain. Barbara and Michael selling their rights to someone else, or some other company, would not necessarily spell the end of the James Bond films as we have known them for years. Let me be clear: I love Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson with every fibre in my body. They had to take over from the work of Barbara’s illustrious father, Albert ‘Cubby’ Broccoli, at a time when the competition from other action movies was growing ever fiercer. What’s more, they orchestrated the second the greatest gamble in the franchise’s history when they ended Brosnan’s contract despite that his films were raking in handsome bounties, and successfully rebooted the series’ entire 40-year history with a new actor. Let’s be honest, the greatest gamble was what they had to do when Connery left the role. That must have been crazy.
So what exactly are the rumblings in me that don’t have me fret at the notion of someone other than the Broccolis or Wilsons handling the franchise? For one, the way we’ve known the franchise recently is not like we’ve known it in the past.
I would argue that exhibit A would be the now famous quote from Daniel Craig in October of 2016 when awarding a special Q&A during the New Yorker Film. At that point, Spectre had been released theatrically a year ago. Not in production, not in post-production, but completed and was playing in cinemas. When prompted to provide insight into development on the next entry, Craig politely replied that the parties involved were ‘a little tired.’ A little tired. A year after the last movie came out. I didn’t go on social media to make a bunch of hoopla about that quote like some crazy fanboy, but it struck me as really, really curious. Something felt amiss, although I struggled to put my finger on it at the time. A full year after the production of Spectre, but the powers that be were still catching their breath?
Exhibit B would be the strange production stories surrounding Spectre itself. An extra year to make it (a 3 year wait rather than what could have been a 2 year wait), and despite that there were disappointing revelations regarding the script that leaked to the public in December of 2014. Unpolished, uninspired, lacking a cohesive third act, etc. They took an extra year to get ready for Spectre, yet as it headed into production the script was deemed weak by insiders? Am I missing something here?
The point I’m driving at is not a malicious one, nor is it one that should, I hope, portray me as some sort of traitor to the fanbase. To put it bluntly, Barbara and especially Michael are not getting any younger and, in the case of the former, have clearly expressed interest in producing films other than Bond ventures. That’s perfectly fine. In fact, that’s a great thing; Barbara wants to make different kinds of movies. Why not? She’s been making Bond films for 20 years! Not everybody can be Cubby, who basically just adored 007 and all that went into making them. That kind of person with such consistent and undivided investment of interest into a single purpose is a rare breed.
In my humble opinion, considering the Hollywood movie landscape of the past decade or so, EON doesn’t have what it takes to remain competitive. Star Wars films are coming out every single year, so are Pixar films, as are Marvel Universe films. Even DC with WB is giving it a shot, however mediocre their attempt has been thus far. The DC example notwithstanding, I don’t see 30% Rotten Tomato scores for a whole lot of the recent Star Wars, Pixar, or Marvel movies. The studios are hiring smart, talented, creative people for their projects and letting them do what they do best, and I believe it might be time that EON (or Danjaq, I’m always confused as to which entity does what) do the same. As much as I’ve liked some of Purvis and Wade’s scripts, why are they constantly reeled back in for first drafts or script polishes? Can Barbara and Michael find no one else to work for them? You can’t look me in the eye and with a straight face say there aren’t other screenwriters working in the business who a) want to write a Bond story, or b) can take a half decent crack at it.
Am I expecting a Bond film every year? Am I thinking that’s even a good thing? Not necessarily. On the flip side, fears of mass marketing and ludicrous cross-branding that would result in brand dilution and inferior films are, to me, hogwash. Star Wars is literally everywhere we look all the time and, apart from some anal-retentive fanboys, the last 3 films were very well received. Again, the same goes for Marvel. Iron Man and The Hulk are shoved down our throats at every marketing opportunity, yet generally critics and movie goers agree the movies aren’t half bad.
And to those that worry that the 007 brand will start to look ridiculous, I’d politely point them to the cross-branding that happened in the 1960s when the Connery films were basically the Star Wars films of their time. Children were marketed towards with all sorts of 007 related toys and gizmos. It’s in part what made the film series so popular shortly after its inception. HELLO! Would a James Bond panel at San Diego Comic-Con be considered some sort of betrayal because of diminished exclusivity of the 007 brand? Why? For that matter, and more importantly, why would that be a bad thing to begin with?
In essence, if Barbara and Michael were indeed to sell once the dust settles on Bond 25, my feelings will be twofold: endless gratitude for what they gave us for over 20 years, and excitement at what the future holds. Make Bond a regular thing again and branch out a bit. Why limit it to a single film every four years and once it comes out, not have the faintest clue as when the next one might come out or even script ideas?
Bond is, in essence, a bad ass. It’s time the franchise play some hardball like its competitors.