Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Bond 23: An Update

In December 2010 MGM exited bankruptcy through a "reorganization plan that wiped out its debt, handed over virtually all of its equity to creditors, and installed Spyglass Entertainment chiefs Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum as CEOs"--and finally, secured "a $500-million line of credit that will be used to fund operations and the production of new movies."

The Bond film series being the studio's commercially strongest property, the bosses quickly put "Bond 23" (or perhaps it should be labeled Bond 2-3 in light of the reboot) on track for a (late) 2012 release date--the earliest possible at that point--with Daniel Craig still attached in the lead role (having "managed an incredible juggling act with his shooting schedule" given his other commitments, now including the adaptations of Stieg Larsson's novels, a discussion of the first which you can find here). Shooting is scheduled to begin in November this year for release one year later.

In short, despite one of the longest gap between releases in franchise history (the only precedents are 1989-1995 and 2002-2006), the series seems likely to go chugging along, and to do so in much the same way as the last two movies. Indeed, Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road) has been signed to direct, which along with the buzz surrounding script and casting (Ralph Fiennes, Javier Bardem), only seems to confirm that the films will continue in the darker, more serious approach that began with Casino Royale.

As those of you who read my article last August remember, I wasn't a particular fan of --as indeed, most of those with some attachment to the memory of the earlier Bond films didn't--but the box office receipts (and associated revenue streams) show the general audience felt differently. At any rate, there is no going back. Nineteen sixty-two, the year where the series as we know it began, was a very different place from 2012, and too much has changed, generally in ways unpropitious for the series:

* The Cold War has ended (depriving the spy game of much of its mojo).
* Britain has continued to decline from its earlier superpower status (diminishing the cachet of being a British secret agent).
* Espionage has become more thoroughly bureaucratized and technologized (making espionage that much less a matter of individualistic hero-operatives).
* Attitudes toward gender and sex have changed (affecting everything from the scripting of the Bond girls to the treatment of Bond's liaisons).
* Health-consciousness has become more difficult to flout (which has forced the producers to put the cigarettes away).
* Hedonism and glamour have been redefined (so that 007 looks rather old-fashioned in his tuxedo).

Unsurprisingly, the series' most creatively vital period was long past it when the producers hit on the idea of a reboot, so that even as the vision of the early Bond films continues to be imitated, parodied and otherwise looked to for inspiration, the film series from the '70s on increasingly relied on reusing, recycling and refurbishing the same ideas and gimmicks, while chasing topicality and trends in an attempt to stay relevant. By throwing much of what made the Bond films Bond films overboard, the producers created a vacuum in the series which they seem to have no intention of filling, and the question in my mind is just how far they can get pursuing that particular strategy.

Reflections on Stieg Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
The End of James Bond?

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