‘SPECTRE’ Pleads The Case For Bond’s Relevance In The Drone Age

6 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Bond film ‘Spectre’ a license to chill.

The first — and by Hollywood standards, most important — set is financial. James Bonds have come and gone over the years, and though they’ve all been different, they’ve also been mostly the same suave superspy armed with a quick wit and a license to kill.Their arrival in their respective blockbuster films, Spectre and The Peanuts Movie, signals a halt to weeks of films that were expected to enliven multiplexes and spur Oscar talk but instead did the opposite.Mark the date, James Bond fans: In 2015, a 007 movie finally asks whether, in this age of mass surveillance and oversharing, we even need superspies anymore.

In its first week of limited international release, Spectre shattered U.K. box office records, clocking over £41 million ($63 million) to eclipse an 11-year-old benchmark set by Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. On Thursday, Nov. 5, told SiriusXM radio host Bevy Smith that she “feels bad” for slamming via Twitter last month, attributing her viral commentary to her “big mouth.” “Listen, I feel bad about that,” she explained of her quip that Craig needed a “reality check” after he made negative remarks about the James Bond franchise. “That was a morning where I was all caffeine-d up, as I usually am at 7 a.m., and I was …scrolling through my Twitter, and I was seeing all this stuff about the refugees fleeing and drowning in the ocean. And according to pre-release audience estimates, the 24th “official” Bond installment could earn around $75 million over its American launch weekend.

And then [an article about his comments] was in my Twitter feed also.” “I just kind of run my mouth, that’s who I am,” the actress added. “Someone needs to be authentic. The Bond of “Casino Royale” was brash and arrogant, a sociopathic antihero, the equivalent of an analog punch in the mouth in an increasingly digital world.

The first is in the movie’s subplot, which focuses on a new head of the Joint Intelligence Service who’s set on discontinuing MI6’s 00 program and replacing its agents with wiretapping and drones. And I love Daniel Craig, and no one loves those Bond movies more than me.” In an interview with Time Out London, Craig, 47, had remarked that he’d “rather break this glass and slash [his] wrists” than do another Bond film in the near future. Spectre currently boasts a not-so-hot 60 percent RottenTomatoes.com freshness rating, with The Guardian awarding the thriller five stars (for its “pure action mayhem with a real sense of style”) and The Washington Post alternately dismissing it as “overcompensating and dutiful.” To be sure, Daniel Craig’s latest outing as 007 must surf in the turbulent wake of 2012’s Skyfall, the most lucrative Bond movie to date (with more than $1.1 billion in worldwide grosses) and an unmitigated critical breakthrough. It’s great news for film studios that have seen such star-driven vehicles as Our Brand Is Crisis, Burnt, Rock the Kasbah, Steve Jobs, Suffragette, Truth and other high-profile pictures perform below expectations this fall, some seriously so. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli — the half-siblings who operate the Bond series’ longtime production company Eon Productions and licensing wing Danjaq, which have overseen all double-0 filmic efforts since 1962’s Dr.

No — the burden of expectation remains uniformly high, whether the previous installment was a blockbuster or a bust. “If you make a bad picture, one that’s not so successful, you think, ‘Oh god, that’s the end of the series!’” says Wilson, seated in the company’s office at Southern England’s venerable Pinewood Studios. “When you make one that’s very successful, you think, ‘Oh god, how are we going to live up to that? The $5.1 million for celebrity chef drama Burnt represents the second major flop this year for Bradley Cooper, who earlier saw his high-flying summer comedy Aloha crash and burn. What is the audience going to say if you don’t come up with the goods?’ No matter which way, we’re always running, trying to be better, trying to surprise the audience and give them excitement for their money.” “Plenty of people have rung the death knell of Bond,” says Broccoli, the daughter of Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli, the larger-than-life, Italian-American producer who ushered the secret agent from the page to the screen. “I remember when we started with Goldeneye, people were saying, ‘Now that the Cold War is over, Bond is not relevant because there is peace in the world.’ Well, do we need to remind people how that was inaccurate?” As gatekeepers of the franchise, Broccoli and Wilson were responsible for hiring Daniel Craig as Pierce Brosnan’s 007 successor and taking the series into edgier territory in 2004’s Casino Royale. With Skyfall, they induldged director Sam Mendes biggest creative risks: killing off Judi Dench’s M character and effectively showcasing Bond as he wrestles with mid-life crisis and impending obsolescence.

In Spectre, the kind of spectacular set pieces moviegoers have come to expect alternate with discrete soupçons of backstory that fill in the audience’s blanks on the seminal childhood experiences that made an 11-year-old orphan evolve into “Bond. They had the hero going down a freeway smashing up cars and there were all these people,” recalls Wilson. “I said, ‘We’d never do that in a Bond film!’ Bond never puts the public at risk.” Adds Broccoli: “He’s responsible. Similar fan dynamics drove the dino-thriller reboot Jurassic World to stellar results this past summer and they’ll send into the stratosphere ticket receipts for the Dec. 18 rollout of Star Wars: Episode 7 — The Force Awakens. There’s a new security chief in town (Andrew Scott, who plays Moriarty on the BBC “Sherlock” reboot), who is determined to create a global surveillance state and shut down the 00 program while he’s at it.

But it features beloved characters Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Woodstock, Lucy, Linus and others in a story illustrated and voiced with scrupulous fidelity to the memory of Charles Schulz’s comic strip classics and their TV spinoffs. And though M (Ralph Fiennes) grounds him, James heads to Rome, where he uncovers a global criminal organization headed by an old friend (Christoph Waltz). What isn’t drawing people to theatres this fall, and rarely does so anymore, is the lure of a star who sells a movie regardless of its quality or content. Sci-fi drama The Martian is a career peak for actor Matt Damon, but the film is based on a bestselling novel and it’s directed by hitmaker Ridley Scott.

I put this situation to David Thomson, a San Francisco movie critic and author whose The New Biographical Dictionary of Film is a definitive text for celebrity assessments. (He has a new book arriving next week, How to Watch a Movie.) “I don’t think people have the same sort of reverence for movie stars now and I don’t think there are very many actors who are surefire draws so that a huge audience will come out every time for them,” he replied. “I think that they know and we know that we pick and choose our films very carefully. If a film doesn’t sort of line up in our minds happily, if it doesn’t seem to have those elements that we want to go see, then it’s no good.” There are still movie stars, larger-than-life people like Johnny Depp, George Clooney and Angelina Jolie.

The fear of a surveillance state, while timely, is barely explored, and the twisted web of Bond’s past, the villains he’s faced, the women he’s loved, never seems as important as it should. But they tend to do best at the box office when they’re part of a franchise like Depp’s Pirates of the Caribbean, Clooney’s Ocean’s Eleven and Jolie’s Kung Fu Panda series.

Monica Bellucci, the exquisite Italian actress, gives herself — and what she knows — up to James so quickly that it’s almost insulting, and the shift in Madeleine from frustration to flirtation to love is, simply, unbelievable. The constant online focus on celebrities and their foibles “doesn’t allow people to dream anymore,” she said. “To be a star, that requires glamour and secrecy.” “I think she’s spot on.

James Bond has always had a complicated relationship with women, or perhaps, until this James Bond came along, it wasn’t complicated at all, because it was always on his terms, and he never stuck around for breakfast. The whole of celebrity culture, as it exists on the Internet, has done so much to sharpen our almost vengeful glee if these people make fools of themselves. “So many dark and dirty stories come out now about stars because they are not protected by studios in the way they used to be. Once upon a time a star was a studio product and even if something horrible had happened in a star’s life, the studio would take great care to conceal it so that your whole image of that star was not spoiled. Intriguing at times but overlong and uninspiring, “Spectre” is the most mediocre of the Daniel Craig Bond films and, if the rumors are true and his tenure as 007 is complete, an unfortunate way to say goodbye to him. “Spectre” falls into precisely the same sorts of spy movie clichés that “Casino Royale” avoided, rehashing a classic Bond story in a way that feels fairly by-the-numbers. We don’t respect them in the same way.” We still go to the movies, although increasingly it’s not because we’re drawn by unique people, but rather by familiar stories and characters of franchise fare like James Bond, Star Wars and Peanuts.

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