Franchise Fall

Franchise Fall

Daniel Craig is the only man on Earth who doesn’t want to be James Bond.

For the past three movies every time his James Bond comes on screen you see a guy who seems to feel like an old man who has failed at all of his dreams in life and is secretly hoping that this will be the mission where he ducks too slow. And then somebody else will be handed off this cover ID that has been bouncing around MI-6 since Hitler was Britain’s biggest worry.

This kills the entire point of James Bond.  007 is the ultimate Gary Stu.  Sure, he was Ian Fleming’s fantasy self-insert character BUT he wasn’t defined by his entire world trying to make him look him good.  James was defined by doing more and more spectacular shit.  Fine, he’s never going to be up there with one of Umberto Eco’s creations but if that’s why you are reading a James Bond, book you’re doing it wrong.

The truth is Eon has needed to recast the part for a while.  The problem is that a good fit for the part is damn near impossible to find.

In 1967 Sean Connery quit his signature role.  Everyone shells the choice of George Lazenby for his performance as Bond but the fact was, he was basically as good as it was going to get.  John Richardson was best candidate, he could smolder, he could act, he had the right presence, but he weighed ninety pounds soaking wet.  You just couldn’t take him seriously as Bond because it didn’t look like he could beat up a fly. All the rest were worse for one reason or another.  

But, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service had to be shot. The money was burning up just sitting there.  They couldn’t wait around to find the perfect fit.  So, poor old George was it.

Roger Moore was finally cast and was able to handle the role, playing Bond as a clown. The problem is that he was kept around way past his sell by date, again because there was no replacement available.

Then there was replacement available.

Then there wasn’t.

So, they went with Timothy Dalton.  

But eventually, the non-compete clause in Pierce Brosnan’s Remington Steele contract ran out and he could finally take the job he was born to play.  Brosnan did a great job and would have been happy to stay around well past his sell-by date just like Moore did.  The problem for him is that the world changed.  He was the 1990s Bond but Die Another Day came out in 2002.

The silly over-the-top Bond villain had no place in a world where thousands had been killed during the 9-11 attack.  Consequently, his Bond had to go along with his world.

Casino Royale was exactly what it needed to be in that place and time.  It was a perfect fit.  And it remains the first 007 movie where the protagonist had a real character arc.  In the beginning, he was an SBS or SAS commando who had just “moved down the street.”  He was now in a different world, instead of his mission being to engage with this reasonably faceless enemy, he was being told hunt down this specific civilian with a wife and kids, and leave blood on the ground.  In the last scene, after having shot an unarmed man in the back, he formally introduces himself for the first time, “My name is Bond. James Bond.” And Bond’s theme music plays for the first time because this guy has finished his transformation. He had indeed become James Bond.

Daniel Craig was perfect for his time, but that time is over.  Osama Bin Laden is dead (probably). * And we are facing new threats which we would have never dreamed of fifteen years ago.  His time is over. But they can’t find a replacement, so they keep hauling him back despite the fact that he clearly doesn’t want the part anymore. 

Consequently, Eon is giving this actor a lot more power over a role he dislikes and is disengaged with. Craig is now trying to make sure that Bond has a story arcs again, which means changing Bond once he has become Bond.   

 This is doing it wrong. This is making a Gary Stu a real person, and no one wants that from a Gary Stu. You can’t change Conan, you can’t change Rambo and you can’t change James Bond.

Not without screwing them up.

 And worse Craig wants to make James Bond feminist-friendly (of course) since he doesn’t really give a fuck about the character anymore.  He seems to have reached the Patrick Stewart stage where he actively detests his signature character.  And he wants to do everything in his power to destroy him.

He made a good start with that by insisting that Eon hire Phoebe Waller-Bridge to provide feminist punch-up.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge is in the process of creating a place for herself as the feminist franchise killer.  And the silly part it’s not even her fault.  She is a decent comedy writer, and in-person comes across as an almost likable Karen with a decent sense of humor.  She does have Trans face despite being the kind of woman that has …(googling now, just to make certain)…two X chromosomes.  I’m not a fan but there are other celebrities I hate more.  

Here is the deal with Phoebe.  Every few years a female comic is chosen at random to be the new feminist It Girl. They are usually unattractive and unfunny.  Their material consists entirely of golf-clap humor.  The jokes aren’t good at all but the audience is a bunch of fashionable Lefties who know they are supposed to like this boring crap so they clap at the “jokes” aimed at Left-wing political targets.  The new lottery winner then gets an HBO comedy special. A magazine shoot that tests the outermost limits of make-up, lighting, and camera technique to make someone look reasonably attractive. Finally, she gets a movie gig that has her opposite Meryl Streep. And then everyone suddenly realizes one day that her insane rantings aren’t that funny, and they move on to the next one.

Twenty-five years ago, it was Roseanne Barr.

Fifteen years ago, it was Margret Cho.

Five years ago, it was Amy Schumer.

Now, it’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

And for once they’ve picked someone who is reasonably funny.  I mean its comedic actress and comedy writer “funny” but I’ve actually chuckled at her work on occasion.  Which is more than I can say for any other Feminist It Girl.

However, I’m afraid this talent has created a drastic overestimation of her abilities.  She’s been getting work she simply can’t handle for a few years now.  Her biggest failure to date was Solo: A Star Wars Story.  She was the one that turned Lando into a Robo-sexual and tried to start the Droid Civil Rights movement. Despite the fact that up until Solo, Droids had (for forty years) been treated like used cars.  You might be fond of one that gives you it’s all.  And you’d get pissed if someone keyed it but they weren’t an oppressed minority until Phoebe bumbled her way into the Star Wars universe. She literally didn’t know what a “droid” was when she took the part.

Now, she is helping wreck James Bond. In the as-yet-unreleased; No Time to Die (terrible name, just terrible). 007 is a kick-ass diverse woman of colour that immediately puts Bond in his place.  Nobody at MI6’s front desk knows who he is (just like Captain Picard!), he has a WIFE who betrays him or something… A-N-D it’s ruined. 

One of the few good things to come out of COVID was being spared the release of this cinematic abortion. 

Now, it appears that it will stay unreleased, for the time being anyway. The most interesting thing about this mess is the reason that it’s being kept in the vault.

Nobody is willing to pay Sony’s price for the streaming rights.  Allegedly, they want $600 million for this overpriced film school project. There’s no doubt in my mind that Sony knew the odds were pretty slim but “no ask, no sale.”  

Regardless yeah, Netflix, Amazon and Apple all told Sony to pound sand.  In no universe are the streaming rights to this thing worth better than a half-billion dollars.

What is really interesting here is that we now know this is Sony’s walk-away price.  $600 million is what it will take for them to just break even.  Six hundred million is what a major tentpole has to rake in just to keep the lights on and it’s NOT going to happen.  Not in this environment.  The theaters may be done forever. Millennials were transitioning out of going to movies and Zoomers hadn’t gotten into the habit yet.

No Time to Die isn’t the only major tentpole that is being kept in vault because studios can’t get their money back through streaming. Wonder Woman 1984, Top Gun Maverick, Venom, Ghostbusters: Afterlife (which is the only one on this list I actually want to see.  Worst hit is Marvel owner Disney with The Eternals and Black Widow now rotting on the shelf.  All of these films were shot with the intent of pulling down somewhere in the neighborhood of a billion dollars. 

And. It. Is. Not. Going. To. Happen.

All of the studio are strapped to table and a laser is slowly and remorselessly advancing up the middle.

*and if he isn’t he wishes he was.

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