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C'Mon Hollywood: Learn from the success of Bond!

Nov. 6, 2012by: Paul Shirey

This week the 23rd James Bond film, SKYFALL, will open nationwide (after already making a killing overseas) and we will finally be able to witness what is shaping up to be one of the best Bond films ever made. Certainly there are highs (CASINO ROYALE) and lows (MOONRAKER) in Bond’s tenure onscreen, but one thing has remained consistent: the integrity of the character. For all the creative changes in terms of casting and directing, the Bond films have remained consistent in tone, character, theme, stunts, gadgets, and of course, babes.

After 50 years one would think that Bond would have undergone at least one major facelift that took the character in another direction entirely. And yet, even after decades of being a suave, debonair spy who sips shaken-not-stirred martinis, wears a bow-tie tux, beds women like it’s a second career, and ruthlessly slays enigmatic and theatrical bad guys with sharp violence and snarky puns, the character remains relatively unchanged. In short, Bond is a bit of a miracle.

So, how is it that Bond has managed to remain a cinematic staple without suffering a major overhaul or loss of identity? And, furthermore, how can we get the rest of Hollywood to pay attention to that model of success? The real champions of Bond’s success are the franchise’s owners, who have stood by the brand of Bond from the very beginning. Starting with Albert R. Broccoli, who produced under his Eon Productions, the series has remained “in the family” so to speak (although not Bond creator Ian Fleming’s), which is currently run by Albert’s heirs, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson.

Although it hasn’t been all smooth sailing, with various legal battles, bankruptcy, contract disputes, etc., the simple fact remains that through each hurdle, Bond was able to retain the essence of Bond. He didn’t come back from a hiatus as a beer-swigging American or a British SAS super Soldier, or some other variation that would take him out of the character Fleming created and make him into some other cliché. Instead, Bond has remained perfectly intact.

From Sean Connery to George Lazenby to Roger Moore to Timothy Dalton to Pierce Brosnan, and now to Daniel Craig, each actor has embodied the essence of the character in film so exactly that there was never a need to re-establish or recreate the character in some ludicrous way. Nothing was broken that needed fixing. CASINO ROYALE (2006) acts as somewhat of a reboot, but doesn’t interrupt the essence of the character, which is never dependent on history; just character. While some story threads have carried on between films, the one thing that’s remained the same is Bond himself, regardless of who’s wearing his face.

The producers have maintained a strong model for Bond, which is to keep the momentum and the integrity, while brining in fresh talent to weave a new chapter of the British spy’s adventures. The actors are interchangeable, each adding their own special touch to the character, but we never have to start over or revisit an origin or suffer some massive overhaul that smears the very product it is trying to sell. One of the few things you can count on with a Bond film is that you will see James Bond 007 as he was always intended to be, not some half-assed trending character that will be obsolete in a few years.

What this 50-year success story does is teach a lesson to the franchise builders of Hollywood, who seem to enjoy tearing down and building up their properties (THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, THE BOURNE LEGACY, HIGHLANDER, ROBOCOP, TOTAL RECALL, DAREDEVIL, FANTASTIC FOUR, X-MEN, etc.) until they reach some magic money number that “allows” them to progress to a sequel. Instead of just picking up and carrying on (which is my advice for the next Batman franchise) with who the character(s) are, the goal becomes changing everything to fit a marketing model.

It’s not all doom and gloom for franchises out there as Marvel Studios has demonstrated with its successful string of Phase One films, which also benefitted from the faith in their characters. Another model that has taken great cue’s from the Bond franchise is that of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, which has seen new creators tackle each film, while still retaining the heroic antics of Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt (although Hunt is arguably less idiosyncratic than Bond).

Ultimately, the success of Bond comes down to the genuine care taken to preserve the integrity of his character, which has made it one of the highest-grossing franchises in history (and still going strong) and a household name all over the world. Not every film is franchise-worthy, but those that have the potential should look to Bond as a measure of what “right” looks like. In the end, the old cliché is the truest one; character is everything.

Extra Tidbit: What franchise would you like to follow the Bond model? Personally, I hope Mission: Impossible sticks to Ethan Hunt and I'd love to see Batman (as well as a host of comic properties) take on a more serialized approach (much like their source material).
Source: JoBlo.com

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6:58AM on 11/07/2012
Although the essence of Bond has remained, the tone of a lot of the movies has changed to pander to whatever is 'hip' at the moment. How about Kung Fu Bond? (The Man with the Golden Gun), Bond in Space? (Moonraker), Blaxploitation Bond? (Live and Let Die) Bourne Bond? (Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace). If Roger Moore was making Bond movies today I wouldn't be surprised at 'Superhero Bond'.
Although the essence of Bond has remained, the tone of a lot of the movies has changed to pander to whatever is 'hip' at the moment. How about Kung Fu Bond? (The Man with the Golden Gun), Bond in Space? (Moonraker), Blaxploitation Bond? (Live and Let Die) Bourne Bond? (Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace). If Roger Moore was making Bond movies today I wouldn't be surprised at 'Superhero Bond'.
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8:33PM on 11/06/2012
Other than Ethan Hunt, who is basically an American Bond, I don't see the Bond formula working for other series. Nor do I want them to use that formula. My favorite film series, Star Wars, LOTR, Harry Potter, Dark Knight, Godfather, Back to the Future, are series with a clear beginning and end. I find those series more interesting as a whole. I'm glad to formula works for Bond, but I think it works b/c it has the established history.
Other than Ethan Hunt, who is basically an American Bond, I don't see the Bond formula working for other series. Nor do I want them to use that formula. My favorite film series, Star Wars, LOTR, Harry Potter, Dark Knight, Godfather, Back to the Future, are series with a clear beginning and end. I find those series more interesting as a whole. I'm glad to formula works for Bond, but I think it works b/c it has the established history.
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6:39PM on 11/06/2012

Tidbit: Dredd

I agree with I:M and Batman but would really love for Dredd with Karl Urban as the lead to be serialized; they've got tons of great material and a excellant lead. I guess I'll just have to keep dreaming...
I agree with I:M and Batman but would really love for Dredd with Karl Urban as the lead to be serialized; they've got tons of great material and a excellant lead. I guess I'll just have to keep dreaming...
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6:26PM on 11/06/2012

Really?

I'm not sure I agree with the premise of this article, which is the assertion that the Bond films have been largely consistent in terms of "tone, character, theme, stunts, gadgets, and of course, babes". There have been good, relatively more realistic Bond films (From Russia With Love, Casino Royale, etc.) and way over the top Bond movies (take your pick) in which 007 basically becomes a parody of himself. The more recent Daniel Craig films seem to have been influenced themselves by the
I'm not sure I agree with the premise of this article, which is the assertion that the Bond films have been largely consistent in terms of "tone, character, theme, stunts, gadgets, and of course, babes". There have been good, relatively more realistic Bond films (From Russia With Love, Casino Royale, etc.) and way over the top Bond movies (take your pick) in which 007 basically becomes a parody of himself. The more recent Daniel Craig films seem to have been influenced themselves by the success of the Bourne films in terms of tone, character and stunts, etc. Ironically, this has taken the character and the films closer to the source material since any of the other films since the Connery days. In any event, I'm dying to see Skyfall and I'm thrilled to see this current incarnation of Bond continue to thrive.
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+2
4:09PM on 11/06/2012
And my vote goes to Indiana Jones.. that is a character if handled right could set up another fun trilogy.. easy!

I hope they get it right with Mad Max as well...
And my vote goes to Indiana Jones.. that is a character if handled right could set up another fun trilogy.. easy!

I hope they get it right with Mad Max as well...
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+3
2:30PM on 11/06/2012
Something us Brits know how to do is milk a cash cow, but seriously I think they have already done this successfully with Jack Ryan movies. Looking forward to the next installment with Chris Pine.
Something us Brits know how to do is milk a cash cow, but seriously I think they have already done this successfully with Jack Ryan movies. Looking forward to the next installment with Chris Pine.
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1:57PM on 11/06/2012
Y'know it boggles my mind each time Casino Royale is called a reboot because I think a breather-movie or something is more appropriate because each time Bond goes over top its a sign to ground him in the next movie.

Moonraker --> FYEO
LTK --> GoldenEye
DAD --> Casino Royale

So for Casino Royale to be called a reboot, does it means Dr. No becomes irrelevant? Because why didn't it take place in the same timeline? 9/11 is referenced in the movie. Or will Daniel Craig's Bond adventures
Y'know it boggles my mind each time Casino Royale is called a reboot because I think a breather-movie or something is more appropriate because each time Bond goes over top its a sign to ground him in the next movie.

Moonraker --> FYEO
LTK --> GoldenEye
DAD --> Casino Royale

So for Casino Royale to be called a reboot, does it means Dr. No becomes irrelevant? Because why didn't it take place in the same timeline? 9/11 is referenced in the movie. Or will Daniel Craig's Bond adventures somehow lead up to the events in Dr. No?

Anyways, I'm just rambling because I like to think each adventure as something unique and that's one of the things which I think works for the series unlike other franchises which always aim for a trilogy so that the book ends and then reboot/remake/rehash like in the case of Batman.

As for which franchise I'd like to see get the Bond treatment? That's tough because its the actor/actress who defines the role which makes re-casting difficult unless its a horror movie with a masked baddie protagonist. Can you picture anybody else playing Rocky? Or Ethan Hunt? I thought so, and Bond works because he's character driven and not actor-driven.

The sooner Hollywood realises this the better. They've done it with Batman and Superman so the next step is to take those characters out of their comfort zone into daring territory but that's highly unlikely. Besides who wants to see Batman kicking ass outside of Gotham?
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1:08PM on 11/06/2012
The GoldenEye trailer was fantastic, I've never seen it before. I can imagine watching that trailer for the first time in theater after a James Bond absence of 7 years.
The GoldenEye trailer was fantastic, I've never seen it before. I can imagine watching that trailer for the first time in theater after a James Bond absence of 7 years.
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+4
12:53PM on 11/06/2012
YEAH! maybe they can keep making SAW and Paranormal Activity movies. oh... wait...
YEAH! maybe they can keep making SAW and Paranormal Activity movies. oh... wait...
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+9
12:05PM on 11/06/2012
Hollywood can't do something like Bond because today's movie fans can't handle casting changes. Most people still think an Alien movie should be about Ellen Ripley or that The Terminator can only star Arnold Schwarzenegger. People would rather have Han Solo dead than a different actor playing him. Where the Bond franchise is about a character, American franchises are about the actor.
And if Hollywood would ever dare to make a 23th Spider-man everybody would say Hollywood isn't original
Hollywood can't do something like Bond because today's movie fans can't handle casting changes. Most people still think an Alien movie should be about Ellen Ripley or that The Terminator can only star Arnold Schwarzenegger. People would rather have Han Solo dead than a different actor playing him. Where the Bond franchise is about a character, American franchises are about the actor.
And if Hollywood would ever dare to make a 23th Spider-man everybody would say Hollywood isn't original anymore. Sure Toho can churn out 28 Godzilla movies, but Paramount would't get much praise if they announce Paranormal Activity 28.
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3:33PM on 11/06/2012
The problem with Spiderman is that there are too many things about it is that there are too many characters.

Peter, Aunt May, Mary Jane, JJ Jameson, Flash Thompson, Gwen Stacy, Captain Stacy, Felicia Hardy, Betty Brant, Eddie Brock. to name a few. Plus all the villains and cross over characters. Each reboot would require a new cast. James Bond's secondary characters like Q, M, and Moneypenny are not really important characters (in most cases), they are like the martini he drinks, a tradition
The problem with Spiderman is that there are too many things about it is that there are too many characters.

Peter, Aunt May, Mary Jane, JJ Jameson, Flash Thompson, Gwen Stacy, Captain Stacy, Felicia Hardy, Betty Brant, Eddie Brock. to name a few. Plus all the villains and cross over characters. Each reboot would require a new cast. James Bond's secondary characters like Q, M, and Moneypenny are not really important characters (in most cases), they are like the martini he drinks, a tradition to have. Each Bond introduces a new character.

This could work with Batman, having only Bruce Wayne and Alfred Pennyworth change. But like i said below, batman is tied up in Justice League at the moment and can't worry about new movies this decade
11:36AM on 11/06/2012

Well what if...

Indiana Jones
They are very similar characters, both are highly intelligent and athletic, both are a bit of a womanizer. Both have certain aspects that are essential in their respective films. And both go on countless, nonconsecutive adventures.

You can reboot the Indiana Jones franchise with a new actor and director. Just keep the whip, the time setting (late 20s-40s) and keep the whole archaeologist aspect. We can make Indiana Jones the American James Bond. Every few years we have a new
Indiana Jones
They are very similar characters, both are highly intelligent and athletic, both are a bit of a womanizer. Both have certain aspects that are essential in their respective films. And both go on countless, nonconsecutive adventures.

You can reboot the Indiana Jones franchise with a new actor and director. Just keep the whip, the time setting (late 20s-40s) and keep the whole archaeologist aspect. We can make Indiana Jones the American James Bond. Every few years we have a new Dr. Jones. Yes Crystal Skull was a direct sequel of Raiders, and Harrison Ford played a much older Dr. Jones, but look at Bond. A few of his films have also been direct sequels of previous ones, and Roger Moore played an old Bond in "A View to a Kill". So this could be done. The only difference is the Harrison Ford era of Dr. Jones is much longer than any James Bond era, but once that bridge is crossed, it'll be very easy to transition the franchise to a Bond format.

Not Batman, only because of the upcoming Justice League franchise, and not keen on Mission Impossible following this format. MI (in my opinion) would work better as a franchise that would pass the torch as part of its continuity. Tom Cruise did it with Jeremy Renner and in a few years, Jeremy Renner will do it again with another younger actor. I think that would work better than following the James Bond model. Indiana Jone would work best.
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11:15AM on 11/06/2012
Bond franchise has gone through up and down over 50 years of its existence. However, the two important questions are who the director and Bond actor will be. Nevertheless, right Bond doesn't mean it'll be a hit, i.e. Timothy Dalton who is a great Bond but at the wrong time. Supposing that he's the new Bond in Casino Royale (2006), I'm sure audiences will like him.
Bond franchise has gone through up and down over 50 years of its existence. However, the two important questions are who the director and Bond actor will be. Nevertheless, right Bond doesn't mean it'll be a hit, i.e. Timothy Dalton who is a great Bond but at the wrong time. Supposing that he's the new Bond in Casino Royale (2006), I'm sure audiences will like him.
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10:36AM on 11/06/2012

Waste of your fucking time Paul

You and I both know that when Hollywood get's it right, it's by sheer accident. Somehow the right elements come together to allow a film's production to miss some of the obstacles on the course and we get a winner. Don't get any expectation of Hollywood learning the right part of the lesson any time soon.

Just don't do that to yourself, it hurts too much.
You and I both know that when Hollywood get's it right, it's by sheer accident. Somehow the right elements come together to allow a film's production to miss some of the obstacles on the course and we get a winner. Don't get any expectation of Hollywood learning the right part of the lesson any time soon.

Just don't do that to yourself, it hurts too much.
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11:19AM on 11/06/2012
Ha! Yeah, you may be right. But, it sure would be nice if someone listened from time to time, eh?
Ha! Yeah, you may be right. But, it sure would be nice if someone listened from time to time, eh?
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