If cinema became obsolete tomorrow, Eon Productions, producers of the James Bond series, would look back on a period of success for their character not seen since the 1960’s, when James Bond truly ruled the world, when nobody did it better.
The last four entries have seen the two highest grossers of the series, Skyfall and Spectre, with the former the most popular, even when adjusted for inflation. Two of the last four, Casino Royale and the aforementioned Skyfall, have also met with almost universal acclaim; with Rotten Tomatoes scores in the mid-90’s, and their star, Daniel Craig, widely considered the best Bond since
It seems almost churlish, in light of all of this, to suggest that EON’s stewardship of the series is failing; but all of this masks a time bomb, similar to that facing modern Formula One; that of an aging fan base, and a failure to do the work necessary to engage the next generation.
Our most recent James Bond adventure, Spectre, was released in the Autumn of 2015; its two most immediate predecessors, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall, at the equivalent points in 2008 and 2012, respectively. A teenager beginning sixth form in the UK now has had a total of three Bond films released in their entire school career and, at best, will get a fourth; providing there is no delay to the next Bond film, last week announced for February 2020.
In the absence of cinema releases there can be other ways to keep the interest of a fan base. In the past, as Lucasfilm have done with Star Wars, the James bond franchise was expanded, to varied degrees of success, by a number of video game entries. In some cases these served as additional adventures for the current Bond. Examples of this include Blood Stone, starring Daniel Craig, and Everything or Nothing, a big-budget Pierce Brosnan entry, which offered him, arguably, a far more fitting swansong than his final film, Die Another Day.
In some cases they have been adaptations of the films, such as the seminal Goldeneye, on the Nintendo 64. In 2005 they even managed to coax Sean Connery out of retirement for a new adaptation of From Russia with Love. With the heavy physical demands on an actor, the possibilities for filling the inevitable downtime with new adventure, elseworlds-style takes, or even a period piece alternate continuity are endless. Consoles and PCs have not seen a new video game since 2012’s appalling 007 Legends; a cheap-looking Call of Duty clone.
So, if fans cannot look to video games, maybe EON could trade on the long history of the series with a foray onto the convention circuit. Star Trek has such events as Star Trek Las Vegas; Star Wars has the biennial Celebration. James Bond? Not so much. Perhaps, Eon would take a leaf out of Marvel’s book and make use of such events as San Diego Comic Con: a wonderful opportunity to talk to younger fans (and, importantly, potential *new* fans), at a forum that is then transmitted around the World. To date, no such appearances have ever been made.
The Bond series has been a consistently excellent product, building generations of fans around the world. It is also a series, however, that is under the stewardship of Michael G. Wilson, a man of nearly 80 and Barbara Broccoli, a woman of nearly 60. They are, by all accounts, excellent ‘nuts and bolts’ producers; adept at the day-to-day grind of production on one of the biggest franchises the world has seen. They know little of the modern multi-media world, however. The franchise is crying out for fresh ideas, and an expanded pallet of skills to take it forward.
Last week, Broccoli and Wilson announced Cary Joji Fukunaga, director of the terrific debut season of True Detective, as director of Bond 25. This is a brave, forward-looking decision, that demonstrates Eon remain keen to push the series forward, and in new directions. We must remain hopeful, as always, that the next James Bond adventure will number amongst the best.
What do you think of the new director of Bond 25? Let us know!