The wait was finally over when production of the 25th film of the Bond franchise was officially launched today in Jamaica. An initial sigh of relief went through the global Bond community, ending a four year wait for a new film. Yet, when the live stream began, the excitement quickly turned to perplexity as the overall presentation left many fans rather unimpressed.
When the live launch event was announced yesterday as being streamed from an iconic location tied to the history of James Bond, it just had to be Goldeneye, the famed Jamaica retreat of author Ian Fleming. As many fans had rightly figured that out pretty quickly, the surprise WOW effect the launch could have had was immediately out the window.
At the designated time of the live stream – an almost 8 minute delay. The live chat was going wild and one could not help using the time to recall the various pre-production difficulties of the past few months. It almost felt like a bad omen. But suddenly, the voice of BBC Radio 1 presenter Clara Amfo welcomed viewers to the Goldeneye estate. Cue Bond theme music, followed by a tribute video mashup of all previous 24 James Bond films.
With a sweeping drone shot over the beautiful ocean and beach, viewers were taken back to Goldeneye where in February 1952, Fleming began writing his first Bond novel, Casino Royale. Producers Barbara Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson and director Cary Joji Fukunaga were all smiles when it was their turn to introduce the 25th James Bond adventure to the world.
The sound started to cause trouble and the whole setup was way more modest compared to previous press launches. At that point, I was still hopeful for a grand entrance of the stars or a surprise reveal with the much desired WOW effect. Something to reflect the unique style and grandeur that James Bond is also unmistakeably tied to.
NO TITLE YET
Being asked what fans can expect from the new James Bond film, Barbara Broccoli revealed a glimpse of the synopsis starting with Bond not being in active service and instead enjoying himself in his spiritual home Jamaica. Then the surprise, but not in the way many of us hoped. “We have quite a ride in store for Mr. Bond and no title unfortunately yet.”
So, Bond 25 will remain Bond 25 for the time being. But what made me really flinch was Michael G. Wilson not remembering the last time they had a title when the beginning of filming was announced and calling it a tradition. Having followed the production of every Bond film closely since Tomorrow Never Dies in 1997, I somehow have a different memory. Just looking at Daniel Craig’s tenure as 007, every film was announced with its proper title at the individual press launch. That was uncomfortable to watch.
Director Cary Fukunaga confirmed, that scenes in Norway had already been filmed due to weather conditions. Following the filming in Jamaica, production will move back to Pinewood Studios and London before finishing in the Italian city of Matera, the European City of Culture 2019.
Almost ten minutes into the live event, Fukunaga introduced the returning cast members around Daniel Craig, comprised of Ralph Fiennes (‘M’), Léa Seydoux (‘Madeleine Swann’), Rory Kinnear (‘Tanner’), Naomie Harris (‘Moneypenny’) and Ben Wishaw (‘Q’). Bond 25 will also see the return of Jeffrey Wright as CIA agent Felix Leiter, a beloved character throughout the series, appearing in a total of nine films. Wright took on the role in Casino Royale (2006) and last appeared as Leiter in Quantum of Solace (2008).
The new cast members include Dali Benssalah (NOX), Billy Magnussen (Aladdin, Maniac), Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049), David Dencik (The Kindness of Strangers, McMafia), Lashana Lynch (Captain Marvel) as well as Rami Malek who won the 2019 Best Actor Academy Award for his portrayal of music legend Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody.
The casting of Malek was long rumoured, especially after his stunt double had posted a picture on Instagram, hinting at a possible involvement in Bond 25. Thus, the surprise was severely minimized.
The presentation of this superb cast, with Fukunaga dropping the names faster than the images could appear on screen, was shockingly blunt and uninspired. It was lightyears away from the presentation of Spectre back in December 2014. Given that especially Rami Malek shot to fame so rapidly and his performance in Bohemian Rhapsody was not only much praised by critics but also won him an Oscar, his name was just dropped without any noticeable glee or pride.
It was right there, halfway through the live event, that I felt this overall presentation to be a wasted opportunity to ignite this special spark in the heart of James Bond fans across the world and make them hungry and excited for this new 007 adventure.
The Q & A
Joining host Clara Amfo and director Cary Fukunaga in a Q & A session were Ana de Armas, Naomie Harris, Lashana Lynch as well as Daniel Craig who looked in great shape but somehow absent. Rami Malek was not present but had sent a pre-recorded video message in which he promised, that “Mr. Bond will not have an easy ride in this.”
Before the event began, fans were asked to send in their questions via social media and the hashtag #Bond25. This morning, I read many great questions being sent in by fellow Bond aficionados and website editors that really had substance and went way above the usual “How does it feel to be part of a Bond film?”.
Imagine my amazement, when exactly five largely trivial questions were picked for the Q&A. Literally none of them made you excited for the answer. Ana de Armas couldn’t even answer how she prepared for her role, first helplessly looking over to director Cary Fukunaga for guidance before passing the ball to him completely. Not only did this Q&A feel absolutely ill-prepared, it was sadly downright awkward to watch.
THE LAST HURRAH?
The live event concluded with a look at one of the sets for Bond 25 – Bond’s house in Jamaica. By that time, I was a bit lost for words. Not even 20 minutes had passed and I was supposed to be super hyped for the next Bond to start shooting. Instead, I was reminiscing about previous press launches with very mixed feelings.
I love Bond to bits, I am a die-hard fan like probably anyone who reads this. I have been a fan for over 20 years now, love to support the franchise in any way I can and will continue to do so. However, what I have seen today and what I felt during it was underwhelming. Overall, it was a lifeless and dry presentation of something that once had a straight WOW effect. Where was the palpable passion, the glitz and style?
Many might not agree with my bold criticism but looking at the incredible history and legacy of the James Bond film series, I hold the view that it should be dignified with the same constant dedication and passion at all times. For the past few months, I had the unpleasent feeling this dedication and passion is somehow in the process of slowly fading away. And still, a large part of my fan heart desperately wants to trust the producers to make the right decisions for their franchise.
Apparently, this will be Daniel Craig’s final appearance as James Bond and given the many pre-production difficulties and delays, one just cannot help noticing a worrying change. Maybe I am too critical, but certainly not alone in may way of thinking. A great number of fans were perplexed today for reasons I just wrote about.
I might be wrong and quite sincerely hope I am, but this feels like the swan song.