James Bond is dead, long live James Bond! With many fans, the dust seems to have settled following the controversial finale of ‘No Time To Die’ while others are still trying to come to terms with the inconceivability of the hero’s death. So, where are we now and where do we go from here?
The featured image above this article could not be a more fitting reflection for the current state of Bond: Torn and withered. The latest film is long out of the cinema and did not exactly deliver a phenomenal box office result. Yes, it was the most successful film during an ongoing pandemic. But did it haul in enough to satisfy all parties involved? I doubt it.
Awards have been given out and although ‘No Time To Die’ could score some wins in notable categories, it was disregarded in others. It couldn’t even make the newly introduced “Oscars Fan Favourite” list of movies. And then this lacklustre two-minute 60th anniversary tribute reel at this years Academy Awards ceremony. Remember how gorgeous the 50th anniversary tribute was back in 2013? A seven minute show of it’s own, introduced by Halle Berry and culminating in a stunning finale with Shirley Bassey belting out Goldfinger. Standing ovations. Goosebumps. Now, in it’s 60th year, the tribute felt more like a thing that had to be done instead of genuine appreciation for the world’s longest running film franchise. What happened along the way, that Bond is so poorly treated?
Not spitting your coffee on your screen while browsing the latest entertainment news has become quite a challenge lately. For example when you read, the Bond producers think that Daniel Craig should have received an Oscar nomination. For what exactly? Agreed, he was a good Bond but worthy of an Academy Award? You just cannot help but thinking, that someone is in definite need of a long overdue reality check.
Truth or Dare?
It pains me to openly criticise how I think Bond is currently treated as a brand. I would like to write nice, positive things and thus support the franchise I love. But there comes a time where you inevitably have to ask yourself the question, whether you want to write fact or fiction. Do you want to be told what you want to hear, or do you want the truth? It’s a double-edged sword.
There are many fans who feel, that the Bond franchise has been steered onto a questionable path. I don’t mean the death of the main character. That, if anything, was a bold artistic choice. One that certainly didn’t help. It tore fans into factions, creating a difference of opinions unlike any we have seen before. It started a debate on principles.
The Bond franchise has an impact on the entertainment world and of course the fans. We love Bond. Period. But, frankly, it has become increasingly difficult to do so with the weird direction the franchise has been taking for the past few years. Look at the official 007 shop for instance. The products are more and more aimed at big wallets with ludicrous prices for luxury items that nobody really needs.
Too pricey? Move along, peasant!
Remember the golden 007 Zippo for 25.000 Pounds? Quite rightly, this produced a formidable backlash on the official 007 Twitter feed. One of many. Then there was the 60th anniversary Steiff teddy bear for a whopping 279 Pounds. Not only does it have absolutely no connection to James Bond, it’s also weird to look at having no trousers but his legs simply having been painted black. Cringeworthy. The clothing line by Bella Freud with a price range between 95 – 295 Pounds looks like it was designed by a 10-year-old and is about as stylish as a crocheted toilet roll cover. One can only be baffled at this blatantly displayed greed for money. In the event that you’re not in the exclusive club of deep-pocketed richlings, at least you can get a decent coffee mug or a door mat. If it wasn’t so sad, I would actually laugh it off.
I get, that in the broader sense James Bond is a luxury brand. It is and has for a long time been connected with other renowned luxury brands such as Omega, Aston Martin, Tom Ford or Bollinger. I also get that many try to imitate that lifestyle. To each their own. But when you speak to a lot of people like I do, it trickles through that this is often frowned upon. Is it envy? Rejection? Whatever the reason, the decision to continuously offer ridiculously priced products at the 007 store is alienating a large mass of fans and it creates a divide between rich and poor. Gone are the times when we were perfectly happy kids with a simple toy gun that we could afford from our pocket money.
Apparently, you’re the bigger fan if your Omega is a pricey original, instead of an AliExpress imitation by a cheaper brand. Well, I’m happy with my imitation. I just need it to tell me the time instead of being a status symbol.
Bond between Bond
There have always been Bond events all across the globe, attracting hungry fans for their dose of 007 lifestyle and socialising. What’s better than enjoying a Martini together with like-minded company? But watching a classic Bond on the big screen? Guess what: they are often blocked for screenings. They are just at this moment. If you’re planning to screen a Bond film in your local cinema, they will get informed that there is a ban on screenings. The same applies to the months shortly before a new Bond film hits theatres. Why? It escapes me. What better way to get people interested in the product and its history?
There is little to no effort by the responsible parties behind James Bond to maintain interest in their brand between films. Let’s face it, the time between films will most likely be longer rather than shorter. Why are there no fan events brought about or at least supported by Eon Productions and their partners? Where is the passion for your product? During the past years, the best events were organised by dedicated fans.
Instead, a lot of effort is put into shutting down no-profit fan projects or blocking channels & videos on YouTube. MGM has been quite active in that field recently. It is understandable, that in some cases copyright might be an issue but in many other cases it isn’t. Creative content put out by Bond YouTubers is more entertaining and visually appealing than what you can find on the official channels. And it is the better, free advertising. Why is that? Are we more dedicated than the people being paid for that kind of thing? Apparently, since the official Bond social media channels underperform extremely.
And what ever happened to ‘Project 007’, the new videogame announced by Danish video game developer IO Interactive in November 2020? It has been very quiet and little to no news came through following that flashy teaser trailer. They were still recruiting personell to work on the game in the summer of 2021. It all seems to be in limbo. Shame really. Especially because the gamers among us are left with a glimmer of hope, having been cheated for our money with the crushing disappointment that was ‘007 Legends’ back in 2012.
Oh yes, reality. If you were worried when Amazon took over 50% of the Bond brand through its acquisition of MGM, your darkest nightmares will become painfully real once the reality game-show ‘007’s Road to a Million’ hits TV screens. James Bond – the sophisticated and glamorous spy extravaganza, reduced to a reality format. Appaling.
It must be feared, that this is only the beginning in a series of attempts to milk the Bond brand dry. Look at Disney and what they did with ‘Star Wars’. With a franchise like Bond, that has created so many legendary characters and plots, it won’t be long until we see spin-off’s galore.
Diamonds are forever – The 60th anniversary
I get asked a lot about what officials have planned to celebrate James Bond’s 60th anniversary – the Diamond Jubilee. I always give the same answer: Sorry, I don’t know. But I bet not much. There is no pleasure in repeating that over and over again.
So far, the simplistic official logo for the 60th anniversary has been slapped on a handful of products. London’s Burlington Arcade was briefly graced with a 007 installation. A new Apple documentary on the music of 007 has also been officially announced. But unless there still is unreleased archive material of the respective composers, what is the point? Four out of 10 composers have passed away.
Fans are still longing for a 4K Ultra-HD Blu-Ray release of all films. No news about that on the horizon. For the 50th anniversary, we had a new Bond film in theatres plus a big DVD Box-Set. Ten years on, we have a dead main character and a more than half-hearted franchise output. I think I’ll put my party hat back in the drawer.
Take me around the world one more time James
If you’ve come this far, I know this hasn’t been an easy read. It wasn’t an easy write either. You will probably not agree with me on many points. But that’s okay. I love Bond just as much as you and I will go on supporting the Bond franchise for another round. Surely another after that. Simply because all those talented people, who actively work on set to make these films, deserve it. But it’s not as fun as it was twenty years ago.
I still hope, that the anniversary year will be used to make some sort of official announcement regarding the future of James Bond. Even if it is just a news item that a casting process for a new actor has begun. There needs to be something to show the world, that 007 is still relevant and WILL return.