Now that the major “franchise” movies of the summer have been unveiled, it’s time to ask the big question:
Where’s James Bond now that we need him?
The classic Bond movies had action, but they also had wit and style. By contrast, this summer’s movies are noisy and overwrought.
Sean Connery was the king of cool. On the other hand, Angelina Jolie and even Tom Cruise (not to mention the thugs from “A-Team”) seem sweaty and over-caffeinated.
Consider summer epics like “Knight and Day,” “Prince of Persia,” “Jonah Hex” and “Salt” and here’s the common denominator: They’re all trying too hard.
Now think back on “Goldfinger” or “From Russia With Love” or “Thunderball.” They flirted with audiences rather than hammering them into submission. (They also cost a lot less money.)
We all know why James Bond is on hiatus: MGM and UA have stalled and the Bond franchise has stalled with them.
Until that morass is resolved we’re going to have to settle for the James Bond videogame, called “Blood Stone,” which is newly released by Activision. It cost well over $100 million to create and it has both Daniel Craig and Judi Dench, but it’s still a videogame.
There have been some 22 Bond movies over the last 50 years and Bond has been played by actors ranging from Cool Connery to Roger Moore, who, at times, seemed more like a courtly maitre d’ than an action hero.
Craig, the most recent Bond, was by far the most lethal — the movies’ body count increased accordingly — but he’s still downright laidback compared with the action heroes of the moment, even Cruise.
“When Cruise was young, he played hustlers with terrific drive, but ‘cool’ is simply out of his range — he’s too jacked up for that,” wrote David Denby in the New Yorker. He added: “Right about now, audiences could use an international comedy thriller with fancy travel, fine hotels and dazzling oil-free beaches.”
Sounds to me like the prescription for a Bond movie.
The James Bond character originally emerged from a series of novels, of course, but Hollywood by and large has lost its interest in the novel as a source of film material. I recently ran into a young development executive who thought Harry Potter had initially been a videogame.
Given this trend, the saga behind a project called “One Day” represents an intriguing deviation from the norm. Based on a novel by a young writer named David Nicholls, “One Day” is shooting in London even as it climbs to the top of the bestseller lists here and abroad. And it’s being co-produced and co-funded by its publisher, Random House.
An offbeat love story, “One Day” focuses on two lovers who encounter each other sporadically over the course of 20 years and each time they perfectly connect — but don’t. Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess play the leads under the direction of Lone Scherfig, who did a fine job with “An Education.”
Peter Gethers, the president of Random House Films, and a respected editor, came upon the manuscript at roughly the same time as did Focus Films, which was a happy coincidence since the two entities have a venture to co-finance films together. When the deal was announced two years ago, it raised eyebrows — publishers never venture into the movie business, especially during these lean times.
The movie is not exactly a franchise film — its budget is in the $15 million to $20 million range — but Random House and its corporate parent, Bertelsmann, stands to profit both from the film and the book. Projections are that “One Day,” a Vintage paperback, may sell well over 250,000 copies.
If the project succeeds, it would defy conventional wisdom on several levels. The film is an adult love story; those supposedly don’t work anymore. And co-ventures between publishers and movie companies have never worked in Hollywood.
But optimism persists. Random House and Focus insist they’re going to produce other films together, perhaps two more this year. And, yes, they’re based on novels.