At the world premiere of “No Time to Die” at London’s Royal Albert Hall on Tuesday, the uncertainty of where the franchise is headed after 15 years led by Daniel Craig, or even the crucial details of how Amazon’s $8.45 billion acquisition of Bond studio MGM is going to play out, didn’t seem to matter very much at all.
Fifteen months after its original April 2020 release date, surrounded by all the Union Jacks, brass bands and Royal Armed Forces soldiers one might expect at a Bond movie world premiere in Britain, Wilson said it best on the red carpet: “The waiting has been terrible, but we finally got here.”
Indeed, even through a pandemic that brought the exhibition sector to its knees, the custodians of Bond did not break, instead digging their heels in and committing to a theatrical release. On stage, Wilson gave a heartfelt thanks to studio partners MGM and Universal “for ensuring this film had a cinema release.”
“We’re thrilled to be sharing the 25th Bond film the way it was intended to be shown, and shot — on the big screen,” echoed director Cary Joji Fukunaga, before introducing 11 members of the cast, including Craig, Lea Seydoux, Lashana Lynch and Rami Malek.
Craig, in a dazzling velvet pink blazer, kept his final valediction as Bond’s caretaker — the man who helped to humanize the hard-edged spy — succinct: “Look at where we are. Look at this, look at us!” he remarked, later thanking Wilson and Broccoli and dedicating the film to the U.K.’s frontline health workers.
Inside the 150-year-old auditorium, 4,000 people — a portion of them key workers — gathered amid members of the royal family. Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, were seated in the royal box alongside his father and stepmother: Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla Parker-Bowles. (Judging by the perpetual grin on Prince William’s face as he joked with Craig and other stars at a royal presentation line before the premiere, it’s evidently one of the major perks of the job.)
While the seating inside the theater felt, occasionally, uncomfortably snug for a movie with a 163-minute runtime, strict COVID protocols were in place for everyone in attendance, and entry had been permitted only with proof of a negative lateral flow test or PCR test taken within 48 hours.
In a note to attendees sent earlier in the week, Eon Productions, MGM and Universal had said, “We recognized that for some of you, this will be the first public event that you may have attended for more than a year, but please be assured that we have worked closely with the Royal Albert Hall and our suppliers, and together have taken a number of measures to ensure a safe and enjoyable evening.”
With such assurances in mind, few people bothered to wear masks throughout the screening and dug heartily into the “James Bond Dry Martini” popcorn placed atop every seat.
The long-anticipated feature — from its dizzying opening sequence through to one delicious, action-packed set piece after another — will no doubt polarize fans, with a bombastic ending that will ensure the conversation around James Bond’s future stampedes straight through into 2022, when Broccoli has said the Eon team will begin to discuss Craig’s successor.
And, indeed, as a cheeky title card that quickly flashed post credits promised: “James Bond Will Return.” Certainly, not as a woman, as Broccoli made perfectly clear this week, but in a new world where the brand’s studio home is owned by a Silicon Valley company and where the identity of its next warden will be more closely scrutinized than ever before in Bond’s 58-year history.