Putting the brakes on the James Bond franchise: Not a moment too soon?
I guess it's hardly a surprise that James Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson have suspended development indefinitely on their next Bond film, known as "Bond 23," since MGM, the franchise's home studio, is in total turmoil, having so far been able to find a buyer for its library and other assets. The studio has become something of a laughingstock in Hollywood, releasing tacky B-grade movies and enduring a never-ending round of executive hirings and firings.
But I'd argue that suspending development on a new Bond film is an idea whose time has come. In fact, if I were at the Bond helm, I'd put the franchise in suspended animation for a while. If you were unlucky enough to see the last Bond entry, the unbelievably awfully titled "Quantum of Solace," you'd know that it's time to send the series back into the shop. The 2008 film cost far more than any of its predecessors, but actually made less money (in worldwide grosses) than 2006's "Casino Royale," though of course when you still make $576.3 million, it's nothing to sneeze at.
But the franchise felt tired. In fact, it looked like an aging hipster with a bad face lift, especially when you tried to imagine Bond competing with all of its younger, sleeker offspring, films like "Iron Man," "Wanted" and "The Bourne Identity" series, which all are deeply rooted in the Bond adventure hero mystique, but have updated both the tone (more irony) and technology (even more gadgets) of the story. With Hollywood in the midst of a torrid love affair with 3-D, it might be a good idea for the Bond folks to sit on the sidelines and see how the 3-D mania plays out.
If the 3-D novelty fades, then Bond could return with a renewed momentum, playing up its roots by saying that what is old is suddenly new again. And if 3-D has staying power, with virtually every big summer and holiday behemoth being made in 3-D, then the producers would have time to re-engineer the franchise to take advantage of all of 3-D's vivid visual magic. Either way, it's a good time for Bond to stay out of the fray. I don't know if Mr. Bond ever had an opportunity to utter this aphorism in any of his many films, but sometimes discretion is better than valor.
Photo: Daniel Craig as James Bond in the 2008 film "Quantum of Solace." Credit: Susie Allnutt / Columbia Pictures