The James Bond Franchise has been around for over 50 years. That is incredible give Mr. Bond a big round of applause! Hopefully all of you who are reading this are clapping and not sighing. But 50 years is a big feat to accomplish. It's truly amazing how this property has stayed so fresh and new. And most of all how it stays on top of all the competition throughout the years. No one does it better than Bond.
Being a James Bond aficionado I noticed a pattern of success. Now there is not much research out there as I hoped to help back up my article. But I came to realize that Bond gets popular after every third movie. In order of release third film not every three movies. So the first big hit was Goldfinger in 1964. That set off Bondmania and propelled the franchise into history. Then there was The Spy Who Loved Me in 1977, The World Is Not Enough in 1999, and finally Skyfall in 2012. Each of those movies sparked Bonds popularity, and with each subsequent film the gross was higher and higher.
You can see in the graph above of the actual grosses of the film without inflation. You can also see that after the fourth film the box office take gets lower and lower until the next big spike. Why is it the third movie? What's so special about it that makes it get those kinds of numbers? I have a few theories of course otherwise why would I be writing this article? I could be watching all 23 James Bond movies in one sitting...Don't do that unless you really don't like yourself.
The Audience Gets Used To The Actor Playing Bond
Everyone has an idea of what Bond should look like, and act like. It could take a while before people start to warm up to an actor. Sean Connery is the exception, not because he's the best, because he was the first actor to play him. The property was relatively new. Besides the failed TV show episode in the late 50's that was an adaption of Casino Royale. It had an American play Bond, and they called him Jimmy. Back to Connery. Connery wasn't known, and there wasn't a big push for Bond in the first place so no one cared who was in role. It was just a movie.
Dr. No came out to rave reviews in 1962. Audience members and critics enjoyed it. Connery showed all of us who Bond was. This cool powerful man who took action. From Russia With Love came out and did even better than Dr. No at the box office. People really liked James Bond and the adventures he went on. Then Goldfinger made everyone go crazy. The film still holds up today. It's faced paced, interesting, and enjoyable. And everyone got it in their mind that Sean Connery is Bond. Later on in his Bond career poster ads exclaimed that Connery is Bond!
Of course this came back to bite the producers in the ass when Sean Connery had enough and they were forced to recast the role. So now we get into Roger Moore who was known for his work on the TV Show The Saint. He was criticized by people because they said "He acted with his eyebrows." It was a clever way to say he was to comedic for the role. Though he did raise his eyebrows a lot for comedic affect.
His first two movies didn't really play to his strengths. They felt more like Sean Connery's Bond. There was glimpses of what we know now who Roger Moore's Bond was. Everyone wasn't entirely convinced at first, but after a small hiatus The Spy Who Loved Me came out and became the second biggest movie of the year. Moore played James Bond four more times making him the longest running actor in the role. He was suave and a little bit goofy, but he could still kick your ass if he wanted too.
Timothy Dalton's Bond never got to experience a third movie or a big break, but I believe if he had a third movie it would have been a success. Now we move on to Pierce Brosnan who was always wanted in the role since Dalton was signed on. He was greeted to welcoming positive reviews, and it wasn't until The World Is Not Enough that made him big. People liked him cause he was a combination of all the other actors who played Bond before. Though he did play it more tongue in cheek like Roger Moore did. He was still very popular even though his movies were poorly received.
The first and second movies start off as icebreakers for the audience. This is who you are going to get, and this is what you should expect from them. Many people argue that one actor who has played Bond is better than the other, but does it really affect the performance of the film itself? This is flimsy, but people are always wary of a new actor stepping into the role of an established character who's been played by someone who is known for being that character. Just imagine how long it'll take for people to get used to the new actor who will play Wolverine or Iron Man. There might be some validity to this theory, but I think the next one holds more water.
The Formula Has Been Perfected and People Don't Like Change
When you watch the very first Bond movies you'll notice that every aspect of them seem rough around the edges. All the pieces are there, but they just don't fit all together. That's why I think Goldfinger was so popular. The film makers perfected the formula. It wasn't too crazy and absurd like later films, but it was grounded in some basic form of reality. Also, it presented us with the classic break down we see with all other Bond films. We get the opening sequence that may or may not have something to do with the overall plot, the opening credit sequence with a song, Bond getting a mission from M, Bond getting a gadget from Q, Bond meeting the villain, Bond meeting the Bond Girl, and Bond facing off with the villain for the remainder of the film. It's quite simple really. Throw in a few iconic and spectacular locations, beautiful girls, fast cars, and gun fights and you have your Bond film.
The Spy Who Loved Me, World Is Not Enough, and Skyfall all do the same things. Plus they even copy the locations, and the events of previous Bond films. They use call backs to say to you "hey guys everything is the same here." Nothing has changed, but everything has changed. Audience members recognize all the same things and don't care how the overall film is.
Both SWLM and WINE (HA wine) are both carbon copies of earlier Bond films. They only have small differences. Like The villain in Spy is not looking for money, but wants to destroy the surface so he can rule the underwater world. Previous films its more about extortion than world domination. In WINE, the villain is a woman, for the first time and maybe not the last, who is bent on having the wealthiest oil oligarchy. All the change seems to happen with the villains. Very little else gets changed.
Skyfall is the only exception to this rule. Sure it still uses call backs, but they are either very subtle and tastefully done, or they are only slightly in your face. Not like Die Another Day where they literally visit the prop room from previous Bond films. The whole movie is a dedication to Director Guy Hamilton and the films he has worked on like Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever, Live and Let Die, and The Man With The Golden Gun. They don't imitate more so than they pay homage and make it their own.
Which gives me hope that the current pattern will be broken. The pattern of the third film is great and successful, and the next film apes off the previous one. It's a complete rip off hitting the same story beats, and imitating the same action sequences. So stick around because Bond and I will return for the next article Four Your Eyes Only....