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What of Bond after No Time To Die?
The famous British agent is seemingly at crossroads, his next missions might not be film-only
Rarely ever are corporate mergers and acquisitions just about what’s happening right now or what’s happening soon, no? There’s often a long game played on some other level and showbiz M&As are no different. It’s something that James Bond fans would do well to remember, as Amazon’s purchase of MGM — which is to be finalized over the next few months — has already raised a number of questions about the franchise’s future.
Metro Goldwyn Mayer is a movie studio that has been doing things in the traditional Hollywood way for a very, very long time — for almost a century, in fact — whereas Amazon is the world’s biggest online retailer that had nothing to do with art, shows or films just a few short years ago. Not only is their background different, but their way of thinking about modern entertainment is quite dissimilar: MGM is only ever focused on its current slate of a few films to be produced and released in the foreseeable future, while Amazon is focused on a steady stream of desirable content driving recurring subscriptions long-term.
It’s hardly surprising, then, that media are already wondering what’s to become of James Bond as a franchise moving forward. As far as the British agent’s fate is concerned, MGM is only looking as far ahead as No Time To Die: the latest Bond adventure has had its release postponed three times because of the COVID-19 pandemic but it’s finally having its debut at the end of next month. It’s already the most expensive Bond film ever, reportedly requiring to score more than $900 million in the box office just to break even — in pandemic times no less, where not a single movie managed to score more than $750 million yet.
EON calls the shots, cinema comes first
As far as Amazon is concerned, though, James Bond is a valuable intellectual property that many types of content can be based on. How long before we hear about a 007 TV show or a new James Bond video game or even a Bond “interactive experience” like Netflix’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch?
The interesting thing about the MGM acquisition is that Amazon does not get to decide what happens with the James Bond intellectual property… yet. That’s because management rights to that still belong to EON Productions, the British company that has overseen all Bond films since the very first one in 1962. Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson serve as the franchise’s caretakers for many years now and they both dismiss the idea of a James Bond TV show. In a recent interview with Total Film magazine, Broccoli was adamant: “We make films. We make films for the cinema. That’s what we do.” Wilson was equally clear: “We’ve resisted that call for 60 years.” In their minds, James Bond is inextricably connected with the movie theatre experience.
Even they seem to allow for a change of heart at some point, though. “It’s tough to think about the future until No Time To Die has its moment,” Broccoli noted. “We just really want to celebrate this and, when the dust settles, then look at the landscape and figure out what the future is. Although I think one thing we’ve certainly learned in the last 18 months is you never know what the future is. So we have to sit down and think about it.”
In other words, long term, nothing is off the table for Amazon. The Internet giant, as the owner of MGM, may yet come to an agreement with EON for a big-budget TV series like the one it’s now producing based on The Lord of the Rings material. Would it be easy to pull off? No. There are all kinds of problems with a Bond TV show that a Bond film never had to deal with. Is there risk in weakening the Bond intellectual property, stretching it too thin across movie theatre and television productions? Definitely. It all depends on the quality of the TV show, obviously, but also on the long-term planning done around this hypothetical series. Disney proved that TV shows based on the material movies draw from can indeed work. Maybe it’s up to EON and Amazon to do the same with a smaller-scale “Bond-verse” of sorts.
A new James Bond video game is planned - so how could it all come together for 007 in the future?
EON had also announced way back in November 2020 that it’s working with IO Interactive — the development company behind the successful Hitman franchise — on a new James Bond video game codenamed Project 007. IO has described the game as a “wholly original Bond production” where “players will step into the shoes of the world’s favorite secret agent to earn their 00 status in the very first Bond origin story”. The title is currently in pre-production so there’s no release date attached to it as of yet. When it comes out, it will be the first 007 video game in more than a decade.
Video game fans know that James Bond has had a rather… chequered history with interactive entertainment: no less than 25 different titles based on 007’s adventures have been released between 1982 and 2012, their quality wildly ranging from the all-time classic Golden Eye 007 for the Nintendo 64 to the abysmal multi-format 007 Legends. Ten more James Bond-themed games have been announced and canceled for a number of different reasons during the last 30 years or so, leading many to believe that it’s one of those intellectual properties that it’s just too hard to base a very good game on.
This is simply not true, of course, as the 007 material that 25 films draw from is exceptionally well suited for cinematic games that feature action, stealth, puzzles, gadgets and vehicles in any number of exotic locations. Quite a few successful game franchises have borrowed ideas from Bond movies, in fact, so there’s no reason why a Bond-branded video game wouldn’t work. One could argue that it might be more difficult nowadays to make an unmistakenly 007 game — since so many others have borrowed signature features of the Bond movies — than a quality one.
What would certainly be interesting to see is how a modern James Bond entertainment property could work across different media: an episodic or persistent-world video game with ties to a TV show that’s connected to a film or films, for instance. That’s definitely not easy to pull off — as Marvel will attest — but the possibilities are endless: home entertainment systems are more capable of cinematic graphics and sound than ever, Internet live services are practically omnipresent, while the opportunities of cross-promotion of entertainment products to mainstream consumers are many and varied.
After considering all of the above, it’s hard not to think that No Time To Die is, in fact, as unique an opportunity as James Bond has ever had to evolve into a proper 21st-century intellectual property focused on modern entertainment. The movies themselves have arguably taken 007 as far as he, as an icon, can go. After No Time To Die’s release, EON would do well to re-evaluate what the British agent’s future can be.
Finding a new James Bond after Daniel Craig, casting a few more beautiful women, selecting a new Aston Martin, picking some impressive new locations and shooting another 007 film would be doable and probably profitable. Re-inventing James Bond as a modern entertainment property would be much more difficult, but worthy.