Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Déjà Vu All Over Again

Well, this all sounds very familiar.

What seemed like a bold new era of James Bond adventures following on from the 2006 reboot Casino Royale is already imperiled. Since the release of Quantum of Solace -- the twenty-second Bond opus -- two years ago, things had been pretty quiet except for the news in January that director Oscar winner Sam Mendes was being eyed to direct, and word that things were continuing apace for current Bond Daniel Craig to strap on his Walther once again in the next year or so.

Well, that estimate may need to be moved back. Like, way back, with yesterday's press release from EON Productions, longtime stewards of the cinematic 007, that work on the next installment is being shuttered indefinitely until parent studio MGM, perpetually dangling on the brink of insolvency, can get their financial house in order. You know things are bad for the once-mighty Lion when they can't even get their sole proven moneymaker out of the shop and on the road.

Of course, for any longtime Bond fan, this should immediately set off warning bells. The last time something similar happened with MGM/UA was following 1989's Licence to Kill, Timothy Dalton's second go at the role. There, again, questions about the studio's continued viability resulted in a six-year layover for the Bond franchise, at the end of which Dalton abdicated (or was forced to hand over, depending on who does the telling) his tux to Pierce Brosnan.

While he has his share of detractors for his perceived blandness after thirteen years of Roger Moore's arch Bond-lite, people forget that Dalton's entrée in '87, The Living Daylights, was a considerable success both financially and critically. Unfortunately, his second turn had the misfortune of being steamrolled by '89's Batman juggernaut, making it one of the series' lowest grossers to date. His leaving after movie two only cemented the popular perception that Dalton flopped as Bond, and we'll never know how he might have fared had he continued.

Now, I've made no secret of how I think Daniel Craig is the best thing to happen to the Bond brand in quite awhile, but at present he's at precisely the same place Dalton was twenty years ago: An intense, serious take on the role, a well-received first film and a less well-received second, all followed by a potentially lengthy period of static equilibrium. What this means for the franchise's future is anyone's guess at present, but what I'd hate is for history to repeat itself because MGM can't keep its books balanced, and see the series potentially lose one of its biggest assets.

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