Nov 3, 2011


The 23rd James Bond Film is Officially Announced
Also: A 50th Anniversary Documentary

After years of delay due to MGM's abysmal financial situation and months of speculation in the tabloids, the 23rd James Bond film was officially announced today: as expected, it's called SkyFall. Details about the plot were for the most part kept under wraps, but according to the official synopsis (per The Hollywood Reporter), "the movie involves Bond’s loyalty to M being tested after her past comes back to haunt her.
As MI6 comes under attack, 007 has to track down and destroy the threat no matter how personal the cost." For a press conference, the participants were decidedly cagey and little else was revealed, including the names of a lot of characters. But the big news was the cast. Thanks to surprisingly accurate tabloid reports, all of the names were expected, but still very, very welcome. The stellar line-up includes Daniel Craig returning as Agent 007, Judi Dench returning as M, Javier Bardem (No Country For Old Men) as the villain, and Bérénice Marlohe and Naomie Harris (Ninja Assassin, After the Sunset) as the new Bond Girls (respectively a glamorous woman named Severin and a field agent named Eve), as well as Ralph Fiennes (Page 8, The Avengers), Albert Finney (The Bourne Ultimatum, Miller's Crossing) and Ben Wishaw (PerfumeI'm Not There).

Craig was in good humor and seemed genuinely excited to return to the character for a third go-round. Director Sam Mendes (better known for dramas like American Beauty and The Road to Perdition--the latter with Craig) responded to a question about whether or not he'd direct his own action sequences by name-checking Martin Campbell and John Glenn. In my opinion, that in itself is a very good sign. Personally, I think those guys both had the right idea about how to direct 007 action sequences. (Most importantly, you can always tell what's going on in their Bond movies!) Another drama director who had a go at Bond back in the Nineties, Michael Apted, left the action sequences to his second unit. Mendes kept mum when asked if we'd see gadgets in this movie (which have been sorely lacking from Craig's first two outings), though he promised "plenty of surprises."

A reporter late in the half-hour conference voiced the question on the tips of Bond fans' tongues everywhere. "You obviously won't tell us the names of the names of three of the other characters three of the actors are playing," he asked Mendes. "Is that because Bond fans might recognize them?"

The director replied, "Very well put question. Um... they might do.... On the other hand, they might not." To which producer Barbara Broccoli smiled coyly. I'd say that sounds promising. Like a lot of Bond fans, I'm really, really hoping it means that we might see the return of Bond's greatest nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. (I wrote a piece in 2009 advocating his cinematic ressurection.) SkyFall screenwriter John Logan recently reiterated a long-held assertion that "Bond should always fight Blofeld." My sincere hope (and, again, this is pure speculation) is that Bardem will play the primary, Emilio Largo-like villain, whilst Fiennes lurks in the background as Blofeld, the man pulling the strings. How great would that be? Others have speculated that Bardem himself might be Blofeld, which would also be welcome.

Unlike the last several press conferences, James Bond's new car was not revealed at this one. Perhaps he won't be driving a vehicle of his own in this adventure. There was, however, one final nugget to be gleaned. When asked how EON planned to celebrate 007's 50th Anniversary (it was five decades ago to the day that Sean Connery was announced as the star of Dr. No), producer Michael G. Wilson revealed, "Well, we've got a documentary in the process of being made that looks back on the history of Bond, and we have a lot of other things planned, but we're not prepared yet to announce them." A documentary! Does he mean a feature? Maybe even a theatrical feature? Or is it just a TV special along the sides of the 25th Anniversary program Happy Anniversary 007? I would bet it is indeed a feature, and I'm very curious to know who's directing it! Hopefully we'll find out more soon.

SkyFall opens in the United Kingdom on October 26, 2012, and in the USA on November 9, 2012. Shooting officially kicks off today in London before continuing to Scotland, Turkey, China and Pinewood Studios. (So why is Daniel Craig still sporting facial scruff?)

You can watch the press conference in its entirety here (coutesy of Digital Spy), and read all sorts of details on MI6-HQ, who live-blogged the event.


George said...

I'm not the biggest Craig fan by any means, but this one is shaping up pretty well.

Anonymous said...

Great post, as always. Just one thing: The film is opening in 2012, not 2011. A freudian slip, to be sure, since we'd all like it to be opening this year.

Tanner said...

Your right, Anon. Wishful thinking on my part. (And rushing to get a post in about such a crucial news item during an exceptionally busy week!) If only...

I'll change it so as not to get anyone's hopes up.

Simes said...

I just hope that they make this movie a little more...FUN than the previous Craig outings.

Also, they've not confirmed a composer yet. David Arnold confirmed via Twitter that he has no news, so....will they go for an Arnold score again, or try for someone new?

I've quite enjoyed the Arnold scores myself (some more than others) but since hearing other film scores also orchestrated by Arnold's right hand man Nicholas Dodd I do wonder how much of the music is Arnold's and how much Dodds.

For instance, listen to Clint Mansell's music for SAHARA and all you can hear is the Bond sound!

Anyway I look forward to this film but wow I wish they'd lighten it up just a little bit...

Bob said...

This film has an unbelievable cast and director. You can't help being excited about this one.

In all the recent interviews with Craig, he always mentions how happy everybody is with the "finished" script. Unlike QOS.

I do wish they would go in a new direction for the film score.

Bob said...

Next year, being the 50th anniversary of the Bond films, I hope to see (and buy) the film series memorabilia for this special anniversary. Hopefully, companies like Corgi and others will be involved.

Tanner said...

Simes, you're the second person in two days to mention Mansell's Sahara score to me as sounding Bondian. Weird! I guess I should check it out. I like Mansell a lot and I bet he could do a good Bond score, but I can't remember anything about Sahara, including its score. I love Arnold's contributions to the series (especially TND and CR), but I wouldn't be opposed to hearing a different take on Bond music as long as Arnold comes back later. After all, Barry took his breaks and that sometimes lead to good stuff like George Martin's LALD. However, the chances of going seriously wrong (GE) are so high that the idea of anyone but Arnold handling a Bond score does make me nervous... Have you ever noticed how all the Barry scores are timeless, but all the fill-in scores (TSWLM, FYEO, even LALD) are incredibly dated? For years I hated Conti's disco music, though now I've come to appreciate it--though more on a kitsch level. I still think the movie probably could have been even better with a Barry score.

Bob, you're right; he does always say "finished." I like that! I also like how everyone - even at the press conference - does all but admit that QOS was rotton. Mendes goes out of his way to say that he loved Craig in CR, and wants to do a movie in the spirit of CR, while studiously avoiding any mention of QOS. Craig has also made his displeasure with that film obvious by omission in recent interviews. I'm glad they seem to realize their misstep...

Simes said...

I think Arnold knows the ingredients that have always needed to be present and correct in a proper Bond score. What I'm not so sure about is how much the final orchestrated sound is actually down to Arnold. I suspect it's much more the sound of his arranger and conductor, Nicholas Dodd.

That is principally why scores like SAHARA sound Bondian (in the brass anyway) - because Dodd orchestrated it. You could be forgiven for thinkin that perhaps Arnold had written it, rather than Mansell.

So... I don't actually think Mansell *could* "write" a Bond score on his own. I'd be interested to see Arnold do a Bond score with a different arranger to see if there would be that much difference. I'm not putting Arnold down, by the way, I think he can come up with a decent tune and he knows his way round a film score too. On balance I'd rather see Arnold return again, though I do think that some of his films are overscored somewhat. Time will tell!

I really do hope, as I said before, that they lighten the film up a bit. I'm not a massive fan of Daniel Craig but he might be a bit more bearable if he was a bit less grim.

Simes said...

By the way, I have to say that I *love* George Martin's score for LALD, and also Conti's for FYEO!

Dated or not, they are immensely listenable now and worked rather well in the films.

I also liked Hamlisch's score for TSWLM, but let's be honest, there wasn't really that much original score in the picture in the first place, and the soundtrack album that came out didn't even reflect what bit there was all that well...

Bob said...

When it comes to the Bond film scores, I think the John Barry scores remain timeless. The other scores by Martin, Hamlisch and Conti seem very dated.

However, I still cringe at the main title song by Barry and sung by Lulu for 'The Man With the Golden Gun". I still, to this day, blame it on the lyrics!!

Simes said...

I think *anything* that is written to reflect the style and fashion of the moment (ie what's in vogue when a film is being shot) does tend to date more quickly as fashins and tastes change. And that's why the other scores have dated - although I still love listening to them (not TSWLM though, which I really liked in 1977 but can barely get through today).

But yes, Barry's scores are fairly timeless. It's all a matter of taste I guess. Some people say he just wrote the same sort of thing over and over again with little stylistic updates (eg the synth rhythm of THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS, which modernised the sound a little without going 'over the top'...)

But he established the Bond signature style and he did it with such panache :-)

Armstrong Sabian said...

The best news I've heard about this Bond movie is that Roger Deakins is director of photography. This film has a pretty high caliber of cast and crew, and I'm a little afraid of getting myself too hyped for it.

I re-watched Quantum of Solace yesterday, and it wasn't as disappointing as I remember it being before. There are several things I really like about it actually. The ending works well for me, and I think Olga Kurylenko did a decent job as an underwritten Bond girl. I really like the typography for the location title cards too. But overall, there's a lot to be desired. I hope they bounce back with Skyfall.

Tanner said...

I'm looking forward to Roger Deakins shooting it, too, Armstrong, although I was alarmed when he told the Hollywood Reporter earlier this year that he planned to go digital on his next film... the next film being SkyFall. I would much rather see him shoot Bond on film, which he's always persistently stuck to in the past!

Simes, yes, I saw your point about Dodd; I'm sorry I didn't really address it in my reply. I still haven't heard Sahara, but I still stand by my case that Mansell could do a good Bond score. Since I haven't heard that one in recent memory, I'm not even basing it on that. I just think he's a good composer who can adapt himself to the situation, and if he works with Dodd again, then there's no reason why it wouldn't sound appropriately Bondian, right?

As for Dodd and Arnold, I don't really follow your conclusion that Dodd is more responsible for the "Bond sound" than Arnold, though. All I can really tell is that they collaborate well together to achieve that sound. But I don't think Dodd automatically brings it to any project he works on. He's also orchestrated Arnold's non-Bond scores, and many of those don't share that Bondian sound. Independence Day and The Musketeer channel Williams as much as TND channels Barry, and Dodd's arrangements seem appropriate for that sound in those instances. Whoever does what, I like what they do together!

Simes, I think you hit the nail on the head saying that the other composers always try to come up with an of-the-moment sound. Even Arnold's TWINE sounds dated to me, screaming of the electronica/trip-hop so prevalent in popular music in 1999. (Not that I mind; I was in college then and I loved that music. How can you not love a musical genre that owes so much to the spy sound of the Sixties to begin with?) Barry somehow managed not to sound dated even when he did infuse his Living Daylights score with the synth of the era. I don't really know how he did it, but I'm a fan of everything he's done.

And Bob, I agree with you about Don Black's lyrics in TMWTGG! They really are hilariously atrocious. Though I think Madonna's nonsensical DAD lyrics like "Sigmund Freud, analyze me, analyze me" or whatever it was are almost as ridiculous as "Who will we bang? We shall see!" If you expand your scope beyond just main title songs, though, I think the award for the MOST out-there lyrics goes to the extremely raunchy "Make It Last All Night" from FYEO! "Oooh, oooh, oooh, can you feel it inside you?" etc.