Courtesy of Sony Pictures
Movie franchises aren’t supposed to last forever. At best, they’ll get three installments, make their millions (potentially billions) of dollars, then disappear. This is the ideal. Whenever a franchise attempts to go beyond this rule of three, returns on all fronts start to diminish rapidly. People will inevitably grow bored.
Somehow, there is one franchise that has been able to march on for an absurdly long time, and based on the success of its latest installment, it might actually be more widely popular now than ever before. These are the James Bond films, and the release of “Skyfall” last weekend – to the tune of more than $88 million at the box office, according to Box Office Mojo – has further solidified this franchise as the property that will not die. The agent 007 has had countless opportunities to fade away in the last 50 years, and yet he marches on.
The first James Bond film was “Dr. No,” released in 1962 to mixed-to-positive reviews and moderate box office success. This hardly seems like the makings of an immortal franchise, and yet somehow the films have kept coming out and the public has continued to eat them up. James Bond did not become a true cultural sensation until “Goldfinger” and “Thunderball” later in the ’60s, and from there the series never looked back.
The key to 007’s longevity has been the producers’ willingness to adapt to both the different actors playing James Bond and the different eras the character found himself in. The basic formula of James Bond is always the same, and that has allowed the films to subtly change him with each installment in order to make him right for the times. Neither Sean Connery’s Bond nor Roger Moore’s would be completely derided if their films were made today. The producers have been very sharp when it comes to finding the right man for the job.
Not all the films have worked, of course. At times, the clunkers have meant the near-death of the franchise. Even though “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” is considered to be one of the best films in the series today, the lack of Connery in the lead role caused that installment to receive some nasty reviews. With Connery out of the picture and the public’s approval rating at an all-time low, the series could have easily called it quits then and there.
For one reason or another, James Bond continued to press on. Longtime producer Albert R. Broccoli clearly believed that his cinematic baby would always be able to come back from any adversity, and time and again he was proven right. After his death, daughter Barbara Broccoli and stepson Michael G. Wilson took over the ship, and they continued their father’s habit of knowing what had to change and when.
The two of them took their biggest risk with 2006’s “Casino Royale,” which acted as a complete series reboot with Daniel Craig in the lead. After “Die Another Day” was rightly rejected by all, Wilson and Broccoli could tell that the series was likely on life support. The only way to keep Bond alive was to kill him and then subsequently resurrect him as a new, tougher character. They succeeded, and thus “Casino Royale” pumped new life into an entity that many thought was toast.
While the less said about “Quantum of Solace” the better, “Skyfall” continues the creative resurgence of the Daniel Craig era, and it also provides more proof that Wilson and Broccoli want to continue to push the character to places he had never been before. The audience needs to feel as if they’re still getting something out of these movies, and “Skyfall” is a promise that Bond is never going to rest on his laurels. The franchise has gone 50 years without dying, and the way things are looking it might well go for 50 more.