These last two months have been busy for the Black Death, or rather COVID-19, as the pandemic provokes apocalyptic hysteria, including disrupting the entertainment industry. For now, everybody is kung flu fighting, even the the bigwigs at MGM, Universal, and Eon Productions, overseers of the 25th Bond film, No Time To Die. From an announcement on March 4:
MGM, Universal and Bond producers, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, announced today that after careful consideration and thorough evaluation of the global theatrical marketplace, the release of NO TIME TO DIE will be postponed until November 2020.
Based on the burst of emails I received from Bond fans, the reaction ranges from grumblings to sheer outrage, even an element of suspicion at the decision of the studio bosses. We’ll get to the “suspicion” angle in a moment; but I gather the various sentiments ultimately point to the underlying need for reassurance that all is well—not just with the Bond film but with the world at large—despite the chaos. To grasp the situation further (read: brief levity against the bleak headlines), I turned to the renowned but elusive virologist, Dr. Hugo A-Psycho Moreau. In his lair, deep within a dormant volcano on a mysterious tropical island, his research has revealed that the potent virus falls within the class of viruses known as cocainus misfortunatus. It originated during the Axial Age (800 to 200 BCE), on a small island in the Mediterranean, when Heraclitus coughed and sneezed after snorting a mound of strange white powder. It was enough to set off an infectious agent, suddenly airborne, to contaminate the space-time continuum. Thus, the first stirrings of COVID-19. Symptoms consist of incoherent speech, diminished cognitive skills, and the adamant belief in the existence of a semi-automatic rifle known as the AR-14. Most interesting of all, the great doctor’s research proves that the virus did not originate in Wuhan, China, a discovery that appeases the PC watchdogs, despite their absurdity, and reinforces the scientific fact that Western culture is to be blamed for all hell that breaks loose since time immemorial. Alas, even in this doomsday scenario, we cannot escape from the politics of the day.
Still, the turbulence from the Masque of the Corona Red Death, or whatever term the social justice warriors have approved this week, rages on. A line from Fleming’s Casino Royale suddenly juts out, a suitable description of these swift changes and the uncertainty involved: near the end of the tale, in a “modest little inn amongst the pines” in northern France (151), the proprietor notes that the time period he and Bond find themselves were not like the old days. Then again, he concludes, nothing is certain in a transitory world:
He shrugged his shoulders philosophically. But then no day was like the day before, and no century like the previous one, and . . .
‘Quite so,’ said Bond. (153)
And quite so with the current backdrop, which at moments remind me of Blofeld’s nefarious scheme of germ warfare in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Other Flemingesque elements come to mind, offering an amusing respite from the political bullshit: namely, the 007-style global threat et al. At the time of writing, the US is in a state of national emergency. In Europe, before the lights went out, so to speak, a scattering of relatives informed me that you can still visit a café, but only during designated hours—although for the most pleasurable experience, I gather it’s best to borrow protective gear from Dr. No’s nuclear reactor technicians and to keep yourself seated approximately 27.36 kilometers away from your fellow espresso sippers. In India, where the cow is sacred to many Hindus, a group known as the All India Hindu Union have dived into a bacchanal of sorts with the drinking of cow urine to ward off the plague. Just the sort of travelogue tidbit that wouldn’t be out of place in Fleming’s pages. Meanwhile, here in North Carolina in late February, I was able to sit in the local dim sum joint, and the affable maître d' (who hails from Wuhan, of all places), assured me the virus firestorm is joss—luck, fate, the mutual arising of circumstances, but perhaps something even deeper, ineffable, behind the way of things. The moment felt like a conversation with the new version of Tiger Tanaka, Bond’s verbose ally in the late-bloomer, You Only Live Twice. Anyway, by this reasoning, we can look upon the delay of the Bond film as joss—bad joss, that is.
Which brings us back to the announcement. The given reason for the delay strikes a narrative dissonance--to give it a polite designation--that avoids any attribution to the pandemic: it’s deliberately crafted to point out that the “careful consideration and thorough evaluation of the global theatrical marketplace” has impelled the studio moguls to postpone the film “until November 2020.” It omits a literal reference to the outbreak; instead, the statement implies the impact of the virus spread as the cause of the disruption in the “global theatrical marketplace,” a condition (the decision-makers seem to say) that wouldn’t be ideal for the release of the Bond film. Fair enough. From a business standpoint, the reality “remains that for multi-hundred-million-dollar-budgeted event movies, ancillary revenues, spurred by theatrical, are the best way to make money” (D'Alessandro). So cram in as much bodies into theaters and let the cash start flowing. Yet it seems that the postponement, as my fellow Bond fans have sensed, cannot be taken at face value. The politics of business, in the form of strategic maneuvering, may be at hand, forced into play by a disturbing rumor that has flooded the social media realm just a day or so after the announcement: the result of the film’s test screening wasn’t exactly stellar—that is, it bombed, a shocking indicator to panic any filmmaker. Hence, the delay to salvage the film. Such assertions stem from Midnight’s Edge, a youtube channel devoted to film production analysis, and has since been regurgitated by other entertainment outlets. Here’s a synopsis from Bounding Into Comics:
Midnight’s Edge details, “Sources have informed Midnight’s Edge that a recent test screening of No Time To Die did not go well.”
They continue, “Though we don’t have any specifics about what was ill received by test audiences, we are being told they are scheduling two pieces of reshoots to last 12 to 14 days, and that they are using the outbreak as cover to avoid bad publicity.”
Additional reshoots paint a picture of filmmakers scrambling to rescue this movie. Reshoots also suggest an overall re-thinking and tweaking in post-production. Moreover, reshoots require script rewrites before anything can be filmed. Factor in logistics and any other necessary planning and you’ve got something potentially longer than 12 to 14 days. Translation: production hell. I like a conspiracy theory as much as the next chap; but I’m also willing to entertain the idea that these Hollywood supremos are humanitarian enough to set aside box office concerns to emphasize precaution, given the virus shockwave, for public health safety. So my hunch tells me the film’s postponement lies somewhere in between, which is quite a spectrum. The alternative—pretending, in the face of evidence, that this delay is without behind-the-scenes turmoil—is no different than pulling a curtain over the situation and embracing its kitsch (to borrow Kundera’s idea)—kitsch as the “absolute denial of shit,” or “whatever is essentially unacceptable” and threatens one’s outlook (248-252). For starters, the test screening itself is credible. I don’t doubt it. It’s common practice for the studio brass to depend on findings from research screenings to grasp audience expectations. But some Craigyboppers, diving into said kitsch, have written to me, denouncing the rumor, stating that director Cary Joji Fukunaga and his team hadn’t finished editing, so how on earth could they conduct a test screening? The most friendly of the bunch, using the alias “Craig,” wrote to exult that all is well:
I feel like throwing garbage at your web site! [No one is stopping you, old boy. Toss it all and enjoy the refuse oozing on your screen.] You better not believe this rumor! You go screw yourself! You have NO RIGHT to do that! You have NO RIGHT! Damn you, if you go along with this rumor. Not me, I won’t believe. No way will I give into it. Daniel Craig cares about people. He probably told all those executives to delay. Cause he cares. [This is pure speculation, even disturbing in its idolatry.] He’s for Bernie Sanders, you know. [Once again, politics had to be dragged into this matter.] That’s why I know he cares. He’s for social justice. He’s for equality. He stands for everyone and I’m voting for Bernie because I want to stand with him and Daniel.
You’re going to write something about this rumor, you’re going to do that, I just feel it, but get it into your head there is absolutely nothing wrong with No Time To Die. Did it occur to you maybe they want more time for shaping it to Daniel’s vision? Daniel is an artist. It’s why he’s co-producing his Bond films. [Yes, he’s a major contributor to the decline of the series.] Won’t surprise me if No Time To Die is a masterpiece. You should be thankful the world is getting true art of the highest order. [This is the kind of melodramatic over-interpretation that kills off sincere escapist fare.] Oh, and just so you know, they’re not done editing the movie, so no test screening, so that debunks this rumor. So go to hell!
Allow me to debunk his idiotic assertion that editing is not complete. All it takes is some perspective on the original release date: by late February/early March, Fukunaga’s film was on course for the April release. There could have been some minor post-production work, but the film has essentially reached final cut to meet the original date. Fukunaga and his team have also been editing since October 2019 when filming wrapped. Moreover, as protocols go, editors typically compile rough footage during principal photography, selecting the best takes and assembling sequences to get a sense of how the film is shaping. Put another way, editing has been going on for some time. By late 2019, as described in a slobbering GQ puff-piece (which coincides with the marketing build-up for the April release), Craig The Anointed One “had watched the film for the first time” in an editing suite. The film had “no score, the special effects weren’t finished, but Craig’s final Bond movie was done” (Knight).
Yet a test screening gone bad mustn't surprise us. Let's face it: we've been sensing a profound mess all along, as news from the production poured in. Despite sitting on a pile of money and having the luxury of a five-year gap to develop this film, the Bond producers and their cohorts managed to botch the production consistently, turning the making of No Time To Die into a circus of torments. It ran the gamut from production delays to struggles with directors and flaky release dates, hesitancy over the film’s title, and an ill-suited director, as a late choice, hauled into the shambles. Added to the chaos: vigorous script rewrites during filming, hindered further by alleged infighting between cast and crew, and Craig suffering injury, which caused further delays, and the original composer ousted three months before the intended April release. It all converged into a dazzling display of incompetence best underscored by the crew’s avowal that it was a “well-polished s*** show.” Of course, a show fueled by Hollywood egos galore. Fellows of infinite hubris, of most excellent ineptitude. Just the brew for a spectacular wreckage. Pulling all this information together, we have the basis for a film that lends credence to the dismal test screening. Had it truly bombed, the result must have been a shock to the brain trust to learn that they’ve got a wretched movie.
Another disturbing thing: the vague announcement also seethes with backroom “politics.” Note how Fukunaga’s name is purposely not included. You’d think that, as the director of No Time To Die, the studio brass would acknowledge and include him to signal that he’s part of the decision-making process. He is, after all, the director—the auteur of this film. Is this a sign of disapproval for how he’s crafted the movie? Behind the scenes, is he getting the brunt of the fallout from the disastrous reception at the test screening? One wonders if Fukunaga doesn’t have much sway over the reshoots and treated only as director-in-name for contractual purposes. In any case, the alleged scheduled rework is not the behavior of a confident, healthy film production. It also brings up the other thing gnawing at this endeavor: an ill-conceived film is an ill-conceived film. It’s the framework from which a filmmaker crafted the story. One can only do so much to rectify an already tainted conception. A dreadful film doesn’t suddenly transform into a brilliant one through tweaks in editing and reshoots, especially when the foundation, so to speak, has been an asshole of an idea from the start. It’s a bit like re-editing and inserting additional footage to Howard The Duck and expecting it to be the new incarnation of Battleship Potemkin.
Rarely do remarkable films come from such a troubled production. Many of the finest celluloid dreck have all suffered the same chaos as No Time To Die. Some that come to mind: Ishtar, Waterworld, The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996), Quantum Of Solace (one of the worst films in the last 150 years), and Eon’s very own magnum opus The Rhythm Section. Moreau, in particular, has striking resemblance to the bedlam of the 25th Bond film: the production was notoriously difficult, disrupted by setbacks and issues with the cast. The original director (Richard Stanley), fired midway into filming, was replaced at the eleventh hour by John Frankenheimer, who obviously forgot everything he knew since he made The Manchurian Candidate. Regardless of the talent brought on board, rewrites did not improve the script. Problems continued after production, with the release postponed several times to accommodate reshoots, additional editing, and hesitancy from studio bosses on what to do with the film. For No Time To Die, the hesitancy over the release has led to a $30 million to $50 million hit (which was spent on a marketing campaign in full swing) and a not-yet-recouped production cost of $250 million or so, depending on who's fiddling with the abacus. Thus, the backers of this film are currently at a superb profit loss with this “finished” film. It makes us realize we cannot ignore without doing a bit of Roger Moore eyebrow-cocking how bizarre it is for the decision-makers to delay the film for about eight months instead of just two or so months, considering the marketing momentum already in place and the title song released. Even the National Association of Theatre Owners expressed puzzlement, describing the decision as “very unique to that company and that movie" (McClintock).
As some Bond fans expressed in their emails, why not set the release for the summer? Some studios have indeed started this pattern. For example, Disney’s Mulan will open on July 24. Warner Bros has moved Wonder Woman 1984 “from its June 5 release to August 14” (D'Alessandro) while it maintains Christoper Nolan’s Tenet on July 17. I suspect the overseers of the Bond film had considered the summer timeframe but sought a longer stretch amounting to eight months—which reinforces the allegations of a failed test screening and the extra time needed for reshoots. “What could possibly have gone wrong with the test screening?” writes Bond fan Abby Clark. It’s the question, of course; and if I had to pinpoint the main element, I’d say it’s the incoherent story that must have resulted from the script that Fukunaga and company developed while they filmed; that and their all-out dive into fanatical left-wing ideology. We’re all familiar with the flurry of reports, since last year, describing how this 25th entry has been shaped for our glorious age of Woke. Supposedly, for much of the salvage work, “the material [the filmmakers] were looking to trim/soften was the social justice warrior bullshit” in accord with how they may have gotten “spooked by the repeated box office disasters of #Woke movies like Terminator Dark Fate, Charlies Angels, and Birds of Prey” (Romero). Here’s me highlighting the farrago of gender politics, as depicted in the trailer:
The trailer of No Time To Die certainly delivers this impression of “utterly fanciful” female characters. What piffle this is. Absurdly masculine, these women pass off as over-the-top take-charge, righteous action heroes. Moreover, the bizarre message of the film is that it’s time to discard the old, antiquated Bond, for the world has moved on. . . . Still, we cannot underestimate the message from the filmmakers: jump on board for another fine sampling of kitsch—this time, without any toxic masculinity in the way but a lot of unsexy women firing machine guns.
I summed it up in this way:
This is it, a social justice revisionism of James Bond and his world. If the film underwhelms at the box office, it will be because the grating political posturing was unbearable that audiences took a peek and thought, no thanks.
Likewise, the actual film may have underwhelmed at the test screening, with an audience that said “no thanks,” as implied in the rumor.
Craig himself exacerbates this political angle. Here he is again, babbling in that inane GQ interview: “We struggled to keep Trump out of this film,” the actor reveals. Yet he admits it was inevitable to bring political shenanigans into the story, muttering, “It’s always there, whether it’s Trump or whether it’s Brexit or whether it’s Russian influence on elections or whatever.”
In other words, and disappointingly enough, it’s a Bond movie shaped with blatant leftist creed—and, we can be virtually certain, ingrained with a derogatory tone on matters such as Brexit in conjunction to anti-Trump sentiments. Make no mistake: Craig prides himself a leftist, and everyone else involved in this film may as well be left of center on the political spectrum, considering the atmosphere of the Hollywood culture. Moreover, Craig opposed Brexit (and thus favors the EU, with its propensity for global governance and totalitarian dictates) and threw his support, since 2016, for a certain presidential candidate who can’t stop praising leftist dictators. Ah, he obviously felt the Bern, a fanatical giddiness for one Bernardokov(“Bernie”) Trotskyite Sandersmirnoff; the crazed progressive with the popped-out eyes behind thick-lensed glasses; the firebrand who comes from a renowned family: his brother Colonel Mikhail Sandersmirnoff (also known as Colonel Sanders) led the charge at the Siege of Moscow (1382) and his foster brother, Vladislav Kalashnikov Sonofavitchy, had designed the first gulags in Siberia. Of course, Comrade Craig is free to pursue his political convictions, even praise a park bench, for all I care; but his leftist outlook forces us to question how much damage his frame of mind may have done to the new Bond film. So is one to assume that he has pored through the history of socialism’s failures and walked away unperturbed? Acknowledged Sanders as a devout apologist for communist dictators and who reserves his harshest criticism for the United States, the nation in which he became a multi-millionaire? Applauded when the senator boarded private jets and accumulated three homes and a bloated bank account funded by an army of useful idiots who believed in his “revolution” more than he did? Looked into the old crank’s call for free education and health care as a right, an old decree from the 1936 Stalin Constitution? Acquainted himself with Grandpa Bernie’s tactic to forget the atrocities of socialist revolutions, which have all led to the deaths of over 100 million people in the 20th century? In this grotesquery, Sanders perpetuates the forgetting of the past. He is the revolutionary figure of forgetting.
Here’s the thing: political ideologies, as Jung pointed out, reflects the innate desire of people to worship something in order to grasp the world and make sense of its suffering, to believe in something that would bring significance to their lives. Thus, in the leftist sphere, where traditional religion is typically renounced, the State replaces a man’s god. The dictates of the State is exalted to a doctrine of beliefs. This creed shapes the world views of the individual. So for a leftist such as Craig, it’s not surprising that he would interpret a Bond film along the lines of his belief system. To what extent, though? When Craig maintains, “We struggled to keep Trump out of this,” I take it he and his cronies struggled to keep from preaching their superior morality and politics out of this film. Will we be treated to a Bond with sympathies for what Craig’s idol, the demented senator, stands for? This would contradict Fleming’s Bond: the character in the books is an outright individualist without any passion for a collectivized system, as promised by socialism. That Bond, the darkly dashing man in the tuxedo, is unpredictable, yet flexible to deal with any unexpected change in a mission, a resourceful rebel who expresses ingenuity to solve problems. He is the individualistic warrior who battles the totalitarianism of an all-powerful collectivist state such as Soviet communism. Take these qualities, along with his penchant for hard drinking, smoking, gambling, and the 007 luxury style of living, and you’ve got a man who has no time for the so-called nanny bureaucracy that stems from big government statism. In Moonraker, we get a glimpse of this individualism as Bond sits in his office, thinking about how he handles his life.
He took no holidays, but was generally given a fortnight’s leave at the end of each assignment—in addition to any sick-leave that might be necessary. He earned £1,500 a year [circa 1955], the salary of a Principal Officer in the Civil Service, and he had a thousand a year free of tax of his own. When he was on a job he could spend as much as he liked, so for the other months of the year he could live very well on his £2,000 year net. (9)
This is a man with a sense of self-command. But I always chuckle at the line about Bond cherishing that he has a “thousand a year free of tax of his own.” It suggests he cringes at the plight of the over-burdened taxpayer. Not for him the wild taxation demanded by an overarching government. Not for him the progressive’s main creed of redistributing the economic success supposedly hoarded by a minority. He would cringe at the hullabaloo from the Comrade Bernie camp concerning economic justice. On this note, I would agree with Mr. Bond. It’s the schtick we’ve heard ad nauseam, if you allow me this prejudicial commentary: seize all the wealth and fund massive government programs. In the same spirit, abolish the so-called white privilege and take down the borders of a nation. Shutter factories and end all pollution. It’s the fundamental transformation of America, as someone once said. The ideal world to come is within easy reach. Destroy the free-market, heteronormativity, the oppressive testicles of the patriarchy, anything that hinders the revolution. (And this angle of destruction is exhibited succinctly in the trailer for No Time To Die.)
To the objective mind willing to face the hard truth: it’s all rather a con job, and every con artist is in the quick-scam-for-money scheme. Unfortunately, every scam eventually hits a dead end. In this case, it’s when the revolution runs out of other people’s money and seeks you—the individual, every person. Margaret Thatcher famously noted that under socialist rule, the central planners “always run out of other people's money.” The implication is that the scam reaches the point when it runs out of those other people. It’s when environmentalism doesn’t mean shutting down a coal factory in some far away place, but raising your energy bills, banning your plastic bags, and shutting down the factory where you work. The dead end is when the revolution that old Danny Boy praises runs out of all the other people who supposedly had it coming. Big Government Statism, ever imposing and crushing the individual, demands more and more revenue to sustain its monolithic presence. Put another way, the dead end is when the small minority (the designated few who will fund it all) expands to include you. Suddenly, it’s no longer a few billionaires. It encompasses the upper middle class. Next is the entire middle class. Inevitably, it’s everyone. The minority transforms into the majority. Therein lies the scam.
Thank you for the indulgence. (And, to fuel such ramblings, I had to reach for a large glass of burgundy, straight from my self-isolated socially distant quarantined wine cellar.)
Still, we are where we are, facing a film imbued with politics. That is the gist from Craig. He apparently “despairs of the grandstanding of Trump and Boris Johnson” (Knight), which suggests he couldn’t refrain from presenting an unflattering view of these figures and the political spectrum they represent. Implicit in his statement is the thrusting of his politics—namely, the merits and wonders of the leftist utopia—onto our faces. But what he fails to realize is that he makes us remember the words of Lewis Carroll: “Why is it that people with the most narrow of minds seem to have the widest of mouths?” Unless we consider ourselves bound by the hysterically stupid confines of Craigian idolatry to forbid any ounce of critical thinking, we’ll find that the source material consistently offers no support for what Craig advocates in No Time To Die. In the Fleming books, we find sharp but understated comments on life as ruled by collectivist totalitarians. The young Tatiana Romanova, who we meet in From Russia With Love, knows no better than the drab miserable living conditions of Soviet life. As a dutiful servant to the State, Comrade Corporal Romanova believes what she is told by her commissars. She is content, or so she thinks, as she looks out the window of her apartment, at the “distant onion spire of a church” flaming like a torch against the sunset, convinced that,
Her happiness was not romantic. . . . It was quiet, settled happiness of security, of being able to look forward with confidence to the future, heightened by the immediate things . . . and, over all, the beauty of the fact that the long winter and short spring were past and it was June. (65)
The glow from the sunset contrasts the grim ambience of her apartment. The room is a “tiny box in the huge apartment building,” built by prison labor and used as the women’s barracks of the State Security Departments. Typically, as Fleming notes, most of the rooms are nothing more than “square boxes with a telephone, hot and cold water, a single electric light and a share of the central bathrooms and lavatories” (66). The only touch of her uniqueness is her meager dinnerware, a small china bowl and a “shiny spoon she had slipped into her bag” (68) after an evening at the Hotel Moskwa. Other than that, her room expresses shared ownership, Soviet style, at its finest. Years later, in “The Living Daylights” (Fleming’s finest short story), Bond roams the streets of Berlin, clad in “drab, anonymous, middle-European clothes” to blend in with the grim-faced crowd of a “glum, inimical city” (75). Again, Fleming points out the drabness. In this collectivist condition, people transform into nonpersons, deprived of individuality.
Fleming well understood the nature of collectivism. He would have recoiled at the attempts of the current keepers of the franchise, recoiled at their efforts to make a film steeped in collectivist ideals, a stark contrast from what his literary character best represents—the spirit of individualism that could only thrive in Western capitalism. The Craigyboppers, on the other hand, see it otherwise. Their comments (which have often been leftist-oriented, at the least the ones I’ve received) favor if No Time To Die lectures us on the merits of Craig’s political views. For example, a Mr. Anholts, Ph.D, who frequents an unidentified 007 fan forum that (he assures me) brims with “unrelenting support for Daniel”—that is, as sycophantic fanaticism goes, the site could as well be called WorshipCraig.com—wrote that he will be excited if the new film has harsh condemnation of Brexit. And let us all kneel before Craig, in reverence, if he presents Bond as a socialist in favor of the EU:
To hell with Brexit. That’s what this film needs to say. To hell with America because of you-know-who in the White House. These things need to be said. We need a Bond that becomes the voice of the people, a Bond who fights Western imperialism, becomes a revolutionary and shows his sympathy for oppressed people. Craig is for Sanders, so this movie could be a revolutionary one, just like Sanders is a revolutionary. I hope you rot in hell, a worthless anti-Craig apostate like you needs to burn in hell. You are brain dead so you don’t understand. I’ll lay it out for you. This should be a Bond film that’s like 20 minutes into the future, showing a Europe in solidarity under one government, everything controlled by the EU, economic justice in place and everyone equal with all assets passed around to everyone. Bond needs to be shown fighting for this better world. [Some expletives follow, aimed at capitalism and, of course, yours truly.] You’ll see. Craig is for the people. Sanders is for the people. The world will be a better place when there’s shared ownership and one government making sure everybody is equal.
Thus spake Zarathustra, or rather this Ph.D chappie. Yeah, man, fellow comrades unite. It’s 2020, but we’ll stick with the antiquated Marxist blather. For here cometh the man, Bernie Sanders, our dear leader of the hammer and sickle utopia. “We have begun a political revolution to transform America, and that revolution, our revolution, continues!” so goes his mantra. It’s a warm welcome-to-paradise from a radical through and through. Even fanatical left-wing propaganda outlet CNN admitted that during his so-called formative years, Mr. Neo-Lenin publicly advocated the nationalization—a high-sounding term for government seizure—of major industries. Ah, yes, rejoice and feel the Bern. Let it be, the state ownership of everything from the energy industry to the communications sector; the banking industry to the health care sector—it’s always been on his table, so to speak, an outlook that the demented senator has never renounced. But for the Bond film, the salient aspect, once again, is that this Craigian support for Sanders and the passion for Leftist creed call into question the actor’s own judgment. Blinded by his convictions, he’s stuffed this film with unnecessary politics.
Case in point: Craig “was instrumental in hiring” TV writer and manic feminista Phoebe Waller-Bridge “to work on the script partway through the shoot” (Knight). This alone guaranteed inevitable bits of misandry and derision of the patriarchy. Mission accomplished: have a look at the trailer for a glimpse of how a Woke Bond film might go. I cannot think of anyone more likely to have ridiculed the series with the semiotics of social justice than the one actor who has ridiculed the Bond character, for the past dozen years or so, with politically correct gay-friendly traits. Gone in his portrayal are any vestiges of Fleming’s character. Think of him as the actor of forgetting, the one who champions the very act to forget the 007 character. And so while he espouses the source material in some interviews, he’s also done his utmost to erase, forget, the classic Bond of yore. At any rate, here we are, with a 007 film doused in leftist polemics, which no one from the production has refuted.
This deliberate venture into politics mars the uniqueness of the series. With the original producers, Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, the series spanned various presidential administrations—obviously both Democratic and Republican, with issues and scandals on both sides of the aisle—but the producers had never struggled to keep outright political criticism out of these films. Suddenly, an abrasive New York real estate entrepreneur lands in the White House, and those currently involved in the franchise are acting as if keeping this 25th film apolitical was more difficult than coming up with a vaccine for COVID-19. And this is what one always wants to know about filmmakers who flaunt their politics or who presume to remind us of their political stance by cramming it all in a movie. Do they, themselves, in their heart of hearts, truly believe it makes for great entertainment? My bet would be that the question has never surfaced in their minds. What matters is the ability to assert their righteous beliefs to reinforce their presence in the world in that vein. The ideology is what matters—even if it means forgetting the past. The past is a foggy realm of no interest to anyone. All that matters is the worship of the ideology and how to manipulate the present to enhance our presence in the world. Hence, the past is forgettable, easily rewritten, so long as the revisionist endeavor will glorify, or advance, our ideology in the present. So the actor of forgetting has united with the revolutionary figure of forgetting, each deserving one another. They are working for the same cause, both hand-in-hand as champagne ideologists, making their fortune from the free market, yet willing to forget the inevitable misery produced from their ideology as they pull down the glorious curtain of kitsch so that anything unacceptable, or that puts their revolution in a bad light, as Kundera suggested, is hidden.
All this leads to a paradox, which amounts to a smack in the faces of Craig and company, if the test screening rumor is to be believed. Their eagerness to produce a political Bond film has brought about its opposite intention, thanks to the abysmal test result; and the rumor gains traction when we consider the sudden change of tone from Craig, who suddenly has the eagerness to downplay his involvement: “This is my last movie,” he announces in the GQ interview and points out, in another moment of neurotic narcissism (albeit without the threat of slashing his wrists), that “I’ve kept my mouth shut before and I’ve stayed out of it and I’ve respected it and I’ve regretted that I did” (Knight).
What kind of coronavirus has infected our Comrade Craig? It must be the type that causes diminished cognitive skills, the same one that Heraclitus had inadvertently unleashed. Now, in his dementia, Craig cannot recall that he’s had nothing but a steady behind-the-scenes involvement throughout his Bondian tenure, snagging even a co-producer slot and tackling the script as recently as the production shambles of No Time To Die and, back in 2008, during the calamitous shoot of Quantum of Solace (as usual, the production was out of control and the screenwriter’s guild went on strike). Hilariously, in the same paragraph of that guff GQ article, it’s clearly stated that Craig was adamant to bring on board Ms. Waller-Bridge to tweak “the script partway through the shoot.” The Madam Producer has even proclaimed that “He's so much a part of the whole process.” So the Putinesque actor has a lot to answer for. The adamant leftist gospel and all that Woke politics we’ve been sensing in No Time To Die stem in large part from him. Yet it seems he has gotten a different kind of “woke,” the kind that makes him realize he has pursued an asinine approach all along and it now compels him, in an act of covering his liposuctioned backside, to disassociate himself from the crafting of the film, including the efforts of the great Phoebe Waller-Bridge, as if he’s warding off a disaster that he wants no part of.
It goes on, this distancing, in the way he can’t bring himself to pinpoint the contributions of his star writer, and everyone involved, for that matter:
“How much of Phoebe is in there, who knows?” Craig said. “We’re all in it somewhere. Phoebe’s in it, Cary’s in it, the writers are in it, but it’s a... We battled it and battled it and battled it. Who knows?” he said. (Knight)
Oh, shut up. You know exactly what you had latched onto, Mr. Virtuous Putin Craig. The feminist slant in the works of this overrated TV writer, the very thing that drew you to her, made its way into the script by your own edict. You know, precisely, what she had contributed. Even Robert Wade described a close collaboration with you, revealing that he and co-writer Neal Purvis had visited you in New York, discussing an idea and spending “a lot of time thrashing it out.” A bold move, apparently, because it was “slightly experimental and it felt like that’s what we needed to do” (Stolworthy). And yet Craig doesn’t seem all that proud of their work as he shoves it all into the realm of forgetting. Compare his remark to the one from director Michael Apted, who’s keen recollection of his scriptwriters underscores how he respected the collaboration in The World Is Not Enough: “We are very lucky: the boys [Neal Purvis and Robert Wade] did the story, Dana [Stevens] did the women and Bruce [Feirstein] did the Bond. (Johnstone 35). For Craig, though, the “experimental” idea and the “battle” to make No Time To Die appear to have ignited a dumpster fire that the actor is eager to run from and forget.
Even so, the one good thing that has occurred is that the memos and business plans for the delay of No Time To Die, along with the outlines for the political themes, have been consolidated by film historians into a doctrine known as Das Krapital. Now used in film school curriculums, the doctrine serves as a guide on how not to destroy famous film franchises. Venerable filmmakers such as Eli Roth and Sir Michael Tyson have used the doctrine in their esteemed workshops. Nevertheless, the fallout lingers, forcing us to confront other aspects of the delay.
The film had gone through the circles of hype, only to be shelved for eight long months—which means, in this world of amnesia, it’s a film currently in oblivion. As Bond fan Josh Hayes wrote in an email, “Can they get the hype machine going again around Thanksgiving? How can Eon keep any enthusiasm going when economies have shut down?” I suspect the hype machine will be reactivated in time for the November release. It’s the title song that has been wasted. It had the bang-the-drum hype in mid-January when the producers announced Billie Eilish as the chanteuse. Released in February, with heavy promotion, the song was bland and morose, completely forgotten about 14 hours after its release. It did manage to succeed in the UK charts, pushed along by her fans, but lacked the popularity to reach a wider audience. Eilish was ultimately a bizarre choice: her fans are not keen on James Bond, and the fan base for 007 is essentially a bit old for her music. By November, the title song will be completely passé. Then again, in such a volatile industry in a transitory world, the teenybopper Eilish may also be outmoded eight months from now, the haunting condition that all entertainers face. “Snatch her now,” I imagine the producers saying at the time they considered her, “and go for the cash grab while she lasts,” a decision that reminds us once again that in this business, it’s all about the enormity of your success or failure. Hence, it would not surprise me, as part of reinvigorating the PR momentum, if the producers scrambled to find a fresh, more dynamic title song from a different performer before the November release and relegate the Eilish elegy as bonus material in the official CD soundtrack. In this entertainment media complex, everyone is replaceable.
The bigger challenge is whether the studio brass can undo the backlash from the unabashed promotion that conveys this film as the “wokest Bond ever,” underscored by its flaunting of a female 007, the #MeToo age, and women’s issues such as tampons. At news sites and social media outlets, practically every article and video (not published by Craig idolators) concerning No Time To Die include long streams of comments in which users declare vehemently they will skip this film come November—and not because of any pandemic. Evident also in these comments is backlash to Craig’s recent anti-Trump comments. I’ve also received a number of emails from fans decrying how the actor has politicized the film. Fellow Bond fan Marty Nelson summed it up well: “Here he is ranting about Trump but never mentions the good things like how millions of people, especially minorities, are succeeding with jobs and are seeing wage increases at a rate never seen before. It’s absurd of him to neglect those political successes. Brilliant too how they ram politics in a Bond film. Right away, you turn off a large portion of your audience.” To be sure, pushing the anti-Trump agenda and emasculating the 007 series to reflect the feminist pathos has brought on political fatigue to so many movie-goers.
Meanwhile, some production insiders, as the Daily Mail’s scooper Baz Bamigboye points out, have stated that the reshoot rumors are supposedly “wide of the mark” and that the film is locked in some vault and “ready to go for its November release.” Not much credibility, though, when these so-called sources are anonymous and the producers have not bothered to refute the rumor with an official statement. Moreover, these sources only addressed the reshoot aspect and have not explicitly denied the occurrence of the test screening and the alleged dismal result. Even more bizarre, they seem to be unsure of what, if anything, needs rework: “ ‘Perhaps there might have been a little spot of ADR [the industry term for rerecording dialogue] but if it does need it, then that can be achieved quickly, as soon as the restrictions are lifted.’ ” In other words, these sources are worthless, unaware of the true state of the film. With an industry shaped by the turbines of PR trickery, how in hell is one to believe any explanation? I will note that most of the rumors I’ve encountered from the YouTube/Reddit sphere tend to be accurate. A year ago, for example, I had learned about plot elements and reshoots that made it into The Rise of Skywalker.
Reshoots aside, the other nagging thing, as The Daily Mail article reveals, is that the insiders are unsure whether the film can truly make it to theaters for the new November release date: “The big question no one can answer right now is whether, come November, audiences will be comfortable going into crowded cinemas and theatres.” If this is a careful strategic hint from Eon, then we shouldn’t rule out the spectre of another reschedule, moving the film’s release, yet again, to 2021. The coming months will be telling. If reshoots occur, anecdotes from the set are bound to be leaked. But for now, Eon’s silence—their lack of an emphatic refutation of a test screening gone bad—is eerily disturbing. And these rumors, such as they are, have a distressing tendency to be true.
|1||Tiger Tanaka, the head of the Japanese Secret Service, is one of the more colorful characters in the Fleming canon and serves as something of a narrative mechanism for the travelogue material during Bond’s mission in Japan. Had he traveled to China with our man Bond, he would have oriented the British agent to the concept of joss.|
|2||Once exception is Apocalypse Now. Although its reputation as the most accursed production lingers, the film was a commercial and critical success. Hailed as a masterpiece, Coppola’s movie currently sits at number 30 on the American Film Institute's 100 Years...100 Movies list.|
|3||The Rhythm Section holds a special place in film history: it had the worst opening ever for a movie playing on over 3,000 screens. Indie Wire has a solid analysis of the box office numbers.|
|4||Moreau’s production insanity was revisited in the acclaimed documentary Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau.|
|5||The EU is socialist by nature, as described in its Social Charter. As former Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky states, “T]he EU is [an] undemocratic, socialist, ideological superstate [formed] from completely different national states. . . . [It is] an artificial, contrived project of European socialists.”|
|6||Have a look at Jung’s The Undiscovered Self. (1957) He argues that “You can take away a man’s gods, but only to give him others in return.” In other words, religion, the worship of a deity, never goes away. It just manifests in another form. In the secular realm, we see how people willingly relinquish their autonomy to the those in power--the ruling elite--and defend the doctrines of their ideology. Today, Jung would note how leftists have turned environmentalism and identity politics into something of a fanatical faith. Likewise, for example, the argument—the belief—that government-run health care is a transcendent human right. Or that a Bond film demands social justice themes to exalt the movement.|
|7||As of 04/08/20, the septuagenarian communist was compelled to drop out of the presidential race. Still, in a twist of hypocrisy, he left as a so-called 1 percenter, the very thing he publicly vilified—yet here he is, a multimillionaire with three homes, despite accomplishing nothing in his useless political career. So much for his communist crusade.|
|8||The ridicule reached its peak when Craig, by way of producer Barbara Broccoli’s approval, gadded about in drag for a Bondian publicity stunt for International Women’s Day in 2011. While the raising of awareness for economic and cultural achievements of women is valid, we cannot forget that the roots of this event lie in the socialist, rather than the feminist, movement. In fact, it was first organized in 1911 by Clara Zetkin, a card-carrying Marxist who hobnobbed with Lenin. So you see, the Eon camp under the Madam Producer’s reign, had always been steeped in the leftist agenda.|
|9||The political Daniel Craig is one who provokes simultaneous laughter and puzzlement. Is he and his fellow champagne ideologists in Hollywood so clueless and unthinking not to notice the absurdity of their stance? Can people truly indulge in a fairy-tale world where they're convinced people will vigorously produce at a 90 percent tax rate and where the government will administer all programs with superb competence, efficiency, and honesty? Moreover, with wild increases in tax rates, the bigger the disincentive effect on society. Hence, the exodus of wealthy people from high-tax states to low-tax states. It's Atlas Shrugged incarnate. Craig himself has been on an exodus from Britain and has settled in the US. Yet as he cheers on the usual class-warfare blather from dear leader Bernie, he was unable to avoid anything as bourgeois as the flowing champagne from Eon—poured as a fat salary—which certainly taste exquisite to Craig.|