James Bond has outlived Nehru jackets, bell bottoms, parachute pants and grunge.
He may have met his match in a real-life billionaire with a hunger for woke “upgrades.”
The British super spy, first seen in 1962’s “Dr. No,” is still in demand mere months before his latest adventure, “No Time to Die,” hits theaters.
Franchises come and go in fickle Hollywood. One minute, you’re a young Jedi in the most beloved series in modern times. The next? You’re a ghost in a sequel that slammed a stake in the saga’s heart.
James Bond endures, through clunkers and blockbusters alike. The actors may change, and the outlandish plots may beggar belief. Each new Bond connects with a fresh generation while retaining its bond, no pun intended, with previous fans. Devotees may bicker over the best 007 -- for the record, Sean Connery remains the gold standard with Timothy Dalton deserving more respect -- but they crave new Bond adventures no matter who’s wearing the natty black tux.
Did all of that change this week?
Amazon snapped up MGM, and with it storied franchises like “Rocky” and the James Bond saga. It’s the type of corporate move all too common these days, and we’ll have to wait and see how the maneuver impacts the franchise.
The early signs couldn’t be more ominous.
Let’s start with Amazon itself. The company’s founder and CEO greeted the acquisition with a statement that should send chills down the spine of every Bond devotee.
Not the good kind, mind you.
“We’re looking forward to reimagining [emphasis added] and developing the deep catalog of MGM,” Bezos said. “MGM has a vast, deep catalog of much-loved intellectual property. With the talented people at MGM and Amazon Studios, we can reimagine and develop that IP for the 21s century.”
That sound you hear is Ms. Moneypenny dropping her tea cup with an audible gasp.
His Amazon flagship, while offering a superior shopping experience, repeatedly shows its woke bona fides. It regularly cancels or diminishes content it deems problematic, like conservative documentaries such as “Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words” and “What Killed Michael Brown?” The site also blocked part of the docuseries “Killing Free Speech,” missing the irony of the decision entirely.
Amazon also wouldn’t allow the publisher’s ads to promote Abigail Shrier’s “Irreversible Damage,” a well researched tome that clashes with the current trans orthodoxy. The company also removed “When Harry Became Sally,” a second book questioning transgender groupthink.
Bezos may not have personally pulled these particular strings, but it’s likely he didn’t lose much sleep about the cancellations, either.
Which brings us back to Bond.
The franchise has evolved over time. More gadgets. Less gadgets. Outer space adventures. Back to terra firma battles.
The Connery period found 007 playfully swatting a female character played by Margaret Nolan on the derriere, a move few if any Bond fans would cheer in the modern era. We’ve even seen Bond fall in love, something that once seemed impossible for the ultimate playboy.
Yet the Bond persona endured, more or less intact. Tough. Brave. Bold. Cunning. Flirtatious. Deadly.
It’s why we still love Bond and have little reason to change our minds. For now.
What happens if Bond goes woke? Could the franchise, which typically extends beyond the two-hour mark, suddenly stop cold for lectures on inequality or gender limitations? What if Daniel Craig, who wrapped his fifth and final Bond outing with “No Time to Die,” is replaced by a female Bond out of the rebooted “Charlie’s Angels” playbook?
“No Time to Die” already has fans worried the woke transformation has begun. There’s a new 007, and she’s a woman in the latest spy saga. Bond reportedly gets married in the film, yet his bride won’t take his last name. The latest Bond wheels are powered by electric currents.
Green, James Green.
Minor elements, perhaps, but they’re happening before Bezos gets his hands on the IP.
The Amazon billionaire vowed the MGM titles would be “re-imagined,” right? He’s not talking about new gadgets or otherworldly plotlines. He wants Bond to fit into the 21st century, where “toxic masculinity” is considered an unforgivable sin.
Think it can’t happen?
“The Last Jedi” went woke. So did “Terminator: Dark Fate.” The MCU is all-in on woke, from “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” to the upcoming “Eternals.”
Bezos warned us. And, if he gets his way, James Bond may never be the same.
UPDATES: It should be noted that the Broccoli family, which has controlled the Bond franchise for decades, still has partial ownership of the saga following the deal. Their stewardship is a key reason for the saga’s longevity up until now.
It’s increasingly clear that the clan is bending toward the woke movement given recent developments, and pressure from Amazon will hold considerable sway over the franchise’s future.
John Logan, who wrote the excellent 007 adventure “Skyfall,” has similar reservations about the Amazon acquisition.
The reason we’re still watching Bond movies after more than 50 years is that the family has done an extraordinary job of protecting the character through the thickets of moviemaking and changing public tastes. Corporate partners come and go, but James Bond endures. He endures precisely because he is being protected by people who love him….
What happens if a bruising corporation like Amazon begins to demand a voice in the process? What happens to the comradeship and quality control if there’s an Amazonian overlord with analytics parsing every decision? What happens when focus groups report they don’t like Bond drinking martinis? Or killing quite so many people? And that English accent’s a bit alienating, so could we have more Americans in the story for marketability?