The world’s greatest villains have all tried to defeat James Bond.
From instigating World War III, destroying major cities or simply using counter-intelligence, terrorism, revenge, and extortion. But now in 2020, it seems that 007 has finally met his (temporary) match.
Sounding like Hugo Drax’s masterplan from 1979s Moonraker, 2019 saw the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) across the East. Slowly but surely, the virus crept into nations across the globe until it reached mainland Europe and now, in 2020, full Western civilisation. With over 100,000 (known) cases, 6,000 deaths but 70,00 recoveries, it’s safe to say this is a Bond villain’s dream come true; attacking mankind with an unknown virus and locking down countries, stretching health resources and instigating fear into the media.
But the first celluloid victim of the coronavirus pandemic battle was the 25th James Bond film No Time To Die. On March 29th, just 29 days away from the hugely anticipated finale for actor Daniel Craig’s 007, EON Productions and MGM announced that due to “thorough evaluation of the global theatrical marketplace” No Time To Die would be delayed for over 7 months until 12th November 2020 in the UK following with the US on 25th November, and then the rest of the world after that.
It seems Rami Malek’s new villain Safin would relish this news that was just the tip of the iceberg for Hollywood and the world in the battle against COVID-19.
With growing pressure on industries and governments to take action against the sweeping pandemic, studios evaluated both the risk to box-office takings with people self-isolating and not venturing outside and also the general wellbeing of the public. No Time To Die was in full throttle of marketing following a February multi-million dollar Super Bowl advert, posters, interviews, and preparations for the global press tour. However, with the film now delayed, the losses are predicted to be upwards of $40m.
How many $$$ and £££ can you put above the health and reaction to the general public, however? If No Time To Die was released as normal come April 2nd, just what would the box-office takings be? With many cities around the world enforcing lockdowns, reduced working hours and some policing to keep people isolated to help cull the spread, a major film such as the 25th James Bond adventure would have faced dismal openings and a gross that reflected the pandemic, not the film and talent involved. It would have been nothing but disheartening for all involved, and for critics and fans to witness to a beloved franchise.
The delay of No Time To Die was met with support and understanding, but also upset and disappointment. Those wanting to be resilient and carry on as normal in the face of uncertainty were met with a negative blow. Fans wanting to escape the drama of the world into their escapist 007 universe were now unable to, and it signaled the start of a situation many simply didn’t want to believe was happening. With the media not helping in scaremongering and fanning flames of horror stories in daily headlines – THOUSANDS DEAD! KILLER VIRUS SWEEPS THE WORLD! THE ECONOMY COLLAPSES! NOBODY IS SAFE! – some people just wanted to keep calm, maintain personal hygiene and carry on using common sense.
But weeks later, not even Hollywood could have predicted the escalating battle against COVID-19. Major studios followed suit to delay some of the year’s most potentially profitable films such as Peter Rabbit 2 delayed 5 months to August 2020, Fast & Furious 9 delayed 11 months to April 2021, Mulan pulled from March 27th with no future release date yet given, and A Quiet Place 2 pulled with no new date in sight. The domino effect well and truly has taken place with other films still to follow.
Major movies are vacant from cinemas. Countries have gone into lockdown. Transportation companies have cut major travel across land, sea, and air. Social venues have been closed or operate with reduced hours and staff. Retailers are selling out of the most basic stock. Consumers are panic buying. Schools are on the brink of closure for months.
In the words of The Spy Who Loved Me master villain Karl Stromberg, “Global destruction will follow. The new era will begin.”
But what factors helped delay No Time To Die’ for the 7 months until November? The health and wellbeing of the general public goes up against the major lacklustre box-office takings. It’s not easy to think which the multi-billion dollar studios value more, but each has gone hand in hand here; a symbiotic protection of both consumer and product.
There is also the major international markets, where various countries each have been closing both their doors and borders and isolating citizens. Why would EON Productions want to continue with a planned release in April to the lucrative markets such as the UK, China, and America? Millions of dollars may have been lost in marketing, but that’s a small price to pay to reap future success when, in November, we hope the COVID-19 pandemic will be a distant memory to cinemagoers out for some much-needed entertainment!
One other, hinted at, factor is the actual plot of the film, with rumours that Rami Malek’s villain Safin is involved in some biochemical/medical / science warfare or experimentation. While all these fantastical plots make a good Bond villain, maybe it will be a little too raw seeing a plan to eradicate mankind with a virus when audiences are actually living it.
All we can do is listen to the advice from governments and officials as we ride out the coronavirus storm as best we can as a people. Be aware of what you should do to prevent any risk of contracting or even helping spread the virus, and don’t take any chances, no matter how proud or invulnerable you feel.
Take care of yourselves, and each other, and know this… James Bond WILL return in November 2020.
MGM / EON Productions will release ‘No Time To Die’ globally from November 2020