If you’ve been a James Bond fan for any length of time, you’ll have learnt by now to be patient. While other popular film franchises might release a new entry every two to three years, agent 007 has always (rather uncharacteristically) taken things a little slower.
In the last three decades, there have only been eight Bond movies released, with a legal tussle holding up the series between 1989’s Licence to Kill and 1995’s Goldeneye and an extended search for Pierce Brosnan’s successor leading to a four-year gap between 2002’s Die Another Day and Daniel Craig’s debut in 2006’s Casino Royale.
Most recently, Craig’s swansong as agent 007, No Time to Die, has been repeatedly delayed. The film will, allegedly, finally hit cinemas in November 2020, five years on from the release of 2015’s Spectre and a full 12 months after it was originally slated to drop.
The departure of original director Danny Boyle and hunt for a replacement – Cary Joji Fukunaga (True Detective, Beasts of No Nation) ultimately stepped up – saw Bond’s latest screen outing pushed back to first February and then April 2020. But the recent Coronavirus outbreak was to deal the film one more blow, with MGM, Universal and Bond producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli announcing yesterday (4th March) that they had taken the joint decision to postpone its release by a further seven months.
Why exactly did they make the decision to so drastically postpone No Time to Die, less than a month before it was due to release in UK cinemas? Well, there are likely a few reasons and not all of them are as obvious as you might think.
The obvious – and most palatable – answer is that the film’s April debut was scrapped to reduce the risk of further spread of COVID-19. At first glance, it seems like a sensible, compassionate response to calls from the likes of fan-site MI6: The Home of James Bond 007 to “put public health above marketing release schedules and the cost of canceling publicity events”.
But of course there’s more to it than that. The spread of Coronavirus has led to the closures of cinemas in major markets including Italy, South Korea, Japan and, perhaps most importantly of all, China – a development that would have made a major dent in Bond’s international box office were No Time to Die to have met its original release date.
For context, the last 007 film, Spectre, grossed $880.7 million worldwide, with $84.7 million of that coming from the Chinese market. If MGM, Universal, Wilson and Broccoli had stuck to their guns, No Time to Die faced losing up to 10 per cent of its total box office gross – and that’s before you even start to factor in how potential closures across Europe and other parts of the world might impact the film’s profitability.
On top of concerns for public health and the film’s box office appeal though, there might also have been one other factor at play here.
Plot details for No Time to Die remained relatively scarce even as we were apparently one month away from its release, with its synopsis appearing wilfully vague: “Recruited to rescue a kidnapped scientist, globe-trotting spy James Bond finds himself hot on the trail of a mysterious villain, who’s armed with a dangerous new technology.”
Fans have suggested that this ambiguity could be covering up everything from Rami Malek’s true role as a rebooted version of Dr. No to the death of James Bond. But one early rumour doing the rounds was that the film’s villain would be engaging in some form of “genetic warfare”.
“History isn’t kind to men who play God,” a terse Bond is seen telling Malek’s villain character in the movie’s trailer, suggesting that genetic engineering does form part of the plot.
Could this be another reason why No Time to Die was pushed back? In the current climate, a thriller centred on the idea of biological warfare could be seen as in poor taste.
There’ll be plenty more time to speculate before the movie finally makes its bow in November – providing, of course, that its curse finally lifts and it’s not subject to further delays. Agent 007, we’re waiting for you…
No Time to Die will be released to UK cinemas on 12th November 2020