Woke, James Woke.
The news out of the Bond camp this week is depressing for anyone clinging to Hollywood’s classic franchise.
Before Harry Potter, the MCU or Luke Skywalker there was 007. The spy series flourished for five decades. New Bonds. New gadgets. New stunts. New songs.
Similar box office results.
The last Bond adventure, 2015’s “Spectre,” disappointed many but still hauled in nearly $900 million worldwide.
If it ain’t broke … but maybe they just attempted to “fix” it.
If so, it’s part of a growing trend in Hollywood — appealing to Social Justice Warriors while leaving the hardcore fans scratching their heads. In case the industry didn’t notice, consumers have more content than ever to pick and choose. You need to fight for their hard-earned dollars, not tut-tut those who love the existing brand.
Sony had a sure thing on its corporate hands three years ago. The public clamored for more “Ghostbusters” films featuring their favorite slime warriors.
Instead, Sony hopped aboard the ill-advised gender swap trend, ditching the franchise’s original stars for four funny ladies.
That wasn’t all Sony did, though.
The film’s creative team slammed anyone aghast at the gender swap, or even those who disliked the film’s awful first trailer. Journalists sided with Team Sony, declaring any objections to be the work of sad Internet trolls.
Guess what happened next?
The expensive film crawled over the $100 million mark at the U.S. box office, costing Sony a reported $70 million in the process.
Going woke derailed the franchise, which will return next year with a whole new look and the return of its core characters. The untitled sequel will pretend the 2016 reboot doesn’t exist.
Take two, as they say in the business. And, so far, the folks behind the movie aren’t lecturing fans or wagging any fingers at them.
Earlier this year, Paramount started peddling the sixth film in the “Terminator” franchise as more female than ever. It didn’t matter that the first two films (the best by a country mile) already showcased Linda Hamilton’s gritty, guns-a-blazing Sarah Connor as the key character alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800.
No, the first teaser photo for “Terminator: Dark Fate” left Ah-nold out entirely. In his place, three bedraggled women, including two unfamiliar faces, in a heavily airbrushed portrait. The usual press suspects hailed the image. “Terminator” fans likely had a different reaction.
Director Tim Miller then blasted the project’s critics weeks before the film’s theatrical release.
“If you’re at all enlightened, she’ll play like gangbusters. If you’re a closet misogynist, she’ll scare the f*** out of you, because she’s tough and strong but very feminine,” Miller said. “We did not trade certain gender traits for others; she’s just very strong, and that frightens some dudes. You can see online the responses to some of the early sh** that’s out there, trolls on the internet. I don’t give a f***.”
Those “trolls” stayed home, apparently. The “Dark Fate” flop is expected to cost Paramount north of $100 million.
The actual film focused primarily on entertainment with a sampling of woke nods, and while it recycled too many existing themes delivered sci-fi escapism. Now, you can point to several factors for “Dark Fate’s” box office collapse. The project’s woke marketing scheme hardly helped.
Which brings us to “No Time to Die.”
The 25th Bond film features several sops to the social justice crowd. You know, the same group that probably hasn’t watched more than a single Bond film since 1962’s “Dr. No” introduced us to the super spy.
Daniel Craig’s Bond will tie the knot with a woman who refuses to take his name in the new film. It’s not like its Hitler, James Hitler or a surname you can’t pronounce.
Plus, our hero will be driving an electric car and failing to score with select ladies for comic effect (the horror, the horror). The screenwriter even flirted with a tampon disposal scene. Perhaps they’re saving it for the next Bond outing … “The Spy Who Got His Period?”
Does anyone at Team Bond know what they’re doing to the red meat franchise?
This week’s “Charlie’s Angels” reboot is as woke as you’d expect. That may not be as much of a problem as the prior cases. The show’s feminist legacy is part of its cultural DNA. Sure, the 1970s version featured plenty of skimpily clad “Angels.” It still let women save the day at a time when that proved far less common on the small screen.
The new film’s feminist bona fides may take you out of the movie, but they don’t clash with the franchise’s prime directive.
That’s not the case for the Bond saga.
Now, compare all of the above to the “Fast & Furious” franchise. That series features plenty of diversity and strong female characters. It’s not woke, though, at least not yet. The stories hinge on physics-defying action, heroism and an expansive take on the term “Family.”
It’s feminism without The Big Speeches or Finger Wagging. The series is so strong it just enjoyed a successful spin-off, “Hobbs & Shaw” ($173 million stateside, $585 million international).
Even if the new Bond disappoints at the box office, expect more woke virtue-signaling across the Hollywood landscape. The industry’s cultural bubble, like a 007 car modified by Q, remains bulletproof.