“I’ve been expecting you Mister Bond”. For five long years, we Bond fans have waited for the new film to come out. And with under a month to go before the Premiere, on Wednesday 4 March, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, the production team behind the Bond movie, No Time to Die, announced on Twitter 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”. The production team did not explicitly mention COVID-19, but it is thought that fans had expressed concerns about the film being released in cinemas when parts of the world have been thrown into disarray by the outbreak. I am not arguing against a postponement. But I think there is reason to question the length.
COVID-19 is an exceptional Public Health problem, and so it is right that Public Health tries to contain the spread of the virus. Cinemas are popular places, and the Bond release would undoubtedly be a massive hit at the Box Office. There is good reason to be concerned that cinema-goers could be at risk. However, this disease represents an unknown known. In seven months, the epidemic might have gone. It might have gone by the summer. Or it might have escalated around the world. We cannot say if all will be fine in November. The length of postponement might seem like a figure plucked from thin air. What was the scientific rationale for such a long put back?
Over 100,000 people have been infected since the outbreak began, and there has been nearly 4,000 deaths. This will have increased much more since I wrote this. Some fans on Social Media have suggested a rerun of Bond films each week at the cinema. This would be no different to releasing No Time to Die now. In this scenario, people go to the cinema to watch an old Bond film. There would be no less of a risk of transmitting or contracting the virus. If cinemas across the world re-ran old Bond’s, this would provide the same risk of the screening of a Bond Movie being an epicentre. This goes for any film at a cinema. There is a risk, great or small, of transmission occurring because a crowd of people were brought together. If that risk is significant, then why not just shut down cinemas now? People will rightly say because of the financial implications for cinemas.
I would like to speculate other reasons for postponing for so long. The title, No Time to Die, might seem insensitive if a pandemic occurs. If anyone in Bond production thought that too, then it might suggest that the problem lies with the content. Such concerns might seem to be a plausible reason to postpone, but not for the reason given above. Rather I think that the additional time is to allow them to refine any last-minute issues with the film in light of COVID -19.
Suppose that the plotline revolved around a bio-terrorism plan by the villain. This is not so implausible as it was the plot of OHMSS – Blofeld’s Angels of Death, or in Moonraker – where orchid toxin would be launched into the atmosphere, with a view to wiping out humanity. Listening to an interview with the lead villain character of No Time to Die, Safin, played by Rami Malek; he said that “He has a particular philosophy on how he can make the world a better place, and it can benefit everyone, including James Bond… Some would call him malicious or ruthless”[i]. In a separate interview he has said that his character thought that he could “Solve one of the world’s biggest problems in a very definite way”. Daniel Craig then chipped in with suggesting that Safin “sees himself as a saviour of humanity”[ii]. This isn’t much to go by, and my projection could be totally off the mark; but is population rise not a major world problem? Bio-terrorism would certainly be one way to wipe out vast numbers of people. How many Bond plots have focused on destroying life on earth? I may be wildly off the mark, and I will be happy to accept if that is so. But it is not difficult to see that COVID-19 epidemic and resultant deaths might make the title alone a PR nightmare. A significant delay might enable them to revise the name of the film (although probably unlikely), and rewrite and refilm as need be. A by chance bio-terrorism storyline might just not seem palatable to the producers in light of the outbreak. But this could be rectified under the guise of the seven-month postponement.
So, in seven months, we might do well to think back when watching the film to see if there was a closeness to the current events. But if there is a rewrite and scenes edited or redone, we can never know this. (This might be an unknown known).
The last news grabbing worldwide epidemic was AIDS in Western Europe and the USA in the mid-1980s. (That the disease has wreaked havoc through Africa since the 1990s has been largely ignored in Western Europe). The media publicity from that and the fear that the virus had the potential to wipe out humanity might have led to Dalton’s Bond in The Living Daylights being relatively monogamous. (He was not explicitly seen with a sexual partner during the movie, and there was only one “Bond Girl”). If Bond 25 IS based in part around bio-terrorism, then Covid-19 might just be Bond’s greatest threat yet.
Dr Donald Nicolson (@the_mopster)