Die Another Day

Release Date: November 22, 2002

Smoke up, Young Johnny!

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For a studio, one of the nicest parts of having a franchise such as James Bond is how little selling is needed prior to the film's release. After all, almost any sequel is an attempt to take popular characters from a previous title and put them in new scenarios where audiences will hopefully pay to see them and find them just as charming as before. In some instances, such as Scream, Austin Powers and Rush Hour, the sequel is received much better than the original, but even with lackluster releases such as Scary Movie, the follow-up film is still a financial boon to the studio's coffers. What makes the end of 2002 so unusual in the annals of cinema is that we are currently scheduled to see two of the most successful film franchises of all time appear in theaters within weeks of each other with the releases of Die Another Day and Star Trek: Nemesis.

There may be no argument about the fact that James Bond has proven to be THE most successful franchise ever, with almost all of its titles being financial successes and some becoming bona-fide blockbusters. With the release of Nemesis, Star Trek will become only the second non-horror franchise to reach double digits. What is particularly unusual about the two productions being scheduled for the same period this year is that for the body of the 1990s, there appeared to be some sort of gentlemen's agreement between the two studios to alternate years of release for their titles. In fact, we must go all the way back to 1989, with License to Kill and Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, to find the last time that James Bond and Star Trek had sequels released in the same year.

After that, the Bond franchise was put on hiatus for six years while MGM/UA plotted how to improve their flagging product. When the arrival of Pierce Brosnan proved he might as well have been genetically engineered to play the part of Bond, the studio settled into an easy schedule of a new sequel every two years. This fit nicely into the pattern already accepted by Paramount to release new Trek titles every other year, because Bond took odd-numbered years and Trek took even-numbered ones. The new Next Generation cast took over with Star Trek: Generations on November 18, 1994, followed it with Star Trek: First Contact on November 22, 1996, and finished with Star Trek: Insurrection on December 11, 1998. MGM had James Bond releases Goldeneye on November 17, 1995, Tomorrow Never Dies on December 19, 1997, and The World is Not Enough on November 19, 1999. Had Star Trek: Insurrection been a better film, this trend might have continued indefinitely, but since it was disappointing in both quality and box-office performance, Paramount took a year longer to make certain the latest title would meet with the lofty expectations of the franchise.

Thus we arrive at an unusual showdown between two franchises who have historically avoided each other, but now find themselves competing for the same end-of-year box office. Even stranger, at one point this year, we were scheduled to see the release of both films on the same day, before Paramount switched Nemesis to its current date. Since Trek's new target release date, December 20th, was already a bit crowded by the presence of the middle film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Two Towers, it certainly appears possible that the James Bond and Star Trek franchises are yet destined to face off in theaters. This is something unusual to track as the 2002 release schedule solidifies.

The 20th film in the James Bond series is not going to re-invent the wheel, for obvious reasons. There will be car chases, breathtaking action sequences and women more gorgeous than anyone you know in real life. In addition, there will be a theme song performed by a superstar performer (we're going to ignore that whole A-Ha fiasco), and this time it's Madonna's turn. Her presence blurs the line between Austin Powers and Bond even further; however, few recent Bond title tracks have found success on the music charts, so having Madonna sing the theme might offer rare cross-over music-chart success for a 007 flick. In addition, there were originally conflicting reports which indicated Mrs. Guy Ritchie might have an onscreen role as a cameo Bond Girl (though her publicist denied it). Despite the denial, the rumor turned out to be true as she has a small part as a fencing instructor.

What we do know for certain is that recent Academy Award-winning actress Halle Berry IS a Bond Girl. As you probably know by now, she will play the role of Jinx, a femme fatale with designs for our hero. Another villain, Zao, will be handled by Rick Yune (Johnny Tran of The Fast and the Furious). Zao has been permanently disfigured due to his experimental usage of a face-mutation device. Why do bad things happen to good people?

The main baddie in this flick is Gustav Graves (played by Toby Stephens), another military general/psychotic with a research-and-development team working on a device that will destroy the world. This time the doomsday weapon is housed under the ice of his secret lair...this is also how we know he's a threat. He has both a weapon of mass destruction AND a secret lair.

One twist in this Bond is that at the beginning, the ultra-suave spy is being held prisoner at a military compound he has been unable to escape for months. The unkempt appearance of the world's best-looking spy will prove a jarring reminder that even he isn't infallible. When he returns from this sojourn behind enemy lines, 007 will be trying to discover who the traitor responsible for his imprisonment is. In addition, it's rumored that Dame Judi Dench's M knew of Bond's capture and did nothing to save him, thereby causing him to be reluctant to assist her when she realizes the precarious situation with terrorist Graves requires his unique skill set.

All of the pieces are in place for a simultaneously formulaic and unique new offering in the James Bond series. (David Mumpower/BOP)

Vital statistics for Die Another Day
Main Cast Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Rosamund Pike, Rick Yune, Will Yun Lee
Supporting Cast Michael Madsen, Judi Dench, John Cleese, Samantha Bond, Colin Salmon, Toby Stephens, Emilio Echevarria
Director Lee Tamahori
Screenwriter Neal Purvis, Robert Wade
Distributor MGM
Trailer Click Here for Trailer
Official Site http://www.jamesbond.com/
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture

Comparison films for Die Another Day
Adjusted Opening
Total BO
Adjusted Total
X-Men, The 7/14/0054.47 60.93 3025 18007.00 19376.7 157.30 175.97 2.89
World is not Enough, The 11/19/9935.52 42.32 3165 11223.00 12813.7 126.93 151.26 3.57
Goldeneye 11/17/9526.21 36.33 2667 9828.00 13104.0 106.43 147.53 4.06
Tomorrow Never Dies 12/19/9725.14 33.02 2807 8956.00 11316.9 125.28 164.58 4.98
Swordfish 6/8/0118.14 19.36 2678 6776.00 6955.9 69.72 74.41 3.84
Thomas Crown Affair, The 8/6/9914.60 17.39 2427 6016.00 6868.7 69.30 82.58 4.75
Tailor of Panama, The 4/20/011.58 1.68 359 4406.00 4523.0 13.49 14.39 5.26



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