'SPECTRE': What has kept the James Bond franchise going strong?

'SPECTRE,' the upcoming Bond film, is the twenty-fourth film in the franchise. But the movie series shows no sign of slowing down, with recent entries being particularly praised. How has the movie series stayed popular?

Francois Duhamel/Sony Pictures/AP
The James Bond movie series stars Daniel Craig.

The upcoming James Bond movie, “SPECTRE,” will be the twenty-fourth official entry in the series, but the movie franchise about the super spy is far from showing its age. 

“SPECTRE” stars Daniel Craig as Bond, the actor’s fourth film in the series. It also features the return of such actors as Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, and Ben Whishaw as Bond’s colleagues behind the scenes as well as the addition of actors such as Dave Bautista, Léa Seydoux, Monica Belluci, and Christoph Waltz.

The film series, which is based on Ian Fleming’s spy novels, debuted in 1962 with the Sean Connery movie, “Dr. No.” Since then, multiple actors have taken on the role and multiple directors have helmed the films.

A series as long-running as this is no doubt any Hollywood executive’s dream. What has kept the movies so popular? 

One necessary step those behind the movies took early on was recasting the role. Actor George Lazenby stepped in only five movies into the series and when those who casted the movies brought on new names, the new players were sometimes actors who were already well-known and so who brought new attention to the franchise. Actor Pierce Brosnan already had fans buzzing over his turn in the TV show “Remington Steele” as well as other projects when he was cast as Bond. Fans of the actor could follow him to the new series. 

The movie series also has a well-established format that lends the films the aura of comfort food for some. Bond’s boss is usually M, his gadgets will be supplied by Q, and he will spar with secretary Moneypenny (though these roles have also been played by different characters). Sometimes these players don’t appear in the movies, but for the most part, viewers who have seen one Bond movie will recognize the supporting characters popping up in another. 

On the other hand, the newer movies have taken care not to stick only to old formulas. 2006’s “Casino Royale,” which was the first film to star Craig in the lead role, was praised for its new take on the character. Viewers were brought back in time to when Bond was starting out as a spy. Craig was also a more serious Bond, with fewer one-liners than his immediate predecessors. Following the appearance of a much-maligned invisible car in the series’ last installment, 2002’s “Die Another Day,” fans seemed ready for something more serious and “Casino” fit the bill.

With “Skyfall,” critics again praised Craig’s performance and that of Javier Bardem as villain Silva, with whom Bond faces off. Reviewers enjoyed the combination of impressive stunts and a clever and often humorous script. “Skyfall” became the highest-grossing Bond movie of all time. 

Can “SPECTRE” continue the popularity of the series? The new movie opens on Nov. 6.

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