A new Bond film? We've been expecting you ...
He's survived gravity-defying roof-top chases, nose-bleed helicopter plunges and a dicey encounter with Goldfinger's scrotum-shredding laser-beam. Now James Bond has pulled off his most dashing escape yet after it was announced the previously bankrupt studio that holds the rights to the 007 franchise has given the go-ahead for the 23rd movie in the series.
Aside from confirming Bond 23 is go, details from MGM are sketchy. But it is clear the new Bond -- which, unusually, doesn't yet have a name -- will be in the gritty tradition of the last two installments.
As was the case with those ultra-violent 'reboots', the perma-scowling Daniel Craig will once again play the iconic super-spy as a cold-eyed killer who'd rather spend the evening buffing up in the gym and polishing his Glock than knocking back vodka martinis at the casino.
The latest installment is to be directed by Sam Mendes, the Academy Award-winning former husband of Kate Winslet. Known for his classy dramas -- American Beauty, his 1999 meditation on middle age, garnered a best picture Oscar -- the 45-year-old Englishman might be seen as an unusual choice.
After all, recent Bond outings -- visibly indebted to the lean, mean Jason Bourne franchise -- have called for a filmmaker with a flair for brutal fight sequences and propulsive pacing.
In Craig's hands Bond is complicated and twitchy, a caffeinated killer who seems unable to sit still for long.
"Bond 23 is a much-needed money-spinner for MGM, who, let's face it, needs every cent it can get," says Moviebit.com editor Vic Barry. "And Bond will deliver that in big suitcases. Sam Mendes is a great director, but his style is a slow, deliberate and dramatical style. Not a good cocktail for a movie that requires the exact opposite, especially at a time when spy/action movies are 10-a-penny."
Then again, perhaps the Bond producers are hoping to rattle things up a little. After all, it's not as if Craig's last outing was an unqualified success. Granted, 2008's Quantum of Solace -- surely the clunkiest Bond title to date -- reaped a none-too shabby $586m worldwide. However, that was a sharp fall-off from Craig's first foray as 007 in 2006's Casino Royale, which took in $100m more.
The story behind Bond 23 is certainly as convoluted as the plot of any of Ian Fleming's novels. The new movie was originally scheduled for mid-2011.
However, last April production was put on hold amid fears over the future of MGM, which was $3.7bn in the red (its financial woes also delayed the forthcoming Hobbit adaptation). Other studios offered to take the property off its hands but MGM held firm. With a consortium headed by Sony leading a buy-out, the company is now in a position to bankroll 007's latest adventure.
In the spirit of the age, though, the latest film is likely to be filmed on a vastly reduced budget. Quantum of Solace's production costs approached $200m, making it by far the most expensive Bond yet.
This time around, MGM's new owners will undoubtedly be keeping a tight grip on the purse strings.
"Bond is such a money earner and all the figures stack up but when the next film is made we may see a reduced budget," Screen International magazine's Mark Adams told reporters this week. "It has been shown that you can make good Bond films without lots of silly explosions and without compromising quality."
The big question, of course, is whether Bond can still pack a cultural punch in 2012.