What James Bond Movies Tell Us About the Economy
Skyfall took in $90 million in its opening weekend, making all 22 other films in the series look like homemade Boba Fett costumes on deviantART.
This is terrible news.
You see, Bond films tend to do really well in times of economic crisis. Conversely, if we're all rolling in piles of money, 007 is left battling the cold indifference of empty movie theaters, in addition to vaguely racist megalomaniacs and women named Pussy. This is arguably because James Bond was specifically designed to appeal to people enduring serious economic hardships, sort of like NASCAR.
We have some terrible news, Omega.
When Ian Fleming published Casino Royale in 1953, England had been thoroughly foofed in the b-nus by World War II. The country was completely broke, wartime sugar and meat rationing had continued for another decade and Great Britain's international power was slipping away in the wake of messy military entanglements in the Middle East and Syria, which totally doesn't sound like anything that's going on today.
Then James Bond suddenly appeared on bookshelves, a suave British sex dispenser of seemingly limitless resources and ability. Bond could afford to travel anywhere in the world, eat lobster like Cheeto dust, wield space-age fantasy gadgets and kill all of the Chinese Russians that were currently trying to take over the world using nothing but his ingenuity and witty retorts. The public loved him, and when Bond showed up on movie screens a decade later portrayed by Sean Connery's chest hair, he became an astonishingly accurate economic barometer for the next half-century.
"The name is Tits. Man Tits."
When Dr. No came out in 1963, the economy was awesome, so the film just did OK. But over the next few years, a recession and the Vietnam War filled the country with the disenfranchised poor, and consequently the next three Bond films were the most successful of the entire series (adjusted for inflation). Appropriately, the most iconic Bond villain of the '60s is a fat, decadent shithead who covers everything in gold and is literally trying to steal all of America's money.
It's like Donald Trump got pregnant with an IRS agent.
In the 1970s, inflation went sky-high, then dropped, then leveled out, sort of like if Macho Man had been flying a plane when he heart-attacked to death instead of driving a truck. The success (or failure) of Bond films in the '70s reflected the bipolar swing of the economy. While some did well, others bombed emphatically, although Roger Moore looked exactly as confused in each one.
The 1980s were boom years (Reaganomics!), and so Bond tanked. Five 007 films were released, but only one of them managed to bring in more adjusted dollars than its predecessors. This may also be related to the series' involvement of Duran Duran and a-ha.
If there's such a thing as original sin, this is it.
In the 1990s, rather than flinging money around like they couldn't stand the sight of it, people were dumping cash into things with seemingly surefire returns, such as dot-coms and James Bond movies. Previous Bond films all had an average budget of about $30 million. So 1989's License to Kill, the worst-performing entry of the franchise, still wound up earning almost four times its budget. 1999's Tomorrow Never Dies grossed way more, but producers had dumped over $110 million into it, and funneled even more cash into the next two installments. When Brosnan's 007 failed to make people forget about the Heimlich scene from Mrs. Doubtfire, their bulletproof-investment bubble burst, just like all the dot-coms of the '90s.
Casino Royale underperformed in 2006, because we were back to hurling money around in case the terrorists came back and burned it all. Quantum of Solace did even worse, because it was released just a month after the economy imploded, while people were still locked in ferocious denial. Now that we've had four years to stare at the depression like a haunted painting, Skyfall is breaking records around the world.
Which is good, because Craig's insurance rates are insane.
Sorry, Daniel Craig, but we really hope the next one sucks.