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Dueling Works / Film - Spy Fiction

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  • Initiators / Followers
    • Capsule Pitch Description: Description
    • Implementation: Implementation
    • Winner: Reviews and box office comparison

  • Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (US, 1934) / The Return of Bulldog Drummond (UK, 1934)
    • Capsule Pitch Description: Sequels to 1929's Bulldog Drummond.
    • Implementation: In the US production, Ronald Colman reprises the title role with Charles Butterworth as his sidekick Algie Longworth. In the UK production, Ralph Richardson takes the title role and Claud Allister reprises his previous role of Algie. Also that same year Alfred Hitchcock began work on a Bulldog Drummond picture; when he couldn't get the rights to the character he filed off the serial numbers and turned out The Man Who Knew Too Much.
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    • Winner: The US production is unfortunately slowed down by Butterworth's performance. By contrast, the UK production combines a boy's own tale of international intrigue with hints of gangster films and even screwball comedy.

  • OSS 117: Mission to Tokyo (1966) / You Only Live Twice (1967)
    • Capsule Pitch Description: Two Cold War spy films about ace Western secret agents with a "7" in their three-number Code Name who go to Japan.
    • Implementation: OSS 117: Mission to Tokyo is an adaptation of French spy fiction books and seeks to emulate the James Bond series with a small-to-medium budget while You Only Live Twice is a big budget film of the James Bond series. Terence Young directed three films in the Bond series (though not this one) and wrote the story of some OSS 117 films, including Mission to Tokyo.
    • Winner: You Only Live Twice likely won on the box office side since it had a wider release. Box office numbers for OSS 117: Mission to Tokyo are unknown, and it was only released in Europe. Most movie websites point towards You Only Live Twice as the bettter film, and the old OSS 117 film series didn't leave much of an impact on the genre while the James Bond series would thrive for decades and codify the genre.

  • You Only Live Twice (1967) / Casino Royale (1967)
    • Capsule Pitch Description: The first duel between two James Bond films released the same year.
    • Implementation: One is a straight-up spy action film that's part of the successful Eon Productions James Bond series and has very few elements in common with the original Ian Fleming novel, while the other's Troubled Production turned it into a big spoof that adapts the novel Casino Royale, by outside producers who had the rights to the novel.
    • Winner: You Only Live Twice won, as it received positive reviews and grossed over $111 million in worldwide box office, though the acrimonious disputes between Sean Connery and Eon producers (especially Harry Saltzman) caused the loss of the series' iconic lead actor for the next film. Casino Royale's reviews were mostly negative, and it grossed $41.7 million worldwide. It was also a later win for Eon as they managed to acquire the rights to Casino Royale in 1999 and make a serious and successful adaptation of it in 2006.

  • Octopussy (1983) / Never Say Never Again (1983)
    • Capsule Pitch Description: The second duel between two James Bond films released the same year.
    • Implementation: Octopussy is part of the long-running EON Productions James Bond series and starred Roger Moore, while Never Say Never Again is a remake of Thunderball and the result of a long legal battle between Eon Productions and producer Kevin McClory over the rights of the novel Thunderball and starred Sean Connery, who returned in the role after a 12-year gap.
    • Winner: Neither film particularly wowed critics. Octopussy won as it grossed $187.5 million worldwide against Never Say Never Again's $160 million. The fact that McClory was unable to get followup movies off the ground and that the EON series continued to this day (even managing to acquire the rights to the Thunderball novel, SPECTRE and Blofeld in 2013) also points towards Eon as the winners in the long run.

  • Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) - The World Is Not Enough (1999) - Die Another Day (2002) / Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997) - Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999) - Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002)
    • Capsule Pitch Description: Three films starring Pierce Brosnan as James Bond, up against Austin Powers, a parody of the franchise.
    • Implementation:
    • Winner: In the 1997 round, Tomorrow Never Dies won with a noticeably higher box office gross, though Austin Powers got generally positive reviews in comparison to its competitor's more mixed reception which would appear to make it a tie. The duel in 1999 would turn out to be much closer in both categories. Both The World is Not Enough and The Spy Who Shagged Me got divisive reviews, both notably currently standing around 50% on Rotten Tomatoes, and box office grosses were in the $300 million range; but the former still wound up making around $50 million more, giving the point to Bond. And finally, in the bout of 2002, both once again got mixed reviews, both being in the 50% range, with Die Another Day narrowly edging it out. In terms of the box office, however, Die Another Day out-grossed its predecessors whilst Goldmember, as successful as it was, saw a step down in numbers. All of this points to James Bond ultimately getting the victory. This long-running duel, The War on Terror and the reception to The Bourne Identity, however, did lead EON Productions to reboot the series on a Darker and Edgier and less fantastic angle, while Mike Myers's career took a sharp downwards trajectory thanks to The Cat in the Hat and The Love Guru.

  • XXX (2002) / Die Another Day (2002)
    • Capsule Pitch Description: 2002 released spy action thrillers. One is a James Bond film while the other is an attempt to channel the Bond action formula for a new series.
    • Implementation: Ironically enough the director of Die Another Day Lee Tamahori would go on to direct the sequel xXx: State of the Union.
    • Winner: Both received mixed reviews across the board from critics and the general audience, but Die Another Day made about twice as much at the box office. However, notably, it does face more vitriol in certain circles than XXX from a more hardcore online Bond fanbase for more than a handful of scenes with Willing Suspension of Disbelief. It was Pierce Brosnan's final Bond movie and convinced EON to reboot the film series. xXx earned a sequel in 2005, but Vin Diesel didn't return for it and it bombed, ending the film series prematurely until Diesel revived it in the 2010s. The biggest loser overall was Lee Tamahori, whose career was torpedo'd by two critically-drubbed action movies in a row.

  • The Bourne Identity (2002) / Die Another Day (2002)
    • Capsule Pitch Description: Two ace secret agents with "J. B." as initials who originated in a spy novel series.
    • Implementation: The Bourne Identity is a gritty and realistic take on the spy genre, while Die Another Day was the culmination of the Tuxedo and Martini spy fantasy tropes (puns, improbable gadgets and CGI spectacle) in the James Bond franchise.
    • Winner: Die Another Day grossed a little over twice the amount of The Bourne Identity, but the latter was largely favored by critics for refreshing the spy genre, while the extravaganza of Die Another Day was pointed out as a big sign of franchise and genre fatigue. To cement the win, The Bourne Series would influence some big changes in the James Bond series.

  • Mission: Impossible III (2006) / Casino Royale (2006)
    • Capsule Pitch Description: The first movie duel between the two iconic spy movie franchises in the same year, with similar budgets. Both films were made much grittier than their previous, more fancy installment.
    • Implementation: Mission Impossible III is the third movie in its franchise to star Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, while Casino Royale is the twenty-first film in the James Bond franchise and a Continuity Reboot introducing Daniel Craig in the main role.
    • Winner: Casino Royale had the clear win, as it was released to critical acclaim and grossed $600 worldwide, which was a record for the franchise and successfully relaunched it. Mission: Impossible III was positively received, albeit significantly less well than Casino Royale, and grossed less ($397.8 million), also grossing less than its predecessor, Mission: Impossible II.

  • The Bourne Legacy (2012) / Skyfall (2012)
    • Capsule Pitch Description: Two secret agents from spy action franchises that have "J. B." as initials.
    • Implementation: The Bourne Legacy is a Spin-Off of The Bourne Series with a new protagonist played by Jeremy Renner instead of Matt Damon's Jason Bourne, while Skyfall is the twenty-third entry in the James Bond franchise and Daniel Craig's third movie as James Bond.
    • Winner: Skyfall won by a landslide. It ended up the highest grossing in its series with $1.1 billion worldwide and was critically acclaimed, while The Bourne Legacy got mixed critical reactions and grossed $276.1 million worldwide.

  • Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015) / The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015)
    • Capsule Pitch Description: Two films aiming to recapture the charm of the older James Bond films.
    • Implementation: Kingsman is based on a comic book, U.N.C.L.E. on the classic 1960s television series.
    • Winner: Kingsman hands down - it was a surprise box office hit, making $415 million on an $80 million budget to mostly positive reviews (the very weekend Fifty Shades of Grey came out, no less!). The reviews for U.N.C.L.E. were also mostly favorable, if a bit less so than Kingsman, but its box office was a dismal $110 million on a $75 million budget. Perhaps most damningly, Kingsman got a sequel, which grossed about four times its budget, while U.N.C.L.E. is unlikely to ever get one (though Henry Cavill's popularity continued to grow regardless).

  • Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation (2015) / The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015)
    • Capsule Pitch Description: Big-budget action movies based on Cold War era spy TV shows.
    • Implementation: Rogue Nation is set in Present Day (albeit with many 20 Minutes into the Future features) while U.N.C.L.E. is set in The '60s. Tom Cruise was originally slated to star in the latter, before leaving the project during its Development Hell and going on to film the former. Rogue Nation is also the fifth in its franchise, while U.N.C.L.E is the first.
    • Winner: Rogue Nation won both critically and commercially. It received unanimously positive reviews and has gone on to make over $682 million worldwide. U.N.C.L.E. meanwhile received mostly favorable reviews and peaked at $109.8 million.

  • Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation (2015) / Spectre (2015)
    • Capsule Pitch Description: Big budget action movies from two iconic spy movie franchises.
    • Implementation: Rogue Nation is the fifth Mission Impossible film, Spectre is the twenty-fourth James Bond one.
    • Winner: Rogue Nation won with a better critical reception and a higher profit margin — Spectre had a higher box office gross, but its budget was one-and-a-half to two times that of Rogue Nation's.

  • Spectre (2015) / Jason Bourne (2016)
    • Capsule Pitch Description: Two films released less than a year apart about ace secret agents who have "J. B." as initials and originated in a spy novel series. Both also happen to be the fourth movie of each series' lead actor in the main role, Daniel Craig and Matt Damon respectively.
    • Implementation: Jason Bourne is the fifth film of The Bourne Series and saw the return of director Paul Greengrass and lead Matt Damon. Spectre is the twenty-fourth James Bond film and saw the return of the team behind the hugely successful Skyfall, chiefly director Sam Mendes and lead Daniel Craig.
    • Winner: Both films got mixed reviews, with those of Spectre tending to be slightly more positive. Spectre grossed the most ($880 million worldwide vs Bourne's $415 million) and ended up the most profitable by a small margin. The Bond series has continued since, while the Bourne series is currently in limbo.

  • Atomic Blonde (2017) / Red Sparrow (2018)
    • Capsule Pitch Description: Two gritty spy movies released within months of each other. Both are centered around a blonde female spy protagonist and involve double agents and the CIA going up against Soviet/Russian secret services.
    • Implementation: Red Sparrow adapts a novel, is set in Present Day and its protagonist is not much of an an Action Girl, while Atomic Blonde adapts a graphic novel, is set in 1989 at the tail end of the Cold War and has its protagonist's action sequences as one of its main selling points.
    • Winner: Red Sparrow grossed more (about $150 million worldwide) but did so against a $69 million budget, whereas Atomic Blonde ended up the most profitable by grossing $100 million, over three times its $30 million budget. Atomic Blonde also won on the critics side, being well received overall while Red Sparrow's reception was mixed. Additionally, Netflix is planning a sequel to Atomic Blonde.

  • Black Widow (2021) / No Time to Die (2021)
    • Capsule Pitch Description: Two high octane spy action thriller films from a long-running film franchise, with a least two action girls, a Russian Big Bad as well as a masked villain and a woman with a Dark and Troubled Past who was martially trained as a child.
    • Implementation: Black Widow is the twenty-fourth film in the relatively recent Marvel Cinematic Universe, while No Time to Die is the twenty-fifth entry in the James Bond franchise, which has been around since the 1960s. And it's basically a duel between Real Life husband-and-wife Daniel Craig (as main character James Bond) and Rachel Weisz (as supporting character Melina Vostokoff). Additionally, both films were originally slated for 2020, but delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic moved them to the next year. Black Widow received a simultaneous release on Disney+ Premier Access along with a theatrical release, while No Time to Die had both a theatrical release and a PVOD release one month later.
    • Winner: Both films were well-received, though Black Widow has a slightly better audience reception (with 91% vs No Time to Die's 88% on Rotten Tomatoes) while No Time to Die edges out a bit more with professional critics (at 84% vs Black Widow's 79% on RT). However, Black Widow only grossed $371 million in theaters against a $200 million budget, making it the first Box Office Bomb of the MCU since The Incredible Hulk in 2008, caused in part by audience weariness to go to the theaters due to the still-ongoing pandemic and a double-edged sword in the simultaneous release in Disney+; while the Premier Access revenue ended up softening the blow, it lead to main star Scarlett Johansson suing Disney for contract breach on her salary, which is tied to the theatrical performance (though the matter was later settled out of court). Meanwhile, No Time to Die grossed $774 million on a $250-300 million budget, not counting what it made on PVOD starting one month later.

  • No Time to Die (2021) / The King's Man (2021)
    • Capsule Pitch Description: The twenty-fifth James Bond movie going up against a movie from Kingsman, a franchise that's a Genre Throwback to the older James Bond entries. Both feature British secret services dealing with a global threat, and both happen to have Ralph Fiennes in their cast.
    • Implementation: No Time To Die is the twenty-fifth entry in its long-running franchise, the fifth and last movie of its hero's then-current incarnation (Daniel Craig) and a sequel to Spectre set in Present Day. The King's Man is the third entry in its franchise and a prequel set in The Edwardian Era and World War I (thus without its main stars Taron Egerton and Colin Firth).
    • Winner: No Time to Die won both on the reviews side (84% on Rotten Tomatoes vs 43% for The King's Man) and at the box office (second biggest global Hollywood success of 2021 with $774 million, while The King's Man bombed, opening with just $10 million and grossing $125.7 million out of a $100 million budget).