ith a new James Bond film due in October, there wouldn’t seem to be a pressing need for any other globetrotting secret-agent movies. But the film industry sees things differently: 2015 is the year of the Bond-wannabes, with far-fetched espionage capers coming along almost as regularly as superhero blockbusters. Perhaps film producers assume that we are so excited by the prospect of another official Bond outing, Sam Mendes’s Spectre, we will pay to see anything vaguely 007-related. It is notable that all the non-Bonds are scheduled to be released – or have been released – before Spectre itself, an acknowledgement that they can only ever be the warm-up acts, while Daniel Craig and co are the headline attraction. Nobody does it better? We’ll see. In the meantime, which of the wannabonds has pinched the most from the original Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang?
Kingsman: The Secret Service (29 January)
Bond borrowings: 006 out of 007
Matthew Vaughn’s cheeky Bond pastiche makes no bones about its debt to the 007 franchise – although it isn’t exactly respectful. A 007 clone, Jack Davenport, is bumped off in the opening minutes, and the film’s hero and villain, Colin Firth and Samuel L Jackson, bond (sorry) over their preference for spy movies with a sense of humour; a dig at the furrow-browed moodiness of Casino Royale and Quantum Of Solace. Unfortunately for Kingsman, Skyfall restored 007’s tongue-in-cheek swagger, so the jibes are several years behind the times.
If it were a Bond, it would be: David Niven. As an increasingly loopy Bond parody, Kingsman has all too much in common with Casino Royale – the catastrophic 1967 version. Admittedly, Vaughn’s film is nowhere near as shambolic as that debacle, but Firth’s dapper English gent could be the son of Niven’s Sir James Bond.
The Gunman (20 March)
Bond borrowings: 003 out of 007
An unpleasant vehicle for Sean Penn and his newly swollen biceps, The Gunmanhas the same director as Taken (Pierre Morel), so it has been viewed as Penn’s bid to join Liam Neeson in the “geriaction” market. But with its continent-hopping structure and its nod to global politics, it is also an attempt to do Bond-on-a-budget. Idris Elba provides extra Bondishness via his scenes as a tall, dark and handsome Interpol agent: irrefutable proof that – if he were a decade younger – he would be an ideal replacement for Craig.
If it were a Bond, it would be: Timothy Dalton. A serious thespian plays a rogue assassin whose former colleagues are under threat. Yes, The Gunman is basically Licence to Kill, only much worse.
Fast & Furious 7 (3 April)
Bond borrowings: 004 out of 007
In 2001, The Fast and the Furious was a small-scale Point Break knock-off about an undercover cop who infiltrated a gang of Los Angeles hot-rodders. Fourteen years on, the franchise has been souped up beyond recognition. Its indestructible heroes are now international super-spies, thwarting evil megalomaniacs, donning dinner jackets, nipping from Tokyo to Abu Dhabi to the Caucasus Mountains and gawping at a computer genius as she sashays along a beach in a bikini. Even the product placement has become as shameless as Bond’s, with Vin Diesel plugging Corona beer at every opportunity.
If it were a Bond, it would be: Roger Moore. Sir Roger notched up seven Bond movies, some of them so unlike the others that they barely belong to the same genre. As for Diesel and his bros, they have nowhere left to go except space, so their tribute to Moonraker could be on the launchpad.
Spooks: The Greater Good (8 May)
Bond borrowings: 005 out of 007
The BBC’s dour MI5 series makes its cinema debut, with Kit Harington (sticking with his shaggy Game of Thrones haircut) as its Bond-alike hero, and a slew of glamorous locations. Well, Moscow and Berlin, anyway. Spooks: The Greater Good is essentially a Bond film with all the fun removed.
If it were a Bond, it would be: Daniel Craig. As in Skyfall, a British intelligence service is in crisis, with much fretting about government interference. And that’s even before an arch-baddy attacks the service’s London headquarters. The trouble is that the Spooks budget wouldn’t cover the cost of Craig’s personal trainer.
Spy (5 June)
Bond borrowings: 005 out of 007
Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy, the director and star of Bridesmaids and The Heat, reteam for a Bond spoof. The premise is that the CIA’s top field operatives have all been compromised, so it is up to McCarthy’s office drone to wrest an atomic bomb from a nefarious Russian (Rose Byrne). According to the trailer, McCarthy will also spend a lot of time muttering unfunny, improvised wisecracks.
If it were a Bond, it would be: Sean Connery. The film’s two 007 surrogates are Jason Statham (hard as nails) and Jude Law (looks rakish in a tuxedo and a toupee). Besides, McCarthy is painted gold in the poster, a homage to Shirley Eaton in Goldfinger.