I just got wind that the new Bond film, No Time To Die, isn’t going to be released until November, obviously in order that it can get it’s usual, full cinematic release. As disappointed in the delay as I am, I think it raises one or two interesting questions: the guys at EON productions clearly think their new film should be primarily viewed in the cinema, so how integral is a cinematic viewing to the consumption of film (if I can put it like that) these days? We can now watch films almost wherever we want, streamed on computers, tablets and mobile phones; but that isn’t the same experience as watching a film in a cinema, with it’s large screen, darkened room and powerful sound system. In my Master’s, I describe how writers like Andre Bazin wrote about the cinematic aura – an experience specific to the cinema, brought about by the darkened lights and silence of the audience. It is a very immersive experience, where all our attention is focussed on the film. Outside the cinema there is no aura, which is why cinematic screenings are an integral part of cinephilia.
Watching a film at home, we might dim the lights and close the curtains, but the experience is never quite the same. And as for watching a film on a tablet or mobile phone, say, when you’re commuting to work on the bus or tube, you might as well compare eating the most succulent steak to the cheapest, shittiest McDonald’s burger: same beef, very different taste.
I think it was this quite specific, almost sacred experience that the producers of Bond are trying to preserve. Yet they have to weigh that against the thirst many people will have to see this already much delayed film: those who see film simply as a story rather than as an experience or art form presumably won’t care how or where they see it. EON risks loosing people’s interest – and therefore money – if it delays too long, so it will be under considerable pressure to cut it’s losses and release No Time To Die online. In doing so, though, it will lose something which has always been synonymous with film, and especially the 007 franchise: the glamour and prestige of premiers in central London; the excitement and anticipation of travelling to see the latest instalment of a franchise which has been a staple of popular culture for almost sixty years. Released online, 007 would become something far more casual and throw-away; just another distraction among many, watched on a mobile phone sat in McDonald’s, in between mouthfuls of burger.
Rather than see it become that, I would far rather wait. One day, perhaps in a few months, this damn virus will be gone and cinemas will be open. Perhaps charlotte will visit, and we will go, at last, to see this film together, in the cinema. There, every detail and nuance will consume our vision, rather than being lost on far smaller screens, amid a hundred other day-to-day distractions. We can allow ourselves to be absorbed into the cinematic experience, appreciating every detail and reference, like meeting an old friend again after a long separation. That surely is how films should be enjoyed, but now, with everything moving online, I fear for it’s future.