Why Austin Powers Would Not Be a Hit Today

It’s also nostalgic for an era that is now far removed from our current mainstream zeitgeist. The fashion and music of the 1960s will likely never go out of total style, and is still called upon in movies like Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) and Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho (2022). However, the former of those centered on the 50th anniversary of a gruesome event, with the Sharon Tate murders during the summer of ’69 generally being recognized as the “end of the ‘60s” as a cultural idea. And despite being a superbly made chiller with a great cast, Soho flopped at the box office, perhaps in small part because the “statesmen” of that era were now pushing 80 with actors like Dame Diana Rigg and Rita Tushingham playing grandmotherly roles toward the film’s 20-year-old star (Thomasin McKenzie) as opposed to being the parents, a la Caine’s appearance as Sir Nigel Powers in Goldmember.

Nostalgia for the 1960s is in the decline during a moment when Gen-Z is rocking out instead to Kate Bush following the most recent season of Stranger Things, and is perhaps ready to begin exploring ‘90s nostalgia if the success of this past January’s Scream legacy sequel is any sign.

James Bond Movies Have Moved Past Austin Powers

Perhaps the biggest compliment to pay the Austin Powers movies is that they changed their primary 007 source material forever. Two years before International Man of Mystery, Pierce Brosnan made a rousing debut as the fictional MI6 secret agent in GoldenEye (1995), which is generally recognized as one of the best in the Bond oeuvre. That film, directed by Martin Campbell, was a great then-modern distillation of the Bond tropes of the previous decades: the gadgets, the one-liners, and even more minute things like Brosnan’s virile Bond still doing things like Connery and Roger Moore’s infamous “judo chops” while fighting Sean Bean’s villain. GoldenEye even continued the questionable tradition of female lead characters being given names that worked as crude double entendres (Xenia Onatopp, anyone?).

The three Austin Powers movies took the piss out of all of that with Myers’ buffoonish secret agent making dad joke-puns until his leading ladies were visibly uncomfortable, and literally calling out the absurdity of his one-hit kills by saying “JUDO CHOP!” every time he slapped someone with his hand. Brosnan never did that physical maneuver again. And while his tenure maintained some of the aforementioned tropes (hello, Dr. Christmas Jones!), it’s notable that his following three films were produced in the same years as the Austin Powers trilogy. Goldmember and Brosnan’s unfortunate swan song in the role, Die Another Day, were both released in 2002. And while Myers announced even then that he was done with Austin and Dr. Evil, the Bond movies apparently were done for a longtime with all of that stuff too.

When the next Bond movie was released four years later, and in a movie also directed by Martin Campbell, 2006’s Casino Royale was about a million miles away from anything that could be confused with Austin Powers. Daniel Craig’s Bond was a broken, tragic man who’s more inclined to brood into his martinis than smirk; his first several villains were as blandly low-stakes as most of Brosnan’s baddies were “takeover/destroy the world” Dr. Evil big. And by the time Dr. Evil’s original inspiration was finally introduced nearly a decade later in Spectre (2015), Blofeld was played by a Christoph Waltz with a luscious mane of hair and a desire for nothing greater than to control the world’s already existing various surveillance states for his own little schemes.

A fiend who lived in hollowed out volcano lairs, this was not.

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