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Here's why Bond will score again over the Thanksgiving weekend

EW Online explains why Austin Powers isn’t the only spy with box office clout

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Pierce Brosnan

Even though some worried that director Michael Apted’s lack of action experience would doom ”The World Is Not Enough,” the new Bond adventure earned the biggest opening ever for 007 ($35.5 million) — and experts think the film should continue its worldly domination this weekend ”I would look for it to do somewhere in the $30 to $35 million range,” says Hollywood Reporter columnist Martin A. Grove. For his part, Apted (”Nell,” ”Gorillas in the Mist”) is simply relieved that the various naysayers’ pre-opening fears were unfounded. ”I got f—ing crucified [by the British press],” groans the director. ”And the studio was hysterical [with worry]. Obviously, I’d never done anything with this financial possibility. It’s nerve-racking.”

So why DID ”World” manage to score, despite the fears that the sexist, Cold War-derived franchise seemed positively tired in this ironic ”Austin Powers” age? Here are EW Online’s top 5 reasons:

Smarter is better Hiring Apted was a wise move, despite his lack of action experience. ”World” has received a thumbs-up from fans for a plot many consider smarter than the usual Bond high jinks. ”We needed a director who we felt could bring off the relationship between Sophie Marceau and Pierce Brosnan, because if it doesn’t work the whole film doesn’t work,” says producer Michael Wilson. ”So we weren’t worried that he hadn’t done action films.” Besides, a crew of experienced special-effects gurus and second unit directors were able to fill in the gaps in Apted’s knowledge. ”I was very dependent on people,” he admits. ”But the stunt coordinator had just come off ‘Titanic’ and ‘Private Ryan,’ and that’s not half bad, is it?”

For Richards, not poorer Though critics took pot shots at Denise Richards’ portrayal of a nuclear scientist, her presence (can you say wet T-shirt?) helped attract a key group: teen males. ”I didn’t think she was terrific,” says Grove, ”but she has a youthful audience. And nobody walked out because of her.”

No laughing matter ”Austin Powers” has cornered the market on spy punchlines, so ”World”’s filmmakers wisely took 007 in a more serious direction — while doling out just enough one-liners to keep fans happy.

The man with the golden run Critics are saying this may be Pierce Brosnan’s best Bond to date. ”I hope that there’s been growth from the last one to this one,” the star says. ”You want to go further with the role, and that comes with relaxation and confidence.” Plus, Brosnan’s other recent hit helped draw more females to Bond than usual. ”It didn’t hurt that he was in ‘The Thomas Crown Affair,’ for which women were a large part of his audience,” says Grove.

Something for everyone Advertising campaigns got heavy rotation on both MTV and CNN, a play for both younger viewers and their dads. MGM cast a wide net since the movie had a little something for the whole family (well, almost). ”The only demographic they didn’t get was younger females, who went to see ‘Sleepy Hollow,”’ says Grove. Sounds like all the next Bond needs is a dashing young apprentice… are you available, Leo?