(NOTE: As this review heavily references ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE, I have revised and reposted my long essay about that film as well.)
After a series of production false-starts, headaches, and then a global pandemic, No Time To Die, the twenty-fifth James Bond film and the last one featuring Daniel Craig as Agent 007, finally arrived in late 2021. For a while it seemed like the movie would never get here: Craig’s reluctance to return after the grueling SPECTRE shoot, and then a troubled development phase with scripts being reworked and writers and the original director coming and going, and then delays in filming when Craig himself got hurt on set.
And all of that happened before the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the film’s release…and then pushed it again…and again, to the point where for a time there was serious talk of the movie being issued directly to one of the streaming platforms instead of getting a theatrical release at all. This didn’t happen, obviously–but for a while, No Time To Die felt like some kind of mythical beast, often referenced but never actually seen. Six years elapsed between 2015’s SPECTRE and 2021’s at-long-last release of No Time To Die, a span only equaled by the gap between 1989’s Licence to Kill and 1995’s GoldenEye, when the Bond series as a whole was derailed by some legal issues.
Was the wait worth it?
It depends on who you ask. Some James Bond fans hate this movie, with some intensity. I know this because I am married to one of them.
On the flip side of that coin, some James Bond fans react to No Time To Die as if it were specifically crafted to hit the sweet spot on each and every one of their emotional buttons as James Bond fans. I know this because I am one of them.
The most common objection to No Time To Die that I’ve heard cited by the film’s detractors is that this movie just goes too far. While all of Daniel Craig’s Bond films deviate from the classic “Bond formula”, this one goes so far from the established tropes of Bond that it ceases to be a Bond movie at all. Here we get a Bond who is grappling with emotional issues, who has left MI6 entirely, he is in love, he has been hurt, he has history, he has demons, and he has a kid.
And, of course, there is the movie’s biggest deviation from Bond formula, and you don’t get bigger than this: No Time To Die tells us that James Bond is mortal.
For many fans, this is simply too much.
And I respect that. I don’t agree with it, but I do respect it.
All through the Craig run, I wondered–along with many others–when we’d get back to the “classic” kind of James Bond adventures. We had the reboot, but surely we’d eventually get Craig to the old formula: an adventure in the pre-credit sequence, followed by a villainous figure starting some nefarious stuff. Bond would get a briefing from M on what little info they had, and then he’d go out into the field–getting some gadgets from Q at some point in the first act–and he’d do actual spy stuff. He’d meet “the girl”, or maybe two, and he’d bed one or both, and he’d slowly put together the bad guy’s plot before finally thwarting it in a big action finale with explosions and cool fisticuffs and whatnot.
You know the drill. Point is, I think we all expected Daniel Craig’s James Bond to get to that kind of movie–and yet, all through Craig’s run, he always seemed to flirt with that formula but never quite get there.
Maybe we expected it after Casino Royale, but then Quantum of Solace picked up right where that film left off, with Bond still chasing that film’s threads and reeling from Vesper’s death. Then Skyfall started off that way, with a banger of a pre-credit sequence, but that film deviated too with Bond being shot and disappearing for a while and reappearing and so on, before the adventure unfolded that took him into his roots. When Skyfall ended with Bond standing in the new M’s office, with that leather-padded door and saying that he was ready to get to work, I thought, “OK, next time out, James get a briefing and sent out on a proper mission!”
And then…Spectre thwarted the expectations again, in a movie that is a lot more derided than I generally like, though I can understand some of the frustrations around it. And then Spectre had Bond turn away from MI6 and go away with “the girl”, leaving us with a starting point for No Time To Die. We were never going to get a “standard” Bond film with this one, either, and what was more, Spectre did some retconning of the three movies before it to tie it all together into a single story, which NTTD would then have to wrap up. So in five movies made over fifteen years or so, we never once got Daniel Craig in a “standard” James Bond movie.
In my recent series of posts ranking all the Bond movies, I noted that I tend to prefer the “outlier” Bond flicks over the “standard formula” ones: “I especially love the ones that acknowledge that James Bond really, truly does have an emotional life of his own and that he gets personally invested sometimes.”
Maybe five films in a row of this is a bit much, but it seems to me that to follow up four movies that really were all about James Bond as a human character, establishing his history and using a consistent theme across all of these films of the present being shaped by our previous choices (and those of our forebears), to ignore all of that and just give Bond an old-school formula adventure, would have been a crime of storytelling. This is for thematic reasons, as well as reasons of continuity.
A common thematic thread has wound its way through all of Daniel Craig’s Bond films: the actions of our families informs our own actions, and their actions influence our lives in ways we can barely appreciate, long after they are gone. It makes total sense to me that the last Craig film would tie all of that together. This is, of course, another break with Bond tradition, where one adventure has little, if anything, to do with the next. But here we don’t just have a final adventure, but a wrap-up, a summation, a capstone adventure that draws on what has gone before–all of what has gone before.
Consider the film’s opening: we see the traditional gunbarrel sequence, but instead of the stylized cartoon blood and the gunbarrel fading to the dot that eventually irises us into the scene, the gunbarrel itself irises us there, which uses established Bondian film language to tell us, before anything happens in the story, that this is different, that we’re seeing something new. And new it is: a flashback to a strange man in a ceramic mask, on his way to murder Madeleine Swann’s family. This sequence is scary and intense, and it establishes Madeleine’s connection to Saffin, this strange assassin who decides to rescue Madeleine after he has killed her mother. The visuals in this sequence are stark, cold, almost black-and-white, which makes our eventual cut to the present day all the more surprising. Adult Madeleine is on holiday with James Bond, who has left MI6.
We don’t know how much time has passed since the end of Spectre, but it can’t be too long. Bond and Madeleine are in the relationship, but they’re still feeling each other out, still trying to figure out where each one stands against the backdrop of tragedy in both their backstories. Madeleine has brought Bond to a town in Italy where the locals have a custom of writing their sins on slips of paper, setting them aflame, and tossing them into the air. (These visuals are gorgeous–if nothing else, No Time To Die is one of the most visually beautiful films I’ve ever seen.)
Madeleine has another motive for bringing James here: she knows that his first love, the one he lost, the one whose death haunts him and whose betrayal damaged him, is buried in the cemetery in this town. She wants James to visit her grave and put that part of his past behind him. The film is already deep into acknowledging the pain and history in this particular incarnation of James Bond. Imagine a James Bond film not just showing “the girl” from the last film, but also mentioning the importance of “the girl” from four movies ago! Imagine, say, Octopussy opening with Bond and Melina from For Your Eyes Only talking about Mary Goodnight from The Man With The Golden Gun. Absurd? Maybe, in that approach to James Bond.
The Craig films are different.
It turns out that SPECTRE has already anticipated Bond’s visit to Vesper Lynd’s grave, and they’ve planted a bomb there. It goes off, but doesn’t kill Bond; instead a group of SPECTRE goons attack, and Bond grabs Madeleine and makes a typically Bondian escape, although Bond is blaming Madeleine for the attack: remember, she is not ignorant of SPECTRE. Her own father was a major figure for them, and to Bond, she must be involved, because how else would they have known that Bond was there? As Bond says: “We all have our little secrets. We just haven’t gotten to yours yet.” They make their escape, but Bond, furious, puts Madeleine on a train and leaves her, disappearing into the crowd.
Now, consider that: at some point between each James Bond movie and the next one, there must be a scene where Bond breaks up with “the girl”. One time we actually got an acknoweldgement of this fact, in Tomorrow Never Dies, when Bond had to go seduce a former lover in hopes of gaining intel on an enemy. (Damn, how I wish that movie hadn’t killed Paris Carver off! She was a potentially interesting character and the idea of watching Bond try to win back over a former “Bond girl” was a great one. Alas! How extravagant Purvis and Wade are, tossing great ideas aside like that!)
Fade to the opening credits, the amazing Billie Eilish song, and a precredits sequence that visually calls back to Casino Royale, Dr. No, and…On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
And that brings me to the heart of the matter.
Just after No Time To Die cuts from Madeleine Swann’s childhood to the present, but before SPECTRE’s attack at Vesper’s grave, there’s a brief scene where Bond and Madeleine are driving through the Italian mountains overlooking the Mediterranean, in the Aston Martin DB-V, and this exchange takes place:
MADELEINE: Can you go faster?
BOND: We don’t need to go faster. We have all the time in the world.
When Daniel Craig said those words as I watched No Time To Die the first time, I said audibly, “Oh no, don’t say that!”
But Bond did say that, and as if to accentuate the point, at this moment in the film we cut back to sweeping shots of the Aston-Martin on those soaring Italian roads–as Hans Zimmer’s score rises with nothing more than a full-on quote of John Barry’s original orchestral arrangement of the song “We Have All The Time In The World”, the love theme from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
As I watched No Time To Die, I realized that the film was almost a love letter to OHMSS, in a way that no Bond film has ever been. With its various call-backs to that film, with its structural similarities and tones, with its approach to Bond as a character…well, NTTD seems almost calibrated to hit the same emotional buttons that OHMSS pushes. I suspect that how well one responds to this film can be partly determined by how one responds to the earlier one. As I’m one record as considering OHMSS not just the best Bond movie by a significant margin but also one of the great movies of all time, it follows that NTTD felt like it was almost made for me.
And that’s a strange sensation, I have to admit.
NTTD doesn’t remake OHMSS or retell its story (though we’ve already seen elements of it in previous films–remember the health clinic high in the Alps, in Spectre? That alone had me wondering about how big an influence OHMSS has been on writers Purvis and Wade), but NTTD does allow OHMSS to echo throughout its own story. Like OHMSS, NTTD gives us a weary James Bond who is pretty tired of the whole business. This was one of the more interesting aspects of OHMSS, and it’s an aspect that doesn’t get commented on much, so I think a lot of people simply miss it, which is a shame. It certainly helps understand some of the acting choices George Lazenby makes when you consider that his Bond is tiring of the spy gig. But I digress….
The point is, James Bond has a very real emotional life in NTTD, a very real emotional journey. It begins with Bond trying to make peace with some personal demons, but that effort is thwarted by a SPECTRE attack, and Bond’s response it to pile more baggage on top of the old. So, when we rejoin the story after the opening credits and the passage of five years of story time, Bond has retired and is living in the Caribbean, not really doing much of anything at all. This echoes OHMSS‘s first act, in which Bond has been trying to track down Ernst Stavro Blofeld for two years, with little success, to the point that when we join Bond in that film, he’s not really trying all that hard to be a good spy (to the point of lazily losing track of his own gun twice).
Meanwhile, as NTTD gets rolling, a somewhat labyrinthine plot involving a nanotech-driven bioweapon unfolds, into which Bond will eventually get drawn, not at first by an MI6 in need of its best agent–because M has apparently made peace with Bond’s departure to the point of appointing a new Agent 007 (the quite wonderful Nomi, played by Lashana Lynch), but because his old friend Felix Leiter asks for his help. I actually like the twisting plot; my formative years in the spy genre were in the heyday of Robert Ludlum, Tom Clancy, Nelson DeMille, and other writers who cranked out 600-page doorstops with plot twists on every page, so I’m always on board with a spy story that’s just a bit too hard to follow at times. I will admit that NTTD could have benefitted from a more clear explanation of the bioweapon, but the info is there in the movie, and it made more sense on the rewatch. For these reasons, though–the complex plot and the dense emotional story unfolding around it–I have zero problem with NTTD‘s generous running time.
OHMSS echoes throughout NTTD in other ways, many of them not immediately obvious. Both films depict a complex relationship between Bond and M, with M’s frustration with Bond bubbling over a few times, but never at the cost of M’s respect for Bond’s abilities. In the earlier film Bond’s frustration drives him to the point of resignation (fortunately thwarted by a clever bit of failed dictation by Miss Moneypenny, an action that is praised by both Bond and M), whereas in NTTD Bond, having already resigned, is now being pulled back into the mess which is in no small part M’s fault for having pursued the development of the bioweapon in the first place. Late in OHMSS, Bond is forbidden to go after Blofeld; in NTTD, M is similarly reluctant to bring Bond back into the fold, for personal reasons. In both films Bond is committed to a moral view that he feels is being compromised by his superiors, leading to confrontational scenes in both films.
(By the way, OHMSS detractors really need to watch the scene between Bond and M after the adventures in the Alps and Tracy’s capture. Lazenby portrays Bond like a tightly-coiled spring ready to explode, and he’s perfect there. Again, I digress….)
There’s a scene toward the end of the third act in NTTD when Bond and M finally get themselves onto the same page again, and here Hans Zimmer makes another interesting musical choice that thrilled me when I realized it in the theater: he quotes, as underscore to this scene, the main theme from OHMSS. At that moment James Bond is officially back on Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
Of course, the most important parallel that NTTD shares with OHMSS is that it gives James Bond a love story. While OHMSS propels Bond into its love story by a chance encounter with a woman broken to the point of suicide, NTTD‘s continues a love story that began in the previous film by bringing Bond to the point of commitment and then yanking that away (partially his own fault, because he makes no effort to listen to Madeleine’s protestations of innocence after the attack at Vesper’s grave, protestations that would later be confirmed by Blofeld himself). Even though five years have passed, Bond is still carrying the torch for Madeleine, and even though he has sworn to never see her again, events push them together, and that’s when Bond meets Mathilde.
Whose eyes look very much like James Bond’s.
NTTD makes two story choices that Bond fans can either accept, and therefore like this movie, or reject, and therefore hate it. This is the first of the two: it makes James Bond a father.
Now, in itself, how surprising is this? With all of his sexual exploits through the years, you have to figure that James Bond, well, “slipped one past the goalie” at least once. Right? This is never admitted or granted or mentioned at all, until now. It’s kind of like finding out in Star Trek II that James T. Kirk has an adult son, which probably makes sense given how frequently Kirk “got the girl” in the Original Series. But here is James Bond, meeting his five-year-old daughter (though Madeleine won’t confirm this until the very end).
Is it right for James Bond to be a father? That turns out to be a bridge too far for a lot of fans. It doesn’t bother me, exactly, though it does take a bit of getting used to. Again I have to return to considering the nature of Daniel Craig’s entire run of Bond films, and not just think about this one in a vacuum. All of Craig’s run is informed by Bond being haunted by choices and actions of his ancestors, and by the secret lives of those around him. His becoming a father is probably the best distillation of this constant emotional undercurrent of these movies, and it gives Bond the very best motivation for wanting to succeed and then be done with it all.
This is another of the parallels with OHMSS: Bond’s coming to terms with the fact that he does want a normal life with love in it, and that his profession isn’t compatible with this. In OHMSS, Bond admits to Tracy that he’ll need to find a different living if he wants to be with her, and in NTTD, James Bond is deeply aware of this already.
In fact, Daniel Craig’s James Bond has always chafed against the constraints of the job, and he has always taken a fatalistic view of how it can all end. By the time NTTD rolls around, Bond has seen the possibility of something else…but then there was this exchange, way back in the first act of Casino Royale, that seemed at the time just a bit of pith, but now seems prescient:
M: I knew it was too early to promote you.
Bond: Well, I understand that Double-O’s have a very short life expectancy, so your mistake will be short-lived.
And that brings me to NTTD‘s other deal-breaking (for some) story choice: the acknowledgment that James Bond is, in fact, mortal.
There’s a thing about characters like James Bond: episodic characters who have lots of episodic, unrelated adventures. Eventually the constant drumbeat of one adventure after another, each unrelated to the last and to the next, gets a bit unsatisfying, so in nearly every case of such characters–think Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, John Carter, Dr. House, et cetera–some kind of continuity creeps in. Old enemies and old flames resurface, and gradually a life, a larger story, emerges. The same thing happened with James Bond, particularly in Ian Fleming’s original novels. And if you acknowledge a character’s larger story, you eventually have to acknowledge, somehow, their mortality. You can get around this a little, by having killing their previous life in some way (see the ending of House MD for a good example; House doesn’t die, but his career is as dead as Old Marley), or you can actually kill the character.
NTTD takes the latter course.
And for some, again, this is an unforgivable move for a James Bond story. I’m not really sure why, because this type of story–the weary hero’s final adventure, after which they die–is not new at all. See Robin and Marian, or Logan, for good examples. Especially the latter film, which I remember being almost universally hailed, with no one sobbing that “You can’t kill Wolverine!”
NTTD takes the emotional course of OHMSS and reverses it, because it knows that James Bond simply cannot have a permanent happy ending. All he can have is moments of happiness that pass quickly: he can wrap up the mission and bed “the girl”, and then he’s off to the next mission, the next adventure. This is not a new thing with Bond; the “hero who can never find true happiness” is a trope as old as time. Sherlock Holmes is one, and this was used to good effect in the movie Young Sherlock Holmes; the afore-mentioned Captain Kirk from Star Trek may be another example. And James Bond is that kind of hero as well.
The few times that he does seem on the cusp of some kind of permanent happiness–with Vesper, with Tracy–it ends horribly. So it must here: he loves Madeleine and he has a daughter with her, and maybe he could even make it off Saffin’s island in the end before the missiles hit, but he’s infected with Saffin’s bioweapon, which Saffin has programmed to kill Madeleine and Mathilde, so Bond knows that even if he survives, he can never touch Madeleine or Mathilde again. It’s a perfect dilemma, leaving Bond with choosing either a life where he can never be with those he loves, or simply choosing death. So…he chooses.
It’s quite simple, really: if you have a hero who can’t have permanent happiness, and then you bring that hero to the brink of permanent happiness, there really are only two ways to go. OHMSS went one way. NTTD goes the other.
Bond’s actual death scene is exactly what I would have envisioned for a James Bond death scene: Agent 007 sacrificing himself to save the world. His demise is very quick, but he gets to say his goodbyes to Madeleine, almost heartbreakingly via radio–they tell each other they love each other, and Madeleine finally admits that yes, Mathilde “has your eyes,” meaning, Mathilde truly is Bond’s daughter–and then it goes full-circle in giving Bond one more time to say those most heartbreaking of words in Bond history, but this time with a more optimistic twist: he says to Madeleine, “You have all the time in the world.” He is looking up as he says it, slightly smiling, as if thinking of the weird beauty in the sky above him as the missiles deploy their warheads and then rain down upon him. He closes his eyes as the fireball hits…and that’s it.
NTTD doesn’t linger on this moment: Bond is consumed by the flames, then we see a few long shots of Saffin’s island installation being destroyed, and then a fade to London, to MI6, after the mission is over. M has gathered together Q, Miss Moneypenny, Nomi, and his assistant Bill Tanner for a quick remembrance of Bond via a Jack London quote and a shared whiskey (neither shaken nor stirred), and then we cut to Madeleine and Mathilde, driving along another mountainous coast–maybe the same one from the film’s beginning. Hans Zimmer quotes “We Have All The Time In The World” again, as Madeleine looks at Mathilde and says, “I’m going to tell you a story about a man. His name was Bond…James Bond.” Mathilde smiles, and then their car–the Aston Martin!–disappears into a tunnel, and as the camera pulls out in front, the car and the tunnel recede, in a cunning reversal of the traditional gun-barrel opening of these films.
And the credits roll, with Louis Armstrong’s original recording of “We Have All The Time In The World” bringing it all to a close. But where OHMSS ended with an instrumental of that song being cut off by an almost unpleasant-sounding rendition of The James Bond Theme, reinforcing the fact that Bond and Tracy did not have all the time in the world, no such cut-off happens now. Bond is gone, but he has made good his promise. Madeleine and Mathilde really do have all the time in the world.
So ultiamtely No Time To Die echoes On Her Majesty’s Secret Service all the way to the end, and it does so with love and respect. I can’t not love this movie, because I value its craft, its storytelling choices, its pacing, all of it. It doesn’t stop at calling back to OHMSS, either: Felix Leiter’s betrayal and fate call back to Fleming’s original book of Live and Let Die as well as the film Licence to Kill, and Bond’s dispatching of Leiter’s assassin is reminscent of Roger Moore’s most ruthless moment, when he confronts an assassin in a similarly precarious position in For Your Eyes Only.
In terms of the villains, NTTD has an impressive Rogue’s Gallery going on, led by Rami Malek’s Lyutsifer Saffin, who is as coldly cunning as Bond villains get. (I don’t think he necessarily needed to be depicted as being disfigured, though.) With Saffin, Craig’s Bond gets his first real shot at a bad guy with a “Destroy the World” plot and a secret base built in a remote location. The evil scientist who invented Heracles, the nanotech bioweapon, is a wonderfully slimy toad of a character, and Christoph Waltz’s one scene as Blofeld is an excellent scene. I wondered during the film’s making if it would be weird, having Blofeld around but with a new “main” villain; NTTD makes this work pretty well.
As for allies, Jeffrey Wright’s Felix Leiter has pretty much become the iconic version of that character (apologies to the great Jack Lord). Lashana Lynch’s Agent 007 is slick and professionally capable, Ben Whishaw and Naomie Harris are excellent again as Q and Miss Moneypenny. Ralph Fiennes can be M for as long as he wants the role, as far as I’m concerned; Lea Seydoux sells me on the idea of another woman who James Bond loves. And there’s the joyous turn by Ana de Armas as Paloma, the CIA agent sent to help Bond in a sequence that is far too short.
Ultimately, though, No Time To Die rests on Daniel Craig’s shoulders, and he picks the film up and carries it. At no point does he feel like he’s mailing it in; I buy his weariness, his desire for closure, his humor, and his acceptance of the end at the end. He even gets to joke around a bit in this movie, getting a Roger Moore-esque quip after dispatching one bad guy in a delightfully gruesome Bondian way, and mugging for the camera when Paloma grabs him by the hand and pulls him out of frame when they first meet. All of Daniel Craig’s films have to convince us that James Bond is a man who feels things, and Daniel Craig brings those goods, each and every time.
On the technical side, No Time To Die is a triumph. It is loaded with beautiful compostions, even during action sequences, and the action sequences are always easy to follow, no matter how much mayhem is happening onscreen. (Craig’s second outing, Quantum of Solace, is much criticized for the downright incomprehensibility of its action scenes.) The score is by Hans Zimmer, a composer whose work I tend to love or dislike in equal measure, and he is mostly up to the task here, especially in the film’s moments of drama. I’m not as big a fan of his action music, but that’s always been the case with Zimmer’s work for me. I was glad to hear a more prominent use of melody in Zimmer’s score, since Zimmer has largely been eschewing melody in favor of stacked chords and soundscapes in his film music over the last decade or so.
I loved No Time To Die, even if I understand why a lot of people do not. After all, this movie literally kills James Bond…and then, at its very end, the last thing onscreen after the credits is the traditional promise:
Well…how is that going to work?
There are a few choices that I can see. Either the next Bond incarnation will acknowledge the Craig run, or it won’t. If the latter, there will likely be a reboot of some nature: maybe a full reboot where everything is done brand-new again from the ground up, like Casino Royale did, or maybe a “light” reboot where, say, Fiennes and Harris return with a new Bond without mentioning these adventures. I’ve also seen suggestions of making Bond into a series of period films, setting James Bond back in the milieu of the 1960s. In all honesty, I’m not sure I want that…or any reboot, partial or full. The Craig run represents a complete body of work, in a way that no other previous Bonds do with their respective runs (Lazenby excepted, since his run was one film, admittedly great). To simply plug in a new Bond and return to episodic adventures of the traditional sort would feel, at least to me, a bit cheap.
Maybe the best way is to acknowledge the Craig run…but then, how do you have a new James Bond at all, if you admit to having killed the last one? Well, there’s an old fan theory that all the movies up to Casino Royale weren’t telling the adventures of a single character, but rather the adventures of five different characters, each of whom assumes the name of James Bond and the number 007 at some point. In other words, James Bond is a code name assigned to an agent upon promotion to that level.
So…maybe they recruit a new agent, promote him, and give him a code name inspired by a real agent, now deceased, who served with distinction. Now you have a new “James Bond” with a new backstory, a new history, and none of the old baggage. Maybe the new “Bond” can develop a crush on Moneypenny, and maybe she hates him and only tolerates him, in a reversal of their old flirtatious relationship. (And there’s nothing here that even insists that the new “James Bond” be white, or a man!)
Maybe, maybe, maybe. How would fans embrace this? I don’t know. A lot might bail, to be honest, in the same way that a lot of Sherlock Holmes purists reject utterly the recent Benedict Cumberbatch or Jonny Lee Miller modern-day versions of the character. But speaking for myself, I just don’t see a return to the Bond formula of old, a formula that we haven’t even really seen executed on screen in more than twenty years, as if nothing in the interim has happened. In addition to the Craig run, there are the Mission: Impossible films to look to, with their format of new adventures for Ethan Hunt and his team, but also admissions with each mission of the cumulative effects of the previous missions.
I don’t have any idea what’s coming, obviously. But I do know that when Daniel Craig took over as James Bond, Barbara Broccoli and Eon Productions seized an opportunity to rethink James Bond fromt he ground up. They now have the chance to do it again. Let’s see what they do.
But in the meantime…thank you, Daniel Craig. Your James Bond was something special.
I am perpetually amused and flabbergasted by how similar we are in so many ways, and how very opposite when it comes to Bond. Thirty years ago, during the Dalton era, I was all for a more grounded Bond, but these days I’ve come to realize that I actually prefer a more escapist and admittedly more cartoonish one. Especially these days, when the world is what it is and so many of our entertainment franchises are trying so desperately hard to be taken SERIOUSLY.
It’s not that I dislike Craig, or even have much criticism of his films.They’re well made, for the most part (although I LOATHE Bond and Blofeld having any sort of familial connection whatsoever, and I still can’t tell you what Quantum of Solace was actually about, or what Saffin’s goal actually was). But I’ve just never warmed to this cycle of Bond films, as much as I’ve wanted to. I think a big issue for me isn’t that Craig’s Bond yearns for a normal life, it’s that he never seemed to NOT want a normal life. As you point out, he was always chafing against the job. So… why did he take it in the first place? And how is it interesting for the viewer to keep watching a dude who doesn’t want to be there (much like Craig himself, it sometimes seemed). I think if we’d had just ONE regular Bond mission film, Craig at his Bondian peak so to speak, then I would’ve bought an arc toward being fed up with it all. But we never got that. I consider that a flaw in the storytelling across these five films. I also think the Craig cycle was heavily informed by the popularity of the Bourne films and the drubbing Die Another Day took from the critics; the reboot always felt reactionary to me, like Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson were blindsided and kind of desperately reaching for… something.
I don’t know… if I was in charge of things, the franchise would probably be in trouble, because it’s more clear to me all the time that my personal tastes are no longer in line with the rest of the public’s. But I can say this: I just don’t enjoy the Craig films that much, and the only ones I feel likely to view again are Casino and Skyfall. I have no compulsion to add NTTD to my collection, which is startling to me because I have ALL the others.
As for where the franchise goes next, I think it’s highly unlikely to be a period piece, and somewhat less unlikely to be a woman or person of color as Bond. I don’t see them going with the “James Bond is just a title” angle either; too much potential confusion, too meta for all but the hardcore Bond fans. I could see them continuing on as if Bond didn’t die in this one, just kind of skipping that bit. But honestly, I think another full-blown reboot is most likely. Maybe not back to the origin story, but a new actor, a new tone, a new thematic emphasis, and a storyline that doesn’t reference the Craig films. Whether the franchise will return to the more lighthearted and episodic flavor will be interesting to see. But I think either way, the Craig cycle is going to stand as a singularity in the franchise.
My two cents, for what they’re worth.