Daniel Craig’s time as James Bond was a broad critical and financial success – yet after No Time To Die, it’s clear that several things need to change for the franchise to thrive into the future. James Bond is a bona fide cinematic institution. Since the character’s screen debut six decades ago, the series has undergone a number of dramatic revisions and updates, with each incumbent bringing something specific to the role. However, such is Craig’s legacy and the narrative significance of his final outing, that a major rethink is needed ahead of Bond 26.
The elephant in the room concerning the future of James Bond is what happened in the No Time To Die ending. Despite Bond’s well-established potential for implausible indestructibility, Bond 25 did the seemingly unthinkable and actually killed off the character. Although a credits title card confirmed that Bond will indeed return, his death clearly creates a number of potential problems. However, while continuing the series as if nothing had happened would be both a huge disservice to the emotional weight of that moment and extremely difficult for audiences to process, pressing the reset button in Bond 26 will be no easy feat. Here are seven ways that the next James Bond movie must be different from the Craig era.
7 The Next Bond Movie Probably Needs A Different Continuity
Although Ralph Feinnes’ M, Ben Wishaw’s Q, and Naomie Harris’ Moneypenny did an incredible job of bringing classic characters up to date, the sad truth is that Bond 26 probably needs to start afresh. Although there are ways for the franchise to continue with the same actors – as demonstrated by Judi Dench’s M transition across the Brosnan and Craig eras – the death of Craig’s Bond makes blithely carrying on with a new actor in post feel simultaneously incredibly crass and narratively nonsensical. As such, Bond 26 shouldn’t compromise with a reset – it needs to fully commit to a blank slate.
A further consideration is that Craig’s Bond’s arc has now been comprehensively tied up. A defining aspect of every Craig film (with the possible exception of Skyfall) from Casino Royale onwards is the way in which they knit together to form a cohesive story, with the events of previous movies causing ripples throughout each follow-up. While earlier Bond movies dabbled with contiguous plot points, it was never as blatant or important as it was for Craig. Now that this story has definitively ended, however, the time is right for the James Bond franchise to fully move on. While it might seem initially jarring, the best way to guarantee a clean break is with an entirely new cast and continuity.
6 Daniel Craig’s Bond Era Was Too Serious
While the Craig era brought genuine emotional stakes to a saga that had arguably become too silly, there’s a sense that, after five movies, Bond’s modern self-serious tone had become slightly overbearing. Although gritty realism served Casino Royale well, the lack of fun eventually began to cost the franchise. Characters like Ana de Armas’ Paloma became so popular precisely because they brought a much-needed sense of enjoyment to action that would otherwise become portentous and dreary. With Craig gone, however, Bond can once again indulge the kind of tonal reset that made Casino Royale such a success in 2006.
Of course, making things more lighthearted doesn’t necessarily mean going back to the height of Roger Moore-era camp. However, there is a middle ground that both maintains the emotional heft of Craig’s movies while also acknowledging the dry humor that has always run through the series. In making the atmosphere less oppressive, Bond 26 can breathe new life into a franchise in need of both literal and metaphorical resurrection.
5 Bond Himself Needs To Be Different
Just as Bond movies moving forward can afford to crack a smile, the Bond character also needs rebranding. By the end of No Time To Die, the overarching story of the Craig era had taken its toll on the character, to the point where he was invariably misanthropic, emotionally exhausted, and almost devoid of the carefree charm and swagger that makes 007 so iconic. The greater emphasis placed on Bond’s relationships in the Craig era certainly made for impactful stories, but his continual heartbreak eventually made him too downbeat and demure. This is something the next James Bond actor has to address.
Equally, whoever takes over the mantle in Bond 26 should be significantly younger than Craig. After playing the character for over a decade and a half, the intense demands of the role became evident for all to see. Indeed, Craig himself repeatedly expressed his contempt for the series, making it somewhat surprising that he returned at all for No Time To Die. While Craig has undoubtedly secured his status as a classic Bond, a new younger actor in the role can inject some much-needed energy and enthusiasm into the franchise, setting it up for the future.
4 Bond 26 Needs To Forget The Overarching Story
Although the origin story-style approach of Casino Royale was inspired, Craig’s Bond quickly suffocated under the weight of trying to tell one big story. Quantum of Solace broke franchise convention by being a true sequel to Casino Royale, and fell flat as a result. Although Skyfall works as a standalone movie, Spectre made the mistake of reanimating old plot points and characters like Mr White. This meant that, by the time No Time To Die came around, Craig’s Bond had to tie up multiple loose ends at the expense of telling a story that could stand on its own merits. This is something Bond 26 must avoid.
Instead of being the first entry in a five-film arc, Casino Royale would have been a fantastic isolated reset – explaining the origins of the character, updating the franchise for the modern world, and allowing the series to go in any direction it chose with a self-contained plot. A similar opportunity is now open for Bond 26. Although Bond can and should change and grow across different installments, it’s vital that any overarching story is light-touch and doesn’t form the main backbone of the narrative. Otherwise, the next Bond era will just repeat the mistakes of the past.
3 Bond 26 Should Honor Classic Characters
The Craig-era’s determination to tell one cohesive story wasn’t just a disaster for James Bond. It also did a major disservice to several classic characters who were shoe-horned to fit a pre-existing narrative instead of thriving in their own right. A prime example of this is Blofeld. Christophe Waltz’s take on the character, which could have been genuinely sinister, was soon undone by a ludicrous subplot that saw him develop a personal relationship with Bond thanks to his adoptive family.
Despite being an attempt to create a personal motivation for the character, the end result felt both inauthentic as a narrative device and to the original character. Bond 26 must take care to avoid adopting a similar approach – either with Blofeld or other legacy characters. If not, the saga could quickly become detached from its origins and lose its way.
2 Bond 26 Needs Better Villains
Wasting Blofeld was just one example of how the Craig era failed to deliver iconic Bond villains. While Le Chiffre and Silva were undeniably great (and not coincidentally in the two most “standalone” Craig movies), the rest of Craig’s rogues’ gallery was distinctly unmemorable. Safin’s plan in No Time To Die made next to no sense, while Quantum of Solace‘s strange water plot was equally head-scratching. Additionally, the Craig era failed to deliver many if any memorable Bond villain henchmen, such as Oddjob or Jaws, wasting actors like Davie Bautista in minor roles. If Bond 26 is to be successful, showcasing a truly iconic villain with understandable motivations must be a major priority.
1 Bond Needs Better Gadgets
One way to simultaneously return a sense of fun to the franchise and honor James Bond’s history is to bring back the secret agent’s enviable collection of gadgets. The Craig era wasn’t just largely gadget-free – some movies actually mocked the series’ gadget-ridden history. Q memorably admonished Bond for expecting an “exploding pen” in Skyfall – a direct reference to Golden Eye. However, despite the Craig era’s obvious disdain for some of 007’s more eccentric contraptions, gadgets should make a comeback in Bond 26.
Beyond helping the series make the tonal adjustment necessary post-No Time To Die, gadgets are an important part of the James Bond franchise that has been neglected for too long. Returning them to center stage would be a great way for Bond 26 to separate itself from the Craig era and demonstrate a commitment to telling a different kind of story. It may not seem like the most significant change necessary, but making a number of seemingly small changes like this can help the new version of James Bond succeed in an uncertain future.
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