05 November 2021

James Bond: What Now?

I just saw No Time to Die at the theater with my two stepsons. It'll probably be the last such outing. (Until Matt or Austin or both approach me about one of the bigger Marvel movies in the pipeline.) Not the greatest Bond, but probably in my top 10 (a post I'll save for my own blog.) As it stands, it's a fitting end for Daniel Craig's Bond. Aside from being a much better Bond than Sean Connery in some people's minds, mine not one of them, Craig and those responsible for his movies redefined the character. By the time Pierce Brosnan hung up the Walther and called it a mission, we were supposed to believe that the guy Sean Connery played in a Hitchcockian thriller set in Jamaica in 1963 was the same guy Brosnan played in a silly, overblown explosion-fest in 2002. Craig's Bond exists in one self-contained story.

Now some franchises can stretch out over decades, possibly a century. One can see Doctor Who or Star Trek going that long. But both are science fiction, and Trek, with occasional revisionist backstory, sprawls across centuries. It's even spawned its own sitcom, Lower Decks. But Bond?

The self-contained story arc probably saved James Bond from the cultural scrap heap. Connery's Bond somehow survived across four decades and five actors. While adjustments were made - Moore eventually fought evil corporations, Dalton the war on drugs, and Brosnan anyone wanting to crack the post-Cold War peace - Bond was essentially the suave manly man who bedded half the women who crossed his path. Craig's was a guy who realized he was good at two things: Finding threats and killing people. His Bond is angry, quickly worn out, and paranoid by the end of his tale. His James Bond will not return.

But James Bond will return. The question is: In what form?

Obviously, after the events of No Time to Die, a new continuity is called for. The new Bond will be in his own storyline.

Or maybe her. While I don't think a female Bond would work - the name is James Bond - a female 007 might. Some have even suggested moving Naomie Harris front and center and giving Moneypenny the iconic codename. After all, we first see Harris's Moneypenny shooting Bond. She is, after all, a field agent in the beginning and occasionally goes out to assist. Plus Harris has the gravitas to carry a Bond movie. At the same time, should they decide carry on the current continuity, Bond has already been replaced as 007 with a female agent as aggressive and rebellious as any of the Bond's. A female character stepping in for a missing Bond addresses two issues: Some want a female Bond despite the character being unapologetically male, and there really is a dearth of female characters in roles like these. EON considered spinning off Wei Linn (Michella Yeoh) and Jinx (Halle Berry) but could not get the Hollywood calculus to work. A new character - or elevating Moneypenny's position - would fit nicely in this scenario.

But rebooted continuity, as done in 2006 with the real Casino Royale (1967's version doesn't count. It was a parody.) opens up all sorts of possibilities. Already, Idris Elba was considered to do a new Bond when Craig's return was in doubt. Fun fact: Elba's costar on The Wire, Dominic West, was considered for Casino Royale. A black James Bond? If he's English. (Except where he was played by a Scot, an Australian, a Welsh man, and an Irishman.) That's opened the door for Bridgerton's Rege-Jean Page to don the tuxedo.

Of course, more traditional choices remain in the running. Henry Cavill and Tom Hardy are the frontrunners. And why not? They look like Bond as Fleming described him. Richard Madden of Game of Thrones fame also is in the running. It's likely the new Bond will be in the Timothy Dalton mold, which Craig was in personality though not looks. But even a racial change will probably still require some resemblance to Bond, something Elba could have pulled off a few years ago. (And actually, now that I think of it, wouldn't Elba make a great M? Or Q? There is nothing scarier than Stringer Bell, in an almost cockney accent, warning Bond, "And bring back the equipment in pristine condition.")

So, it's not what the new Bond will look like. There are more options now than when Brosnan stepped aside. The question is what is Bond? When Craig stepped in, the Cold War still echoed in our ears, the "special relationship" between the UK and US still held, and Brext wasn't even thought of. Now Britain is not only on its own, Scotland still threatens to bolt the union. The special relationship is dysfunctional, and the EU is now "those other people." The climate is a bigger enemy than any country, terrorist organization, or company. Some may dispute that, but countries find it more profitable to trade than to invade. Terrorist organizations often find themselves exposed by the very Internet platforms they use to coalesce. And corporations? Some might say they're the real enemy, but just as often, they're the targets. How do I know? I often go into Walmart's book section, see something I want, and order it off Amazon out of spite. (I've done this in Target, but only because they ran out of something I needed. That, and their vinyl section sucks.)

Bond has to exist in a post-pandemic world connected by toxic social media where traditional alliances have frayed. By the end of the next Bond's run, Blofeld might not be some angry WWII refugee or Bond's long-lost foster brother. He - or she - might be an AI. Another virus could sweep the world. And let us not forget who the Q in QAnon is - some hacker in his mom's basement. (Why I only made it ten minutes into that HBO series before I had to choke the urge to throw my laptop across the room. It's a nice laptop.) Bond may no longer be blowing up hidden lairs in hollowed-out volcanoes. Instead, he'll be blowing up server farms, labs full of ebola and small pox, or even a two-bedroom house in New Jersey.

Bond will look very different in his next outing. 

But James Bond will return.


  1. James Bond is another iteration / incarnation of Gawain and/or Lancelot, both of whom survived anything and everything (let's see Bond go up against the Green Knight), fought the evils of their day (from the Green Knight to evil kings), bedded women, and had some very good lines. Of course there will be a return.

    BTW, my strong suspicion is that a person's favorite Bond is the one they saw when they were a teenager and (sorry for the pun) bonded with. Mine is Sean Connery.

  2. I agree with Eve's comment about favorite Bond being your first. I have found the same thing with Doctor Who.

    By the way, I read an interview with the producers of the show SHERLOCK. When people complain that Holmes shouldn't be brought into modern times they reply that James Bond is supposed to be a veteran of World War Two.

    And for the record, I have never seen a James Bond movie.

  3. Some people had trouble accepting Moore supposedly because of his age. I had difficulty with Moore and Brosnan because of their tongue-in-cheek television creds. I couldn't take them seriously. However, I entirely bought the Craig incarnation.

    But series manifest a deeper problem. Series often reboot when the franchise has run out of imagination. They then start swapping in mix-and-match notions, "How about we call Scarlett Red and cast him as a gay male, see, get it? And we pair him with a black Rhett who's trying to find himself, okay? Oh, and Hattie… Listen darlings, this is gonna be big!"

    1. God forgive Daniel Craig (and me), I just watched the icon deliver the worst Southern accent I've ever witnessed in the murder mystery, Knives Out. Sadly, it's almost the only thing that stuck with me.

  4. Leigh, I agree - Craig's accent in that was ALMOST as bad as Michael Caine's in "Second Hand Lions" (for that matter, while I love Michael Caine, his American accents were always slipping in odd spots, as in "The Cider House Rules"). But I enjoyed the rest of the movie.

  5. The Bond films weren’t all about James Bond for everyone. All those high tech chases and shenanigans were new in the early Sixties. At the memorial service for my first husband recently, I was remembering how he laughed his head off when a small plane got its wings sheared off trying to flee (or was it pursur) through a narrow alley. He couldn’t get enough of that gadget type stuff. The people were incidental - one reason we didn’t stay married. That said, I agree with the theory of imprinting on one’s first Bond. Also one’s first Sherlock Holmes. Basil Rathbone is still the real thing for me.


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