Bond 26 will need to be a massive departure from Daniel Craig’s James Bond era, which will be a good thing for the franchise. Daniel Craig bowed out as James Bond in 2021’s long-delayed No Time to Die, wrapping up a narrative arc that had begun with 2006’s Casino Royale. The Daniel Craig era was defined by a more grounded style, reflecting the more brutal aspects of Ian Fleming’s blunt instrument of a British Intelligence agent. In a post-9/11 era of Jason Bourne-style figures, it was the reinvention that the franchise needed after the excesses of the later Pierce Brosnan movies.
Despite the character being shockingly killed off in its climax, No Time to Die promised: “James Bond will return“. As the franchise celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2022, audiences are pondering who will resurrect the 007 code name. Producer Barbara Brocolli, whose family has been involved with the franchise since its inception, has stated that the search for a new Bond has not yet begun. This is because they plan to “reinvent” the Bond franchise and haven’t yet decided on a decision in which to take the character. This is a promising sign for the franchise that hints at a long life for James Bond beyond his shocking death in No Time to Die.
Daniel Craig’s bold reinvention of the James Bond character was what the franchise needed in the early 2000s. Many aspects of the previous movie Die Another Day didn’t work due to its outlandish invisible car, reliance on CGI, and planet-slicing laser beam. Casino Royale reflected a back-to-basics approach that went back to the roots of Ian Fleming’s character. While that grittiness didn’t always gel with some of the more outlandish aspects of James Bond’s world, it was a fresh take on the character that resonated with audiences in a way that Timothy Dalton’s similar approach never quite achieved. As the franchise looks toward the future with James Bond 26, it needs to move away from the successes of the Daniel Craig era, to avoid accusations of relying on past glories.
Why James Bond 26 Needs A Reinvention After Daniel Craig’s Movies
The cinema landscape and the spy genre have changed considerably since production began on Casino Royale. In the interim period between Die Another Day and Casino Royale, the Matt Damon-fronted Bourne franchise set high standards for Bond movies to compete with. The more visceral action of Jason Bourne’s fight sequences clearly informed a similar tone to the action in Daniel Craig’s debut outing as James Bond. Gone was the glamour of previous Bond movies, replaced by bare-knuckle fights in grimy, crumbling apartment blocks. It was what the franchise needed at the time in order to remain relevant, but spy thrillers have moved on since Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass’ Bourne movies.
The Bourne movies also had a more psychological bent, exploring the personal impact of working in the intelligence services, and this also inspired the Craig movies. In the novels, James Bond is an orphan, a womanizer, and a violent man who does his duty for Queen and country. This informs Daniel Craig’s characterization of Bond, playing him as a stoic orphan with commitment issues – commitment issues that are frequently exacerbated by the betrayals of James Bond’s love interests. The tragic arc of Craig’s James Bond comes with how he finally learns to trust someone and make a family for himself – a family that his life of violence dooms him to never fully embrace. This was a unique arc for the franchise, especially given how they’d previously side-stepped the aftermath of the death of Bond’s wife Tracy following George Lazenby’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The uniqueness of Craig’s era would be lost if Bond 26 attempted to follow a similar template, trapping them in a similar rut to the one that generated Die Another Day‘s more outlandish excesses.
What Direction Should James Bond 26 Go In After Daniel Craig’s Movies?
If Jason Bourne was James Bond’s biggest threat in the 2000s, then Ethan Hunt is surely the big threat to Bond in the 2020s. The Mission: Impossible movies have become a huge blockbuster success due in no small part to Tom Cruise’s commitment to doing his own life-threatening stunts. James Bond could learn from Mission: Impossible and its healthy dose of comedy, showstopping stunts, and breathtaking action sequences. James Bond movies used to be famous for their occasionally tongue-in-cheek action sequences and stunts, like Roger Moore’s Bond deploying a Union Jack parachute during a ski chase in The Spy Who Loved Me, or Timothy Dalton engaging in a bobsled chase on a cello in The Living Daylights. The increased focus on characterization and Bond’s psychological scars in the Daniel Craig movies shifted the focus from this grand tradition, and the Mission: Impossible movies enthusiastically filled the gap.
Ethan Hunt is also a man who cannot commit to a family in the Mission: Impossible movies, showing that it’s still possible to balance humor, action, and strong characterization to deliver a thrilling box office success. It’s what the James Bond franchise has mostly been doing since 1962, even injecting charm and humor into the bleaker tone of the Daniel Craig era. As the franchise looks toward the next six decades, it would do well to take the competition of the Tom Cruise franchise onboard as they build on the successes of both the Daniel Craig era and the history of James Bond to deliver a fresh take on the character and their world in Bond 26.