With rumours of Daniel Craig’s replacement persisting for years, Tom Jolliffe wonders if James Bond has had his day…
With some uncertainty still looming over the release of Daniel Craig’s (supposedly) final fling as James Bond, rumours continue to persist about his eventual replacement. It would of course be folly to announce the next Bond before the current incumbent has delivered his final showing to the world, so until the doors open and the punters flock in for No Time To Die (this winter, or next spring/summer, when hell freezes over etc), we’ll have to wait and sift through more suggestions, more bookmakers odds and more passionate pleas to diversify the character, or make him more aware of current acceptable behaviour. Yes, from scraping Bond clear of his misogynistic ways and outdated values, to casting Idris Elba, there have been a lot of suggestions to revolutionise Bond.
There’s an issue though…by changing the character so markedly, he’s no longer the character we’ve historically become accustomed to from literature and over 20 films. Now, I’d absolutely love to see Elba playing a spy, but in something disassociated from such an identifiable franchise. In fact, such would be the reaction to Elba (for argument’s sake) becoming JB, that it would take a film of almost immense brilliance to win round an audience, and batter the box office coffers. In fairness, Daniel Craig himself was deemed too blond, too short, too uncouth, too (whatever else fans said in 2005) to play Bond. Casino Royale, which is still one of the best action films this century, was revolutionary enough to win those audiences around. Craig could deliver suave and he could retain his own unique charisma. He did something interesting, a refinement on what Dalton semi-successfully attempted to inject into Bond (minus the deft material Craig was given for his debut).
One thing that Craig had the benefit of on his debut though too, was his era. Bond had been modernised. Gone were the gadgets and the silliness, and vein attempts at being on trend (Die Another Day was an embarrassment on all fronts, in its attempts to keep pace with the Vin Diesels of the time). Bond was grittier certainly, darker, edgier, but still had the charm. Above all though, he was still a bastard. Horrible to women, a little bit creepy if we’re looking back retrospectively. He’s a little pompous, an arse, he’s up himself. Bond, even by the standards of the time he was originally written, was created as a flawed individual, somewhat out of sync with a changing society, so what’s he going to be like in 2020? Everything has a hashtag now. Any new incumbent has this to deal with. Bond now, has to pass focus group analysis. More woke minded audiences might want him dragged into a more understanding frame of mind, to have all those inherent flaws smoothed over, the creases ironed out. Traditionalists will of course complain that Bond’s gone soft. The point of Bond has always been that he’s slightly unbalanced and with a few exceptions, has no empathy (particularly to women), but to take out the worst of the worst, you need a right rotter.
What of replacing the character of Bond with a new character taking the 007 handle? It’s been discussed and it was even doing the rounds as a rumour for the upcoming No Time To Die with some fans speculating that Lashana Lynch was brought in to be groomed as the next 007. It seems more likely that with the film likely to open with Bond disappeared, Lynch will be the go to 00 agent in his absence. Time will tell if she’s a well written character, that proves popular enough to spin off into a new franchise. The problem is…do audiences want 007 or do they want James Bond? Are the two bound together as one? Can a new character plying the same story tropes prove successful? I’m not too sure (indeed the responses to a notion of a woman taking over as 007 were greeted with expected dismay from men across the land). In fact I’m not too sure how much fervent passion is left for Craig’s final outing. Whilst Spectre made a lot of money in 2015, it still marked a noticeable drop from Skyfall. We’ve now had a more noticeably lengthy gap between two films as well and a lot has happened since in society.
After almost 60 years of Bond on screen, and soon to be 25 films, there’s now a crossroads. Can Bond still exist with those flaws that have been so synonymous and central to his character? They used to say this about aggressive footballers, like Wayne Rooney for example. A hotheaded tendency to be overly aggressive or lose his rag under pressure. The argument being, if you temper that aggression and try to cool it, then the player might not get sent off a couple of times a year, but he’ll perhaps lose some aggression that’s invaluable to how he plays. Of course, he didn’t particularly change as a player. You can’t reverse nature sometimes. As for Bond, can he be softened and made more considered? Will he lose his edge, his killer instinct? Lets face it, Bond, he’s a misogynist and a sociopath. You can of course counter this by making the female character more immune to him and more interesting (see Eva Green for example). You can change the essence of what it has historically meant to be a Bond girl. There’s only so much change you can give to Bond. If it’s deemed that he can’t be made 2020 safe, then effectively, society has outgrown Bond and it’s time to call time.
The continued focus on franchise though, means in all likelihood we will have a new JB and it’s perhaps safe to assume he will be given a significant change of style. It’s a huge gamble though for a big franchise. One which poured funds into a doomed Danny Boyle project, only to be put back to square one for Cary Fukunaga to take over. If we have a female 007 or a BAME 007, yes that’s great for inclusivity and progressiveness, but for box office, will it be too much of a change for a franchise already faltering? Indeed you could well argue I guess, that audiences have lost interest, not just in Craig, but in the notion of Bond being a rich upper class white guy. My preference would be a new 007 over a new Bond, because I’m a little disinterested with him as a character now, but that’s the least saleable option. Then the cynic in me thinks the choices might be made more financially motivated than creatively.
Elba is immense, we know that but if he’s gonna take on a spy role, he’d be more suited to rebooting Harry Palmer, which doesn’t have the same kind of long standing history with audiences, and is in a good position to be updated for modern viewers. Elba suits the more blue collar spy that Michael Caine made great, over the martini supping snobbery of Bond, and you certainly can’t take that side out of Bond either. Actually, Bond has covered almost every conceivable character variation without straying from the key core. What else can be done with him without making him lose the identity that people have been watching him for? Time for new ideas, or to retool properties that have had enough passing of time. Maybe spend less making the films and punt for a $500 million haul over hitting that billion mark.
Likewise, time may well be something to consider too. Perhaps it needs a lengthy gap. A chance to let this tradition pass, the dust settle, and then consider updating Bond’s persona, whilst injecting enough nostalgia to bring back long standing enthusiasts. To get the nostalgia bucks though, they’ll need to give it at least another decade. Let the appetite grow and then consider whether the land lies right for Bond to come back. For now though, the thought of a new Bond is more of a head scratching poser about how, and ultimately whether he’s really wanted by the masses in a way that will please a majority.
What are your thoughts on the next Bond? Who would you like to see? Could you see a different character as 007 take over from Bond? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or on our Twitter page @flickeringmyth…
Bond has left active service and is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica. His peace is short-lived when his old friend Felix Leiter from the CIA turns up asking for help. The mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology.
No Time To Die stars Daniel Craig (James Bond), Ralph Fiennes (M), Naomie Harris (Moneypenny), Rory Kinnear (Tanner), Léa Seydoux (Madeleine Swann), Ben Whishaw (Q), Jeffrey Wright (Felix Leiter) and Christoph Waltz (Blofeld), while new additions include Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody), Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049), Lashana Lynch (Captain Marvel), Billy Magnussen (Velvet Buzzsaw), Dali Benssalah (A Faithful Man) and David Dencik (Top of the Lake).
Tom Jolliffe is an award winning screenwriter and passionate cinephile. He has a number of films out on DVD/VOD around the world and several releases due in 2020/21, including The Witches Of Amityville Academy (starring Emmy winner, Kira Reed Lorsch), Tooth Fairy: The Root of Evil and the star studded action film, Renegades. Find more info at the best personal site you’ll ever see…https://www.instagram.com/jolliffeproductions/