007 has been going strong for over 50 years now, constantly reinvigorating himself to keep up with modern trends and current pop culture.
While entertaining in parts, for many the 24th official Bond adventure was one of the biggest letdowns of 2015. The Blofeld twist was the least surprising reveal since Cumberbatch was Khan in Star Trek into Darkness, and him being Bond’s foster brother somehow added precisely zero depth to the narrative and characters.
Coupled with a fondness for lingering silently on dimly-lit moments of supposed tension for an interminable length of time and Daniel Craig’s unease with playing the lighter moments, audiences were left disheartened with the direction the franchise had taken.
There are some brilliant Bond movies and there are some terrible Bond movies. All of those great fun to watch. It’s the boring ones that fall in-between which can be hard work.
If 007 is to bounce back – and he always does, eventually – then something has to change. The franchise has repeatedly faltered when the producers played it safe and really flown when risks were taken. By bringing back director Sam Mendes and almost the entire cast of Skyfall, there’s no denying that Spectre was very much the former option.
A new Bond
Significantly more so than Roger Moore saying ‘ooh!’ in a shower with Tanya Roberts while Q watched them via a robot called Snooper at the end of A View to a Kill (really), the closing moments of Spectre felt like a true swansong for Daniel Craig’s Bond.
Bond drove off into the sunset dawn with Madeline, leaving MI6 behind, so it would not feel right if he returned, especially if Madeline’s disappearance was not explained.
Daniel Craig is refreshingly vocal after every shoot about how much he hates the entire experience and that the money is the only reason he continues to do them. Interestingly, he took part in no other acting projects at all between Skyfall and Spectre.
He would likely be around 50 year old by the time of the next Bond movie and Roger Moore often jokes about how ridiculous the age gap was between him and his co-stars in his final film. Even in Spectre, Craig commenting “well, you shouldn’t look like that” when told not to stare at 29-year-old Léa Seydoux on the train made him seem more like a creep than a charmer.
The likes of Idris Elba, Tom Hardy, Michael Fassbender and Damian Lewis are frequently rumoured to be next in line and would all be wonderful in the role, but they are arguably too famous already and a lesser-known rising star is much more likely.
What will be interesting to see is whether the producers go for the complete reboot option again like Casino Royale, with the stories taking part in a seperate fictional universe to previous adventures and an almost entirely new supporting cast, as cinemagoers have become accustomed to with the recent reboots of Spider-Man, Batman, the Fantastic Four, etc.
One of the things that Skyfall and Spectre undeniably did get right was the casting of Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw as M, Moneypenny and Q, with the trio bringing a fresh take on such firmly established characters.
It’d certainly be a shame if they didn’t get to reprise these roles, although their inclusion might confuse modern audiences. Judi Dench’s M being in Casino Royale certainly muddled that film’s reboot concept. That said, a few familar faces would ease the transition for a new Bond.
No change whatsoever
Casino Royale and Skyfall are probably the two best Bond movies of the past 25 years, so why fix something that’s not broken. While Quantum of Solace and Spectre are less fondly appreciated, a 50:50 success rate ain’t bad and another adventure could swing Daniel Craig’s hit rate into his favour.
Craig is widely regarded to be on a par with Sean Connery as the best portrayal of the character.
If Bond 25 returned to his darker, more brutal take and ditched Craig’s awkward attempts at forced humour (his ‘nooo!’ moment when the car plays 009’s music during the Rome car chase in Spectre encapsulates why this just does not work for his Bond) then a fifth outing could be his finest hour.
With Bond choosing (inexplicably from a story point of view, really) to not kill Blofeld at the end of Spectre, it’s clear that there are plans for Blofeld to return in future films. After waiting 40-odd years to get the character’s rights back, it was never going to be a one-off appearance. And having now established the ridiculous foster-brother set-up, the writers may as well actually explore the emotional repercussions of the twist. We’d certainly welcome the return of Christoph Waltz, complete with scar and cat.
As for Léa Seydoux, while we’d need an explanation for her absense, we’d cope with not seeing Madeline again to be honest.
Of course, killing her off to provide Bond with a reason to return to MI6 is a possibility, but Quantum of Solace tried the revenge arc only two films ago and the plot would need a fresh spin to avoid feeling repetitive.
Back to the 1950s
Ian Fleming first wrote the character the during the early 1950s, but with Dr No being released (and set) in 1962, there has technically never been a truly accurate adaptation of the character in his original time (we’ll ignore the 1954 TV adaptation of Casino Royale).
Last summer’s The Man from UNCLE and 2011’s X-Men: First Class, although both set in the 1960s, demonstrated that the early years of the Cold War can be presented onscreen with style and excitement without ever feeling stuffy and dated. In fact, tonally The Man from UNCLE nailed the Bond formula of style, fun, gadgets, globetrotting and beautiful people with far more success then any Bond movie since perhaps Tomorrow Never Dies.
Sadly, we can’t see this option ever happening, although Quentin Tarantino’s planned version of Casino Royale would in fact have been a period piece, so you never know!