Despite not having the consistency of Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible series or the anarchic freedom of the Kingsman movies, James Bond remains king of the spies as far as box office and public adoration is concerned. It’s the film equivalent of Doctor Who: a series that survives through adaptation and regeneration. Yet whilst current talk of Bond largely centres on who *might* be the next lead, it feels important to take stock of what we have now.
Idris Elba was born to play Bond: he’s the necessary mix of imposing action star and charming romantic lead that these films cry out for. Yet Elba’s (possibly imminent but protracted) casting does ignore that Daniel Craig has one film left, and for my money he’s the best actor to ever hold the license. It’s therefore unfortunate that his movies have been so hit and miss (varying from all-timers in Casino Royale to lifeless duds in Spectre) as Craig is consistently excellent in the role – similar enough to his predecessors to remind us why we like James whilst cultivating his own space that shows us why we should keep watching new instalments. His Bond is a puppy with a pistol, the (now overused) archetypal flawed hero with the build of a boxer and the eyes of a scared child. Yet he’s often been a character in search of a story – having dipped into The Dark Knight re-treads with Skyfall and Roger Moore revivals in Spectre, Craig’s last film will need to stop chasing identities and craft one of its own: a task originally given to chameleon director Danny Boyle, yet he stepped away from the project over creative differences.
“…A SERIES THAT SHOULD PROBABLY BE ATTEMPTING TO GET AS FAR AWAY FROM THE ISSUES OF BOTH THE BOOKS AND EARLY MOVIES AS POSSIBLE”
Such differences should be expected: the powers that be know that this film should both celebrate Craig and craft a baton to pass (Craig is a noted producer and was mentioned in the press release for Boyle’s departure, so his sway over the film seems significant). Yet how do you balance a respectful goodbye with excitement for the future? It seems likely that the Bond of the future will be heavily influenced by #MeToo and the societal changes bought by unquestioned patriotism, which can only be a good thing for a series that should probably be attempting to get as far from the issues of both the books and the early movies as possible. The film many fans hope will be emulated is Logan, Hugh Jackman’s R-Rated swansong to his Wolverine, and the appeal is obvious: an emotional no-holds-barred definitive end to a character would feel like a spiritual resolution to Skyfall and a good bookend to Casino Royale. Perhaps this is ambitious for a series that’s avoided definitive in almost all measures (which is why it survives despite maybe half of the entries being any good: it’s hard to maintain disdain when the thing you disdain keeps changing) – yet the Bond of the future will take time to settle, and whomever Boyle’s replacement is could utilise their opportunity to smooth the passage.
Craig’s Bond has fallen in love, has dealt with personal demons, has lost his most trusted ally – what’s to say that he can’t atone for actions of the past and deconstruct the toxic British culture that makes his existence possible, and the idea of a black Bond so difficult for many? In Skyfall, Bond’s abilities were questioned. In Spectre, it was his intentions. In Bond 25, could it not be his existence? What service does James Bond have in 21st century Britain, and to whom does he belong? How can he survive in this world, and why should we want him to? It is a difficult task, but it’s in capable hands, and my fingers are crossed that the sign-off Craig deserves will allow Elba to start from the best possible place: anticipation.