'No Time to Die' and the End of James Bond

Skyfall (2012) - Daniel Craig - Photofest-H 2019
MGM/Columbia Pictures/Photofest
The title for Daniel Craig's final outing suggests it's a far cry from the realism adopted in his first, 'Casino Royale.'

Daniel Craig’s final outing as 007 has finally been named with the appropriately titled No Time to Die. The announcement came Tuesday with a short video teaser that showed Craig’s dapper James Bond taking a short stroll, and then the title reveal. The 1970s-styled font of that title feels appropriately nostalgic and perhaps suggests that director Cary Fukunaga’s film will depart from some of the more modern trappings, and plodding broodiness of the last entry, Spectre (2015), and harken back to the Bond eras defined by Sean Connery and Roger Moore.

It is rumored that the film’s previous director, Danny Boyle, left the project because he wanted to kill off James Bond in the end, a decision that Eon wouldn’t stand for. No Time to Die fittingly feels like a politely passive aggressive rebuttal to Boyle, and a promise that just because this is Craig’s last outing it doesn’t mean that the character will die. This also isn’t the first time the word “die” has appeared in a Bond film. Moore confronted death of the voodoo variety in his first appearance as Bond in Live and Let Die (1973), and Pierce Brosnan double-dipped on death in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) and Die Another Day (2002). As far as titles go, No Time to Die is about as Bond as you can get without sticking “gold” somewhere in there.

The rereleased plot synopsis, attached to the press announcement for the title, hints at a more retro approach with the retired Bond, living in Jamaica, being drawn back into active service by Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) in order to rescue a kidnapped scientist who leads them to a “mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology.” Though he isn’t mentioned in the press release, Christoph Waltz was confirmed to return as Bond’s nemesis, Blofeld, just last month. The only thing that’s missing to fully sell No Time to Die as the ultimate retro Bond film is confirmation of a giant Ken Adam-inspired villain base. What’s interesting about all of these details is that when Craig’s tenure as Bond began in Casino Royale (2006), great strides were made to modernize the character and help him regain his cool in a world where Jason Bourne was the popular action hero, and Hollywood, feeling the success of Batman Begins (2005), was just starting to understand how profitable a reboot could be, at least for a time. But now, three Bond entries and 15 years later, and audiences have grown increasingly partial to nostalgia, arguably to an even greater degree than what the series most successful entry so far, Skyfall, provided back in 2012.

No Time to Die, from the way the title is styled in the teaser announcement to the words themselves, feels like a piece of a larger puzzle meant to convey that some of the grounded grittiness associated with Craig’s films will be replaced with something a bit more charming and comfortable with the novelty of James Bond. We’ve gotten four films examining why Bond still matters in the 21st century, why he isn’t a “dinosaur” and a “relic of the Cold War,” and they’ve each been pretty stellar within the scheme of the franchise. But as pop culture enthusiasts, we like our metaphorical dinosaurs, and as our nostalgia for the '80s and '90s stretches back even further, there’s something worthwhile in examining whether an old-school James Bond, though undoubtedly and desirably more PC, can work in 2020. While subtlety aided the franchise for a while, there’s a sense that Bond fans are ready for the series to loosen some of the constraints a bit and have a bit more fun with this world and its history. Hell, maybe we’ll even get to see Craig don a jet pack.