Why It's Time for James Bond to Move On

Casino Royale (2006) -  Daniel Craig as James Bond- Photofest-h 2018
Courtesy of Sony Pictures/Photofest
As Danny Boyle exits Bond 25 and rumors persist about who could replace Daniel Craig, the franchise should chart a fresh path forward.

In a surprising turn of events, Danny Boyle has exited Bond 25, which had been scheduled to begin production in December for a November 2019 release. Citing creative differences, producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, along with star Daniel Craig made the official announcement Tuesday afternoon.

The road to Bond 25 has been a long one. After a long search and much deliberation by Eon Productions, Oscar winner Danny Boyle (2008's Slumdog Millionaire) signed on to direct and write (alongside John Hodge) in March. Though the short production schedule was somewhat worrying, it seemed promising that Boyle would be able to bring something new to the franchise and place Craig’s Bond in a position he hadn’t been in before. Although the star seemed by numerous media appearances to be burned out on Bond, hiring Boyle seemed like a reinvigorating move that would allow this iteration of 007 to go out on a high note. But with the director decamping, and increased rumors and speculation about who will step into the tuxedo and Aston Martin next, maybe it’ll be better for everyone if we admit that it’s time to let Daniel Craig’s Bond re in peace.

Without a doubt, Craig has headlined some of the long-running franchise’s best films, and he stands as a personal favorite Bond. Earlier this year, I asked if there was anything left for the actor to do as Bond, and landed on the decision that with Boyle, the answer was "yes." But without the celebrated filmmaker, who seemed sure to deconstruct the character in an emotionally cathartic way, what are we looking at? Sure, it’s feasible to imagine some great set pieces, maybe a well-cast adversary or two, but for Craig’s Bond, who has been the most introspective and emotionally damaged of all the 007 iterations, it seems his story has found closure. Unless a new director can find a way to challenge the character that wouldn’t end in “creative differences,” it really does seem like Craig has explored all he has to offer with James Bond.

Spectre (2015), while not the best of Craig’s run despite bringing back Skyfall’s director Sam Mendes, did manage to tie up all the loose ends of the previous three installments. We see Bond come to terms with his past, finally unveil the reach of Quantum and face off against a classic adversary in Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld. The super spy even manages to curtail his womanizing ways and enter a relationship, with Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux), that promises permanence. Although perhaps too tidy, and too dependent on things the franchise had done before, Spectre feels like a far better sendoff than the rest of the Bonds received.

Despite the sentiment going into Bond 25 that the film will allow Craig to end his tenure with one of the best installments, the fact remains that such an ending has yet to be achieved with any of the long-running Bonds , many of whom stayed well past the age where they could perform without looking stiff and tired. Sean Connery’s run ended with the silly Bond in Vegas entry, Diamonds Are Forever (1971). Roger Moore wrapped things up in A View to s Kill (1985), where he couldn’t match the high energy of Christopher Walken’s villain. Timothy Dalton’s Licence to Kill (1989) was a controversial departure from Bond that owed more to Miami Vice than MI6. And poor Pierce Brosnan was left with what many consider to be the worst in the franchise, Die Another Day (2002). Even the one-and-done George Lazenby’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service ended on a downer with Bond’s wife being killed. If history serves as a map to the future, then we should consider ourselves lucky if Spectre does end up being Craig’s last entry.

Although much has been made about Craig’s age, he’ll be 50 if the film still manages to start production this year, that remains a secondary issue. Roger Moore was 58 when he retired from Bond in 1985. Fifty-six-year-old Tom Cruise just delivered one of the best action movies of his career with Mission: Impossible – Fallout, though no one can quite match the youthful vigor of Cruise. Age isn’t an issue, especially since stars have stopped aging like they used to in Connery and Moore’s days. What is an issue is that it feels like Craig has been Bond for a long time. Cast in 2005, Craig has held the role of James Bond longer than any other actor. His 13 years with the mantle edges out Moore’s 12. There’s simply a feeling, blame it on the buzz over Idris Elba being rumored to take over the role, or Craig’s agitated comments about returning for another, that most audiences are ready to see the actor move on. In the time since Craig became Bond to the present, we’ve seen two Supermen, two Batmen, three Spider-Men, new iterations of the crew of the starship Enterprise, and new Jedi. Even Hugh Jackman hung up his Wolverine claws. Every iconic property has its life cycle, and eventually needs revamping and fresh blood to get audiences involved again. In 2018, the prospect of a new Bond feels more exciting than seeing Craig return as 007 in 2019. That’s doubly true without Boyle.

Spectre may not have gotten the pomp and circumstance of being Craig’s last entry, but perhaps it’s better that way. It’s a fitting end to one of the best interpretations of the character, that is should Broccoli and Wilson see fit to leave it there. Rushing a new script and another Bond into production to meet the release date next year seems ill-advised and an insult to all that Craig has put into his performance. And waiting another year or two for a 2020 or 2021 release date drains any momentum left in an arc that fans are already anxious to see conclude. Rather than force an entry that is apparently no longer there, Eon should go back to the drawing board and figure out who the next Bond is, who can write and direct it, and what the character can mean for the upcoming decade. Craig hasn’t left the role yet, but his Bond seems to be in the midst of death throes. While it may be premature, it seems for now that James Bond is dead. Long live James Bond.