Rumours have been floating around that Craig won’t be back for another Bond flick after Spectre. The film, directed by Sam Mendes and opening this weekend in North America, is the 24th movie in the franchise and only Craig’s fourth. The actor has infamously said that he’d rather “slit his wrists” than make another Bond movie. That’s a pretty dramatic statement to say the least. But whether or not he’ll return for a fifth and final movie won’t change that fact that he has left a significant impact on this franchise. But I can’t help but feel that Craig’s run could’ve definitely been a lot better.
James Bond has seen his ups and downs over these past five decades, and Craig stepped in when the series was perhaps at its lowest point; right after previous Bond Pierce Brosnan’s run came to a disappointing halt.
Craig brought a realistic, cold, and brutal take on author Ian Fleming’s character. His first movie, Casino Royale, was a breath of fresh air and it injected a new life and energy into this revered franchise. But straight after, Craig’s second film, Quantum of Solace, came along and quickly became a hugely disappointing sequel that completely abandoned what this new Bond was trying to accomplish. There are several awful Bond sequels that pale in comparison to their counterparts; Tomorrow Never Dies, Octopussy, Moonraker, and Diamonds Are Forever to name a few. But Solace is even more disappointing because Casino Royale promised us that this new era of Bond would be different and wouldn’t repeat the same mistakes that plagued the other runs. Oh, we were so very wrong.
I won’t delve into Solace’s many issues, as I can write a whole essay on them, but the film has left a permanent stain on Craig’s run, and that’s a shame. But hey, after a long four years we did get the gripping and dark Skyfall that reminded us why Craig was so great as bond in Casino Royale. It’s a fantastic mixture of the more grounded and newer take on Bond, and the classic formula we’ve come to love. It also contains a great standalone Bond story that actually gives us a glimpse into the character’s troubled past. It’s just a shame that it did take a long four years—a gap that was so obviously caused by the backlash Solace received. It reminds me of what happened to Brosnan’s Bond movies. The series took a long break from 1989 to 1995, after Timothy Dalton’s movie License to Kill underperformed (though I still like it quite a bit).
Brosnan’s first film Goldeneye is easily one of the best Bond movies ever made, and is directed by Martin Campbell, who also helmed Casino Royale. Right afterwards, however, came the disappointing Tomorrow Never Dies. See the trend here? The only difference with the Brosnan-Bond era was that the producers did not have the foresight to take a break and figure out which direction to take the character next. It felt too rushed, and it definitely wasn’t Brosnan's fault; he was great. The actor introduced a more suave take on Bond that actually did not feel comical (I’m thinking Roger Moore here). Brosnan genuinely only has one good Bond film under his belt, and he deserved better.
But with Craig potentially leaving, it’s going to be quite a task for the next actor to replace him. Who that new actor should be is a topic for another day, but it’s important for him to avoid mimicking Craig’s Bond. This version of the character will still be too fresh in our minds to avoid making inevitable comparisons. The only thing that needs to be carried over is the fact that Bond is a blunt instrument for MI6; a cold-blooded killer that will do anything to get the job done. This characteristic has to remain intact.
This is really the most important thing that Craig’s Bond introduced to the franchise. If Bond wants to remain relevant, than he’ll have to continually go up against gritty, dark, and realistic action thrillers that are all the rage nowadays. I hear a new Jason Bourne is in production. There’s a reason why we love Casino Royale and Skyfall, and it’s important that Bond’s producers don’t lose sight of this like they have in the past.