Hello everybody and welcome to another round of Fandom Heresies! I am Josh Stoodley, known on the internet as Falconlord5, and this series collects my thoughts on various fandom shenanigans. We will discuss everything from comic books to Star Wars to The Lord of the Rings. Today we will discuss the newest James Bond movie, No Time To Die.
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The Name Is Craig, Daniel Craig
With the release of No Time to Die, Daniel Craig completes his final Bond movie. They cast the guy as James Bond in 2005, sixteen years ago. That makes Craig the longest running James Bond actor in terms of overall years. Roger Moore, however, still appeared in more movies (seven versus five).
At first, Craig was controversial as James Bond. He was blond (Sean Connery was bald and Roger Moore was a pretty light brown in some lighting, too). He was short (only in Hollywood is 178 centimetres considered short). Perhaps most importantly, he was new. And if there is anything fans hate, it’s something new in a beloved and long running franchise.
Craig himself was unsure about taking on the role. He regarded the franchise as nothing more than a money-making machine and had to be persuaded that there was indeed life after Bond. Craig, in my opinion, seemed intent to prove there was life during Bond. He appeared in dozens of movies and even a couple of Broadway plays during his tenure as Bond, probably as an attempt to avoid typecasting.
Then Casino Royale opened. It remains one of the finest Bond movies ever, though I quibble with its depiction of Vesper Lynd (who was not nearly as important in the novels; the idea that Bond became a cold-blooded misogynist after she betrayed him was invented for the movies. In the books, Bond is a complete asshole to women right up till Moonraker. Even for the Fifties, Bond and Fleming were incredibly misogynistic) who kind of got molded in with Tracy. More on that later, though.
Craig had secured his place in the James Bond canon. But how would the rest of his movies fare?
A lot like his predecessor, Pierce Brosnan’s did, it turns out. Brosnan started out with two of the greatest Bond movies in Goldeneye and Tomorrow Never Dies, then stunk up the joint with The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day. Craig suffered similar quality control issues. Casino Royale made Craig a serious competitor for Sean Connery’s title of Greatest Bond of All Time, and Skyfall will go down in history as the deconstruction of James Bond. Quantum of Solace was rushed, and it shows; Spectre was Star Trek: Into Darkness levels of bad (though at least not as glaringly racist) and No Time to Die was aggressively mediocre. To be fair to Craig, however, the only Bonds with an unblemished record are Timothy Dalton (two movies) and George Lazenby of all people (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is one of the best and most consistently underrated Bond films; it’s easy to tell a fan of the franchise from a general audience member by how well they like that film), who only did one. Even Sean Connery had Diamonds Are Forever, and Roger Moore only had two greats out of seven (The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only. And For Your Eyes Only is a debated example).
Craig continued Brosnan’s tradition of combining aspects of previous Bonds, giving us a Bond who was ‘half-monk, half-hitman.’ This makes sense; audiences and critics alike are increasingly demanding more three-dimensional characters in their action movies and the relatively flat Sean Connery and Roger Moore Bonds just aren’t going to cut it anymore. I expect whoever plays Bond next will continue on this tradition, albeit with a different focus than Craig. Brosnan focused more on Bond’s romantic side, while Craig more on his ruthless, paranoid side and I’m sure whoever comes next will find their own angle.
Despite Brosnan being the more romantic Bond, it is Craig who falls in love the most with Vesper Lynd and Madeleine Swann. I really disagree with that decision (along with giving him a kid), as I’ll explain below. They also gave him a kid, which is weird when you consider she appears in the same movie Craig’s Bond dies in, thus setting up a continuity reboot for the next movie.
The Bond Girls
Daniel Craig really only has two Bond Girls worth mentioning: Vesper Lynd and Madeleine Swann. And both of them are really just reskinned versions of Tracy di Vicenzo.
Now, a Bond only having two Bond Girls of worth isn’t much of a surprise (unfortunately). While Sean Connery had the most, and the most iconic, Bond Girls, how many of them can you actually name? The same with Roger Moore. The franchise does not treat its women well. We’ll get to how Lashana Lynch got screwed over later in this article, but let’s be blunt: the James Bond franchise is inherently misogynistic. Women are disposable in this franchise, and no the fact that James dies and Madeleine survives in No Time to Die does not change that.
Here is the fundamental problem with Madeleine and Vesper. In the books, and the original (admittedly loose and inconsistent) film continuity, Teresa Draco di Vicenzo was Bond’s one true love, not Vesper. Vesper was the quintessential Bond Girl: a skirt for Bond to chase and then dispose of at the end. She had no real importance to Bond’s overall character (the claims that Bond became misogynistic after she died is complete nonsense; he consistently compares making out with Vesper to rape in a good way and has a highly sexist rant in the beginning of the book about women needing to stay in the kitchen and leave men’s work to the men. Bond wouldn’t become a decent human being until Moonraker) and is largely forgotten about in later installments.
The film massively expanded her character… by combining it with Tracy. And then kind of sweeping Tracy under the rug by claiming Vesper was the first woman Bond loved. It’s a little frustrating.
Which brings us to Madeleine Swann. Swann is first woman Bond drives off into the sunset with (Tracy doesn’t count because she dies before the honeymoon), and is even more of a Tracy analogue than Vesper was. Her romance with Bond was rushed like Tracy’s (a systemic problem with the series, honestly. Comes with being a largely serialized series), she’s the daughter of a bad guy (although Marc-Ange Draco was a more heroic figure), she gets married/in a long-term relationship with Bond, etc. Now Madeleine is a film original character so her composite nature is mildly less galling than Vesper’s, but it still contributes to Tracy getting swept under the rug.
And then there’s final problem: both women are completely disposable. Vesper’s death was inevitable, given the book’s twist ending, but the attempts to deepen her character just highlight how disposable she really is. Madeleine, despite surviving her movie, is just as disposable!
Here’s the thing: they killed Daniel Craig’s Bond and confirmed that James Bond will return. Okay, the codename hypothesis has been debunked. A lot. So that leaves us with another continuity reboot. Which means Madeleine and her daughter are both dead! Or at least retconned.
Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson have built up a lot of credit with me, and I do genuinely worry about the future of the franchise when it leaves their hands. But damn, do some of their decisions piss me off.
This Franchise Hires PoC Actors and then Screws Them Over
Continuing with the theme of questionable decisions made by the producers, we must move on to the Craig era’s treatment of PoC characters and actors. Specifically, we must discuss Jeffrey Wright and Lashana Lynch.
When they announced Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter, I was excited. The first black man as Felix, awesome! It promised, at least in my mind, a more consistent appearance and character arc for Felix, who was way more important in the books than in the movies. And, to an extent, I got what I wanted. Felix has appeared in three of five of Craig’s films, making Jeffrey Wright’s version of the character the most consistent of all the Felix’s.
It’s just a shame they kill him off in his third appearance. And horribly underutilize him beforehand.
Look, I get it. It’s the James Bond series, not the Felix Leiter series. Felix will never be anything other than Bond’s sidekick, I get that. But I’m tired of being teased and jerked around, you know? Don’t hire a black guy, then keep him in the background. This half-assed progressivism is just an exercise in annoying as many people as possible.
Which brings us to Lashana Lynch! The new 007 (not James Bond; that would’ve been better)! For all of one movie. Then, she too, will get retconned out.
All in all, Craig’s tenure is a mixed bag. It’s brought some of the best Bond movies ever, one of the worst, and some innovations that Eon Productions just didn’t have the balls to follow up on.