No Time to Die – A Ranty Review with spoilers
PLEASE DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU HAVENT SEEN THE FILM – IT WILL SPOIL IT
From the original film, until Craig’s appearance, we have effectively has a loose singular narrative throughout the films. Admittedly there was very little acknowledgement of any previous moments, such as Moore standing at the grave of Tracey Bond at the start of For Your Eyes Only, but they’ve served to connect the films through a singular narrative.
Frankly, there’s been a beauty in that. A stubborn beauty which has permitted Bond to weave his way from climbing mountains using shoelaces, to fighting in Space, to racing around Las Vegas in a moon buggy, to driving an invisible car across ice. Lunacy at the time, but it was Bond vs. the moment. And he wouldn’t really learn anything, and wouldn’t really change. There’d be no real character arc, just an adventure that we’d participate in – both as a single film, but a further moment in the canon.
There’s also been the unspoken acknowledgment (other than Lazenby’s reference to ‘the other fellow’ at the start of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’) that the mantel would pass from actor to actor. Different actors have taken the baton and run their part of the circuit. But from Connery to Moore, Dalton to Brosnan (and the other fellow), none of these actors made it about them. None have ever sought to make themselves bigger than the club (to use a football analogy).
For each of the film scripts, good or bad, the actor picking up the mantle wouldn’t have changed the plan. You could have given Pierce Brosnan the role for Licence to Kill or Connery the script for Live and Let Die and it could have worked. The style might have been a little different but the script wasn’t anchored to the journey of the actor themselves.
So then we get to Daniel Craig. His introduction in Casino Royale was wonderful – a spectacular moment in taking a step back and taking a moment to introduce Bond’s emergence to us. I loved it, but didn’t quite realise we were starting to fuel something that would ultimately get us to where we now are.
What Casino Royale opened the door to though, was a desire to show progress in Bond. To evolve him and build a new continuity that was specific and unique to the Craig films alone. After Casino Royale, we could have simply reverted to a more traditional Bond structure but for whatever reason, the desire had shifted to keep trying to force character arcs into the films. As a result we ended up with him dealing with the grief from Vesper (Quantum), the loss of his mother (Skyfall), and his father / pseudo father (Spectre).
No Time to Die, crystallises this to the point where the collection of films is forever changed. It’s not a Bond film, its a film about an actor saying goodbye to a character. They would never have made that film with that ending if he was going to play Bond 3 more times or if a new actor was taking the role. When you consider that, the genesis of the film then is entirely grounded in Craig rather than the character or the storyline.
It is an incredibly strong example of an actor making a film centre on themselves, rather than the character. Bond dying at the end is the most extreme piece of evidence, but its not the only one.
The ending completely brackets the Craig films within the canon. Not as part of them through the same loose narrative, but now entirely contained. The script for that film is entirely driven by the fact that it was Daniel Craig’s last Bond film. This isn’t the era of Daniel Craig’s interpretation of Bond, it is his attempted kidnapping of him. He has attempted to put himself above the legacy of the other actors with his own personal standalone ‘universe’ of Bond.
No Time to Die isn’t a bad film. By any measurement of acting, directing, production its a solid film. It has a poor villain and a confused storyline at times. But it is the cherry on the cake of Craig’s egotistical ransoming of the character that has been allowed by the producers.
The future now offers a sad choice. Either the new actor moves away from this approach and knits a performance to the pre-Craig films, with Bond being drawn into adventure after adventure without trying to create these sorts of arcs. Or, they attempt their own Bond universe. Either way now though, the canon will have this bracketed Craig-iverse within it and I think that the collection is long term forever weakened by them (perhaps not financially, but certainly in terms of a narrative).
I don’t dispute Craig’s effort but just consider it remarkably misplaced. He clearly has put huge effort into the role both physically and in the approach. But this desire to reinvent it, to fix what all the others had gotten wrong, is the issue. It is rooted in an arrogance of thought that has been hinted at before but now explodes onto the screen in the final film.
I think that the legacy of the Daniel Craig Bond films will reveal themselves to be an ego trip for him that damaged the canon.
He hasn’t left a nice welcoming note and bottle of champagne to the next Bond actor in the house that has been there since 1962, he’s tried to burn the house down. The extent of the damage won’t be known for years yet though.