Every James Bond wants to go out on a high note, but have they ever? In Diamonds Are Forever, Sean Connery returned to steer a wobbly franchise after the unwelcomed George Lazenby. The film is not straight trash, but it’s also no From Russia With Love or Goldfinger. Yes, the original Bond would jump studios for Never Say Never Again, an awkward but somewhat interesting retelling of Thunderball.
There are charms to Roger Moore’s swan song A View to a Kill, but again, 007 had seen better days. Timothy Dalton, like Lazenby, barely had time to make an impact before he bowed out on the lackluster Licence to Kill. Pierce Brosnan might have committed the most miserable exit with Die Another Day, piloting invisible cars through ice palaces to the beat of Madonna’s atrocious theme song.
As the latest actor to fill out the super spy suit, Daniel Craig‘s chunk of the franchise is a series of peaks and valleys. Casino Royale was the breath of fresh air that seemingly grounded the character for the new millennium. Quantum of Solace picked up immediately after the last adventure, fulfilling the character’s hate-filled desire for revenge and propelling him into that recognizable promiscuous personality. That sequel has a long list of detractors, but not this writer or our own Rob Hunter who wrote a stirring defense of the movie for /Film last month. Sam Mendes brought a tremendous touch of class with Skyfall and then immediately fumbled over the lumbering bore that is Spectre.
For a while there, we thought that was it for Craig. Another actor collapsing across the finish line of shaken-not-stirred martinis. Contractual obligations demanded his return, but Craig seemed so antagonistic towards the franchise and fans were eager to see someone new take over. No shock, but the business won out and Craig will be back in the tux, but this time he’ll have Cary Fukunaga at command. Our curiosity was certainly piqued by that particular director’s inclusion.
Fukunaga recently spoke with the Philippine Daily Inquirer regarding the untitled Bond 25, and he had several interesting comments surrounding how his film will fit into the history of the character as he began life in Casino Royale:
“In terms of what I can bring to the character, Bond is on a character arc that started with ‘Casino Royale,’ and I will be carrying that on. There will be changes, I am sure. As in any story, a character has to change in order [to have] a narrative.”
But wait? Didn’t Bond satiate his thirst for vengeance in Quantum of Solace, and wasn’t the purpose of Spectre to thread all the conspiracies together and snip them so that Bond could finally be free to find new demons under new bedsheets? It is easy to misinterpret the above quote as referring to a narrative plot point, but I think all Fukunaga is saying here is that the 007 in Bond 25 is still very much the beast struggling with the leftover self-loathing and rage issues that began in Casino Royale.
Fukunaga is a big fan of Daniel Craig, and he makes that known loud and clear in the interview. Speaking of his first appearance as Bond, Fukunaga explains what a relief the actor was in replacing his ultra-clean and cool predecessor:
“He brought an incredible amount of vulnerability and humanity to the character, which was a big shift from Pierce Brosnan’s run.”
That is all that Fukunaga is concerned about. He wants to keep Bond human. He wants to resist the urge to hide the character behind gadgets and catchphrases. What Fukunaga is continuing from Casino Royale is a genuine connection to the world around us. He’s not a spandex superhero; he’s the man on the mission that we need to bend the rules to keep us warm in our beds.
Does that mean that Bond 25 will skip on Q and the megalomaniacal villainy of Christoph Waltz? Not necessarily. In addressing rumors that he will ignore the events of Spectre, Fukunaga states firmly that anything is possible:
“We haven’t finished the screenplay, so there is no way that anyone could know that. Those (Waltz and Ben Whishaw] are two extraordinary actors, so if there is space for them in the story, I would absolutely want them there. But I don’t know yet what it’s going to be.”
Bond 25 is still very much in the infancy of creation. Fukunaga knows what type of film he wants to concoct, and he’s not resistant to the sillier or weirder aspects that the franchise has to offer, but he’s looking to embrace the flawed humanity that we saw in Casino Royale. Don’t expect the name of Vesper Lynd to pass through anyone’s lips or Blofeld to appear from the shadows, but don’t necessarily dismiss their importance either.
Daniel Craig leaving Bond with Spectre would have continued the tradition of mediocre climaxes, but the fresh voice of Fukunaga finally gives fans the opportunity to see a Bond actor take a victory lap around the track. We may have been ready for a new face, but it will also be nice to witness Craig dominate the character rather than the other way around.