NOW AVAILABLE ON STREAMING PLATFORMS! “James Bond Will Return” (SPOILER WARNING!) These are the words projected during No Time To Die‘s end credits after its hero is blown sky-high, in a message that somewhat contradicts the finale’s poignant conclusion. The finality of No Time To Die makes a continuation feel redundant because narratively and politically, this is a good time to let Bond go.
For the most part, the 007 franchise is episodic. Each new installment finds Bond fighting a new villain in a new location. It is rare, for example, for a Bond girl to reappear more than once. Despite this, there has always been the sense that James Bond is the same person, even when played by a different actor. This is partly because the supporting cast often remains the same – Desmond Llewyn played Q in 17 films and always interacted with Bond as if he were the same person, no matter the actor. It is true that other characters can reboot themselves constantly without losing their appeal, like Batman, but James Bond is not as timeless as The Caped Crusader. He is a relic of the past. When you add to this the fact that Daniel Craig‘s Bond was already a restart, do we really need another one? No. We don’t.
“…this is a good time to let Bond go.”
Recently much has been discussed surrounding Bond’s gender, with some people claiming he should be female. The producers have had their say. Barbara Broccoli stated that she is “not particularly interested in taking a male character and having a woman play it,” adding that “women are far more interesting than that.” She’s probably right. The intention behind wanting a female Bond is an understandable response to the longstanding lack of representation in mainstream cinema. Still, it detracts from other possibilities of meaningful inclusion and slightly misunderstands the type of franchise that Bond is.
James Bond is a fundamentally antiquated character. He is a jingoist’s dream, ready to defend his country at any cost. He was educated at the most elitist place on Earth – Eton. He was and has continued to be a misogynist and even cracked racist jokes every now and then. Whilst there is more to him than these flaws, they are inherent enough that making a film about him in 2021 creates an inescapable dilemma. He needs to evolve because he can no longer slap women’s backsides, yet to make a film about him is to celebrate antiquity. There is a way to balance the old and the new without misstepping (Skyfall), but No Time To Die mismanaged this dilemma. Aspects of the film were intentionally progressive – for a while, Nomi (Lashana Lynch) was the new 007, and both she and Paloma (Ana De Armas) resisted Bond’s charms. Yet the film also retains tired Bond clichés – A cartoon Russian villain masterminds an evil scheme, and the main baddie is physically scarred so that we know he’s evil. The film’s “progressiveness” only goes so far. The more Bond films flaunt their modernity, the more their inherent outdatedness stands out. If progression is truly what we want, then why not let the death of James Bond truly be the death of James Bond?