It is a shame that whilst there is so much discussion around Bond being female, a film like Annihilation—a great sci-fi drama with a full-female cast—can bomb at the box office. Supporting films like these should be the goal, not calling for the retconning of established properties created half a century ago. The actual problem is not being addressed in the right way.
Instead of re-purposing Fleming’s hero, the more meaningful solution would be to focus on creating progressive films inspired by the franchise. This has started to happen, although perhaps insufficiently. The Bourne series worked as a modernization of Bond because it critiqued CIA activity instead of mirroring 007’s nationalism. American bureaucrats were the enemy, not foreigners. Kingsman, an homage to Bond, uses humour to redefine the notion of a “gentleman” – its hero, Eggsy (Taron Egerton), is a working-class trouble-maker. While Tenet’s annoyingly-named ‘The Protagonist’ is by no means a great character, the film’s choice to have a black man play a Bond-inspired role is significant. Daniel Craig stated that “there should simply be better parts for women and actors of color.” As a black man, I would enjoy seeing Idris Elba don the iconic tuxedo – but I am more interested in seeing well-developed black characters in original films as big as Bond.
“…the exciting thing about Craig’s 007 was the sense of change…he was a believable action-man.”
On the other hand, the exciting thing about Craig’s 007 was the sense of change. He was different from the previous Bonds. Burly and aggressive, he was a believable action-man. He injected the character with an emotional vulnerability that was perhaps his most engaging quality. His relationships with women were deeper, most notably with M in Skyfall, a brilliant twist on the Bond girl concept. Given this novelty is a standout aspect of the Craig era, perhaps there is hope for the Bond franchise to evolve without betraying its essence. But based on No Time To Die‘s contradictions, this seems like a slim possibility.
James Bond will survive because it is a bankable franchise – No Time To Die has already grossed over $700 million worldwide. Studios are more likely to update existing IPs than to put their faith in new products – to do so would be a financial risk and require genuine innovation. Franchise dominance is another, more long-term problem, but as audiences, we should support the progress made in other films if we want evolution across the cinematic landscape. The message to Hollywood should be clear. Make. New. Stuff.