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What James Bond Franchise Needs To Do To Fix The Franchise After No Time To Die

After the release of No Time To Die, the James Bond franchise needs to radically rethink its tone and aesthetic to win a new generation of viewers. Since the series began in 1962 with Dr. No, the Bond series has been through six different 007s. In that time, the series has also been through more varied tones and aesthetics than almost any other movie franchise.

Most long-running series pick a style and stick with it, but this has never been the case for James Bond. Sean Connery’s tenure saw the series take the central character relatively seriously despite how heightened and over-the-top many of the love interests and villains he encountered were, whereas Live and Let Die saw Roger Moore reinvent 007 as a goofier character altogether. Timothy Dalton brought more edge and gravitas to Bond after Moore, only for Pierce Brosnan’s time to bring back the franchise’s streak of silly, self-aware humor.

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In recent years, Brosnan’s undoing of Dalton’s self-serious Bond has itself been undone by Daniel Craig’s grounded iteration. Since his debut in the role with 2006’s Casino Royale, Craig has brought a tortured intensity to the part and made the character a morally ambiguous antihero for the post-Bourne world. However, as Craig’s time reaches a close, the Bond franchise has gotten stale and needs a tonal revamp. A brutal, Bourne-style Bond was fresh and innovative in the early ‘00s when blockbuster cinema was starting to turn toward darker themes. However, in the years since, fun and self-aware humor have re-entered the multiplex thanks to the likes of the sprawling MCU or the mega-successful Fast & Furious franchise. To keep up, Bond needs another reinvention after Craig’s swan song No Time To Die finally comes out, and this reboot will need to fundamentally reimagine what the series can achieve.

Few things are true of every screen incarnation of Ian Fleming’s suave spy, but one thing viewers can rely on is the fact that James Bond has always been a lone wolf. Despite multiple actors playing his boss M, Bond has always taken orders as suggestions and gone rogue when necessary. Some outings don’t even feature an appearance from his secretary Miss Moneypenny or gadget maker Q, particularly in the Craig era. However, to keep up with the demands of the contemporary blockbuster landscape, the James Bond franchise needs to broaden its scope.

This could mean a Kingsman-style spinoff that shows the trials that young MI6 candidates are put through or a self-contained backstory for one of the franchise’s many notable villains. In either case, an expanded universe would let the series show off its dramatic potential without every outing needing to be centered around MI6’s most famous employee. Viewers have never seen the other agents presumably supporting Bond behind the scenes, and the grueling training they presumably go through would be ideal fodder for a spinoff. Meanwhile, Spectre’s worst twist proved that Bond’s villains could be given better backstories that make them more believable and engaging, instead of last-ditch efforts to connect them with the central character.

However, just because the series needs to broaden the characters it focuses on does not mean it has an excuse for more interminable backstory. Throughout the Daniel Craig era, it has become clear the franchise can’t give the character a sad story to root his troubled outlook in, since this will prove endlessly complicated when this version of Bond is inevitably replaced. If viewers discover, for example, that Bond grew up rich in Skyfall estate, would this still be true for the next actor who follows Craig’s version? Or will each new Bond need a new canon backstory, which would mean another origin every time the role is recast?

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This approach may work for superhero movies, but trying to ground Bond’s character with a backstory is only going to complicate things and offers none of the fun escapism audiences come to espionage movies for. It would be reasonable to wonder, then, how Bond can expand his cinematic universe without adding to his already overstuffed backstory, but the answer is not impossible to discern. The series needs to move away from the man himself, and revive interest in Bond’s supporting stars by adding new faces to the lineup.

Paddington star Ben Whishaw has proven himself a solid pick, but Bond needs a new Q if the franchise is to be reinvented successfully. Whishaw’s nebbish data geek worked alongside Craig’s deadpan leading man, but to reboot the franchise wholesale, it needs to drop the existing support staff surrounding in favor of new faces who can add a lighter tone. Replacing Ralph Fiennes’ M and Whishaw’s Q would allow the creators to add more diversity to the lineup while also severing ties with the Craig continuity. A new support staff will also allow the series to recast villainous staple Blofeld and drop that unnecessary foster brother backstory of the Craig era. With a slew of new faces, the movies can thus be reborn as a more fun, freewheeling spy franchise that casts off the dark, foreboding tone of the Daniel Craig movies.

Naomie Harris’ Miss Moneypenny is the most fully realized incarnation so far and would be an unfortunate loss for the franchise. However, her version of Miss Moneypenny is inextricably linked to Craig’s Bond, and relieving Harris of the part would not only give room for a new performer to take on the iconic role, but it could also free Harris up to play M. Bond’s best boss was Judi Dench’s razor-sharp iteration, and Harris has proven more than up for the task of keeping Bond in line. Recasting Bond’s support staff (while keeping Harris on board as M), along with an expanded universe approach and less focus on backstory, would reignite audience interest in the James Bond brand after the release of No Time To Die marks Craig’s departure.

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