Just last week, a couple of months into production, the title of the latest entry in the long-running James Bond franchise was revealed. No longer do we have to refer to it as ‘Bond 25’ or the rumoured title ‘Shatterhand’, but instead we now know that it is officially titled No Time To Die. I like the title, with it feeling more like a throwback to the pulpy Bond films of old, which I hope is also true for the film itself. It’s set to be Daniel Craig’s final portrayal of the secret agent, which has been a long time coming considering he’ll have played the role for 14 years when the film is released next year. We’ll soon be in a new era of the series, with a flood of casting rumours on the horizon, and I believe No Time To Die should end the Craig era in a totally unprecedented way that allows for a clean slate moving forward. I think James Bond should die.
In the franchise’s past, while still a hotbed for discussion, the recasting of James Bond was never a big deal in terms of the story of the films. The tone and manner of the character may change depending on an actor’s strengths, but there was no overarching narrative that the change in personnel could impact. There was even the occasional joke about it, like George Lazenby’s Bond commentating that “This never happened to the other fella” at the start of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The films could get away it and the audience could ignore why Bond doesn’t age in 40 years and take each movie as its own thing. But times have changed. Starting with the rebooted Casino Royale, there is now a strong continuity. An ongoing storyline. A progression in Bond’s character from a young agent earning his 00 status to the older and more tired Bond who chooses to retire at the end of Spectre. So, just how do you continue this story on after Craig leaves the role? The answer is you can’t, and therefore you don’t.
Do we really want a continuation of Craig’s Bond after he leaves the role? I’m a big fan of his films and I don’t. The films are no longer an anthology and instead are a series of sequels rather than individual instalments, and therefore a continuation of this would be incredibly difficult for the writers and the next actor. They wouldn’t be able to play Bond their way but instead be relegated to simply doing an impression of Craig’s Bond. The character would have to be written with this backstory intact and that would limit storytelling opportunities and require an actor of a certain age. You can’t just cast a young actor and have him realistically play the same version of the character as Craig, especially when Bond aging has been a focus of the last couple of films. With such intense continuity and character work over the last four films, a reboot seems like the best way to go or you’re beholden to everything that has come before.
Now, rebooting the character for the 26th Bond film doesn’t necessarily mean killing him off in the 25th. He could get married (the bride surviving this time) and drive off into the sunset for a happy ending. But happy endings are overrated and there’s the opportunity here to do something that’s never been done before. An opportunity to tell a unique story in an increasingly repetitive franchise. If you’re going to reboot the series, much like how Casino Royale ignored the preceding 20 films and began its own continuity, and you know this is the end, then make it a definitive ending. Do something that you could only ever do in this one film and kill the titular protagonist of the series. I’ve seen people speculate that, because we’re getting a new agent with the designation 007 in No Time To Die, the series could continue in the same continuity and this new 007 could be the new protagonist. I don’t like that idea at all. It’s the James Bond franchise to me, not the 007 franchise. Plus, while the ‘James Bond is also a code name like 007 that gets passed down to different agents’ is a fun fan theory to explain the older films, I don’t want to see it put into practice in the new ones.
Bond’s death would easily fit in with – and end – the character progression we’ve seen over the last few films where Bond has become a very human, layered and flawed character. We’ve come to know this version of Bond better than any other after witnessing his most powerful relationships, like his romance with Vesper and his maternal relationship with M, plus getting previously unseen insight into his childhood and backstory, and so he deserves a proper ending. So, just how do you kill off James Bond? There’s nothing I like more than a nice narrative bookend and Casino Royale began with not just James getting his 00 status but also with the origin of the famous gunbarrel sequence, where a villain is aiming at Bond but is shot by him first. What better way to kill off Bond, and honour maybe the franchise’s most famous motif, than have him actually get shot by a gun in a stylised visual manner similar to the opening of the films. Bond might just be too slow or maybe he shoots his attacker but still gets shot himself. Or, instead of shooting the gunman aiming at him in that moment, he embraces love and humanity and decides to shoot a baddie who’s about to kill someone else, maybe Madeline Swann, choosing to save someone else but dying in the process. But I’m not an acclaimed screenwriter and I’m sure the scribes of No Time To Die can come up with a bevvy of satisfying deaths.
An absolute ending also means an absolute new beginning and that’s exactly what I want. For the most part I’ve hugely enjoyed this era of the franchise and how it’s been a 2000’s update of a classic character, as well as introducing great new versions of other characters like Q and Moneypenny too, but its time is at an end. But that’s not to say that certain actors can’t reprise their roles in the new continuity, like how Judi Dench portrayed M during both Brosnan’s and Craig’s tenure, as long as it still feels like a separate entity. Not only is Craig tired in the role but we’ve entered a time where the style of Craig’s Bond films feels tired too. Casino Royale was released in 2006 and it shows. A post-9/11 world where everything had to be gritty and realistic and Bond was trying to be the next Bourne rather than be its own thing. Again, I love that film and current series but that style needs to change and a reboot makes logical sense. Killing Craig’s Bond and starting again would mean the franchise can adapt and redefine itself once again. It should still be modern and somewhat realistic but a bit more fun rather than being overly-serious, taking a couple steps away from the brutish Bond we’ve seen recently. It would be the perfect time to bring in a director like Christopher Nolan – a huge Bond fan – to set the new tone and style for the new era.
The big question is whether the producers of the Bond franchise would dare to be bold enough to kill off the lead character, and trust audiences to realise that the next film would be a reboot. The producing team of Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson have been long time guardians of the series and might not be open to rocking the boat too much, choosing to quell more extreme ideas in the effort of preserving the core essence of the franchise, but I hope they would be able to see that Bond’s death would only add to the originally rather than take some away. 25 films in, the Bond series should be making some bold moves and I see no better way to end Craig’s tenure and set up a new beginning than turning the title No Time To Die into an ironic joke and have it be the film in which James Bond dies. Maybe the title is missing a vital comma and should be “No, Time To Die” rather than No Time To Die.
What do you think of my plan to kill off James Bond? Is it the right or wrong decision for a franchise that has to redefine itself every decade or so? Let me know in the comments and be sure to geek out with me about TV, movies and video-games on Twitter @kylebrrtt.