Movie Reviews

Bond 26 Has An Impossible James Bond Franchise Problem (Not 007’s Actor)

While Bond 26 has many challenges ahead of it, the next James Bond movie’s biggest problem has nothing to do with who plays 007 in the franchise outing. Bond 26 has a hard act to follow. No Time To Die was not only the first official entry in the long-running James Bond franchise to kill off a version of Bond, but the movie was also a sharp, fast-paced, and surprisingly poignant swan song for Daniel Craig’s take on 007. Not only that, but the changing landscape of blockbuster filmmaking hasn’t made things any easier for the creators of the James Bond franchise and their Bond 26 plans.

Now that Craig is finished with the role, Bond 26 needs to make 007 fun again to keep up with the lighter tone of modern action blockbusters. While Craig’s early movies perfectly captured the brooding, angst-ridden tone of mid-00s action cinema, the genre has pivoted in a much sillier, more self-referential direction since the early 2010s. No Time To Die and Spectre made some concessions to this shift, but the comedic elements of both movies felt somewhat jarring after the tragedy of Casino Royale and Skyfall. This existing problem, however, will become much more noticeable as Bond 26 attempts to reinvent the franchise.

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The biggest issue that Bond 26 faces is whether the outing should hold on to the canon established by Craig’s James Bond movies. If Bond 26 keeps the Craig-era canon, then the sequel will also have to hold onto some of those movies’ dour, humorless tones as a result (since they are set in the same world). However, if Bond 26 drops the canon that Craig’s movies in the role built, then the sequel will lose a stellar supporting cast and some well-established world-building that would have made it much easier for the James Bond franchise to expand its fictional universe with spinoffs.

To hold on to stars like Ana de Armas, Naomie Harris, and Ralph Fiennes in their well-liked supporting roles, Bond 26 must keep the Craig era canon. This would allow Bond 26 to maintain a cohesive James Bond canon in the age of innumerable cinematic universes, which would, in turn, facilitate the sort of Easter eggs and callbacks that blockbuster fans have grown to expect. For example, Paloma’s No Time To Die spinoff would be unmoored if Bond 26 takes place in a universe where Craig’s 007 (and, by extension, Paloma) doesn’t exist, meaning the franchise has no choice but to keep the Craig-era continuity alive.

However, this approach won’t work. After all, a new version of James Bond can’t have a fun, breezy, over-the-top adventure that would make Roger Moore proud in the same canon where Vesper Lynd died and left 007 crying in the shower before a murderous rampage. The later Craig movies already struggled with this tonal disparity, as the campy, silly elements of Spectre and No Time To Die felt discordant when watched alongside Casino Royale or Quantum of Solace. Cary Fukunaga, the director of No Time To Die, even considered retconning Spectre’s entire third act because he felt like the watch gag was too silly and didn’t fit the franchise’s tone.

Fukunaga was right to point out that Spectre’s silly twists felt like they clashed with the grounded milieu of Craig’s earlier James Bond movies, and this would only become more of an issue as Bond 26 tried to make the series even more cartoonish and larger-than-life. The best way to reinvigorate Bond now that Craig’s version of 007 is dead is to catch up with the tone of modern blockbusters, which (except Zack Snyder’s output) are largely goofy, self-referential, and playfully campy. Even Craig has gotten in on the act, with his Knives Out performances standing out as some of the actor’s most broadly comedic work to date.

Related: Daniel Craig Stopping After Skyfall Avoids 2 James Bond Problems

So, Bond 26 either loses Paloma and well-liked versions of M, Q, and Miss Moneypenny, or the franchise is stuck in the same universe where Casino Royale took place, meaning the sequel can’t feature any exploding henchmen, campy villains, or silly self-referential humor. However, there is an admittedly challenging third option that the James Bond franchise could take. If Bond 26 were to keep some of the franchise’s established supporting stars but not all of them, the sequel would establish a new spin on the existing canon that isn’t a direct continuation of No Time To Die’s story. This was how earlier Bond movies handled the switchover, periodically recasting characters like Moneypenny, M, and Q.

While the James Bond movies have featured many versions of M over the decades, it is harder to recast supporting stars in the 2020s. Viewers now expect blockbuster franchises to have cohesive stories that make sense as one plot rather than a series treating each outing as a self-contained adventure like earlier Bond movies did. This makes the question of Craig’s Bond continuity one of the most challenging issues for the creators of Bond 26, who must decide which elements of the earlier movies stay and which can be left behind.

While Bond 26 might still feature Ben Whishaw’s Q or Naomie Harris’s M, it will be tricky for the franchise’s creators to know which characters to recast and which to keep. Not only that, but it will be even tougher to explain whether these characters recall the death of Craig’s James Bond. Skyfall proved Craig’s James Bond death could be treated as a handover. However, this would require the franchise’s creators to explicitly confirm the James Bond codename fan theory.

It seems unlikely that the creators of the series would take this step. After all, confirming that Bond is a code name means the spy would die at any time, puncturing his mystique irreparably. However, without confirming this theory, the creators of Bond 26 will be left halfway between the James Bond canon established in Craig’s movies and another new version of the universe, an unenviable place to start a blockbuster series.

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