For Your Edification* is a weekly Slice of Culture series where staff writer Ed Daniel take topics — Hudson County or national news related — and provides social commentary.
Spoilers are in this article so read at your own peril.
“This is the end” —This lyric was a song by Adele as the James Bond theme song in the 2012’s film “Skyfall.”
Bond did not meet his demise in that film, but the lyrics foreshadow the end of actor Daniel Craig’s five-film run portraying Sir Ian Flemming’s iconic character James Bond.
“No Time To Die” marks the last installment of the Craig Bond filmography, but it also has been a lot of fanfare and coronation surrounding the film. It is well deserved as this is Craig’s last performance as Agent 007.
While “No Time To Die” is not the best of the Craig- Bond films it is a satisfying — and sad — farewell to the actor who provided the most complex rendition of the Bond character.
It is ironic that Bond fans are sad to see Craig leave.
When he was originally announced to play the character, critics panned the decision by the Broccoli family and Eon productions.
The main criticism was he didn’t look anything like the original character or the actors that previously played the agent. He also lacked the regalness displayed by past popular Bond actors such as Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan, and the late Sir Sean Connery.
That is true. Craig was different.
But different was what the franchise was going for and what it needed coming off 2002’s uninspired entry “Die Another Day.”
Prior to Craig, Bond movies had a soft reset for each individual film.
For the most part, there isn’t a strong continuity and long story arc from film to film even if the character is being played by the same actor.
2006’s “Casino Royale” completely changed that.
Our introduction to Craig’s Bond is him violently fighting and killing henchmen in a bathroom brawl and shooting and MI6 secret seller point blank achieving the famed 007 status.
What this Bond lacked in early regality he made up for in brutality.
And that was the attraction of this series. We got to grow with the actor and the character over the course of a 15 year period.
While most iterations of Bond are somewhat formulaic in that, the film consistently provides the audience with gadgets, femme fatal, eccentric villain, nice cars, ridiculous sexual innuendo and an infallible Bond.
The Craig- Bond series presents us with a more realistic and grounded agent while still giving us the tropes that fans expect in a Bond film.
Craig’s Bond is not an infallible superbeing in a tuxedo devoid of emotion.
When he gets hit hard he bleeds and when relationships fail his heart breaks. We see this continually throughout the Craig series.
“Casino Royale” also introduces Vesper Lynd, the Bond love interest played by Eva Green.
Craig and Green exhibit great chemistry as both characters exchange witty barbs at each other throughout the film.
The tragic ending to their relationship is a plot point in the “Quantum of Solacel and is mentioned throughout Craig’s films, even in the latest film.
This is a departure from past Bond’s in which the female lead character is usually cast aside without mention anda new one with each new installment.
In “Skyfall,” arguably the best film of the Craig collection, we see Bond deal with the expendability that comes with being an MI6 agent, which is a point of contention between him and his boss M played by Judy Dench.
We also see a glimpse into his past.
We are introduced to his childhood home, a place the character refuses to acknowledge during a psychological examination.
The character also struggles with a physical test due to past injuries. This puts the character’s employment at risk.
Years of punishing his body have consequences in this film’s series.
The idea of Bond having a bad knee from all impacts of running and kicking villains over the years is actually touched upon.
Who is Bond if he is not tracking down international villains who are a danger to the safety of the global citizenry?
Throughout the film we see the character drink copious amounts of alcohol to deal with the potential loss of his agent status.
At one point in the film, the villain played by Javier Bardem, brings up his alcohol dependency.
An examination of childhood trauma, displacement in society and how it can lead to substance abuse is what we expect from a Sigmund Feud paper, not a blockbuster movie about a secret agent.
What we see in the Craig series is more of a multi-dimensional character.
Bond has to grapple with his relationships with the friends and women he loves; his complex relationship with the country he serves; confronts his childhood trauma, cope with his addictions, and wrestle with his identity outside of being a man with a license to kill.
All of this is an examination into the psychology of the character is not always seamless.
See Quantum of Solace and Spectre but the intent is there and that’s why it’s so intriguing.
Craig delivers all of these aspects of the character while still sticking to the overall core of the character.
“No Time to Die” comes at an interesting point in time for the Bond Series.
Times have changed and so does the character, especially his relationship with women.
Bond is a character who is wrapped up being a misogynist and a womanizer represented a popular form of masculinity that by recent standards would not be accessible.
It was touched upon earlier in this piece, but the woman in the bond series was treated as expendable eye candy; One-dimensional characters who were rendered powerless against the irresistible charms of 007. Just so each Bond could show off his womanizing prowess. They even had ridiculous names based on sexual innuendo that you could lookup. (Xenia Onatopp is not even the worst one).
Even as recent as Craig’s film has a cringe-worthy romantic shower scene in “Skyfall” with costar Berenice Marlohe.
“No time to Die” represents a marked improvement.
In a post “Me too” movement world a 21st-century Bond acting as he would during the character’s creation during the Cold War would not work.
Bond still flirts with women but it is not overt.
His character doesn’t have this complete hold over every woman he meets. He falls in love again with Lea Sedoux’ character Madeline Swan and he is the father of her daughter.
Bond having a daughter is well-written poetic justice.
Also in the film, his 007 replacement is a female operative named Nomi played by lashana Lynch.
Lynch’s character represents a bunch of discussions and debates being had about the character.
Now that Craig is moving on, will their gender, race swap the character will they be British or Non-British?
These discussions will always be had with a potential new Bond and a continuous discourse is good because that means the character is still relevant.
Craig’s portrayal of a tortured agent who we saw become a double 00, defeat foes, fall in love, have his heartbroken, possibly die, come back from the dead, retire, become a father and sacrifice himself to save the world.
The Bond Franchise is patient zero in regards to movie cultural phenomenon.
It has been with us since the early ‘60s and will continue to be with us.
Amazon just bought MGM, the studio behind James Bond, for $8.45 billion.
We will continue to get different Bond content for the foreseeable future. Whether that is Bond set in a period piece or a race or gender-swapped Bond, or a spin-off with Mi 6 agents or a villain’s origin story.
There will be Bond projects I would like to think that Craig was a big reason for the continued viability of the character.
He provided weight and pathos to the character that we did not see before.
His performance gave us new insights, ideas and a future to a character that originally was supposed to be a relic of a cold war. And for that, I thank him for his work.
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