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James Bond's next "reinvention" needs to bring the fun back to 007 movies

Tradition dictates that it's time for Bond to loosen up.

James Bond (Daniel Craig) in No Time to Die
MGM/UA
Published: Saturday, 23rd July 2022 at 9:00 am
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The closing sting to last year's No Time to Die might have made the familiar promise that – despite on-screen evidence to the contrary – "James Bond will return", but as it stands, agent 007's future appears to be very much up in the air.

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Filming on the next Bond outing is, according to franchise producer Barbara Broccoli, "at least two years away" with no script yet in development. "There isn’t a script and we can’t come up with one until we decide how we’re going to approach the next film because, really, it’s a reinvention of Bond," Broccoli recently told Deadline.

"We’re reinventing who he is and that takes time."

The 007 film series has, of course, always reinvented itself. Over 60 years, it's ebbed and flowed, veering – sometimes dramatically – from (comparatively) straight-laced to more outlandish.

The early Sean Connery movies grew increasingly ludicrous, culminating with 1967's You Only Live Twice and its iconic hollowed-out volcano villain's lair. George Lazenby's sole outing as Bond then reined things back in for one of the more faithful adaptations of an Ian Fleming novel, before a mixed reception to that film – 1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service – saw the franchise return to more playful, light-hearted fare from 1971's Diamonds Are Forever onwards.

This escalating sense of the outrageous hit its height with 1979's Moonraker, which saw Bond blasted into outer space, before 1981's For Your Eyes Only – with its story of Cold War rivalries and missing spy tech – quite literally brought 007 back down to Earth.

Moonraker
Roger Moore as James Bond and Lois Chiles as Holly Goodhead in 1979's Moonraker Getty

The silliness crept back in across the two Roger Moore movies that followed, with the series again course-correcting for the more sober Timothy Dalton movies of the late 1980s, which in turn gave way to the escapist popcorn blockbusters of Pierce Brosnan in the 1990s, and when that run of movies reached peak zaniness with the giant lasers, ice palaces and DNA-rewriting antics of 2002's Die Another Day, the series once again went back to the works of Ian Fleming – right back in this instance for a more serious-minded adaptation of his first ever Bond novel, Casino Royale, in 2006.

But that was 16 years ago and the wheel continues to turn – as Broccoli has identified, it's time for another reinvention and tradition dictates that it's time to let Bond have fun again.

Not only that, but a more fantastical Bond would also set the series in good stead when it comes to fending off box office competitors – like them or loathe them, there's no denying that Marvel movies have become the dominant force in mainstream cinema, speaking perhaps to a growing taste for colourful, escapist cinema with clear-cut heroes and villains as the world around us feels increasingly dark and complicated.

Perhaps an even closer comparison to Bond would be the Mission: Impossible movies, which have delighted critics and audiences for years now by delivering the kinds of escapist, jaw-dropping stunts that used to be synonymous with the 007 films – Rick Sylvester (the stuntman who performed The Spy Who Loved Me's iconic ski-jump off of Canada's Mount Asgard) walked so that Tom Cruise could run... and run... and run.

Tom Cruise - Mission: Impossible
Tom Cruise in the Mission: Impossible film series

Broccoli has also insisted that "nobody's in the running" to replace Daniel Craig just yet and suggested, sensibly enough, that the way in which the next film reinvents Bond will be key to that casting – who then might be a perfect contender to front a more frivolous 007 film?

The temptation given the enormous critical and box office success of the Craig movies might be to simply produce a Craig-type movie but with a different actor – but to do so would be to ignore the best thing about Casino Royale and what allowed it and Craig to succeed: its spirit of daring. It threw caution to the wind and reinvented Bond for the times, casting the perfect actor for that period in the franchise's history. The next era of Bond needs to do the same.

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Instead of Craig-a-likes, then, why not consider the likes of Henry Golding, who displayed action chops and a certain edge in 2021's Snake Eyes and 2019's The Gentlemen but was also heaps of fun as Sean Townsend – straight man to Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively's sparring leads – in Paul Feig's blackly comic 2018 thriller A Simple Favor? James Norton – recently cast as a con man masquerading as an MI5 agent in 2022 film Rogue Agent – has an easy charm and lightness of touch that could work for this new Bond. Skewing slightly closer to Craig, but Jamie Dornan also displayed his ability to carry a wild, surreal thriller with the BBC's 2022 TV thriller The Tourist.

You'll find supporters for both types of Bond movie – the more Fleming-faithful outings and the more tongue-in-cheek spy adventures but if the history of the franchise has taught us anything, it's that Bond needs to continue to shift and adapt to the times in which the films are being made.

Whoever takes up the mantle next then, let's just hope they're allowed to cut loose a little and enjoy themselves. Let's face it, we could all do with a laugh.

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