To quote Michael Lonsdale’s villain Hugo Drax from 1979’s Moonraker, the latest postponement for James Bond’s next screen outing No Time To Die has appeared “with the tedious inevitability of an unloved season”.
Yes, as was widely anticipated, Daniel Craig’s fifth and final adventure as secret agent 007 has been pushed back yet again, with its currently scheduled date of 8th October 2021 set to see it debut in theatres some two years after it was originally intended to premiere (the departure of original director Danny Boyle and, far more impactful, the COVID-19 pandemic being to blame for its constant shifts in the calendar).
It’s unfortunate and, to some degree, unavoidable – Bond fans understandably eager to see the movie might be wondering why a simultaneous cinema and home media release isn’t being pursued, but one need only look at the takings for the likes of Wonder Woman 1984 to appreciate why this option doesn’t appeal to the parties concerned.
The trouble is, the longer this goes on, the further and further back the film’s release date is pushed, the more and more it leaves Craig’s 007 feeling like a lame duck. Bond is one of those roles where the rampant speculation around casting is near-constant – as soon as one actor signs on the dotted line, the press, the bookies and fans are already playing a guessing game as to who might replace them – but that conversation is naturally amplified once we know our current 007 is on the way out.
Craig confirmed that No Time To Die would be his final entry in the series back in November 2019 – well over a year ago, meaning attention will have already been directed at potential replacements for 23 months before we get to see the film. By the time it eventually comes out, rather than the grand finale that any Bond – but especially Craig’s franchise-reinvigorating version – deserves, No Time To Die risks feeling like an afterthought, a postscript, with audiences having already moved on.
Arguably, a fifth Craig film already felt a tad superfluous – it’s no slight on his performance or the films his tenure has produced (2006’s Casino Royale and 2012’s Skyfall being particular highlights) to say that once he’d reached the stage of saying he’d “rather slash [his] wrists” than leap back into production on another Bond movie, it was probably time for Craig to bow out, even if 2015’s underwhelming Spectre wasn’t quite the epic culmination of his era we’d all been hoping for.
Yet here we are, over five years later, still waiting for his final bow. When Craig announced, in an August 2017 appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, that he’d be back for a fifth Bond, it felt not only surprising but also a little unnecessary. Now, a further three years on, the whole thing’s bordering on the comical.
No Time To Die’s repeated delays are doing more than just dragging out Craig’s exit, though – they’re also leaving Bond at risk of feeling hopelessly outdated. Though critics will make digs at both the character and the franchise as being a relic of a less sophisticated time, in truth Bond – both the man and the series – has always adapted to better fit the times in which it exists, taking us from the unfiltered sex and snobbery of the Sean Connery era through to the light-hearted excesses of Roger Moore, the more serious-minded efforts of Timothy Dalton and the knockabout blockbusters of Pierce Brosnan.
Daniel Craig’s Bond was no different, with his early adventures a very clear response to the Jason Bourne movies and their more straight-laced, brutal portrayals of on-screen espionage. But Casino Royale was 15 years ago – just as Bourne left the cartoonish antics of 2002’s Die Another Day in the dust, so Craig’s earnest, brooding Bond now feels out of place in a cinematic landscape dominated by superheroes.
Now, no-one’s suggesting that 007 go intergalactic again – lessons have been learnt from the aforementioned Moonraker – but with Marvel unquestionably the dominant force in cinema right now and other franchises doing their level best to keep up (even the Fast and Furious films are reportedly space-bound), a more escapist, more light-hearted take on Bond – something akin to the recent Mission: Impossible movies – would certainly sit more comfortably alongside its blockbuster rivals.
No Time To Die would’ve felt like a throwback in November 2019. By October 2021 – if indeed that’s when we get to see it – it, and Craig’s once-beloved Bond, might well seem positively prehistoric.