I have not been super enthusiastic for the latest James Bond movie, No Time to Die, which is partly because the Bond movies of the Daniel Craig era are not dependably good, but also because I did not care for the serialization offered by Spectre—why does everything have to be a f-cking saga?—so the thought of going further down that path with Time is distinctly unappealing. But Team Bond is working hard to hype the end of the Craig era with the latest thing being a flashy cover profile in Entertainment Weekly. This is standard for major movie releases, and really only exceptional in this case for how hard everyone is working to make No Time to Die feel Important. I know Bond has diehard fans, but there is just no palpable hype for this movie in the pop culture space. Maybe as we get closer to April it will pick up, but no one really seems taken by the idea that all the Craig-Bond movies connect. (How long before someone calls this the “Spectre Saga”?)
The chief problem, of course, is that the Bond franchise isn’t that consistent. This is Craig’s fifth Bond movie in fourteen years—hardly a steady diet, let alone enough to maintain momentum. And not every movie is good, no one wants to pretend like Quantum of Solace matters. But that is exactly what Spectre did by retroactively connecting all the Craig movies into one inter-connected narrative, an obvious and shallow ploy to create a cinematic universe where none need exist. It’s okay for Bond movies to be episodic, they don’t depend on serialization the way comic book movies do, they’re two totally different narrative structures. But Spectre forced serialization onto Bond and it didn’t really work and now No Time to Die promises to wrap it all up and it’s like, why? Why not just make one more really good Craig-Bond movie without worrying if it all connects?
Maybe some of the issue is also that Craig so obviously checked out after Spectre, saying if he did another Bond movie “it would only be for the money”, which is just what fans want to hear. (They all do it for the money, the trick is making us think they care as much as we do.) Now that Craig is back for another Bond, he has to convince us it’s not just about the rumored $25 million payday. In the profile, Craig blames his cantankerousness on an injury suffered while shooting Spectre, saying, “I finished that movie with a broken leg. […] I had to question myself: Was I physically capable of doing [another one] or did I want to do another one?”
The reframing mostly works, and producer Barbara Broccoli follows up by repeating how she lured him back
with a huge paycheck by saying, “I think there’s still more of the story of your Bond to tell.” This is now the narrative: Craig, tired and hurt, was ready to walk away, but Broccoli wasn’t ready to say goodbye and now here they are, back for one more go-round. (How much the $25 million plays into it is up to you.) It’s a nice enough story, but I can’t help but think of Harrison Ford returning to Star Wars and talking about how he finally got to go out on his terms, with the ending he always wanted for Han Solo (Ford wanted Han to die in Return of the Jedi). That required Ford, and by extension the Star Wars team, to acknowledge the shortcomings of Return of the Jedi.
Team Bond is not willing to admit that Spectre is a lackluster film and no one wanted to end Craig’s era on a downer. I would be so much more into it if they just said, Yeah that last one wasn’t great, and we wanted to be sure we go out on a high note. Instead, we’re getting a carefully crafted story meant to paper over all the behind-the-scenes drama and sell us on the grand end of an era that we all thought already ended five years ago. There is something about this round of Bond press that is really bugging me. I remember when they promoted Skyfall, the last good Bond movie, and how eager everyone was to talk about the process of making the movie and working together. It didn’t feel stage-managed because it didn’t need to be, the cast’s enthusiasm was palpable. I challenge you to watch the EW video below and tell me if anyone seems enthusiastic—not personable, enthusiastic. (Lea Seydoux couldn’t look more bored if she tried.) I’m not quite getting Rise of Skywalker off-the-rails energy, but something about No Time to Die’s press tour is not clicking.