Monday Morning Critic – Points Of Contention: Should Daniel Craig Return as James Bond? (Some Spectre Spoilers)

MMC New>

One of the things I noted in my review of Spectre is that was that it felt like a farewell of sorts for Daniel Craig. The way the film ended, with Bond walking away with the girl, felt like one of two things. Either Daniel Craig is ready to leave the franchise, and his apparent distaste for the character and film series is evidence enough that he at least is seriously considering walking away, or the fifth film in the Daniel Craig era will be a doozy because there’s no good way James Bond is a heartless spy while having a full time girlfriend.

Either they’re walking into a quasi-remake of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service … or Craig wanted a way out of Bond and this is a reasonable one.

Should Craig return to Bond for another role? That’s a loaded question and we’ve seen open speculation on who would be next in line to take over as James Bond. The obvious choice would be Idris Elba, as there is no role that Stringer Bell can’t play, but we’ll most likely get someone like Rupert Friend. The Daily Mail has reported that the role is lined up for Damian Lewis if Craig doesn’t return, of course, but at one point people reported the same thing about Clive Owen was a lock to replace Pierce Brosnan … and then Craig was announced as Bond.

The key right now is whether or not Craig really, truly wants to leave the role that has made him internationally famous. I’ve already explored why Craig isn’t the most excited to play Bond once before but I think now, especially with Spectre opening around the $80 million mark, that Craig’s decision comes into play. And I think it’s time to compare the reasons for, and reasons against, Craig returning as Bond.

Point of Contention: The Franchise has never reached as high of heights as it has with Daniel Craig.

Pro – Bond has never been more successful than with Daniel Craig as James Bond
Con – Bond is a character, not defined by the actor who plays him

The thing to consider right now if you’re Daniel Craig is how much you attribute the success of the newest wave of Bond films to your abilities or if Bond hit the right time to relaunch with a more gritty, realistic style of Bond. The key is how much you attribute the success of Bond to either the character being redefined or the actor being the right guy at the right time to make people fall in love with Bond again.

That’s the thing; how much of the success of Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall and now Spectre is credited to Daniel Craig and how much is credited to James Bond being a multi-generational drawing character in an era where franchises rule the box office every month of the year? Craig hasn’t been able to cross $200 million domestically in any other film that isn’t a Bond film ever since Casino Royale launched him into stardom and both franchises he’s attempted to kick start (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Cowboys and Aliens) both wound up as singular entries.

Point of Contention: Daniel Craig’s career can move following Bond

Pro – Daniel Craig won’t be restrained by having a Bond film to make every couple years
Con – It’s difficult to break out of having been James Bond

Out of all the actors who’ve played Bond the only one who’s not singularly attached to people’s memories with the character is Sean Connery. Pierce Brosnan is slowly building up a substantial post-Bond career … but Timothy Dalton and Roger Moore were both stuck with the label of having played Bond for the bulk of their career. The latter three have not hit the heights they saw when they were playing Bond.

While Connery had a profound and pronounced film career post Bond, and Craig certainly has the acting chops to be able to move on to a career without the anchor of James Bond around his neck … you have to wonder if either it’ll be a crutch he keeps using or an anchor that winds up dragging his career down afterwards. Craig’s acting roles haven’t been all that diverse ever since he took on the role of James Bond and while he’s stayed in the same category a lot of his peers have been able to pass him because they don’t have that franchise anchor that Bond represents.

Point of Contention: There’s still lots of stories to tell with this particular version of James Bond

Pro – You have a bunch of great stories to still tell with Daniel Craig
Con – You can tell them with someone else

While James Bernadelli of Reelviews suggested perhaps running back Dr. No for a sequel, and that’s not a bad idea, I think perhaps On Her Majesty’s Secret Service seems the more likely Bond film to be emulated for a fifth Daniel Craig go around. It wouldn’t be hard, either way, to move forward without Craig.

The opening of a fifth film can involve Léa Seydoux’s death early on, inspiring Bond to go after whomever pulled the trigger. Bond facing heartbreak again would be cruel but necessary; his callous manner towards women can be reinforced as every woman who gets close to him winds up dead. It’d also make a fifth film feel more personal instead of for queen and country, as well, as Bond as this unhinged lunatic avenging the death of the love of his life has worked. It was the driving force behind Quantum of Solace and Skyfall; Vesper Lynd was always someone Bond was chasing. In a way Spectre is a final vengeance for her death in Casino Royale.

Another way is to just cast someone else and continue this story. That’s what the franchise has done for decades and you can cast in Damian Lewis as the newest Bond and not miss a beat.

The crazy way to open the film is to embrace the idea that Bond is a code name, not a man, and have someone like Damian Lewis walk in as “Henry Wallace” and become James Bond as part of being the next 007. That’d be a fan theory, of course, and it’s even been proposed that James Bond is like Doctor Who in that he’s a Time Lord.

Either way there’s a set path you can still go on with Bond.

The key is whether or not there’s an interesting enough fifth story to keep Craig around. Hollywood is much more willing to jettison key stars from franchises and start new rather than acquiesce because they’ve deduced that people don’t care about movie stars as much as they used to. Recasting Bond is also like recasting Dr. Who as well; it’s a big to do and the unveiling means something as well.

Point of Contention: Would Daniel Craig be going out on top?

Pro – Two of the four films he’s done have been high water marks of the franchise
Con – Has the franchise peaked with Craig in it?

Four films in and Daniel Craig’s legacy as Bond is fairly set. If you had to rank the actors who’ve played James Bond it’d go Connery, Brosnan, Craig, Moore, Dalton and then Lazenby. Craig has felt more like Jason Bourne than James Bond at times but he does two of the top five films of the franchise’s long and storied history. A fifth film could be something special, as Bond films have rotated between great and mediocre like Star Trek films used to.

But right now Daniel Craig is about to have another hit and with all the hoopla surrounding his distaste for the franchise he can reasonably exit on top. But could he want one more shot at the top, to make the definitive Bond film that every film since Goldfinger has tried to do?

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 tall boys of Red Fox and community college co-eds with low standards at the Fox and Hound

The 33 – The fictionalized account of the miners in South America who got trapped underground.

See it – This has been getting Oscar buzz and it has a who’s who of Latin American actors cast.

My All American – The story of Freddie Joe Steinmark, who was a great football player until he got cancer.

Skip it – It looks like “If Rudy got cancer.”

Love the Coopers – A Christmas story that’s a low rent The Family Stone

Skip it – Not a lot of hype and no real marketing; feels like an end of the year dump.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .

Tags: , , ,