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Is Daniel Craig’s James Bond the Worst of the Franchise?

Much has been said about Daniel Craig being the James Bond of the new millennium. His films have made billions and billions of dollars, and, as some people claim, saved Bond from near extinction after the Pierce Brosnan era. Others decry Craig’s casting as blasphemy since he’s not over six feet tall and is blond. (I’ll be quite interested to read what they have to say if the next Bond isn’t white, male, or straight.)

I, for one, don’t mind his casting. I think that Daniel Craig is a fine actor, and probably the most athletic actor to play Bond yet, BUT I can’t stand what the “powers that be” have made Bond into during Daniel Craig’s tenure, and for that, I consider his Bond to be the worst of the official series. (If we go with unofficial, every actor who played Bond in 1967’s Casino Royale, sans David Niven, would take that award hands down.)

I do like that he’s not as campy as say Roger Moore. While I enjoyed his films as a kid, they definitely lost luster as an adult. At this point, I would say that Roger Moore is to the Bond franchise what Adam West is to Batman’s—the portrayal of the character is a less serious version that worked for the times, but tastes have changed. Not many people will pick West’s version of Batman over Christian Bale’s, and the vast majority are picking Daniel Craig’s version over Moore’s.

The problem for me is that despite all of Moore’s campiness, he still embodies what James Bond is. Daniel Craig’s does not. His version is a bland one that’s barely British, and is always distrusted by M, MI6, and the UK population in general. For most of Craig’s tenure, I question why his Bond was even allowed to become a OO in the first place.

Before I begin with why I dislike Craig’s Bond, let me say that I don’t hate everything that’s come from this era. Casino Royale is an enjoyable film, and the best of the four films. The opening scene with the ‘free running’ chase, and, in what might be the best stunt in all of the Bond films, the crane jump instantly solidifies for me that Craig is the most athletic of the actors to take the role.

The opera scene in Quantum of Solace, from the beginning to end, is as good a Bond scene as any in the series (but the only good thing about that particular film). The cinematography for Sam Mendes’ Skyfall is hands down the most beautiful of any Bond film ever made, and possibly more beautiful than 99% of all films out today.

Naomie Harris’ version of Miss Monneypenny is a refreshing and welcome addition to the series. She’s not just a flirty secretary, but a real person in these films, and I enjoy her chemistry with Daniel Craig. She’s even given a life outside of MI6 for added depth.

Despite these few enjoyable things, and the majority opinion that Daniel Craig is the best Bond, I just don’t feel his version holds true to what Bond should be, and that makes him the worst Bond in my eyes. Here are my 007 reasons for not liking his version (in no particular order).

001: They rebooted Bond and made him Bourne

They rebooted Bond and made him Bourne
Jason Bourne hanging out until he can overtake James Bond. The Bourne Identity (2002) | Photo: Universal Studios

The financial success of the Jason Bourne franchise, in a relatively short time span, has changed what audiences can expect from their spy thrillers. In those films, there is less humor and more gritty realism. Jason Bourne has a haunted past. He’s traumatized by it, and it makes for a great backstory and motivation for him, but that’s not how Bond has been represented on the big screen for decades. Let Bond be Bond, and Bourne be Bourne.

That’s not what happened though. Daniel Craig’s Bond has instead, ignored the previous films, and taken on Bourne traits: his past is slowly revealed to us over the course of the four films, and we get the Bourne ultra-grittiness from those films. You could argue that the grittiness and authenticity actually comes from Ian Fleming’s novels and not Jason Bourne. I wouldn’t fully disagree, but if that’s true a) why did they not continue the Bond grittiness after they fully embraced it in the Timothy Dalton era, and b) why did 2015’s Spectre make Blofield so different from the books if they were supposed to be going for the feel of the books?

Each new actor, of course, brings a fresh start to the franchise, but Craig’s version is less a fresh interpretation, and more a clone of Jason Bourne that’s so sanitized, the only thing British about him is his accent. For the 1st two films, the familiar Bond music is gone. Q is gone. Moneypenny is gone, and the gadgets are mostly gone, because Jason Bourne is a low gadget kind of super spy. Daniel Craig even looks very similar to Matt Damon: same general eye color, hair color, build, and height.

This isn’t that surprising to me that Barbara Broccoli would choose to clone Bourne and its franchises’ success. 2002’s Die Another Day was not good. Released in November of that year, it made $432M, but an invisible car and story that was the weakest of the Bronson era (during an era of weak stories) signaled the franchise was tired, and it was time for a change.

The summer of that year also saw the debut of the Bourne films with The Bourne Identity. It only made $214M, but received all of the praise that a good Bond film should have had. They followed it up in 2004 with The Bourne Supremacy, making $289M, and then 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum made $443M. In five years, this new spy franchise looked to be overtaking James Bond as the world’s best spy. Clearly movie goers tastes had changed, and Bond would have to change for his next film to be a success. That film eventually became 2006’s Casino Royale, but to compete, they removed everything about Bond I liked.

002: More than a government assassin–Bond kills for no reason

More than a government assassin. Bond kills for no reason.
Have you seen the city from the roof? It’s lovely. Quantum of Solace (2008) | Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

The box office success of the Craig films shows that audiences like his grittier version. I don’t mind the grittiness it since it does reflect Bond from the books, but there are times from the films that I feel Bond kills for no reason. Not only that, he seems to enjoy killing people, and encourages others to kill for the sole purpose of revenge outside of the law.

In Casino Royale, Bond chases bomb maker Mollaka through a village and into an African embassy. Bond kills him, and then blows up the building. M is furious with Bond because she wanted Mollaka for questioning, and Bond wasn’t supposed to kill him. Did Bond need to kill Mollaka? No, I don’t think so, and I don’t think any of the previous Bonds would have either.

Throughout the Craig films, Bond kills many people without getting any information out of them, and M frequently admonishes him for it. It’s almost like a cat playing with a mouse, and it kills only when it’s done toying with it.

This causes trust problems for M which makes it harder for Bond to do his job. For example, in Quantum of Solace, it appears to M that Bond shoots Haines’ bodyguard point blank at the opera, and throws him off a roof for no reason. Mathis is shot dead in Bolivia, and the police claim Bond did it. M believes them, because she can’t trust Bond. This story arc just frustrates me, and actually makes it harder for me to enjoy the film because I can never understand why M would give this version of Bond a license to kill. If you can’t trust Bond to kill for the right reasons, you made a bad spy promotion.

In Quantum of Solace, Bond even encourages others to kill instead of following the law. When he coaches Camille on how to kill General Medrano, he says, “Take a deep breath. You only got one shot. Make it count.” This isn’t like Spectre where Bond wants to make sure Dr. Swann can protect herself with gun. This is Bond, as a trained assassin, telling a vengeful women how to kill the man who murdered her family. Once again, I don’t see any of the other Bonds acting like this, and it’s out of character from the previous films of the past 50 years.

003: Bond is always being watched remotely and second guessed

Bond is always being watched remotely and second guessed.
M gets it wrong again in Skyfall (2012). Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

Throughout the Daniel Craig era, Bond is being “armchair quarterbacked” at every possible opportunity via ear pieces and implanted GPS chips tracking him throughout the world. This enables M to communicate with Bond, and to annoy me to no end…all in real time. This quarterbacking even leads to bad choices in Skyfall when M orders Moneypenny to shoot Patrice from long range, and her shot inadvertently hits Bond; nearly killing him.

Besides these interactions taking me out of the moment, I can’t stop thinking that implanting tracking devices on your secret agents keeps the agents from being secret. Le Chiffre knew Bond had one on him when he removed it right before he tortured Bond. We also find out in Spectre that Blofield has been watching for a long time from the shadows. The only way to keep secret agents secret in today’s world is to keep them off the grid, and M should have been smart enough to know that, but then look how sloppy the CIA was in the real world in Italy with traceable cellphones in the Abu Omar Kidnapping, but I digress.

Tethering Bond to the cloud is just wrong in every sense. Always maintain radio silence until you receive the all clear, people!

004: James Bond, The Great Cuddler

James Bond, The Great Cuddler
Bond comforts Vesper Lynd after a great round of poker. Casino Royale (2006) | Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

Over the years, James Bond has been called a misogynist, and based on the way he’s used women to get what he wants, that is a valid point. (Although, I’d argue that he’s more of a misanthropist as I think Bond has a distrust and contempt for all mankind regardless of sex. His job just forces him into society.)

In the Daniel Craig era, with him taking on the Jason Bourne empathy, Bond has shown his humanity in a new way by cuddling with women. In Casino Royale, he and Vesper Lynd are attacked in a stairwell by some terrorists. Bond kills both of the men, hides their bodies, freshens up, and then returns to the poker game (not playing baccarat should be another reason to dislike this version of Bond).

When Bond returns to his suite, he finds Vesper, fully clothed, in the fetal position in the shower; the water unable to wash off the horror of the death’s she’s just witnessed. Without saying a word, Bond sits down next to her in the shower, and holds her. It’s a wonderfully composed scene, and one never done in a Bond film before, but that’s not the gritty Bond from the Ian Fleming novels. That is straight up Jason Bourne.

Fast forward to Quantum of Solace, and Camille has just gotten her revenge by shooting and killing General Medrano. The room she’s in (and the entire complex) is engulfed in flames. Camille is in the fetal position like Vesper, and surrounded by fire. What does Bond do? You guessed it. He sits down, and cuddles with her.

The wonderful shower scene from Casino Royale is immediately cheapened by this lack of originality. I’d like to think a capable director and screenwriter would have more talent than to rip off their previous film from a few years ago.

It’s like that guy at a bar who uses a genuinely funny line on a girl, and then repeatedly tells all his friends the line in front of those girls until they get bored of it and leave. After a while, nobody cares, and when you have two nearly identical cuddling scenes in back to back Bond films, I get bored, and want to leave too. I go from enjoying the originality of the shower scene in one Bond film to thinking this is just another example of this Bond not mentally fit for his job. James Bond can be shaken, but never stirred, and repeated cuddling qualifies as being stirred.

005: Not ready to have a License to Kill

Not ready to have a License to Kill
Mollaka won’t be questioned in Casino Royale (2006). Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

Was Daniel Craig’s Bond worthy to be promoted to OO status, and be given a license to kill? I consider Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace to be a two part origin story since Quantum picks up the moment Casino Royale ends. The familiar gun barrel sequence only appears at the end of the second one to signify that this new Bond is now the agent we all know and love, and is ready to prove it in the third installment.

However, in both of those films, Bond is always at odds with M in his new position. In fact, he seems to be a rogue agent for the whole Daniel Craig era, but in the first two films, he kills for no reason, which leads to being unable to attain the information he needs from those kills. He’s not trusted by M, and has chips implanted to track his every move on the entire planet. (Let’s hope there’s not some super secret organization tracking the whole world via computer too, or Bond will be easily located by his enemies.)

Bond is at such odds with his supervisors in the first two films that I not only question why he was ever promoted to OO status, but I consider Judi Dench’s M character in the Daniel Craig era to be a complete failure. (I hope to write more on that statement in a future post.) This is a shame because I really like Judi in the role of M.

By the end of Quantum of Solace, I not only DON’T believe this Bond is a worthy OO, I am so thoroughly enraged that I sat through two films of him trying to figure his spy game out, that I vowed to never watch a Bond film again with Daniel Craig in it. I can honestly say that Quantum of Solace sits as my all time least favorite Bond film, and I’ve now seen them all. It’s even worse than Roger Moore’s Moonraker which is an enormous feat that I never thought could happen. Two movies for one origin story is absurd for Bond.

006: James Bond and the OO Program is now Obsolete?!

James Bond and the OO Program is now Obsolete?!
Q gets hacked in Skyfall (2012). Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

To add to my overall displeasure, I had to continue watching the Daniel Craig Bonds for MHM’s Male-Bonding podcast. Much to my dismay, I quickly found out that after his first two films revolving around Bond becoming the Bond we all know and love, the underlying theme of Skyfall and Spectre is all about how James Bond and the OO program is now obsolete in today’s world. How many shades of pissed off can one person get? Well, about as many as the pretty colors in all of Skyfall, and there are a lot of them in that one.

In Skyfall, James Bond can’t pass a mental or physical exam, or even shoot straight for that matter. Q’s back, and he letting us know that whatever Bond can do, his super hacking skills and a drone can do better. M’s now behind Bond for some reason, but she will be dead soon, and we are told that the rest of Britain doesn’t need Bond either. At this point, nobody needs him.

Spectre is more of the same themes of the OOs being obsolete, but now the villains too have our super spy technology, and they use it all to try to kill Bond? Why would the world’s greatest criminal organization expose their identity to all the unsuspecting governments on the planet in this poorly written reboot of the Spectre organization? Why? It’s because Blofeld and Bond’s backstory now has them growing up together, raised by Blofield’s daddy, and daddy always liked James better. Blofeld is reduced to nothing more than the male version of Marsha Brady.

By the end of Spectre, we don’t know if the OOs are still obsolete, or if Bond (and the new M) redeemed them all, but I just don’t care. Barbara Broccoli has ruined this whole series for me, and I truly hope Daniel Craig gets his wish with Spectre being the last Bond film of his career. Then, they are free to go in another direction with the franchise. If they want to keep it gritty, then move it back more towards Timothy Dalton. He did Bond much better.

007: The Marvel Model and Serialized Storytelling

The Marvel Model and Serialized Storytelling
Ernst Stavro Blofeld holds a meeting in Spectre (2015). Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

The last reason I have for believing Daniel Craig’s Bond is the worst of the Bonds has more to do with a general trend in films since Marvel started raking in the dough with Iron Man and all the subsequent superhero films…and it’s a trend that isn’t going away anytime soon. Rolling Stone has an excellent article on this which you can read here, and I will echo some of those points here too. This trend in film franchises is one where all films are connected, and you need to watch them all in order to fully understand the most recent film.

For Marvel, Star Wars, DC Comics, et al, that’s just fine. I have no problem with their serialized storytelling, but not all franchises need to go in that direction. With Spectre though, it’s quite obvious that’s the direction the Bond franchise is headed. In that film, many references are made about Bond’s ex-lovers that have been killed in revenge for his actions in previous films of the Craig era. Blofeld takes credit for everything that happened in them, and thus cheapens the main villains in those films for me; especially since Blofeld’s reintroduction into the series was handled about as bad as you can handle it.

Secondary villains now show up in multiple films such as Mr. White in Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, and Spectre. I think there’s also a strong sense that we haven’t seen the last of Mr. Hinx either. (Jaws ended up being a good guy in his second appearance so I’m not counting him for previous Bond films.)

Before the Marvel/Bond era, we don’t have many Bond girls continuing on in subsequent in Bond films. Sylvia Trench being the only one I can think of off hand, but now, Vesper Lynd has been mentioned in the following films, and her death is the main motivation for Bond in all four of his Daniel Craig films. I won’t be surprised if Dr. Swann shows up in the next Bond film too now that she seems to have replaced Vesper Lynd in the love interest category.

To me, this is the beginning of the Marvel type multiverse forming in the Bond franchise where any character can show up at anytime, and if we don’t know their backstory, we may be lost. Maybe we will get a Q and Monneypenny side adventure out of this new multiverse. They seem to be the Wonder Twins of the British Justice League now.

Even Blofeld’s rambling monologue at the end of Spectre is a summary of the previous films, and doesn’t add much to the one he’s actually in. You want to put that style of storytelling in Iron Man? I’m fine with it. It’s expected. You want to put it into James Bond films? Forget it. The franchise has made its mark for over 50 years, with a few fleeting references about Bond’s wife that was once killed on their honeymoon. That’s the way Bond films are meant to be—one contained story after another, and it can continue to be so, and done well if they’d just stop trying to be James Bourne with special appearances by Marvel’s writers, and stick to what has made Bond successful in the past. The Timothy Dalton era shows us it’s possible.

The Daniel Craig-style Bond isn’t going anywhere anytime soon

After all is said and done though, I don’t see anything changing anytime soon. The franchise simply makes too much money now, and money is the only thing that matters in Hollywood—no surprise there. To date, the four Daniel Craig led Bond films have brought in about $3.175 billion worldwide as compared to the five Jason Bourne films released in the same time frame which have made about $1.6 billion worldwide. There’s nothing I can say about that other than obviously Daniel Craig is a hit, and that I am in the super minority with my opinions on Daniel Craig’s Bond. I can’t deny it. Luckily for me though, I have 50 years of other Bonds to keep me occupied until times change again, and I might get a Bond that I can once again enjoy watching.

Where do you rank Daniel Craig among the other Bonds? Am I way off? Let me know in the comments below, an if you’re so inclined we have reviewed all of the Bond films to date which you can listen to here.

By Chris Haley



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