James Bond Will Return Even If He Isn't James Bond

James Bond indulges in vodka martinis, cigarettes, and high-stakes poker, and he does it all with suave sophistication. He famously wields two pistols: a small Walther PPK causing men to scream as they die and a much larger tool inducing women into moaning wrecks of ecstasy. Basically, Bond isn’t suitable for kids, despite looking killer in a tux. But as a kid in my single digits, I was still entranced.

Bond’s lack of morals was never a turn-off for me. As a kid, I was obsessed with James Bond to where I would forgo Spike TV’s annual Bond-athon and do my own twice yearly. I quoted hammy Bond one-liners embedded with sexual innuendo I didn’t understand. My fandom even expanded beyond the movies. I bought (read: my mother bought) the James Bond encyclopedia as well as film soundtracks containing the Bond theme songs. A local FYE’s self-avowed Bond aficionado even gave me book recommendations.

My mother had concerns. While she overall liked the movies and was amused by my adoration of 007, she also knew that I had a tendency to be overly obsessive about the films I enjoy. To provide context to Bond’s exploits on the battlefield and in the bed sheets, my doting mother attempted to inject some morals into the proceedings. She once even asked me: “How could you love such a misogynistic womanizer?” My sincere response to this cutting inquiry was always along the lines of: “He murders people and sleeps with hot women for queen and country!” How innocent.

No Time to Die is Bond 25

This love for James Bond sadly hasn’t survived the passage of time. When I reached adulthood, the James Bond franchise had transformed from an adorably cheesy B-movie franchise filled with bad sex puns. It was now the Daniel Craig era: a more grounded and realistic series that was hit or miss. While Skyfall and Casino Royale are great modernized 007 films, Quantum of Solace remains a dull dud and Spectre is possibly the worst Bond movie of all time for attempting to inject a superhero-style origin story into the proceedings. As a result of modern Bond’s inconsistent quality, I’ve become attached to other movie franchises clearly influenced by the series’s core adventure serial traits.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is the most noteworthy franchise that successfully modernized the James Bond formula. Despite installments starring different protagonists like Iron Man, Captain America, and Captain Marvel, the MCU has an episodic quality to it. Particularly, MCU villains like Alexander Pierce and Ultron are one-offs similar to baddies in Bond’s rogues’ gallery like Goldfinger or Xenia Onatopp.

James Bond and the MCU do have exceptions to the one-and-done rule. Blofeld, 007’s archnemesis and head of the evil spy agency SPECTRE, reappears in several Bond sequels similar to how Loki reemerges in various movies across the MCU. More importantly, the protagonists and other supporting characters regularly stay the same — though the Bond franchise will replace the actors far more regularly. This creates an episodic nature within both properties that is further affirmed by a “Tune in next time!” style of end credits sequence.

With that said, the MCU is different from James Bond in one crucial way: its aesthetic. While the MCU is tonally similar and contains numerous James Bond-style characters, superheroes scratch a particular nostalgic itch separate from the amazingly stupid super spy espionage that James Bond is renowned for. Capes and tights just aren’t quite the same niche as laser watches and car submarines.

However, there is a modern spy action franchise that makes 007’s absence more palatable: Mission: Impossible. Combining the absurd action sequences and laser watch gadgetry with a modern garnish, Mission: Impossible has filled the qualitative secret agent void abdicated by James Bond. Tom Cruise stars as Ethan Hunt, a secret agent working for the charming and stupidly named Impossible Mission Force. He’s a super cool guy whose most notable characteristic is saving the world over and over again while doing awesome stunts.

Mission: Impossible essentially out-James Bonds 007. Similar to the Bond series, the six Mission: Impossible movies are loose sequels that feel episodic in nature. But they also build long-term storylines involving a revolving door of returning allies like Simon Pegg’s Benji and Ving Rhames’ Luther, and the series’s antagonists reinforce this “same time, same channel next week” aesthetic. Akin to a James Bond spy serial, recent installments like Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and last year’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout added a SPECTRE-style spy cabal called the Syndicate in order to challenge Ethan’s inhuman perseverance and savior complex.

Mission: Impossible surpasses the Bond franchise even further by grounding its ludicrous action with more practical effects and jaw-dropping stunt work. Whereas current Bond films attempt to modernize the franchise by altering the tone, Mission: Impossible finds respectability by simply grounding the action in real special effects.

The James Bond series is lost. Rather than be innovative, modern 007 adventures feature a spy who loves chasing trends set by popular contemporaries like Mission: Impossible and a Marvel Studios production. As a former longtime fan, Bond’s fall from the entertainment spotlight is saddening, and I hope my once favorite series can reclaim its status as the top spy thriller.

Until then, Bond’s legacy survives via the properties it has influenced like the MCU and the Mission: Impossible films. Even if the series were to stagnate to the point of being deceased, the series would live on through its influences. After all, not even death can stop 007 because James Bond will return. He always does.

Riley Constantine
Contributor. Riley Constantine is Iowa's third greatest export behind Slipknot and life insurance. She loves to review movies and games while examining how they often mirror the bizarre world we live in.

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    22 Comments

    1. That top Daniel Craig picture… He’s so British he even aims with his stiff upper lip!

      1. Except for that one time he was from Georgabama.

    2. I’m really confounded by the decision to replace Bond. Not because the replacement is black, or a woman; they could replace him with another white man and I’d still be confused.

      Here’s the thing: Yes, 007 is a code number, and yes the in-universe lore does allow for him to be replaced not unlike the Green Lantern, but the franchise was really always about the character himself. Yeah, he was interpreted differently from film to film or from actor to actor, but ultimately he was still always James Bond.

      To replace him, in my opinion, suggests that the powers that be really have no idea what the franchise is even about, or why it was ever so successful. There is a reason that people typically refer to it as the James Bond series, not the 007 series.

      I don’t doubt that Lashana Lynch will be good, but this move really feels like they’re trying so hard to bring in new fans at the expense not only of existing fans but of the identity of the franchise itself. I’m sure that’ll work in the short term, but I think this stunt will do more harm to the series than good in the long run, both creatively and financially.

      1. As an aside, even though Casino Royale was an excellent movie on its own, I do think it was also one of the biggest missteps in the franchise in terms of its impact on the franchise as a whole. There was always continuity to the series, but it was fairly loose. Along with rebooting the franchise, Casino Royale and all the subsequent Bond films share a much tighter continuity than any of the previous ones.

        It used to be that if there was a dud in the series, you could pretty much ignore it and not lose much. Don’t wanna watch Octopussy or Moonraker or Die Another Day? Whatever. Wanna watch Goldeneye and then Goldfinger, in that order? Great.

        But—rather like MCU—newer Bond films are a good deal more insistent that you watch all of them, and in release order. Skyfall may be good, but you gotta watch Quantum of Solace. And it’s a pretty safe bet that No Time to Die, no matter how good or bad it ends up being, will carry with it the implicit assumption that all of its viewers already watched Spectre.

        I don’t think there’s anything intrinsically wrong with this style of filmmaking. It’s clearly working for MCU, and the Harry Potter franchise simply wouldn’t be possible any other way. But it’s a pretty big change from how the franchise used to be handled, where there was always continuity but you never really needed to know it. It’s another sign that MGM has lost track of what this franchise even is or represents.

        1. The Bond series is the most important film series in history. When it worked best it was about a man on a mission. Dr. No. Goldfinger From Russia with Love are the finest. Unless you live under a rock you may not have noticed how our real world has become more like a Bond event. There are organizations like SPECTRE there are supervillans bent own world domination. Heck, Jeffrey Epstein even owned an island. It seems as though life is imitating art. Hopefully there are some real life Bond’s out too save the day. And if they are as cool as Connery, Brosnan, and Craig then so be it.
          Bond: An ejector seat? You’re joking.
          Q: I never joke about my work 007.

    3. ‘Bond’s lack of morals was never a turn-off for me’
      Bond doesn’t lack morals. He shoots bad guys who would’ve shot him, has consensual sex with adult women and shows unwavering loyalty to his country because he believes in it. Sure he’s a power fantasy designed to appeal to young men but I don’t see how appealing to young men is bad.

      1. Haven’t you heard? It’s called “toxic masculinity”! Men aren’t supposed to be men anymore. That’s genderism and socialist progressives can’t have that. Bond needs to get in touch with his feminist feelings and become a pussy before millenials will by into his shtick…lol

      2. Bond repeatedly initiates sexual contact without consent. He’s also an essentially emotionless psychopath in many portrayals, and fairly consistently as a pretty useless spy. The last fact is particularly salient because once it’s grasped he ceases to be a bon vivant male power fantasy and becomes a slightly pathetic alcoholic mess.

        1. Wrong. There is no lack of consent, ever. At least get your facts straight.

          1. Yeah, I’m sure the lesbian he pinned down in a barn, after repeatedly be told off (verbally and physically) by her, was really consenting.

    4. Well, you’d probably start well to break down the James Bond movie into its base components and recalibrate them to work for modern audiences.

      You gotta have James positively drip with cool competence. He can roll with any punch, has a snappy one-liner for every occasion, and would be at glib ease even after crawling through a mucky sewer for hours. He’s charming rather than simply flirty, perfectly willing to compliment your taste in jewelry, baby clothes, or orbital laser cannons as appropriate.

      You’ve got to have strong characters at MI6 supporting James who are experts in their fields, and mutually respect and accept him. They give each other crap sometimes, but they trust and rely on each other like family. Heaven help the Villain that messes with them.

      You need a grand Villain with a grand scheme to damage the world for his own profit. He’s shouldn’t be loathsome, but he should be fun to cheer against. You inner edgelord should kind of want him to succeed. Probably requires floss to remove scenery from his teeth. Ideally, he’s a problem IRL adversaries probably should cooperate together to deal with.

      The Henchman needs to be likeable. Any reason will do. He needs to be at least a match for Bond in a fair fight. A fun weapon or gimmick is mandatory. He needs chemistry both with Bond and the Villain.

      The Girl should be a normal person thrown into a bizarre Bond Movie reality. She’s the right woman in the wrong place. She is most likely working against the Villain from a different angle, perhaps without even knowing it. She’s very attractive, as any actress can be once competent markup and wardrobe have done their jobs. Her story comprises the C plot after Bond’s and the Villain’s A and B parts, joining up with them as the movie progresses. And when it’s finally over, she gonna break herself off a piece of that tight limey ass.

      Most importantly, these movies are meant to be fun. They’ve got their share of comedy as well as action and drama. Bond is the dry comedy relief in a tuxedo playing against a straight man in a mad scientist outfit. James Bond is an old tune that has endured for a reason. If the original lyrics are offensive today, just write new ones.

    5. Ridiculous article. Bond is better than ever, and Spectre was a great movie. Possibly the best of the franchise.

      1. Concur on all accounts

      2. Spectre ripped off a plot point from Goldmember.

        1. Holy hell, they actually did…

    6. Craig has completely transformed Bond, I’ve liked him in all of them… Even Quantum of Solace. As for the next Bond being black or a woman… Won’t be happening…. Too much money to risk.

    7. I feel that as a black man the James Bond franchise has failed to keep me captivated. My First James Bond experience was Thunderball and I’ve payed to watch every James Bond Movie ever sense. Every free world child has emagined themselves to be James Bond, Superman, Batman and even Spider-Man. But only recently have I been rudely forced to come to the conclusion that people of color can join the military become real life heroes in the foreign countries we force the American Way on but we can’t be heroes on any movie screen not even on the continent of Africa. Africa is a very huge continent that commentates many countries with thousands of black pilots each of them having what it takes to be a real life James Bond but it will never be on any movie screen for all of us to emagine ourselves to be that my friends is truely what the free world is all about. People of color are heroes too.

    8. I agree with your comments about the Daniel Craig James Bond movies. But I disagree with your opinion of the M:I movies. The first one introducing Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt was good-up to a point. Having Jim Phelps (John Voight) turn Traitor and sell out for Money turned me off of the movie and, in my opinion, was a slap in the face to the Jim Phelps character created by Peter Graves. That Jim Phelps would never have sold out for mere Money. As far as I can tell, the rest of the movies are nothing but CGI enhanced action scenes around a minimal plot. I have no interest in seeing any of them. In my opinion, the first three James Bond Movies with Sean Connery are superior to any of them.

    9. I’m sorry, I disagree.

      If you haven’t already, I encourage you to visit Netflix/Hulu/whatever and find and watch the original 1966-1972 Mission:Impossible TV series starring Steven Hill as Dan Briggs, and later Peter Graves as Jim Phelps. The first Mission:Impossible movie makes a few perfunctory nods to the TV series, but you will quickly realize that the movies bear almost no resemblence to its source material — which is a shame because the original TV show is pretty damned good.

      The Impossible Mission Force is presented as a secret government agency (presumably attached to the State Department (“…The Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your action.”)), which is offered missions that the “regular force” can’t handle. However, it becomes clear after a few episodes that what we’re actually watching is a group of con artists working a mark. The fun of the show comes from the slow reveal of how the con unfolds and the mark moves in the directions they’ve meticulously planned for him.

      The Mission:Impossible movies, OTOH, do almost none of this, and instead present as “classic” spy action/thriller, with chase scenes and fistfights shoot-outs. Which, again, is a shame, because the original M:I was perfectly engaging and watchable without that stuff (although there is more than a little “TV Judo”). To my eye, the movie makers simply bought the rights to the name “Mission:Impossible” because it had some brand recognition and simply slapped it on a generic, vaguely interesting action movie. As a consequence, I have little to no interest in the M:I films, but could go back and watch nearly any of the original TV series.

      As for James Bond… Well, yes, the character is very problematic these days and, as MovieBob articulated rather clearly in his review of Spectre, the creators never figured out what to do with Bond — a creation of the Cold War — in the modern era.

      That said, living in the, shall we say, improbable world that we do now, there is ample opportunity to re-tool James Bond and make the character relevant again — if the writers manage to figure it out.

    10. I have like enjoyed all Bond films, die another Day was a bit of a let down, but apart from that, the rest have been enjoyable. Moore was my Bond as a kid, but all have brought their own Bond to the table. Long as it has great stunts, nice cars, gadgets, girls great locations, they will always be worth watching.

    11. “modern 007 adventures feature a spy who loves chasing trend”
      Hey I hate the whole cinematic universe and Jason Borne copy as much as the next person, but lets be honest here, with the exception of On her Majesties Secret Service these films have always stolen from more popular films.

    12. After 2020 they should really put the series on ice for a few years to work out what direction to go in next.

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