It’s been nearly a month since No Time To Die hit theaters and the general consensus is that Daniel Craig’s iteration of James Bond was a success. While not every movie in his pentalogy is worth revisiting (*cough* Quantum of Solace and Spectre *cough*), the man was able to take a character known more for catchphrases and turn him into a believable secret agent with an actual character arc. That’s no easy feat, especially considering the source material is fairly outdated.
More than any film in the series, though, No Time To Die ends things on a fairly definitive note. It begs the question of “Where does James Bond go from here?” To figure that out, we’re going to need to dive into spoiler territory, so let this be your warning if you haven’t seen Bond’s latest adventure. The movie is certainly worth a watch, especially if you’re a longtime fan of 007, so if you can safely see the film in theaters, I would recommend doing so.
*FINAL SPOILER WARNING*
As you’ve likely guessed from the title alone, James Bond dies in the finale of No Time To Die. In an act of sacrifice to make sure the lovely Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) and their daughter, Mathilde (Lisa-Dorah Sonnet), can live without worry, he stays behind on villain Safin’s (Rami Malek) island to ensure an airstrike wipes out the evil factory for good. It sounds more convoluted than it is in this summary, but there is no fake-out twist or last-second reveal. James Bond finally bites the dust in one of his movies.
After the credits roll, however, we’re treated to something of a surprise. The film concludes with the famous words ‘James Bond will return.’ Having sent off practically every single James Bond film since the Connery era, it’s understandable that many fans were confused by this. How, exactly, is James Bond going to return if the man is dead?
The most obvious answer would be another reboot of the series. Daniel Craig’s casting in the role made waves not only for his blonde hair and blue eyes but for the fact that the producers at EON Productions wound the clock back to retell the origins of Bond. By making Craig’s first film Casino Royale, we were able to see a different side to Bond that didn’t need to be tied to the sometimes-confusing continuity of the previous 20 films. No more strange explanations for why a 40-year-old man somehow never aged over the last 40 years: Craig’s Bond was a completely different character.
Another solution crops up in the very ending of No Time To Die. After his compatriots make a toast to the man’s memory, we flash over to Madeleine and Mathilde driving through the countryside in an Aston Martin while Madeleine begins to regale her daughter with tales of her father’s exploits. In an in-universe manner, EON Productions has seemingly set up the possibility for multiple different Bonds to take the mantle in the coming years.
If we go back to the pre-Craig era, James Bond’s story supposedly followed him through every single actor until it ‘concluded’ in Die Another Day. The only real recurring plot threads were villainous organization Spectre appearing in a few films, Bond hitting on Moneypenny at every chance, and a few mentions of his wife Tracy Bond in a couple of films. With the movies taking place in very specific eras, it’s really hard to believe that EON Productions wanted each actor to be the same character.
What was likely the case here is that viewers were supposed to remember said events and imagine them in a more modern context for the specific actor. That or Pierce Brosnan’s Bond was in amazing shape for being nearly 90-years-old. With the method I’m poking at, though, EON could avoid this problem entirely by framing each new movie as a side-story to Craig’s Bond.
Remember those video games that came out during Craig’s tenure, GoldenEye 007 and Blood Stone? Think something like that, just with someone else portraying Bond. With Mathilde not having a concrete memory of her father, we as viewers would be seeing the world through her imagination and she would be free to envision him as anyone. Hell, imagine a film where multiple people play Bond because Madeleine ends up correcting Mathilde at some point.
What I think is likely to happen is an answer I’m not entirely on board with. As with any franchise nowadays, actors sign on for multiple films ahead of time and production companies sketch out a wider arc in advance. It’s very evident in the Craig-era that EON Productions never intended to link things together until Spectre came along and tried to ape the Marvel style. With Bond now dead and the series needing to restart somewhere, we could be looking at an interconnected universe where a main James Bond film releases followed by a side character getting their own film and so on.
Why do I believe this will be the route? The casting of Lashana Lynch in No Time To Die as 007 wasn’t done simply to piss off fans by having a lady secret agent. She was placed in the iconic role because it creates the possibility for spin-offs. In a world where even John Wick is in talks for spin-off films, why shouldn’t the James Bond franchise have one? Most of the traditional Bond Girls were barely characters, but with audiences craving more engagement from the characters they see on screen, characters like Lynch’s Nomi are ripe for side chapters while the main Bond film gets made.
I’m not exactly on board with every single franchise trying to copy Marvel, but the world of James Bond has always been bigger than the films let on. Very few times have we ever seen another 00 Agent, with the only ones I can recall being 009 in Octopussy and 006 in GoldenEye. What is the deal with that? Clearly, MI6 employs other agents, so why aren’t we privy to their stories? Bond is 007 for a reason and it’s because he’s not the very best, so why aren’t we learning about 001?
Whether or not the franchise spins off into other 00 Agents, it would be a crying shame to waste the potential of Lynch’s Nomi by dropping her entirely for the next film. There certainly would need to be some kind of explanation for why the same character is appearing alongside a completely different James Bond, but there is one small hint in No Time To Die that makes me think it won’t be a problem.
When Bond visits M (Ralph Fiennes) at MI6 during the mid-point of the film, we see a portrait of both Robert Brown and Judi Dench’s portrayals of the character. While Dench was canonical within Craig’s Bond universe, Brown shouldn’t be. It’s clearly meant to be a bit of fanservice for longtime watchers, but it could also be a way to explain how the name ‘James Bond’ can be given to anyone at any time. It really wouldn’t be too farfetched to assume that considering Bond is a secret agent.
If we want to step outside the canon of the EON films for a brief moment, the largely panned 1967 iteration of Casino Royale even features a segment where David Niven’s Bond assumes the mantle of M and orders that all agents be named ‘James Bond 007’ to confuse the enemy. If it really is that simple of an order, who’s to say that Craig’s Bond isn’t in the same universe as the other actors?
Tangent aside, No Time To Die sets up some great potential for what the future of James Bond can be. There are a lot of different avenues that EON Productions can explore and I’m excited to see what comes next. I’ve always looked forward to the next Bond film, but I’ve never truly found myself wondering “Now what?!” Bond has always been business as usual, even if certain installments are rather excellent while others flop like a fish. For once, we don’t know what is coming down the pipeline and that’s great.