Is It Time for 007 to Retire?

I just came across this interesting seventeen minute video analysing why James Bond has endured so long as a character. I thought it worth flagging up here not only as a discussion of one of my favourite fictional characters, but also of how commentaries like this, until recently dismissed as the province of fans and amateurs, are becoming more and more academic. Giving an overview of the history of the Bond character as portrayed by Connery, Moore, Brosnan and Craig (the four main Bond incarnations), the guy presenting the vid points out how 007 has always adapted to suit the era each film was made and set in: as he points out, Bond is a ‘blank’ or void, into which we pour our contemporary concerns. That is a point which has been made by several academics writing about Bond, and he cites Christopher Linder, who, rather cooly, I also reference in my master’s. Thus commentaries like this are becoming more articulate and knowledgable.

The question remains, though, where does 007 go from here? If the Bond franchise has survived by adapting, what is it’s next adaptation? I’ve heard it said recently that the Craig films have set such a high watermark, and have redefined the character so drastically, that he will be impossible to follow. Craig was the definitive Bond of our era. Given No Time To Die concluded with such dramatic permanence, moreover, I suspect the only way for the franchise to continue would be to completely reset it; by which I mean it needs to be taken in a totally new direction. Perhaps they should set the new films in another era, such as during the cold war; or perhaps new films should be about one of the other Double-O agents. If they keep casting a straight white male in the lead role over and over again, the franchise will sooner or later stagnate; audiences will get bored, especially in the current climate of so many cinematic mega-franchises. The blank spaces Bond has filled until now have become so vast and vague that they can no longer be filled by one figure: we no longer confront one enemy – Russia, Bin Laden, Saddam Hussain etc – but a complex array of antagonists, visible, invisible, and somewhere in between. While it would probably send the knuckle-draggers apeshit, perhaps it’s time for Bond himself to retire, and make way for a more diverse array of agents, licensed to kill, who would we more suited to fight our diverse array of contemporary concerns.

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