James Bond: Will the new 007 film land with audiences in a post-lockdown media landscape?
No Time To Die marks a significant moment for Bond, not only is it Daniel Craig’s final outing as 007 – it’s also the franchise’s 25th film.
But after 18 months on the shelf, its release delayed by COVID-19, the question is will the 25th Bond film land in a post-lockdown world?
Even before audiences have had a chance to see this latest instalment, Craig’s Bond films have already grossed more than £3 billion.
But given that the character is “a sexist, misogynist dinosaur, a relic of the Cold War” (to quote Judi Dench’s M), why are we still watching? And, in over 50 years worth of films, what is Bond’s legacy?
Bond’s impact on pop culture is unmistakable – emulated by the Bourne series and lampooned in Austin Powers and Johnny English, Bond is seen around the world as being quintessentially British.
As American actor Rami Malek, who plays baddie Safin in No Time To Die, says: “I think this is an indelible part of our cultural fabric and our cinematic tapestry.”
“This is something that we all grow up with, I believe, not just in the UK, but all over the world. It may be pretty difficult to find someone who doesn’t either know someone who’s seen a Bond film over the course of their life or has passed it on from someone in their family, and it just keeps evolving.”
Arguably what hasn’t evolved on-screen is the British sense of self-importance.
In Bond, Britain is always on top, a position now wildly at odds with our real-world status.
From an intelligence point of view, on screen we’re always a step ahead but, in reality, you only need to look at Afghanistan and Britain’s intelligence assessment (that it was unlikely Kabul would fall this year) to see how we are far more limited than the Bond franchise presents.
As for the fast cars and sharp suits, top military chief General Sir Patrick Sanders has been quoted as saying we need “more Qs than 007s”.
Cyber security expert Jamie Collier agrees: “The era of the kind of martini-sipping James Bond could be over.”
“It’s full of a lot of inaccuracies in terms of how intelligence operates… unfortunately coding classes might not be quite as glamorous as dinner jackets and sipping martinis.”
But Ben Wishaw, who plays Q, has no time for those who try to root 007 in reality.
“I wouldn’t have thought that the films would have any bearing on reality or even be possible to use as a reference.”
But what of Bond himself? In the past held up as the male ideal.
A mixture of sophistication, brute force and machismo – his power over women is celebrated as much as his ability to stop baddies. But, thankfully in recent films, Bond is starting to become more self-aware. He has been given a third dimension.
Under Craig’s watch, we’ve seen a very different 007 to the one he inherited. A James that’s wept, that’s shown vulnerability, that’s experienced self-doubt and is addressing his faults and his past.
Since Spectre in 2015, the rise of the #MeToo movement has thrown a spotlight onto gender inequality and power imbalance. In the wake of which, producer Barbara Broccoli has promised the new film “should reflect” the “huge impact” of that.
Craig’s Bond might show more emotional vulnerability- but is it enough for a film with such influence to be playing catch up with society?
“We want to have more interesting female character, we want to relate to them” says Craig’s co-star and returning onscreen lover Lea Sedoux.
And so for the first time we have a female 007 – Lashana Lynch says we should celebrate the progress.
“The fact that she was even an idea in the first place is just a reflection of where we are in the world, where we are continuing to go, but also where the franchise is.”
It is perhaps apt that, in the evolution of Bond on-screen, themes around male identity and isolation are being explored, reflecting the world we live in now. The emotional vulnerability of Craig’s Bond reflects a shift in conversation when it comes to what it means to be a man in the 21st century.
And if Craig’s Bond has been about addressing his problems of the past, what of the future?
As the longest running franchise in cinematic history, Bond has played a consistent role in our popular culture – imitated by others and loved around the world.
If Bond’s popularity (and perhaps even his credibility as an actual human man in 2021) is to continue, the films can never go back to being purely a hunk with black tie and Walther PPK who slays the bad guys then lays the women.
Daniel Craig’s contribution has certainly addressed this legacy and crafted a deeper, more vulnerable and complex spy than his predecessors and this has positioned the Bond franchise in a better place for the next 25.