When No Time To Die arrives in theatres next April, it will mark Daniel Craig’s fifth and final big-screen outing as Ian Fleming’s iconic superspy, James Bond. Beginning with the 2006 reboot Casino Royale, Craig’s tenure as Agent 007 has revitalized the once-flagging Bond franchise's fortunes, garnering considerable critical and commercial success.
But are the Craig-era Bond films all they’re cracked up to be? Certainly, there’s a lot to love about them – you don’t rake in over $3.5 billion and a raft of awards without getting something right. But as this list shows, there’s also a few areas where these movies could have been improved, so here’s hoping Eon Productions irons out these wrinkles for Craig’s swansong turn as Bond.
10 Get Right: The Leading Man
Original James Bond Sean Connery still casts a long shadow, with every actor to suit up as 007 since Connery compared unfavorably to the venerable Scottish star. Fortunately, Daniel Craig has more than risen to the challenge, regularly ranking second only to Connery as the most popular Bond of all time.
Combining genuine acting chops with rugged good looks, a steely gaze, and the ability to effortlessly switch from debonair to deadly, Craig quickly overcame initial doubts surrounding his casting. Indeed, the furor over his lighter hair and less than imposing stature – at 5ft 10, Craig is the shortest Bond in the canonical series – seems like a distant memory!
9 Get Wrong: Continuity
A defining characteristic of the Craig-era of Bond films has been how closely linked the four films are – and it’s arguably their weakest aspect. Indeed, while the franchise has typically worked best as a series of standalone installments held together by only a vague sense of continuity, Quantum of Solace and Spectre both serve as direct sequels to their immediate predecessors.
Unsurprisingly, they’re also the lowest-grossing and least critically acclaimed of the Bond quartet Craig has headlined so far. On the other hand, Casino Royale and Skyfall – which more or less ignore what came before them – earned the most acclaim and biggest box office hauls. With No Time To Die set to continue the trend of close inter-film continuity, we’ve got our fingers crossed that director Cary Joji Fukunaga can finally make this approach work.
8 Get Right: Title Songs
Two out of the four Bond adventures headlined by Daniel Craig have won the Academy Award for Best Original Song – so Eon Productions clearly has things locked down when it comes to title tunes. True, Quantum of Solace’s signature track – duet “Another Way to Die” by Jack White and Alicia Keys – didn’t quite suit the 007 brand, and it’s debatable whether or not Sam Smith’s Spectre composition, “Writing’s on the Wall,” really deserved that Oscar.
But “You Know My Name” by Chris Cornell is an absolute belter that weaves organically into Casino Royale’s wider score, while Adele’s bold ballad “Skyfall” (from the film of the same name, natch) is nothing less than one of the best Bond themes ever.
7 Get Wrong: Villains
The longevity of the James Bond franchise is as much down to its memorable villains as it is to the popularity of its superspy protagonist. In this regard, the Craig-era has been a mixed bag. Although Mads Mikkelsen’s Le Chiffre and Javier Bardem’s Raoul Silva count among the most formidable foes 007 has ever faced, Mathieu Amalric’s Dominic Greene and Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld were both painfully underwhelming.
For his part, Amalric’s gimmick-free, villainous industrialist was a total non-entity, an instance of the franchise over-reaching in its attempts to be both grounded and socially relevant. Meanwhile, Waltz likewise fell victim to subpar scripting, which struggled to effectively introduce an out-and-out supervillain into the more subdued milieu of the rebooted canon.
6 Get Right: Grounded Tone
Don’t get us wrong: we love the OTT sensibilities of the first 20 entries in the James Bond canon. However, that often goofy vibe simply wasn’t going to fly in a post-Jason Bourne landscape – which is why Eon Productions was smart to recalibrate the franchise’s tone to match the more grounded approach seen in author Ian Fleming’s original novels.
Admittedly, the execution hasn’t exactly been flawless. Quantum of Solace is an unforgivably dour affair, while Spectre goes too far in the opposite direction, teetering perilously close to the quasi-cartoonishness that undermined Pierce Brosnan’s later 007 exploits. Still, at their best, the Craig-era films have been as well-balanced tonally as the cocktails enjoyed by Bond himself.
5 Get Wrong: Sexual Politics
As you’d expect from a franchise that’s been running for almost six decades, there are aspects of the James Bond formula that are problematic by today’s standards. Take 007’s infamous amorous escapades: while it wouldn’t be a Bond movie without the iconic superspy bedding attractive women with near-superhuman ease, often this is done at the expense of creating one-dimensional female characters.
In fairness, Daniel Craig’s incarnation of Bond is among the most progressive – and his tragic relationship with Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale is genuinely moving. Yet the sexual encounter between 007 and former sex slave Sévérine in Skyfall was so appallingly misjudged, it’s impossible not to mark down Craig’s entire tenure as a result. Here’s hoping No Time To Die – which underwent a script polish by Phoebe Waller-Bridge – can redeem the Craig-era as far as sexual politics is concerned.
4 Get Right: Stripped Back Gadgets
Ingenious espionage-enabling gizmos have been a mainstay of the Bond franchise ever since Dr. No, so much so that it’s impossible to imagine 007 entering the fray without any. But while these gadgets are a lot of fun, by the time Pierce Brosnan’s Bond started rolling around in an invisible car in Die Another Day, it was time to dial back the ridiculousness just a smidge.
That explains why Daniel Craig’s take on cinema’s most famous secret agent has access to a markedly less advanced arsenal of clandestine contraptions than his forerunners. Gone are the overpowered toys of yesteryear like laser-emitting wristwatches – this 007 gets by with radio transmitters and palm-recognition equipped revolvers (not to mention his quick wits and even quicker fists).
3 Get Wrong: Bond’s Backstory
Full disclosure: we’re firmly in the camp of Bond fans who found Spectre a bit disappointing, in large part because it digs deeper into 007’s formative years. Frankly, Bond’s childhood isn’t something we think needs exploring – we’re less interested in who Bond is now than when he was wearing braces.
Sure, alluding to the superspy’s upbringing in Casino Royale and Skyfall added welcome depth to his character, hinting at who Bond is behind his bowties and bravado. However, the misguided decision to retcon 007’s archnemesis Blofeld as his long-lost adopted brother in Spectre was hackneyed storytelling that not only revealed far too much about Bond’s childhood, but made his world seem implausibly small, as well.
2 Get Right: Fight & Stunt Choreography
For a spy series built more around action than stealth, the James Bond franchise hasn’t always boasted the finest fight choreography out there. On the contrary, Sean Connery’s 007 was a rudimentary brawler at best, and while George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan did little to raise the bar any higher, Roger Moore’s “judo” moves were so laughably bad, they were mercilessly lampooned across all three Austin Powers flicks!
By contrast, the Bond of the Daniel Craig movies is clearly well-versed in the type of mixed martial arts techniques a guy in his line of work would be expected to know. Thanks to Craig’s fighting prowess and the rebooted series’ commitment to practical stunt work over CGI wherever possible, the action scenes in 007’s last four missions are superior to those in the previous 20 combined.
1 Get Wrong: Villainous Plots
If there’s an area in which the rebooted Bond franchise’s commitment to more grounded storytelling has backfired, it’s the “Evil Scheme” department – it turns out more realism means lower stakes. Take Dominic Greene’s conspiracy to oust the Bolivian government by stockpiling the country’s water in Quantum of Solace: this was clumsy social commentary that merely masqueraded as a Bond villain’s plan – good luck actually connecting with it on a purely visceral level.
Then there was Blofeld’s muddled two-pronged ploy in Spectre, which melded vague world domination aims with personal revenge to unsatisfactory effect. Indeed, only baddies Le Chiffre and Silva manage to devise small scale strategies – funding global terrorism through gambling and bringing MI6 to its knees through cyberterrorism, respectively – capable of raising viewers’ heart rates.