It's been awhile since I wrote one of these. Nothing appears to have changed, production-wise, but it's time to address the orange-haired elephant in the room.
Following the release of Danel Craig's fourth Bond film Spectre there were the usual cries for renewal. Craig was too old, the movie wasn't good, other movies were doing it better. Over a year after its release, I am struck by a more existential notion: in the wake of Brexit, Trump and the wave of nationalistic populism sweeping the globe, is his version of Bond outdated?
Just as Brosnan's Bond was made redundant by 9/11, did the events of 2016 do the same for Craig's? As much as I love Craig, and would like him to end his run on a strong note, I think his time has passed.
Post-2016, the idea of Idris Elba, or just of a Bond of colour, feels necessary if this character is going to have any relevance going forward.
James Bond is the most enduring figure of an old tradition, the British spy thriller. Originally a literary genre in which genteel Englishmen foil the plans of dastardly foreigners trying to destroy western civilisation. This racist aspect of the genre, present in the novels featuring Bulldog Drummond and Fu Manchu, was replicated in Ian Fleming's books, through villains such as Mr Big in Live and Let Die and the eponymous Dr. No.
While the films broke from this race-based dichotomy, the underlying ideological framework has remained largely in place. In the current environment we have now -- of hyper-nationalism and rising economic inequality -- that framework, while considerably diluted from its source material, is extremely problematic. On top of that, having a blonde haired, blue-eyed Bond in 2017-2018 seems archaic.
This situation is not new. The Bond series has adapted to previous shifts in world events (the Cold War; 9/11), and it can do so again. But that might mean Daniel Craig's iteration has to make for another take that helps the franchise avoid spiralling into irrelevance. In a post-Trump world, a black Bond is not so much a gimmick as it is an opportunity to re-frame Bond's underlying ideology: who does the defender of the status quo stand for when the status quo has disappeared?
Colour-blind casting of Bond may raise some hackles, but a) nothing in the character requires him to be white and b) there is no set character of Bond. His most common attributes (the guns, gadgets and women) are all cosmetic. All of the actors who have previously played Bond never played the character. Furthermore, the franchise has shown no fidelity to anything -- there is almost no continuity between movies, characters are re-cast frequently, and every movie feels like a reaction to the success/failure of its immediate predecessor.
The final point of this rant is that when it comes to Bond, anything is possible. If Idris Elba or someone else is cast as Bond, it does not matter. Just so long as the movie is good.
Previous BOND 25 rants
If Daniel Craig Returns