Much has been made of Daniel Craig’s now infamous wrist slashing quotes in the lead up to Spectre, his fourth outing as the British spy. Man took these quotes and the finality posited in Spectre to confirm Craig’s departure from the highly lucrative franchise. However, now Craig is turning those quotes around and alluding to one more outing as James Bond, presumably following a stern talking to by the people who pay his wages and own his contractually obligated arse.
Essentially, after weeks of sites reporting Craig’s disgust at filming yet another Bond movie and claiming Spectre to be his last, these same sites are claiming that Craig will be back as Ian Fleming’s secret service spy again. But the real question isn’t if Craig is coming back, he does have one film left on his contract, but rather should Craig come back as Bond?
This post will obviously reference Spectre and Craig’s tenure as Bond and should not be read by someone yet to experience the new Bond film. Beware of spoilers.
Financially, bringing Daniel Craig back makes perfect sense for MGM. Despite Spectre grossing less than Skyfall in its opening weeks, Spectre has grossed $73 million in its first week whilst Skyfall grossed $88 million, MGM and Sony are said to be very happy with Spectre’s performance and rightly so. Spectre opened against Peanuts in the United States and expectedly the nostalgic animation pulled some money from Spectre. Incidentally, Peanuts has gross $45 million in its opening weekend.
Daniel Craig has been a very bankable James Bond, with Skyfall breaking the £100 million mark at the UK box office, thus setting a record, and a total of $1 billion worldwide. Casino Royale, which arrived with many audiences still unsure on the casting of Craig as Bond, nearly grossed $600 million worldwide. Even Quantum of Disappointment grossed $580 million across the globe. It’s clear to see, however bad or good the movie, Craig’s James Bond movies have been a box office hit. MGM will look at this and Craig’s large wage demands and decide it’s a good decision to bring him back one last time. Indeed, Craig has said that if he does one more James Bond movie it will only be for the money.
Ironically, this brings me to Spectre and Daniel Craig’s performance. With a character like James Bond and the rich universe that surrounds him, it can actually be very easy to ignore the lead and focus on the supplementary cogs. I fell for this slip when viewing Spectre having been enchanted by its cinematography and Christoph Waltz’s giddy performance. On reflection, Craig wasn’t just lazy as James Bond, he was actually pretty bad.
Granted, Craig is the best Bond physically but emotionally and theatrically, he has fallen very far from his Skyfall/Casino Royale heights.
What makes Daniel Craig’s performance even worse in Spectre is the caliber of performer he has to act against and the substance he acts in. Sam Mendes and Director of Photography Hoyte Van Hoytema delivered some beautiful, engrossing and fluffy shots but Craig took this as an invitation to phone it in. Lea Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes and Ben Whishaw melted so well into their roles that Craig left the acting to them. Essentially, Craig’s performance boiled down to looking somber at just the right moments and keeping a sweaty straight face the next. When he needed to look worried it wasn’t his face it was the pre-applied sweat. When he needed to be funny it was the reactions of Whishaw and Naomi Harris respectively. When he needed to show pain it was actually seeing a needle drill into his head rather than his screams. He sleepwalked through this movie and I don’t want him to sleepwalk through another one, no matter how much they pay him.
And Craig reprising his role is not only potentially detrimental to the character but also the franchise and what it can offer the audience. Craig has participated, actually headed, four Bond films now. Sean Connery had six official Bond films, George Lazenby has but one, Roger Moore has seven, Timothy Dalton has two and Pierce Brosnan had four. The accepted Bonds, remember I said accepted not best, seem to stay in the role for four to six films before their films get too self-reflective and self-referential. Craig’s time is up. If he doesn’t even accept himself as Bond anymore, without a briefcase of money, why should we? And this isn’t some philosophical idea that actors should love their roles. Quite the contrary, Craig deserves the money he gets for Bond but MGM can pay another guy less money, use the Bond name, and capitalise on a greater profit.
It also makes sense narratively. Spectre ends with the misogynist James Bond walking away from the license to kill to walk off into the night with the woman he ‘loves’. Not only does that subvert everything James Bond is about, and not in a good way, it was a cop out ending to an otherwise haunting and beautiful movie. With Bond leaving his job and taking the classic Aston Martin, Craig’s time as Bond has a finality to it, despite the lunacy of its conclusion. MGM needs to take the franchise and bring another British star into it and change the tone a little. And don’t take the cop out and introduce a new spy with a new background who utilises the James Bond codename. Just skip over the same M and Q actors and push in the new star.
Alas, after all that waffle, no. No, Daniel Craig should absolutely not return as James Bond. It doesn’t make sense narratively or theatrically but finance and dollar, dollar bills always win over sense and intention.