Tuesday night, Daniel Craig revealed to Stephen Colbert that he would, indeed, play James Bond again. But we knew that already.
The new 007 film, title TBA, is a do-over for Craig, whose legacy rests on his potential to star in just one more mission as spectacular as Casino Royale and Skyfall. Craig’s latest Bond flick, Spectre, was a mess. Released two years ago, Spectre flushed all the goodwill that Craig and the director Sam Mendes had won from audiences with Skyfall on a scatter-brained internal-affairs caper that, despite its jet-setting to Mexico, Austria, and Morocco, is about as sexy and exotic as an episode of Sherlock. Quantum of Solace was a fluke failure; Spectre is where Daniel Craig’s Bond truly lost the plot. Upon its release, Spectre was rumored to be Craig’s final outing as Bond, which would have placed Craig securely into the cursed lineage of lead 007 actors whose parting films were spectacular disappointments in execution, if not at the box office. “I just want to go out on a high note,” Craig told Colbert.
Historically, Bond actors all depart the 007 franchise at a critical nadir. Sean Connery’s final Bond film, Diamonds Are Forever, is his goofiest, memorable if only for one villain’s attempt to skewer Bond with a flaming kebab. Roger Moore’s final Bond film, A View to a Kill, is an absurd Silicon Valley romp in which Christopher Walken (!) plays a Nazi clone turned KGB agent (?) who travels via blimp (!). Timothy Dalton’s second, and last, Bond film, License to Kill, is a strange, off-brand, wannabe Steven Seagal movie about Mexican drug runners. Pierce Brosnan’s final Bond film, Die Another Day, is the very worst of the series: a capitulation to every Austin Powers joke about the Bond franchise, basically, with the exception of one, and only one, respectable scene. These films aren’t just bad. They are the worst, and they tend to be the most absurd and most apparently expensive 007 films each actor gets to make. Spectre cost $245 million, making it the costliest Bond film to date, and one of the most expensive movies ever made. I shudder to think that MGM and Columbia Pictures will now, somehow, top that.
Craig’s casting aside, the rest of the film has yet to take shape. Mendes has said that he won’t be directing the next 007 film, and his replacement hasn’t been announced. So long as Daniel Craig doesn’t end up writing the next film’s script himself, as he did for Quantum of Solace, there’s hope for a high note after all.