After a long journey of pain and action, the era of Daniel Craig has ended. The actor who starred in the five film tenure has retired and hung his suit, along with his legacy. The long awaited film, No Time to Die, was finally released on October 8, and onto the big screens after being withheld due to the pandemic. It is placed on the 3rd highest grossing film of 2020/2021, crossing the $700,000,000 mark, dominating box office records and estimations. But its biggest achievement was how Daniel Craig has redefined the entire franchise.
It’s no secret that Daniel’s persona won the hearts of many, along with Queen Elizabeth’s admiration. What Daniel did was show that James Bond can be vulnerable, that he can feel and experience loss. The amount of scenes that show his past and how it affects him. He saves the world many times, but actions have severe consequences, and he pays the price with loss. It makes the Bond we know human, that his active service causes permanent damage and lifelong trauma.
From his first film, Casino Royale, Daniel Craig faced backlash because he wasn’t black haired with dark eyes. Many were skeptical of what he brought to the poker table: blonde hair and blue eyes, no major hit movies and no memorable roles. With charming and witty comebacks, he changed the thoughts of those who doubted Daniel Craig with the antagonist, Le Chiffre. But what helped him become the James Bond we adore was his love interest, Vesper Lynd, a remarkable character who challenged the stereotypes of past Bond women. With both characters evolving together, James Bond was born and Craig was praised for his acting, many claiming he is the James Bond.
Quantum of Solace continues right after the ending of Casino Royale, a personal mission to avenge his lover. He goes through questions and doubts as to who exactly caused all of this, and why? Falling deeper into a pit of madness, he sets out to find his answers. With only a lighter to navigate through the dark, on a hunt for the blackmailers, he comes across a bigger threat: Dominc Green, a ruthless businessman, who wants to take control of a vital natural resource.
The third film, Skyfall, was the highest grossing movie of the franchise, earning over $1.1 billion in the box office. The film shows that actions have consequences; an agent, played by Javier Bardem, goes rogue and terrorizes his once-colleagues and friends. A brilliant anecdote, introducing one of James Bond’s best villains, brings the viewer to a state of sympathy, which is unusual. You can feel some sort of empathetic tone as they speak to one another, and you can feel the rage the villain brings. You would want to understand his mindset, his now changed views of the agency he once gave up his life for.
Spectre, the fourth film of the era, addresses what James Bond has been through, the pain and the agonizing loneliness all coming together to the leader of it all. The antagonist, Ernst Starvo Blofeld, played by Oscar winner Chirstoph Waltz, is revealed to be the leader of a secret organization. James Bond faces his greatest enemy: his past. He battles with the hurt and fists that he built up throughout the films, to finally reveal the cause of everything he has been through. By his side, another love interest, Madeleine Swann, opens his heart as they spend more time together, sharing what they have left in order to feel whole.
No Time to Die, the final film, was Daniel Craig’s last movie for the franchise. After Bond’sservice, retiring with Madeline Swann, he looks back. The creeping feeling of violence and dread looms over him, never feeling safe enough to settle down. Secrets are surrounding and clouding every sense he has left, shutting out the pleas and begs. He faces another villain, Safek, played by Oscar winner Rami Malek, but this time he’s from Madeleine’s past. With his final mission, he faces one of the most idealistic characters in the 25 film run.
Sue Stauffer, a virtual scholars teacher at Franklin High School, is a long time fan. Having been there since Pierce Bronson, she had some feelings of her own: “Daniel Craig definitely exceeded my expectations. I loved the action packed opening scene in Casino Royale. Having the blonde hair and the physic versus the swab, he brings the rough and tough to the character. There was a heavier take on the plot; there are more serious issues seen in the first one.” The films lean more to the emotional and darker take of a hero: “We seem to be having to feed the monster or more detail; the intensity of how they kill someone has stepped up. My favorite film was Casino Royale; the envelope was open, and it got a little bit teary. It fed the franchise in order for it to go on and on.”
Another teacher and longtime Bond fan at Franklin High School, Andrew VanDyke, expressed the same thoughts: “Overall, his five films helped James Bond evolve into something much more acceptable; Bond needed to evolve and I think Daniel Craig was the right actor to take him through the evolution. They redefined some of the characters, Naomi Harris as Moneypenny, Ben Whinshaw as Q, in a way that fits what a modern audience is looking for.” It’s not just the protagonist that needs to change, it’s also the way we view the other characters in the story. “To get academy award winners to play the villains, they bring another additional weight that we never saw in Bond villains before.”
Again, the films had to evolve, there had to be more plot, there had to be a deeper meaning. It shows actions from the past affect the Bond we all know today. The Bond women, Vesper Lynd and Madeline Swan, bring vulnerabilities instead of having a new love interest in each story. It shows a hero suffering from saving everyone but he can’t save himself. An orphan with nothing to lose, but everything to give, the sweet soundtracks that push awe and emotions.
Daniel Craig has drastically changed the franchise, pushing out the stereotypes of women and men, writing on the walls of expectations. The process of grief ties with him, sinking him further and further into a pit of nothing. His final ascent brings him the last martini and the last ride. Though we thought we had all the time in the world, it saddens many that this is it. Daniel Craig left a perfect example of evolution. So, we thank the writers and the directors, the stuntmen, the costume designers that brought each character to life. If you may, raise a martini or a vesper, because it’s been a pleasure, Daniel Craig. It’s been a pleasure, Mr. Bond.