15 October 2021 562 Views

#FLEMINGFRIDAY: Can we now talk of a ‘Craig Era’ in the 007 Film Series?

by James Murphy

Answer: Yes. Unless he agrees to do a sixth film. He won’t. So Daniel’s five movies, over 15 years (well, 14, technically but anyway) = a time period; a cultural sequence and yes..an ‘ERA’. End of ๐Ÿ˜‰ย 

 

Last week, I made clear that though I tried to give up Bond after NO TIME TO DIE, I simply could not do so. The film itself is a triumph. I happen to loathe its ending, unearned faux sentiment and misreading of what makes Bond ‘bond’ with audiences. Fact is, a LOT of thought clearly went into this 25th Bond movie. Perhaps too much? Which explains its overstretch in tone.

In that sense, the latest 007 adventure is both a perfect closure to and summation of the Daniel Craig ‘era’. The tenure in question has strengths galore but overdone, those became weaknesses and assets were reversed into liabilities. That said, there is no taking away from what was good and even great in the 5 film mini-series.

  • THE GOO7D

Daniel spoke like James Bond. His voice could be Fleming’s, onscreen. He’s that good a match. It was like watching living narration: the page and written word, made real / ‘reel’. I always knew that would be the case, having been ‘wowed’ by Archangel, Sylvia and Enduring Love.ย 

Also: watch LAYER CAKE:ย Daniel has two distinct moments of Bond/Fleming like delivery. The opening exposition on the drug trade could have been delivered in M’s office at a mission briefing. And when the Serb gangster phones up Daniel and asks where he lives (‘Come round for coffee and orange juice..do you know where I live? No? Well FUCK OFF!’). Pure 007!

Throw in his basic bodily architecture being made for work outs and muscular metamorphosis, genuinely pulp hero ‘look’ and conviction at playing world weary, substantial, witty, British icons /academics/field men? And it’s very simple. Yes. Daniel Craig is certainly a contender for ‘Best James Bond’ and that was even before he had shot a scene IN a Bond film! The qualities outlined ran through each 007 movie featuring this particular leading man. And I would love to hear him one day do audio recordings of some Ian Fleming novels /short stories.

    • THE BAD?ย 

The entire world and their aunt now knows how highly I rate Barbara Broccoli as a producer. And this article has already sung the praises of Daniel Craig. But sycophancy gets zero points. Nowt wrong with being critical. And in any event? It’s not anyone’s ‘fault’ that something fails to work for everyone on a Bond movie.

Remember that EON Productions must answer to TWO studios (thereby ironically making Amazon’s acquisition of MGM all the sweeter as it reduces the number of cooks in the kitchen). But in the last 15 years, team 007 had to accommodate: Sony, Universal and MGM at various stages. Not easy to pursue a single vision amidst those pressures. And alas, it shows, on occasion, in the Craig era.

I adore SKYFALL, but its 4 year gap from (and underrated btw)ย QUANTUM OF SOLACE was a product of various studio politics and rights negotiations. That enabled a soft reboot of sorts under Sam Mendes’ direction, but thereby destroyed any sense of tonal continuity between Craig’s 007 movies. Even then, certain creative latitude was given and perhaps, too much?

Bond is not an auteur production. Yes, you can have the occasional shake up shock move but you cannot aim to have EVERY film aim to be different or developmental because that, ironically enough, is more stale than simply rehearsing journeyman formula films.

Equally, while 007 must remain market friendly, the trick is to bring James Bond to the genre crazes of the hour, rather than have the trends subsume his movies. That was ALWAYS the case. Connery’s original outings in the role owe much to Alfred Hitchcock yet remain their own beast. Roger Moore took in blaxploitation, kung fu and star wars level sci-fi. But they were always BOND.

By contrast? Daniel Craig’s films echo Jason Bourne, The Dark Knight and Marvel movie motifs, directly.

IE: The Craig ‘era’ such as it is, merges an overreaching philosophical ambition to ‘deconstruct’ 007 and subvert the sub-genre, with a slavish adherence to rival formulae. That is why you get Blofeld being Bond’s lost step brother. And also why you get THAT ending for NO TIME TO DIE.

Always well made, and executed beautifully. But also, lost in terms of identity and cultural conviction, at once embracing and shunning commercial certainty; so blurring the audience’s ability to judge this ‘era’ with any real consistency. In trying to make Bond movies ‘connect’? The Craig era became the most disjointed in the series’ history.

  • THE QUITE SO STYLISHLY..

People THINK the Craig era abandoned style in favour of substance. Well yes, to some extent. But also, no. Look closely and there is plenty of sartorial elegance, humour, wit, class and FUN. It’s the little things. Like how Daniel adjusts a cufflink or tosses items casually around a room.

He captured the sense of self assured confidence and absolute determination that Bond possesses as a character and that is key to the allure of the whole franchise. It was done in quite subtle and momentary ways but therein lies one of the era’s defining strengths. There are verbal and visual motifs on offer and one cannot help but feel perhaps those have worked their way into our cultural consciousness and its shorthand, indefinitely. ‘Yes, considerably’!

MORE ON THIS NEXT WEEK. JAMES BOND WILL RTEURN. NO TIME TO DIE IS IN CINEMAS NOW AND IS PERFORMING JUST NICELY, THANK YOU. HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND. TRANSMISSION ENDS. X

 



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