Over 45 years, the Bond franchise has been consistently reinvented and reinvigorated to appeal to contemporary audiences. Over time, however, the series has grown somewhat stale and formulaic. Yet with Die Another Day becoming the highest grossing of the franchise, the landmark 20th entry proved that the character still had legs despite the critical appeal of earlier films being all but non-existent. Even the producers realised the films had become too CGI-heavy, neglecting plot for spectacle, and with the success of the first two Bourne films it became apparent that post 9/11 cinema-goers were ready for a more down to earth hero. The decision was made to take Bond back to his roots.
After much deliberation and outcry from fans, the blonde-haired, rough-faced Daniel Craig debuted as the sixth Bond in 2006’s Casino Royale. It was helmed by veteran Bond director Martin Campbell, who previously reinvigorated the franchise eleven years earlier with Goldeneye. The gamble to reboot the franchise proved worthwhile when the film became the highest-grossing in the series and achieved almost unanimous critical acclaim.
The plot of an unscrupulous banker fixing the stock market in order to finance world terrorist organisations proved highly relevant. Successfully managing to find the balance between well-choreographed action sequences and engaging espionage, the screenplay took the greatest ingredients from the previous movies and added much-needed “real emotion” to the character of Bond, giving him a sense of credibility that garnered sympathy and, for the first time, there was also an open ending to be continued in subsequent films. But its greatest strength was in its casting – not just Craig, who delivered the dialogue with a sharp wit and suaveness not seen since Connery – but also Eva Green as fellow agent Vesper Lynd, herself strong, sophisticated and very much an equal to Bond, unlike previously more empty-headed Bond girls.
Craig reprised his role in 2008’s Quantum of Solace, but falling victim to the writers’ strike, Craig describes how he and director Marc Forster were forced to write several scenes themselves. Solace continues directly where its predecessor left off, but without a polished screenplay the story felt lacklustre and at times confusing. Seemingly trying to emulate the handheld shooting style of The Bourne Ultimatum, the action scenes were too frantic and failed to capture the same adrenaline and excitement. Its biggest triumph is the teasing of an enigmatic organisation, which appears to have infiltrated intelligence agencies and governments across the globe yet manages to stay under the radar; an intriguing concept that will hopefully be developed in the new instalment, Skyfall.
Skyfall marks the 23rd film in the Bond franchise and the stakes couldn’t be higher. A highly impressive creative team lies behind it, boasting talent such as Academy Award-winning director Sam Mendes (American Beauty), as well as frequent collaborators in composer Thomas Newman and cinematographer Roger Deakins. The cast could hardly be stronger, featuring Bond newcomers Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney as well as returning stars Craig and Judi Dench as M. Undoubtedly one of the best crews behind a Bond film to date and with a host of stunning teasing trailers already showing off Deakins’ unique visual eye, this looks like a return to form. The major question however is whether Mendes, who has only dabbled with larger budgets, will be able to pull off a great action spectacle while maintaining the small character moments and drama he’s known for. If he does achieve this, the film could potentially elevate the series and surpass the high bar set by Casino Royale.