Before 2006, James Bond movies didn’t require you to know what happened on 007’s previous mission. Yes, while the various films tend to reference each other, and pay respects to the events from the previous installments, that all changed with Casino Royale. Before it was hip to call things reboots, the first Daniel Craig James Bond film totally restarted the career of 007 and created a new, breathless, and hard-edged continuity to match. And now, with the last trailer for No Time to Die, the message is clear: This film will conclude the long and winding road that started 15 years ago with Casino Royale. More than any Bond film before it, No Time to Die is a true sequel to the last Bond film, Spectre, which, somehow, hit theaters a full six years ago.
In some senses, you can view the films in the Craig era in pairs, with Skyfall standing in the middle, a kind of reboot inside of a rebooted series. In Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, Bond was effectively dealing with the same bad guys. In fact, Quantum of Solace is unique insofar as it’s the only Bond movie that picks up just seconds after the previous film. In 2012, Skyfall changed all that, and was more introspective, notably ending the era of Judi Dench as “M” and repopulating the Craig era with old characters played by new actors, specifically Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), and Q (Ben Whishaw.) From there, we got Spectre, which resumed the work of creating narrative tendrils that connected the post-Casino Royale films together, and posited, like Agatha, that it was really Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) all along.
So, when the No Time to Die trailer proclaims: “It’s all been leading to this,” that is both true, and also, a little bit of a lie. In this film, we’re primed to meet an even bigger bad than Blofeld, in the form of Rami Malek, who looks a lot like Dr. No from the 1963 Bond movie Dr. No. But, was this guy really in the shadows 15 years ago? The goal of No Time to Die is to convince us that the answer to that question is 100 percent yes. And, depending on how well the movie pulls off that particular trick, will in some ways, color everyone’s perception of the Daniel Craig James Bond era.
Luckily, the movie looks pretty amazing, and even though this final trailer seems to spell out some kind of zombie-immorality scheme from Rami Malek’s character, finding out exactly what all this means is still tantalizing as hell. The real question is: Can the Bond franchise pull off a finale? The entire success of the franchise has always been predicated on those famous words that appear at the end of each film: James Bond Will Return. But this time, we know that this James Bond will not be returning, and that fact is actually the point of the entire film. If Bond dies or the film gives us some kind of massive sense of finality, the future of Bond beyond this outing feels up in the air. Deep down, we know there will be another Bond after Daniel Craig. But, if No Time to Die is truly the endmost point for James Bond right now, then the next person in the role will have a very, very tough act to follow.
No Time To Die hits theaters on October 8, 2021.
Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace are on Netflix. Skyfall is on Hulu. Spectre is available for rent. The full list of where James Bond streaming is here.
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