True, the sober direction of the Craig films was an (understandable) reaction to the excesses of the Pierce Brosnan era, especially his swansong, Die Another Day. But the pendulum has swung too far in the Jason Bourne direction and there are correspondingly few laughs amid the disorientating car chases and hair-raising stunts. Though Craig brought a new vulnerability to the role, audiences rarely leave the cinema in stitches. Tellingly, Craig’s one old-school Bond moment occurred offscreen, in his cameo with the Queen in the London Olympics opening ceremony.
Craig fans scoff at the antics of Brosnan and Roger Moore. Yet their films, though often ridiculous, entertain in ways recent releases rarely manage. Who would go back for round two of Quantum of Solace? At its best, Bond can be simultaneously funny, thrilling, naughty and stylish (consider From Russia With Love), yet I’d take the Carry On humour of the Moore era, replete with Tarzan yells and double-taking pigeons, over a dour offering any day.
The direction of Star Wars under Disney, and particularly The Last Jedi, which sacrificed plot consistency for feminist propaganda, should remind us of the risks of appealing to the right-on over fans. For the latest instalment, Solo, millions stayed at home. Other woke remakes – including the all-female Ghostbusters – have similarly tanked at the box office.
Could things change under a new Bond? Rumours abound about possibilities for the lead role, from Tom Hardy to Benedict Cumberbatch. Based on Bond’s current trajectory, I predict a rather worthier line-up: Olivia Colman as Jane Bond, with Ken Loach directing, and George Clooney as Bond’s ally Felix Vaper (“Leiter” could be seen as endorsing smoking). And Q? Perhaps George Monbiot could be enticed away from the Guardian and onto the silver screen to dole out electric cars and help defeat the shady oil corporations, airline executives and other foils of the woke Bond era. Okay, I’m exaggerating. But how depressing that this outcome seems more likely than a return to Fleming’s source material, and the style and humour that once made Bond so irresistible.