WARNING: The following contains spoilers for No Time to Die, now in theaters.
No Time to Die is the swan song for Daniel Craig’s time in the role of James Bond. Coming up against the nefarious Safin (Rami Malek), Bond gets one last showcase of his skills and abilities before dying to save not just the world, but his unexpected family.
While it’s no secret that the character of James Bond will be eventually rebooted and Bond himself recast, it might be worth leaving the character alone for a time and use the opportunity to explore what the world of James Bond would actually be like without James Bond instead — which, after over half a century of the character, is an inherently interesting concept.
James Bond spends most of No Time to Die removed from the world of espionage that he once inhabited. Although he eventually has his position restored due to the severity of the situation MI6 has found themselves entangled within, Bond clearly has no genuine interest in returning to the world of murder and mayhem that he abandoned. He even gets multiple reminders about this, both in the form of new agents like Nomi (Lashana Lynch) taking up the fight and the deaths of his peers, like Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright). Bond himself is portrayed as exhausted throughout the film, forced repeatedly to abandon what could — and should — have been his ultimate retirement.
By the end of No Time to Die, Bond even finds himself forced to sacrifice his own life. After being exposed to a specific strain of the Heracles bioweapon that could easily slay his former lover, Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), and their daughter, Mathilde (Lisa-Dorah Sonnet), Bond elects to remain behind on Safin’s island base and ensure the destruction of the lab — at the cost of his own life, making sure the bioweapon dies with him and far away from his family. The film’s final moments see his remaining allies in MI6 drinking to his memory, while Swann tells Mathilde the story of her father and the work he did to protect the world and save lives.
There is no sudden plot twist that reverses Bond’s demise or reveals his miraculous survival. In fact, Bond’s death is more or less on-screen — annihilated in a hail of missiles. The end credits of the film suggest that James Bond will eventually return to big screens, likely in a new reboot that creates a new incarnation of the character and his world. But as with other blockbusters that share a similar tone like Logan and its treatment of an aged Wolverine, it might be worth allowing the character to rest for a time. Doing so would allow Craig’s final chapter as James Bond to resonate, giving his final sacrifice more meaning.
It could also allow the franchise to expand and grow without James Bond, focusing on the idea of 007 and what it means outside the classic character. Nomi could get a better spotlight for her position as MI6’s newest top agent — especially if she were to be paired with other new characters, such as the CIA agent Paloma (Ana de Armas). The world at large is shown as being furious with MI6’s unsanctioned attack on Safin’s base, which could present an exciting setting for a Bond-free MI6 to navigate.
There’s especially the prospect of what life could have in store for Mathilde, the daughter of Bond — a concept that could be used to richly explore plenty of potential storytelling avenues and set up the future of the Bond name without the 50-plus years of baggage that James Bond as a character carries. There’s plenty of ways to expand the universe, without cheapening the effect of Bond as a character effectively getting the ultimate bittersweet ending.
To see James Bond’s ultimate sacrifice, No Time to Die is in theaters now.
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