It is undoubtedly depressing news that due to MGM's financial woes, the latest James Bond film has been indefinitely delayed. I know I was far from the only one looking forward to seeing what new director Sam Mendes would cook up for Daniel Craig's tortured, steely take on the iconic British spy. But chances are that even if money is found to put the project back into development, Mendes and Craig will most likely get snapped up by other projects in the meantime. Could this be the end of the Bond franchise?
If you tack on the phrase "as we know it" to the end of that question, then the answer is obviously a yes. Given the popularity of Craig's portrayal of Bond, it would be foolish for another actor to try to copy it. But the beauty of Bond is that he's always been bigger than the actor sporting the tux and the director telling him whose butt to kick. Over his 22-film career, James Bond has reinvented himself more times than Madonna. Film geeks will never quit debating which Bond was best, but that doesn't change the fact that this is one of those extremely rare characters audiences don't mind seeing new and fresh takes on. (As Bryan Singer and Brandon Routh will surely tell you, even Superman can't make that claim.)
It could even be argued that the only way to keep this franchise timeless is to let Craig step aside. For 20 films, Bond was a stagnant character. All we knew about him was that he loved gadgets, martinis, and women; but he was so cool we didn't mind his superficiality. Giving him an origin story (and inner pain) was an inspired idea in Craig's first Bond film, Casino Royale, but it was already starting to become troublesome in the next installment, Quantum of Solace. For the first time in franchise history, fans were expecting a Bond film to actually continue a story from where it left off. This meant people actually began to question if Bond's actions were realistic (how could he hook up with that chick when he's clearly still not over Vespa???). They expected resolution to lingering questions from Casino Royale, and further development of Bond's character. They hoped to see him find peace after everything he went through, and that is something Bond can never have in order for the franchise to continue.
Although it was great to see Bond grow and change for once, it also meant that one day his story would have to come to an end. Daniel Craig's James Bond may prove to be impossible to follow. People may look at the character differently now that we've actually learned a few things about him. But if he's absent from our movie screens for a few years, people may start to miss him enough to welcome a new iteration of the character. (MGM will certainly start to miss the money he brings in). The tuxedos, the cool cars, and the iconic theme music will all be welcomed back onto the big screen. Some new action franchise will come along that a filmmaker will want to use James Bond to copy, just as they used The Bourne Supremacy as inspiration for Casino Royale. But my suggestion to whoever ends up tackling the next reinvention of James Bond is to only wink at the revelations of Daniel Craig's version. The franchise, and the fans, will need some distance.