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9/22/2021 • 5 min read
One of the big questions that have existed throughout all of the James Bond movies is "are these one big story or many separate chapters?" For the most part, the James Bond movies seem to be standalone stories… except when they're not.
A variety of villains and other characters have carried over from movie to movie throughout the years. George Lazenby's Bond is married and then made a widower in ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE, and that event is referenced in multiple Bond movies that followed. Characters like Ernst Stavro Blofeld and Felix Leiter have appeared in many movies, with Roger Moore's Bond embarking on a mission of revenge against Blofeld for killing the woman that Lazenby's Bond married.
The Daniel Craig run of Bond movies began before the Marvel Cinematic Universe made interconnected stories the default mode for Hollywood. But the question still remains: are the Daniel Craig bond movies all one big story, or loosely connected individual stories? The answer is… both. As Craig's final Bond outing, NO TIME TO DIE, is set for release, let's look back at the Daniel Craig James Bond storyline.
Let's start at Daniel Craig's Bond beginning. In CASINO ROYALE, which is based on the first bond novel by author Ian Fleming, Bond is reintroduced as a callous killer who is on the verge of earning his 00 status. While the movie's nominal villain is gambler/terrorist Le Chiffré (Mads Mikkelsen), the truly important characters are Vesper Lynde (Eva Green), a treasury agent working with Bond to find Le Chiffré but is actually a double agent, and Le Chiffré's associate Mr. White (Jesper Christensen).
Vesper is working as a double agent to protect Bond, and while they defeat the gambler, Vesper dies, leaving Bond bereft. The last communication from Vesper leads Bond to Mr. White, and his mission of revenge begins immediately in the next movie.
Following up on the clues left by Vesper, Bond tracks down Mr. White, and that in turn leads him to a larger terrorist organization: Quantum. Is Quantum basically a stand-in for long-running Bond villain organization SPECTRE? Almost certainly! But at that point, the legal entanglements which prevented the producers from using certain characters and names had not been resolved. And so SPECTRE could not appear in the movie. Enter: Quantum. Le Chiffré and Mr. White were both working for Quantum, and this movie introduces Dominic Green, an industrialist and Quantum member who seeks to control key resources in order to gain power.
This movie went into production on the eve of a writer's strike. That left QUANTUM OF SOLACE in a bit of a pickle, as the script couldn't evolve. And so the movie helps define the overall character of Craig's movies. It is a standalone mission in that Bond isn't really acting in an official capacity for much of the movie. But it is also connected to the other films because it begins immediately after CASINO ROYALE ends, and is structured in part around a desire for revenge spurred by events in the previous movie.
Craig's Bond movies all involve a couple of key themes. One is the dehumanization of Bond himself, as we see the agent struggle to connect with anything other than his instinctual flair for violence. His emotional connections with other people are tenuous at best, and when he does commit to someone, as with Vesper Lynde, the results are disastrous. That is scaled up into the larger theme of corrupt government structures. If an agent like Bond, who reflects the intents and character of the government, is barely human, how can the government itself possibly act in any human or moral manner?
And so we have SKYFALL, in which we find that Silva (Javier Bardem), a former 00 agent, has become a Quantum terrorist with a massive grudge against M. Silva believes he was betrayed by M, and he seeks to destroy the entire MI6 structure as a result. While SKYFALL is only slightly related to the two previous films in a direct sense, it does maintain Bond's core character as a killing machine who is increasingly troubled by loss and alienation. That is underlined by a visit to Bond's adoptive childhood home, which sets up both his youthful isolation and a major character death that leaves him alone once again. Or so it seems, until the next movie.
Once again an even-numbered Daniel Craig sequel begins with the character chasing down clues left by a woman who died in the previous movie. In this case, M has provided information that leads Bond to discover that Quantum is merely part of a larger terrorist organization called SPECTRE. Yes, real-world legal entanglements were resolved by the time this movie went into production, which means that SPECTRE and its chief officer, Ernest Stavro Blofeld, could finally appear again.
SPECTRE provides the glue that ties together all the previous Daniel Craig movies; all of his former adversaries have worked for the same organization. Blofeld's original name is Franz Oberhauser, and his parents adopted the orphaned James Bond as a child. The conflict between Bond and Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) began in their youth. The jealous Oberhauser boy murdered his own father, setting him on the path to becoming a criminal mastermind as an adult. Meanwhile, Bond meets and falls for Dr. Madeline Swann (Lea Seydoux). Swann is the daughter of none other than Mr. White. (Get it? White… Swann.)
And so SPECTRE has Bond's broken family and the would-be hero attacked and betrayed by someone who should be close to him. At the same time, the character is attracted to and seeks redemption through love with someone who is intrinsically related to the forces which seek to destroy him. And that sets up the new movie, NO TIME TO DIE. It also leaves one overarching question.
As CASINO ROYALE shows Bond earning his 00 status, and SKYFALL and SPECTRE definitively establish "James Bond" as a person rather than a code name, the easiest way to look at the Craig run is as an extended prequel where at least CASINO ROYALE and QUANTUM OF SOLACE take place before DR. NO. The timeline doesn't entirely line up, because these movies are planned and written one at a time (for the most part) rather than designed as a long, elaborate story sequence.
For instance, Judi Dench played M in GOLDENEYE and then returned to play the character in several of Craig's movies. But the two versions of M have different real names, casting doubt on the notion that Dench's M is the same character who interacts with two different Bond actors. And in SKYFALL, Bond's Aston Martin DB5 is in storage. Does that mean that the events of GOLDFINGER, where Bond first got that car, are in the past for Craig's version of the character? Or is the car in storage as a meta-commentary on Bond's movie past? There's no official word either way! You get to decide, for now. Perhaps NO TIME TO DIE will offer some more explicit explanation of the James Bond story continuity.
All images courtesy of MGM, Sony Pictures, and United Artists.
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