Every one of the Bond movies thus far have ended with a title card that said 'JAMES BOND WILL RETURN'.
It goes without saying but, obviously, don't read on any further if you haven't yet seen 'No Time To Die' because, naturally, spoilers are plentiful from here on out.
Anyway, in a few of the movies, it even had the title ready to go. 'No Time To Die' had this title card at the end of the credits, except there's one minor detail that is probably worth mentioning and why we talked about spoilers at the start of this piece. James Bond dies at the end of 'No Time To Die'. Yes, you read that correctly. He's all kinds of dead by the end of the movie. As in, he's blown to bits by missiles launched from a ship. He's ceased to be James Bond. He is an ex-spy. He has passed on and gone to meet his maker.
Hard resets in the Bond franchise are nothing new, of course. From Pierce Brosnan's post-Cold War antics up to War On Terror-Bond, the nature of the beast is that he reflects the times he lives in. There's been a prevailing theory for years that James Bond, like 007, was merely a codename. 'Skyfall', sadly, put paid to that theory when it explicitly named Bond's parents as Andrew and Monique Delacroix Bond. More than that, it wouldn't make sense to flip the script so thoroughly and place - God forbid - a woman into Bond's shoes. Why would it make sense to have a Jane Bond, when Lashana Lynch's character, Nomi, expertly took over as 007 in his retirement?
'No Time To Die' benefitted from having the ability to conclude various characters, including Felix Leiter, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, but also introduce new ones like Mathilde Swann-Bond, and of course, a new 007. Yet, for all of the talk of how emotionally resonant its ending was, and how it gave Daniel Craig a send-off from the franchise that he helped to revitalise, the question remains - what now, Mr. Bond?
The producers thus far have made it clear that there will be absolutely no discussions about Daniel Craig's replacement for at least a year, and this makes sense. For one, 'No Time To Die' will have to travel the globe for its box office haul and whatever deal is struck with streaming services will also mean that it will have to stay fresh in people's minds, and keeping the replacement off in the distance will help with that. Yet, after this time has passed, where can Bond go now? It would seem - for the moment, at least - that there are only two meaningful options in place.
The first option would be to throw Bond all the way back to the fifties, or even the sixties, and refresh Ian Fleming's literary works with new directors but essentially cover the same ground. You have the benefit of new technologies for filmmaking, but they're the same stories as before. Maybe Bond leaving the Navy to become an MI6 agent, or even him fighting in World War II as a young man. This might seem like it's gravedigging a cultural institution, but consider that there's an entire generation of cinema audiences who probably haven't gone back and watched 'From Russia With Love' or 'You Only Live Twice' with its bizarre yellowface moments, not to mention the painfully outdated interactions with women across these movies.
The second option, and perhaps the most logical one, would be to merely move on from James Bond altogether. 007 is still a codename that is in use, and going by 'No Time To Die', Nomi is a valuable asset to MI6 and so too is Paloma, played with vibrancy and humour by Ana DeArmas. Would it be so hard to imagine a female super-spy? Absolutely not. And given how 'No Time To Die' laid the groundwork, it's a wasted opportunity not to put the character of Nomi back into action for another movie and bring a freshness to the franchise. After all, it's still 007? Why not take this chance?
Of course, this would require a reinvention of the entire franchise and James Bond - as much as the character has been reinvented numerous times - is one that firmly sticks to its guns in almost everything else. This isn't the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where actors can run out their contracts and be replaced by another with quick ease. It's a one-tuxedo show, everything else orbits it. There are beautiful women, there are Aston Martins, there are drink orders, there are tuxedos, and there is James Bond. More than that, 'No Time To Die' and the producers - Eon Productions, specifically - would not have put that title card in there if it didn't already know that they wanted to bring Bond back.
Yet, we're forced to ask, should they bring Bond back? Hasn't Bond run its course, now that it was given a satisfactorily emotional ending and we as a society have evolved past some of his tendencies? Doesn't bringing him back ruin that ending, or at the very least cheapen the audience reaction to it? Whatever comes of the next chapter of Bond, it can't go back on itself like it's done in the past. Each new character ignored the previous one, yes, but it was never so final in its conclusion as this. There was a sense that Bond simply existed on a sliding timescale, ever-present with a quip. Now that 'No Time To Die' has drawn a definitive line under this presence, at least for the moment, whatever follows will have to undo that.