I'd agree that the series itself certainly felt 'different' after picking up with GOLDENEYE. And to me at least LTK's winking fish always hinted at more than just the end of a Bond film. But I actually find it hard to rate-rank the Brosnan films in the same league as the Craig ones. Not because there is an evident rise in quality - which there is - or because the central character is supposed to be 'rebooted' with CASINO ROYALE. My difficulties with this task stem more from a feeling that Craig's entries seem to aim for a different experience that's not merely the sum of thecarthewatchthebirdsthestuntsthenumberyouknowtherest. Although that evidently is still part of the game. But with Craig and CR one extra dimension seems to have been added, something that previous films didn't actually involve. So I feel the task at hand isn't exactly fair towards Brosnan, or the predecessors for that matter.
I completely agree. There's a real attempt in the Craig era to not simply give us what has come before. It's an intangible quality that transcends simply making the next installment in a franchise and making sure to tic off the proper boxes on the list.