So SPECTRE is out this year, and I think chances are we will be getting a fifth Craig Bond film (MAYBE even a sixth). But we are, with each passing year, nearing the point where the Craig era eventually ends, and the producers (and the rest of us, who love to speculate about the franchise all day long!) will have to seriously start considering how they want to move forward with the next Bond.
It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that Craig's Bond is the most developed and well-realized version of the character. His Bond is the first one on screen to really be explored psychologically, to have a real backstory, and to have a defined arc of sorts. We see him start out as a rookie 00 agent in his first film, see him suffer heartbreak and betrayal and become hardened into the charismatic machine we all know and love, see him broken down and rebuild himself and confront his past and move ever closer to being a 21st century version of the 'original' cinematic Bond embodied by Sean Connery.
Indeed, looking at the Craig era from a pseudo-chronological perspective, the first two films were an origin story, and Skyfall served as a distant coda to the origin and brought us right to the edge of the Connery era (indeed, the final scene of Skyfall could very well have led into the opening of Dr. No!) With SPECTRE, we're firmly in a 21st century version of the Connery era, not just literally with the film's plot and villains (as well as other call-backs and visual cues like the white tuxedo from Goldfinger, Bond seeing an assassin's widow at his funeral etc.) but also in terms of where Craig's Bond is psychologically at this point. He truly is the suave, sophisticated secret agent, the well-oiled machine, that Sean Connery embodied. The 'origin' is finally over and his evolution is complete. The 'golden age' of Bond is back again!
But with all this evolution, the question remains - where exactly will the series go post-Craig? Will it be some attempt to continue the Craig era? Will there be another reboot, implicit or explicit? Will the Craig era be considered one self-contained arc and we just go back to random stand-alone films? And how will the new Bond differ from Craig's Bond (and is it necessary for him to be that different?)
So here's my suggestion for the new era...
Essentially, I think what we need is a 21st century reinvention of the Moore Bond.
Yes, I know Moore's Bond is often considered to be a low-point for the franchise in retrospect. Personally though, I firmly believe he delivered at least two great movies (LALD and TSWLM) and a couple of reasonably good ones apart from those. And its difficult to fault Moore's performance. He achieved pretty much what he set out to achieve - present Bond as the perfect, charming 'gentleman spy' who was ready to get his hands dirty but would do so with the perfect manners.
The reason why I want the next Bond to channel a bit of Moore is because of a theory I've personally had for a while. Now continuity was never an issue with the Bond films until relatively recently, but its pretty clear that Moore's Bond was supposed to be a continuation of Connery's Bond. So I wondered why Bond would go from being the sophisticated hunter of the Connery era to the somewhat whimsical gentleman adventurer of the Moore era...and what I came up with is that by the time of the Moore era, Bond was using the humor and light-heartedness as a coping mechanism.
Connery's Bond was Bond at his prime. He was basically a 'superman' as far as the world of espionage and covert ops went. He brought down SPECTRE and Blofeld. He tussled with the likes of Dr No, Goldfinger and Largo (not to mention Rosa Klebb and Grant). He was coolness and awesomness personified.
By the time of Moore's Bond though, we have an older wearier Bond past his prime. This is a Bond who's been widowed, a Bond who's realized that his life is an endless treadmill of over-the-top foes and international adventure. The only way he can really stay sane in his middle-age and carry on being 007 (because there really isn't much else in his life) is to psychologically take a step back from the reality of his spy-life...in other words, basically stop taking his life and job so damn seriously! So he smiles and makes stupid jokes and beds women and acts like the perfect gentleman while saving the world, because he really thinks its a game now in his head...its the only way he can psychologically survive.
Now this is just a subtext I derived, but I would be really intrigued if this was actually explored with the next Bond actor. Make him a continuation of the Craig Bond. Envision him as the Craig Bond, years later, older and wearier, who's seen and done it all, and now doesn't even take it so seriously anymore. Except that this time, people may call out Bond on it, or Bond may be forced to introspect on this sense of denial. And there may be a few meta-jokes on how things are getting a bit over-the-top in the films again. Indeed, the whole thing could be a meta-commentary on how people want relatively light-hearted and action-packed blockbusters today as escapism from the troubles and darkness of the real world.
The seeds of this idea are already present in the SPECTRE trailer scene where Bond admits that "I don't stop to think about it" when asked about the darkness and relentless danger and violence of his life.