In essentially the only positive news to emerge from your TV on Tuesday, Daniel Craig confirmed on Colbert that he’ll return for one more go as James Bond, ending speculation by movie fans who’d been saying, “Jesus wept, can we tweet about something else other that Trump, because this nightmare never stops.” Prior to Craig’s hard yes, the 49-year-old Craig had spent a few years majestically waffling, saying that he was out, that he wanted to spend more time with his family and, descriptively, once that returning as Bond was subordinate to slashing his wrists.
But this is good news! We at the Loop are full Team Craig, at least until they get their s**t together and sign Idris Elba. (We’re even all in on “Logan Lucky,” which is the first time we’ve ever been quite this enthusiastic about something that involves both NASCAR and Kylo Ren.) So while we welcome this news in advance of Bond 25 in November 2019, let’s rank the Craig-Bond era so far:
5. Quantum of Solace (2008)
Bond Girl: Olga Kurylenko
Villain: Mathieu Amalric
Theme Song: “Another Way to Die,” Jack White and Alicia Keys
Summary: Still the lemon on the lot. Nine years after its release, Quantum remains a title in search of a movie, and it’s still not a title that makes sense. (It’s drawn from an Ian Fleming short story, but there’s no other connection.) Cool idea starting it right after the end of “Casino Royale,” but otherwise, “Quantum” replaces much of what people liked about Bond — such as plots that made sense and Daniel Craig talking — for a surprisingly brutal episode whose plot I had to Google. (It’s something about a guy named Dominic controlling Bolivia’s water supply. At least Moonraker was, you know, on the moon.)
4. Spectre (2015)
Bond Girl: Lea Seydoux
Villain: Christoph Waltz, definitely not playing anyone you’ve heard of
Theme Song: “Writing’s on the Wall,” Sam Smith
Summary: All Bond movies go on with themselves, but Spectre doubles down with 38 separate endings, the final of which — Blofeld crawling around Westminster Bridge in a London that’s been apparently deserted for eight hours — is easily the least satisfying. It is impossible to keep movie-casting secrets because the nerds have won (not spoiling that scene in “The Force Awakens” required 24 full hours of living like an Amish), but endeavoring to keep the true identity of Christoph Waltz’s Unnamed Eastern European Bad Guy was an exercise in true futility, which meant viewers waited for two hours of Blofeld not being Blofeld wondering when he’d shut up and be Blofeld. And when he did it was because he and Bond were … brothers? Roommates? Tiny birds? Look, not every origin requires a sprawling damaged-childhood narrative; Blofeld can just want to be rich. Still, the punch-out on the train stands as a highlight. And the movie gets its biggest gold star for casting “Sherlock” creepshow Andrew Scott, who, though he doesn’t get to unleash his full psychotic weirdness, does get to battle Voldemort.
3. Skyfall (2012)
Bond Girl: Naomie Harris
Villain: Javier Bardem
Theme Song: “Skyfall,” Adele
Summary: Viewers remain split on Skyfall, but I’m all in, almost entirely because of Javier Bardem, who nails the villain-with-the-droopy-face-and-blown-apart psyche thing before that scene ends with an overriding degree of silliness. And while I’m still not sure we want/need to know too much about Bond’s backstory — I agree with Ebert in that he’s not an action hero, but an attitude, thus rendering his purported humanity sort of secondary to all the silver cars — the final bits with M and Bond’s are part of the reason it became the highest-grossing Bond film in history.
2. The sketch where Bond rents a car from Stephen Colbert.
I mean, come on.
1. Casino Royale (2006)
Bond Girl: Eva Green
Villain: Mads Mikkelsen
Song: “You Know My Name,” Chris Cornell
Summary: In 2017, franchise reboots are about as exciting as driving past a Walgreens, but do you remember the opening scene of Casino Royale, in which Craig, in a black and white flashback, violently exterminates some thug in a bathroom? The beating was cold, messy, questionably executed and broke a lot of valuable tiles. And it set a comprehensively rewired new tone for the Craig franchise, one that half-mirrored Chris Nolan’s Batman movies and more or less blew apart the entire previous version of the franchise (with apologies to Roger Moore, respect). Sure, things got a little wacky with Mads Mikkelsen bleeding from the eyes (sigh) and Bond using the least secure password in the history of the intelligence community, but it also stripped away the ice palaces and giant sky lasers, introduced a Bond that could get hurt and, most importantly, made sense. Casino Royale was the best/only kind of reboot that mattered, one that kept what made sense, ditched the rest and worked for four more movies.