No Time To Die: Ranking Daniel Craig’s Previous Bond Films

With No Time To Die being the swan song of Daniel Craig as James Bond, a role that, believe it or not, he’s played for fifteen years in five films (Roger Moore was Bond for twelve years but did seven films), it’s time to look back his offerings as the iconic secret agent. The four previous films in which he plays the super spy have often been considered a mixed bag, but if what critics are saying about No Time To Die is true, Craig could be going out on top.

Craig was brought in to reinvigorate the franchise after well-meaning Pierce Brosnan’s era came down crashing and burning with the campy and over the top dud, Die Another Day. Inspired by the precedent set by Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, Daniel Craig’s Bond would take place at the beginning of his career and introduce a darker, edgier Bond without all the quips audiences were used to. The plan worked and audiences believed Craig’s hard edged Bond was the best since Connery, and closer to what author Ian Fleming originally envisioned. However, after Casino Royale, the subsequent films would prove to be controversial, with some being considered some of the best Bond films ever and some being the worst. Here are the four Daniel Craig James Bond adventures, ranked.

4. Spectre

Similar to the way Quantum Of Solace tried to capitalize on Casino Royale‘s success, Spectre tried to use Skyfall’s formula. Ultimately, however, the end result was disappointing. Initially, Spectre looked destined to be a great movie; it retained Skyfall’s director Sam Mendes, and after a long legal battle, the producers were able to use the character of Ernst Stavros Blofeld and the classic evil organization, ‘Spectre’. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out so well.

Spectre being part of the story seems forced as, back when they didn’t have the rights,  Quantum had already been introduced as the secret organization. So, there are two secret organizations?

Christoph Waltz seemed like the perfect actor to play the iconic Blofeld however, by this time, he had played so many villain roles, his performance didn’t make an impression on viewers. Audiences also felt Bond lacked any chemistry with the love interest Madelyn Swann even though the movie sets her up to be his great love, and their scenes pale in comparison to his scenes with Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale. Even Pierce Brosnan commented that the story was weak.

Producers tried to add a little more of Bond’s trademarks like humor but balancing the tone with the overall seriousness didn’t work this time. Some might say Quantum Of Solace is a worse movie, but Spectre is the Daniel Craig Bond adventure that tried the hardest and failed the hardest. Originally, Spectre was to be Craig’s swan song, however, he was coaxed back into being Bond one more time for No Time To Die which, as reports suggest, will be a satisfying conclusion to his tenure.

3. Quantum Of Solace

Everyone wanted another Daniel Craig Bond adventure following Casino Royale’s critical and commercial success. However, Quantum Of Solace had a troubled production as a writer’s strike caused the film to begin shooting without a script, forcing Craig and director Marc Forster to write scenes on the spot.

The result is the closest Bond has ever had at having a direct sequel. The film takes place moments after Casino Royale, however as an addendum to the previous film, it lacks a much needed punch and feels more like an afterthought than a well-crafted story. At the time, the Jason Bourne movies were popular and the film has much more of a Bourne, handheld aesthetic. Solace is also one of the shorter Bond films. While it moves like a bullet, the story itself is weak and ultimately forgettable.

2. Skyfall

After a disappointing follow up, James Bond rebounded with Skyfall, directed by American Beauty’s Sam Mendes. With Skyfall, Bond producers infused the serious tone set by Casino Royale but, this time, with some of the trademarks fans of the franchise loved and missed like Q. Boasting amazing cinematography by master Roger Deakins, Skyfall is also perhaps the best-looking Bond film ever made.

Skyfall makes up for Solace’s shortcomings by having a great premise, a scary villain, and even a brilliant theme song performed by Adele. The film fires on all cylinders, and with its mix of the old ways and the new ways, it makes for an extremely satisfying Bond adventure.

1. Casino Royale

Casino Royale marked Daniel Craig’s debut as 007. With its brutal, B&W prologue, he and the film quickly distance themselves from the franchsie’s previous, sillier entries.

Based on the book by Ian Fleming, Casino Royale takes a very different route than previous entries. Gone are the gadgets and the cheeky quips. Instead, Bond is tough and violent but still has an emotional side, and unlike most (if not all) the other Bond movies, he has an actual character arc. While some of Bond’s trademark aspects made the earlier film’s funner, Casino Royale is the rare James Bond film that plays it serious and tries to get under the skin of who he is.

While not what some fans of the franchise wanted, Casino Royale is probably the breathe of fresh air the franchise needed. Here’s hoping that whoever takes on Bond next has as good a first outing as this.

When Prequels Work And When They Don’t

With the release of The Many Saints Of Newark: A Sopranos Story, many Sopranos fans are wondering if the film’s events will change the way they feel about the show. Will we understand more about Tony Soprano’s actions and what he’s going through on the iconic series based on the events in the new film? Perhaps it will even change the way we see him, or make us think more about why he is the way he is.

Prequels have always been a popular way to show how our favorite characters came to be. While sequels have always been great to show audiences more adventures of a certain character, we as an audience also like to see everything that led up to what we’ve seen already. Recently, there has been a swath of prequels produced, including the recently released Cruella, which, oddly, is a nearly two-and-a-half-hour movie made to set up an hour-long cartoon…but I digress. Sometimes these prequels bring us new insights and actually improve upon the original film, while, unfortunately, others prove that prequels ruin the mystery of movies, and that a story begins where it does for a reason. Below is one example of each:

Better – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

While there have been many prequels made over the years, perhaps the most famous (or infamous) are the Star Wars prequels. The three Star Wars prequels that took place before original 1977 classic were met with derision from fans and critics alike. These much maligned prequels pulled back the curtain on how the original trilogy came to be and presented some pretty silly ideas: The Clone Wars actually refer to a war fought by clones? “Midichlorians” in Jedi’s blood are the reasons behind the force? The “Star Wars” began over taxes? These revelations took away from the original trilogy’s mystery and made them less fantastical and left much less up to the imagination.

While the Star Wars prequels were mocked for trying to set up everything in the original trilogy, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story took a small yet important detail in Star Wars lore and made a whole movie out of it without feeling contrived or forced. A New Hope is set in motion by the fact that plans detailing how to exploit the Death Star’s weakness are stolen and then eventually used to great success. It’s just one sentence in the original film’s opening crawl, but here it’s expanded into a thrilling and emotional adventure.

Rogue One details how those plans were stolen in the first place, and it actually leads directly up to the 1977 film’s opening scene. The story concerns Jyn Erso, a rebel who leads a small group to retrieve the plans containing the Death Star’s flaw and get them to the resistance so they can exploit the flaw and blow up the Death Star – which is exactly what happens in A New Hope, thanks to Luke Skywalker.

Instead of detracting from the original like the prequels do, Rogue One actually makes the first one better because it details the immense struggle and sacrifice required to retrieve those plans.

Yes, it’s the rare film where all the heroes die, but they died for a cause, which makes Luke’s victory at the end of A New Hope all the more satisfying, cathartic and meaningful. So instead of trying to unravel the mystery of everything mentioned in the original trilogy, Rogue One took an important event that had previously been glossed over and made a great film that actually raised the stakes of the original and made it better. Also, the Darth Vader lightsaber attack scene at Rogue One’s conclusion is one of the greatest scenes in Star Wars movie history, and better than anything in the first three Star Wars prequels.

Worse: Prometheus

The most brilliant thing about 1979’s classic sci-fi horror Alien is its simplicity. At its core, Alien is a haunted house movie set in space. Astronauts investigate a distress signal and follow it to a derelict spaceship, where they encounter a terrifying alien, known as a Xenomorph, that attaches itself to a crew member and wreaks havoc aboard their ship, the Nostromo, and eventually leaves only one survivor – Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley. The story is simple by today’s standards, but it is extremely effective.

Following Alien, three sequels were made with diminishing returns. However, fans have always been interested in seeing where the Xenomorphs come from and perhaps even getting to visit their homeworld. While this idea floated around the minds of Alien producers for many years, a prequel to Alien wasn’t set in motion until 2012, and it opted to go a different route. Prometheus’ story actually revolves around a group of space-exploring scientists’ discovery of tall humanoid aliens called “Engineers,” who are actually the creators of humans. The film includes nods and connections to the original film, including featuring Peter Weyland, the founder of the company that the Nostromo reports to in the original film, and even explains who the “space jockey” is: the mysterious dead alien creature at the helm of the derelict alien ship. Having said all that, aside from some zombies and squid monsters, Prometheus doesn’t concern any Xenomorphs… until the very end.

The film takes all of the mystery out of the original and explains way too much. It’s revealed that the God-like world creators not only created humans, but actually created the Xenomorph as a biological weapon that went wrong, which means that the aliens audiences have come to know and be horrified by aren’t even aliens at all — they are a biological experiment. This not only ruins the original movie, but it discredits the title as well! Unlike viewing Rogue One and A New Hope back to back, if a fan were to view Prometheus and Alien back to back, it would disappoint the viewer knowing they’re not actually watching a mysterious and terrifying alien of unknown origin attack a spacehship’s crew but instead they’re actually watching a manufactured biological weapon.

What makes Alien, and other films like it, so scary is that this horrific creature appears out of nowhere, with no explanation. For years, fans have speculated where it came from, what its homeworld is like, and why it has acid for blood. Frankly, it should have stayed that way. A sequel to Prometheus entitled Alien: Covenant followed a few years later, which added more Xenomorph action but tried to further explore the experiment mythos of the creature. A third film was planned to complete the prequel trilogy but, alas, Alien: Covenant bombed, so we’ll never see the conclusion to a story we didn’t need to begin with.

As a Movie,Candyman Isn’t Scary. As Social Commentary, it’s Horrifying

The latest sequel continuing the trend of being titled the same as the film its following is Candyman – the follow-up to the 1992 horror classic starring the great Tony Todd as the titular boogeyman. Based on the trailer, the new Jordan Peele-produced Candyman appeared to be a remake, but it’s actually a sequel to the original film. However, instead of just being a continuation, Candyman 2021 (which is what it will be referred to from here on out) explores how problematic the original is, while going for real-world horror rather than typical movie horror.

Fans of the original Candyman might be disappointed in this sequel because Candyman 2021 overtly wants to get a message across. It doesn’t want to make you so scared you close your eyes, it wants to make you so scared you open them wide enough to see what’s going on in the world when it comes to the black community. Yes, this is a movie about white supremacy, gentrification and more. While Candyman 1992 fans might be frustrated this new version takes a deliberately political turn, truthfully, the story of Candyman has always been political.

Candyman 1992 was based on a story by prolific writer Clive Barker called The Forbidden which was about class in Liverpool and revolved around an urban legend about a killer wielding a hook known as Candyman. When adapted as a film, writer-director Bernard Rose changed the theme of the movie from class to race and made Candyman black and had him terrorizing a real housing project in Chicago called Cabrini Green. Candyman’s movie backstory is that he fell in love with a white woman and was murdered because of it. Now, he returns and kills whomever summoned him whenever his name is recited five times into a mirror. The pros of the original film is that it proved a black actor could play just as effective a boogeyman as Robert Englund or Doug Bradley. Tony Todd gives a masterfully terrifying performance and audiences can’t seem to forget his chilling voice. Having said that, the cons are that the story is still problematic. Despite being a popular film, many in the black community have taken issue with the fact that Candyman terrorizes members of the black community and they don’t understand why he would. Now, you may think that’s not an issue. After all, white serial killers in movies kill other white people. The issue is Candyman’s origin story is rooted in race. He’s a victim of discrimination, so why would he kill poor black people? 

Candyman 2021 attempts to address the original’s problematic issues but only partially succeeds. While the film’s message is an important one, how it’s delivered is where the film struggles. Politics in horror movies is nothing new. Movies like Night of The Living Dead and The People Under The Stairs are great examples of political horror movies but Candyman 2021 seems more interested in the politics than the horror. The movie revolves around a painter, Anthony, (Yahya Abdul-Matten II) who decides his next subject will be the Cabrini Green projects and Candyman. However, the Candyman this film revolves around is a different Candyman. Instead of Tony Todd’s Daniel Robitaille, the new Candyman is Sherman Fields, a man unjustly murdered by police years prior. The film posits that there are actually many “Candymen,” all victims of violence against black people (which is cleverly depicted in the film’s closing credits using puppets) and their supernatural abilities are born out of black pain and tragedy. The always amazing Colman Domingo plays Billy, a Cabrini Green resident who tells Anthony about Daniel Robitaille, and all the other Candymen that have come since. It’s revealed that Anthony is the son of one of the residents terrorized by Candyman in the original film. In Candyman 1992, Candyman tries to sacrifice Anthony until he’s saved by Virgina Madsen’s character Helen Lyle. While this is an interesting tie into the original, it plays too much with the lore of the first film. In the original, Daniel Robitaille gets his hand chopped off and replaced with a hook, yet Sherman Fields also has a hook for a hand, and wears the same kind of jacket. Having multiple Candyman legends throughout time is an interesting idea but do they have to look the same too? Anthony is stung by a bee early in the film, his wound grows and by the end of the movie, his body has completely deteriorated and he discovers he’s turning into the next Candyman. Billy decides to use this for his masterplan to create a new Candyman legend. The concept of Anthony slowly morphing into Candyman isn’t exactly original and it’s not really even explained how exactly Billy knows Anthony is supposed to be the next Candyman. Billy’s idea is to change the legend and turn Candyman from being a victim of black pain to an avenger – a supernatural figure who protects those who need help instead of killing them. To do this, Billy cuts off Anthony’s hand, gives him a hook and even a similar Candyman jacket. In the end, after Anthony’s girlfriend is erroneously arrested, she’s able to summon Anthony, now Candyman, who kills the police and saves her life. Clearly, director Nia DaCosta is talented and has something important to say but there are too many plot holes and contrivances to get us there.

Candyman 2021’s message is an important one, and while Candyman could be seen as a prescient film right now, perhaps it would have been better if an original story was crafted instead and maybe not even under the guise of a slasher flick. Candyman 2021 is a scary movie because of what it says about the state of the black community vs white supremacy in today’s culture, but it fails at being a scary horror movie. The movie lacks any real scares or true tension-filled moments that made the original so good. While the original film left viewers with horrifying imagery such as the infamous bathroom scene or Todd’s mouth filled with actual bees, Candyman 2021 fails to have any. This may have been on purpose but the scariest scenes in the movie don’t have much to do with horror at all. Sherman Fields’ murder by police is marvelously well directed and horrifyingingly realistic. When the movie attempts actual horror movie moments, it oddly fails to rise above being a generic slasher film. While the original may be problematic, it succeeds as a great horror film. Audiences just have to decide what they want in a horror movie. Do they want to see monsters? Or do they want to see a movie about life’s real monsters? There is no wrong answer as both can be equally terrifying. It all comes down to skillfully applying one to the other. Candyman 2021’s ideas are important and should be heard, but Candyman may have been the wrong vessel in which to bring them to audiences.