Anthony Clavane - James Bond might be well past his sell-by date but it doesn’t stop Hollywood cashing in

Daniel Craig has portrayed James Bond in many of the films. Photo: TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images
Daniel Craig has portrayed James Bond in many of the films. Photo: TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images

Exciting news, film fans. Prepare to be shaken and, perhaps, even a little stirred.

Line up those martinis, stockpile the popcorn and get ready to banter. The new James Bond film, also known as Daniel Craig’s swan song, will apparently be called No Time to Die.

Do you agree with Anthony Clavane's views on 007? Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images for Sony Pictures.

Do you agree with Anthony Clavane's views on 007? Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images for Sony Pictures.

This week’s announcement that Bond 25, as the fandom had taken to calling it, now has an official title – and will be released in April 2020 – has created quite a splash in the media.

Particularly, as you’d expect, in the never-knowingly low-key platforms of our breathless social media.

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One tweet raved about the “timeless traditional Bond title”. Another called it a “classic name choice”. Yet another quipped, if that is the right word: “The name is Bond... James Bond”. In fact, there were numerous examples of the 57-year-old franchise’s side-splitting bants. “You expect me to talk? No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die.” Hilarious.

As you might have guessed, I am not a fan. To some he might be a suave, sophisticated super-spy. To others he is an ill-mannered, unreconstructed elderly geezer in a tux who has long since failed to move with the times. To me, he is a sexist, sadistic relic of a bygone era.

Don’t take my word for it. As long ago as 1995, Judi Dench’s M was referring to Pierce Brosnan’s 007 in GoldenEye as “a sexist, misogynist dinosaur...whose boorish charm (is) wasted on me”. A decade later she had taken to lambasting the Daniel Craig version as a “blunt instrument” in Casino Royale.

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Even Craig has had the grace to admit that previous incarnations of the womanising killing machine were “sexist and misogynistic”. At one point, the actor declared he would rather slash his wrists than return to the role and claimed: “If I did another Bond movie, it would only be for the money.” A reported $25m to defeat the world’s latest mysterious super-villain – according to the rumours to be played by Oscar-winning actor Rami Malek – seems to have done the trick.

This time it will be different, we are being told. This time he will not be at best a cutout macho stereotype, at worst a symbol of toxic masculinity. As he confronts a danger the likes of which the world has never seen (again) he will reveal a softer side to his character, an emotional fragility, no longer treating women as sexual objects, replacing the old caddish brutality with a newfound sensitivity. Pull the other one.

Recruiting Phoebe Waller-Bridge as a writer has raised expectations that Bond will, finally, be dragged into the 21st century. Yet don’t expect the feminist icon to transform the franchise into a Fleabag or a Killing Eve. It will no doubt be freshened up by the former’s sharp humour and the latter’s whip-smart plotting – and both of those series’ brilliant writing – but Waller-Bridge has stated firmly that “he doesn’t have to (treat women properly) – he needs to be true to this character”. If the character cannot be reinvented, then, why not just kill it off?

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This idea is teased with, reportedly, in the opening scene when M says: “Come in 007.” Lashana Lynch, a young black woman, appears on the screen and it seems that the PC-gone-mad brigade’s worst nightmare has come true. Lynch, in fact, turns out to be Nomi, a spy who has temporarily taken on the 007 codename.

You see, according to official sources, Craig’s Bond has retired but his friend Felix Leiter enlists his help in the search for a missing scientist who was abducted and…excuse me while I stifle a yawn.

According to unofficial sources, director Danny Boyle left the project a year ago because he wanted Bond to die at the end of the movie.

This reminded me of a famous line from the 1970s’ film Stardust when David Essex’s mega-wealthy rock star, having just overdosed, is told by his manager, played by Adam Faith: “You can’t die. I own half of you.”

Bond might be well past his sell-by date but the last two movies grossed almost two billion dollars. No wonder film bosses refused to bite the bullet and end Craig’s run with a bang.