Before we delve into “Skyfall,” it’s worth revisiting how Daniel Craig started his run. Back when “Die Another Day” had almost brought the Bond saga to its knees, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson had to rethink their approach. As Broccoli told Ain’t It Cool (via FilmInk), “After 9/11, we felt that we had gone too far in terms of fantasy with ‘Die Another Day’ […] We had to go back to reality. After 9/11, frivolity didn’t seem appropriate.” Thus, in 2006, “Casino Royale” arrived with a rough-around-the-edges Bond and a “gritty reboot” sensibility that, following Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins” in 2005, was all the rage.
This course correction turned out to be a masterstroke. Craig’s relatively inexperienced 007 contrasted with Judy Dench’s fastidious and dignified M in a way that made for a complex and layered relationship between the two. Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd was every bit Bond’s intellectual equal, resulting in a palpable chemistry between the two that remains the most affecting and realistic relationship in franchise history. The exotic locations were there, as were the cars and the charismatic villains. But as Vesper says to Bond during their first meeting, the film wore all these classic Bond tropes “with such disdain” that it felt genuinely fresh and exciting.
“Quantum of Solace” maintained a similar tone, bringing back Craig’s reckless and disdainful Bond and wrapping up the “Royale” story. However, its underwhelming critical and commercial performance prompted yet another shift, with even Craig making excuses for his sophomore 007 outing, claiming that “On ‘Quantum,’ we were f****d,” due to only having “the bare bones of a script.” Two years after Broccoli and Wilson reinvented their hero with “Casino Royale,” the duo found themselves once again having to rethink Bond.