The Mummy Returns (2001) and Superman Returns (2006)
Maybe No Time to Die should have been titled James Bond Returns. I know, that’d be a dumb idea, but the new movie reminded me of these two unrelated blockbusters with “returns” in their names. The Mummy Returns came to mind because of the climactic kidnapping of James Bond’s daughter, who winds up being too much of a nuisance for the villain to continue holding her hostage. In the Mummy sequel, the son of the franchise’s heroes is the prime example of the annoying child who pushes his captors over the edge.
Of course, children aren’t the only kind of cliche character put in that sort of position. There’s also the annoying adult who may be a protected witness (see Lethal Weapon 2) or otherwise some form of human MacGuffin (see The Jewel of the Nile). In No Time to Die, in addition to the little girl in the clutches of the big bad, there’s the obligatory kidnapped scientist who turns out to be a bother for the good guys attempting to keep him alive — until he crosses the line with a racist comment that shows he’s not even worth it.
As for Superman Returns, let’s go back to focusing on the addition of the child character. Unlike the precocious tyke introduced in The Mummy Returns, the one in the Superman sequel is a surprise to the hero. The iconic titular superhero returns to Earth after five years away to find that his former love interest, Lois Lane, now has a child who just so happens to be as many years old as the main character’s been gone. But, oh, sure, maybe it’s not his kid. For the boy in Superman Returns, it becomes clear when he reveals he has super strength. For the girl in No Time to Die, she simply is acknowledged as Bond’s by having his eyes.
The Mummy Returns and Superman Returns are both streaming on HBO Max.
Inception (2011) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Who needs a Christopher Nolan-helmed James Bond movie when Christopher Nolan shows enough inspiration from Bond movies in his own original work? Or when Bond movies seem to already have enough in common with Christopher Nolan films? First, I’m highlighting Inception because part of that trippy action movie plays like a classic Bond picture. Second, I’m highlighting Inception because No Time to Die director Cary Joji Fukunaga admits his original pitch was for a movie mostly set inside Bond’s mind. Yep.
As for The Dark Knight Rises, the third movie in Nolan’s Batman trilogy does for the Caped Crusader what No Time to Die does for Bond. It sends him off with a blast — that’s more to do literally with the bomb that takes the hero’s life, or that at least seems to, at the end of the movie. Both are finales of their franchise arcs that also begin with the main character in some form of retirement, both show that the uber-bachelor hero is capable of finding love, both involve the kidnapping of a scientist, and both tease a passing of the torch.
I almost paired The Dark Knight Rises instead with Logan, the dark solo Wolverine movie that sends off Hugh Jackman’s version of the character. But recommending Logan would kind of mean I also have to just recommend Unforgiven and other movies following a retired hero back into the action and probably making some sort of self-sacrifice at the end. We also see similar hero deaths in (sorry for the ancient and well-known spoilers) Terminator 2 and Terminator: Genisys, Alien 3, and Avengers: Endgame.
Inception and The Dark Knight Rises are both streaming on HBO Max.
Logan Lucky (2017)
No Time to Die leaves us with two questions: what’s next for James Bond and what’s next for Daniel Craig. If only the answer for both could be the same: Craig should just be the next James Bond, again, but this time in a campier, more Moore-ish run of the franchise. He shows he has the comedic talent in Logan Lucky (and in a Saturday Night Live sketch) to go the polar opposite of his 007. Or at least do as every Bond actor must do at some point: play a knowing parody of Bond in a cameo in some new project.
In Steven Soderbergh’s heist caper, Craig plays Joe Bang, a safe-cracker with those same initials as his most famous character. He’s incarcerated and has to be removed from prison to help with a secret job, so in a way, this is like Craig’s The Rock (see above). Except that the job is a big robbery rather than a many-lives-saving mission versus terrorists. Also, Craig’s hair is blonder, his accent is Southern-fried, and his role is, unlike Connery’s in The Rock, nothing like his other JB.
I also want to take this entry to acknowledge the Kingsman movies. Particularly Kingsman: The Golden Circle, since it also features Logan Lucky star Channing Tatum. And it also involves nanotechnology (for a major character’s resurrection, not demise). The Kingsman franchise is one of the more comedic and stylish antithesis competitors in the spy game these days that makes a campier Bond sort of unnecessary and unlikely. But it’s where Craig should make an appearance at some point, just as his Bond’s MI6 boss, Ralph Fiennes, is doing, in the upcoming prequel The King’s Man. Also, Bond movie actresses Halle Berry and Gemma Arterton have moved over to this franchise as well.
Logan Lucky is streaming on Hulu.
Knives Out (2019)
Another movie led by Craig made between his last two Bond installments provides another indication of his future. Rian Johnson’s Knives Out introduces Craig as Detective Benoit Blanc, who is now at the center of a new franchise of Agatha Christie-inspired mystery movies. Like Joe Bang, Blanc is a Southern-accented character, but this one is a little more grounded. After solving the puzzling death at the center of Knives Out, he’s set to return as the lead of two more entries in the series, including the upcoming sequel.
I’m also recommending Knives Out on this list because its other lead is No Time to Die scene-stealer Ana de Armas. Craig helped her get the gig playing novice CIA agent Paloma after working with her on Johnson’s mystery film. And their chemistry in both, with each playing such different kinds of characters, makes me hope it’s not the last time we see the two together. While there are no plans for a Paloma spin-off, to the disappointment of fans, perhaps De Armas can get her own original action franchise and Craig can have a role in that.
As for previous movie gigs that have a connection to No Time to Die, I do want to recognize Bohemian Rhapsody, the Freddie Mercury and Queen biopic that I admit I like more than most people seem to. Not only did Rami Malek win an Oscar for his performance as Mercury in the film, giving his casting as the villain in No Time to Die more cred, but Malek says in an Empire magazine interview that role had some influence on his portrayal of Bond baddie Lyutsifer Safin.
Knives Out is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry (2021)
For this Movie DNA column’s obligatory documentary entry, Eon Productions would surely love for me to recommend the new medium-length film Being James Bond: The Daniel Craig Story. They apparently made some journalists watch it. I was not one of them and haven’t seen it. If I was to recommend a Bond-related doc, it’d be the similarly titled 2017 feature Becoming Bond anyway. That’s about George Lazenby, star of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (see above), and has a very fun style to it.
But my true doc pick is Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry, R.J. Cutler’s observational nonfiction coming-of-age film focused on teenaged singer/songwriter Billie Eilish. The documentary features a brief look at the writing of the titular Bond song “No Time to Die” with brother Finneas O’Connell. As well as the moment that they learn the song has been chosen for the movie. Let that behind-the-scenes connection be your gateway to an excellent new film that isn’t getting enough attention.
Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry is streaming on Apple TV+.
Bonus: Blonde (2022)
As a rule, I only recommend movies released prior to the one in focus in my Movie DNA column. And I try to not recommend movies I haven’t seen. So this is just a little bonus entry recognizing a future film I’m anticipating much more now after seeing No Time to Die. Blonde is Andrew Dominik’s adaptation of the Joyce Carol Oates novel of the same name focused on the life of Marilyn Monroe. Ana de Armas portrays Marilyn, and I admit I hadn’t appreciated the casting until I saw her bubbly performance in No Time to Die. She’s definitely going to pull off the Hollywood icon’s intelligence masked by a ditzy facade. I can’t wait.
Blonde was originally due for release this year but will be streaming on Netflix sometime in 2022.
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