With the news that director Danny Boyle departed Bond 25 because of "creative differences", it's left the James Bond franchise in another period of turmoil and limbo. Ever since 2015's Spectre, numerous questions have been raised about the future of this illustrious series. Daniel Craig's continued participation as 007 proved to be a hot topic for a long time, until he confirmed he's still the beloved spy – but for how much longer?
Naturally, the role of Bond is bigger than any actor, and we've seen a host of talented individuals suit up for the part over the years. In recent times, Idris Elba, Michael Fassbender, Tom Hiddleston and Henry Cavill, all potential Bonds, were mooted for the part when Craig finally hands in the keys to the Aston Martin. And when Craig does hang up the gun for good, they're all excellent suggestions to take his place, but we're about to throw another one into the mix: Ben Barnes.
Barnes himself has playfully agreed with his followers on Twitter that he should be the next 007 on several occasions. Let's face it: It's this kind of humor coupled with his suave look and demeanor that showcase all the necessary requirements to portray MI6's most revered spy. Moreover, his outstanding fighting and weapons skills as displayed in The Punisher, where he portrays Billy Russo, add extra credence to this claim.
Having just turned 37, Barnes is the same age Craig was when he was first cast as Bond. However, much like the titular character he portrayed in 2009's Dorian Gray, Barnes appears to be eternally youthful. This might be an issue as Bond has traditionally been seen as a more sophisticated, mature gentleman with a few years under his belt.
But what if the film tells an earlier story, like the Batman Begins of 007?
2006's Casino Royale served as the closest thing to a Bond origin story as it followed the super spy just after he'd been assigned his 00-status and came into his own. Yet, there's still a tale before that to be told. In the same way American Assassin explored Mitch Rapp's heartbreaking journey to becoming a counter terrorism operative, a Bond Begins (directed by Christopher Nolan, if there's any justice in the world) could show us a little more about the man before the suit, gadgets, fast cars, and shaken-but-not-stirred Martinis.
It isn't difficult to imagine Barnes as the smug, know-it-all, charmer who refuses to play by the rules because he thinks he's better than everyone else. In fact, you only need to look at his character, Logan Delos, in Westworld to see a hint of what he could bring to a pre-007 narrative. Too often, the biggest criticism of the Bond films are that we can't humanize or empathize with the character since we know nothing about him. This would change all of that.
Even if it isn't an origin story or reboot, something needs to change with this franchise. Craig has appeared in four Bond productions to date, and only two (Casino Royale and Skyfall) were truly memorable. The last movie, Spectre – while it made a truckload of money – left many fans disappointed, as it felt like the series was running out of steam.
Boyle's appointment as director of Bond 25 looked like a step in the right direction, as he'd undoubtedly bring a novel approach. His departure, though, confirmed everything we suspected before. This isn't a free-roaming world for filmmakers to explore; they're bound by the toys and storylines that Eon Productions hands to them.
It's a little late now to change Bond 25, but hopefully it'll close a chapter and allow for a new one to be written in the James Bond saga. The world's most famous spy desperately needs a fresh injection of inspiration and creativity. Fast cars, beautiful women, moustache-twirling villains, and scenic action pieces just don't cut it anymore.