British Secret Service Agent James Bond has done battle atop a moving train, from the outside of a cargo plane, and in space. That said, the 55-year-running 007 film franchise is still going strong - and the upcoming 25th Bond movie edging its way into theaters has audiences wondering what will happen next with the franchise.

Based on the novels by Ian Fleming, the 007 franchise kicked off in 1963 with Dr. No. Starring Sean Connery as James Bond, and introducing audiences to what would become a familiar - if not oft-parodied - formula that includes megalomaniacal villains in hidden lairs, mysterious women with suggestive names, and highly-stylized gadgets, the entire 007 series has had a lasting effect in pop culture. Over the years, various actors have taken over the role, including Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig (who currently holds the torch). Woody Allen and Peter Sellers starred in a loose adaptation and spoof of Fleming's novel Casino Royale, though it's not considered canon within the live-action series.

Related: Casino Royale Director Would Return if James Bond Was Recast

Now, with the untitled Bond 25 releasing next year with Academy Award winning director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting) and Daniel Craig sporting Bond's tux, martini, and Walther PPK for what may possibly be his last time, the future of the franchise is shrouded in mystery. Will the storyline remain consistent with previous entries? Will the series undergo yet another soft reboot? And does a woman or person of color have a shot at playing the famed and meticulously groomed MI6 agent? Seeing as the franchise is no stranger to cleaning house and resetting the board, audiences may well see some major shifts with Bond in the foreseeable future.

Is Daniel Craig Really Done With Bond?

After four movies (not including Bond 25), Daniel Craig currently ranks second for actors who have played James Bond the most times in the franchise (Connery and Moore are tied in first place with seven movies each). That said, during the twelve years that Craig has starred in the franchise, his enthusiasm towards playing Bond has ebbed and flowed, so it's unclear how much longer he's willing to stick with the character.

Though Craig's movies have more or less been two-for-two in terms of success (with Quantum of Solace and Spectre often considered the lame ducks in comparison to Casino Royale and Skyfall), his interpretation of Bond has fared fairly well with audiences and critics. However, in an interview with Time OutCraig famously stated that he would "rather break this glass and slash my wrists" than star in another 007 movie, adding that all he wants to do is "move on." He even reportedly turned down roughly $100 million to star in two more films after Spectre, but that tone has changed considerably since then, when - after officially signing on for Bond 25 - he said, "I just want to go out on a high note. I can’t wait." So, as of now, Craig's future with the franchise is a guessing game, seeing as his unpredictable mindset doesn't offer much in the way of certainty. And assuming Boyle sends him off on that desired high note, Bond 25 may well be the end for Craig.

However, given that Boyle's interpretation has the potential to rekindle Craig's interest in sticking with the series, anything is possible. In fact, to partially borrow the subtitle from Connery's last entry as Bond, "never say never."

Related: Mark Strong May Be Training For James Bond 25

The Craig-Era Mistakes That Must Be Avoided

Daniel Craig's era as Bond has been mostly well-received. With all of his movies earning fresh ratings on Rotten Tomatoesthey were major improvements on previous entries in the franchise (the previous three movies earned 57 percent, 51 percent, and 58 percent, respectively). Still, not unlike James Bond himself, Craig's era wasn't without its flaws. And assuming Craig passes the torch to another actor after Bond 25, the future of the series will benefit from evolving (if not completely eradicating) various aspects of Craig's era that missed the mark.

One of the most notable issues with the Craig era was continuity. Whenever a new actor is brought aboard to play Bond, the soft-reboot layer is applied. However, this subtle approach over the years is nothing compared to the all-out narrative shake-up introduced in Casino Royale. With Craig's Bond, the character underwent major makeovers, but didn't completely shed its previous skins (Was it a prequel? A reboot? An alternate universe?). Bond himself was starting anew (audiences witness when and how he earned his double-o status), but Judi Dench reprised her role as M, whom she had played for the past four movies in Pierce Brosnan's era, beginning with Goldeneye. And even though suspension of disbelief is necessary to truly enjoy these movies, the pick-and-choose approach made for a confusing setup to Craig's introduction, especially when major retcons - namely with Blofeld, a staple villain in the series - are put into effect.

Another major blow to Craig's era was the introduction of some mishandled narrative throughlines. Where other iterations of Bond implemented ongoing storylines that tended to specifically focus on Bond's relationship with certain villains, Craig's era went deeper. Attempting to bring Bond's humanity to the surface (showcasing what made Bond so emotionally disconnected from the endless wave of "Bond girls," his moral ambivalence clashing with his job requirements, etc.), filmmakers weren't entirely successful. Attempting to give Craig's Bond a more personalized interpretation only added to continuity missteps and drastic tonal shifts.

Related: Rumor: Helena Bonham Carter Up For Bond 25 Villain Role

Finally, one other major takeaway from Craig's era that future entries will hopefully avoid is the similarity his movies shared with the Bourne franchise. In an attempt to add some modern grit, Casino Royale introduced some inspired changes to the character, the action, and the pacing. For the most part, it was successful (with standout action set pieces including Casino Royale's opening chase sequence and Skyfall's skyscraper fist fight); but at times, the changes treaded copycat territory, feeling more like knock-offs of the Bourne movies than anything wholly original.

Down to a near shot-for-shot recreation of Jason Bourne jumping parkour-style from one building window to another, Craig's era signaled some slight insecurity in the modern Bond franchise. These movies have always centered around innovation - not just in Bond's gadgets, but in its overall general aesthetic - so blatantly borrowing from other properties added a cheapened effect to this newer era. And though sporadically copying Bourne movies by no means ruined Craig's era, they didn't go unnoticed; and they won't be missed.

Page 2: Who Could Play Bond Next, and Will 007 Be Rebooted Again?

How Will 007 Casting Change?

Every era of Bond is represented by whichever actor happens to fill 007's shoes. Connery brought a cool, even unfazed charm that mirrored the confident swagger ripe during his era, while Moore's hammier approached complemented his era's more over-the-top direction, and Craig's sour, sometimes distant persona paired well with his era's edgier, grounded approach. And though the versions of Bond that show up in any given era don't necessarily reflect the off-screen social climate in which they exist, that's not to say that outside influences won't play a role in casting. After all, Sony clearly wanted a significant change of pace following the exaggerated tone in Pierce Brosnan's Die Another Day. 

Now, in an era where the topic of gender and racial equality is front and center, Hollywood is finally starting to catch up with its audience. In fact, the entertainment industry in general is retuning itself. The Spider-Man comics passed Peter Parker's torch to Miles Morales; the Ghostbusters reboot replaced the all-male cast with an all-female cast; and Doctor Who (which has been on the air for as long as Bond movies have been produced) will officially introduce its first female Doctor this October with Jodie Whittaker. Naturally, these changes have spurred discussion about how casting for the next James Bond could get creative.

Since Craig will retire from the franchise sooner or later (probably sooner), speculation about his replacement has been ongoing. Various actors have climbed the speculative ranks - including the likes of Tom Hardy and Tom Hiddleston - but so have non-white actors, like Idris Elba. In fact, Elba is the most notable person of color fans have gotten behind to replace Craig, despite the fact that he has his doubts of this ever actually happening.

Related: Separate James Bond 25 Script Being Developed By Trainspotting Writer

Then again, assuming the franchise doesn't bring a person of color aboard, there's still a chance that Bond could potentially be played by a woman. There have been several actresses unofficially considered for the role by fans - including the likes of Emily Blunt, Gal Gadot, and Deadpool's Morena Baccarin - and Bond producer Barbara Broccoli outright stated that "anything is possible" when it comes to casting Bond. If the series decides to consider the theory that the name "James Bond" isn't an actual name, but a codename, gender and racial changes could come easily. Craig has stated that this theory is incorrect, but in an era so ripe with retconning, major changes are definitely possible.

That said, the transition away from a white, male Bond may not be nearly as likely as some might hope. As is the case with most changes, there have been vocal objectors in the case for a female or non-white Bond, ad with those objections comes a degree of headaches most studios would simply rather not bother with. Even actresses like Rachel Weisz (who is married to Craig) and Rosamund Pike (who played a Bond girl/villain in Die Another Day) are against the idea of a female James Bond, explaining that they would prefer an original character be created for women, as opposed to giving women what Pike refers to as "sloppy seconds." And whether these objectors hold any weight in the long run remains to be seen, but given that the Bond franchise has always been on-and-off in terms of critical success, Sony may prefer playing things safe.

Will They Change The Bond Story?

In the current James Bond era, an updated stage has been set. With Casino Royale serving as a soft reboot, the franchise has introduced characters and narratives that will undoubtedly play into eventual entries in the foreseeable future. Ralph Fiennes taking over for Judi Dench as M, Christoph Waltz portraying a modern version of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, and Bond's "rebirth" all carry enough weight to more or less prove that the franchise will directly continue Craig's era. Audiences are more than used to the character changing actors after a few years, so that particular transition wouldn't be anything new. That said, major changes could still be nigh.

In taking an unexpected turn, Craig's era could turn out to be a standalone story after all, with Casino Royale marking the beginning and Bond 25 marking the end, potentially leading to future iterations of Bond taking significantly alternative approaches. And given the vast breadth of the Bond universe, there is plenty material from which filmmakers can find inspiration.

If the franchise wanted to take a radically different approach, post-Bond 25 movies could adapt stories from the Young Bond book series. Following a much younger James Bond during his adolescent days as an Eton College student in the '30s, an adaptation of Young Bond would certainly break any monotony present in the current franchise, exploring a completely unique angle of the character that doesn't involve classic series characters, institutions, or trademarks like Q, MI6, or shaken (not stirred) martinis, respectively. It could even ride on the success of the Kingsman franchise - though in a very meta, and considerably less graphic, sort of way.

Related: James Bond 25: Everything You Need To Know

On the flip side, the franchise could take the exact opposite approach, fast-forwarding Bond's story and visiting him in the future as a much older character (think Sean Connery in The Rock or even old Bruce Wayne in Batman Beyond). The seasoned veteran approach might appeal to fans of movies like Creedthe current Star Wars trilogy, and even Blade Runner 2049, where the hero is older and forced to rejig their respective skills on account of old age.

Then again, if the young or old approaches are too bold for a straight continuation of Bond, as opposed to something more along the lines of a companion spinoff, the series could step back into the past in a wholly different way. Instead of setting the franchise in a modern setting, Bond can literally take cues from the classic series by actually setting itself in the '60s. Playing more into Ian Fleming's original series, going the period route would certainly help reduce any staleness in the current era, and this direction could even benefit from the nostalgia factor directed at past eras. It's by no means a safe bet, but the power of nostalgia is stronger than it seems; and given that Bond has entered a phase in which it's starting to riff off movies that are themselves inspired by the Bond franchise, maybe an all-out return to form is what it needs.

Bond 25 could turn out to offer a well of information in terms of hinting at where the franchise is headed, but the direction is currently as covert as any one of 007's globe-trotting missions. Craig may stick around for another outing, the franchise may soft-reboot itself yet again, or a former James Bond actor could potentially try his hand at the franchise once again (a strange move, but not unprecedented, given that it's happened twice before with Connery in Diamonds are Forever and Never Say Never Again). Until then, though, it's anyone's guess.

More: Every James Bond Movie Ever, Ranked Worst To Best

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