When I was growing up, the Bond Series was the gold standard for action spy thriller popcorn entertainment. Every other summer, audiences could expect to see Mr. Bond take on SPECTRE or some megalomaniac who wanted to start World War III or kill everyone on Earth For Reasons. It was silly, campy fun and even when Roger Moore was staggering around the screen looking like he had forgotten to take his arthritis meds, we always walked out of the theater figuring we had gotten our money's worth.
During the reign of Daniel Craig (2006-2022) the Bond series definitely lost it's way. The new Bond was morose, pouting, and dull. The villains were limp and their grand schemes were not grand at all. Remember the guy who wanted to crash the economy by nuking Fort Knox? Now we have a guy who wants to win a card game, and another who wants to assassinate M. Remember Blofeld sitting inside a volcano getting ready to "inaugurate a little war" involving the deaths of 3 billion people and the ascendancy of Red China as the new world power? Now we have a Blofeld with Daddy Issues who wants to punish Bond because he didn't get enough attention as a child. What a bore. Where are my larger-than-life villains??
The answer: they are in the Mission Impossible films. These really are the new Bond movies, and they have been at least since the Craig era began and arguably from the waiter-with-a-machine-gun forgettable Pierce Brosnan period as well. Here's where we find our unstoppable secret agent out to save the world from a shadowy organization (the Broccolis murdered SPECTRE a few minutes after finally gaining the rights to the name after a 30-year legal battle, what a waste!) intent on chaos. Here's where we get our popcorn-munching fun that doesn't ask us to psychoanalyze the hero or suggest that he go on depression meds.
With the exception of the god-awful, Almost Series-Killing second installment, there is no run of films that have been more reliably entertaining than these. We walk into the theater knowing what we are going to get, getting it, and still being amazed at the consistent quality provided. Bond? Seriously, who cares if they recast the character? We've got a shelf full of DVDs featuring Ethan Hunt doing everything Bond used to do and doing it better. The only thing the Brocollis have been good at lately is making us wait years to find out how bad the next installment is going to be.
Sorry, Mr. Bond. Your time has passed. It was a fine ride- for a while. But you went out with a whimper and not a bang. It's been the Hunt era for several decades now, and you've got no one but yourself to blame; you opened the door, and Hunt crashed through it. Just in time.