“The name’s Bond. James Bond”. It’s a phrase that’s recognizable even to people that have never seen a James Bond movie or even heard of James Bond, if that part makes any sense. A movie series, inspired by and/or based on a character that appeared in books by author Ian Fleming, and various authors who have continued the books since, is a worldwide phenomenon, and that goes without saying. It’s a series that has gone on for more than 50 years, several actors that have played Bond, several cast and crew that have handled each film, and each of the films having their own iconic moments, characters, stories, and other things that have made them so memorable and recognizable among a lot of people, not to mention inspiring and/or setting many of the standards for the spy genre since. And now here is the latest film in the series, Spectre.
I like the James Bond movies a lot. If I had to pick who my favorite Bond is, it’s definitely Daniel Craig, no question. I like all the other Bonds, don’t get me wrong, but with Craig’s Bond, we are seeing a character who starts out brash, cocky, cold, yet somewhat professional in his work as a secret agent and killer, to becoming even more cold, distant, and brutal in his profession, turning into an antihero of sorts, and making the other Bonds look like teddy bears in comparison. Even Craig acknowledges that James Bond is a misogynist, and there’s no denying that with all the women that constantly fall into his lap (literally too), plus this movie tries to be a little self-aware in its portrayal of the standard operating procedure of hot Bond girl having sex with him and little-to-no development in any kind of believable relationship between them. And this movie is no exception in that portrayal.
As the title of the movie suggests, it is largely about James Bond going up against the sinister secret organization known as SPECTRE. For some reason regarding “rights issues” or whatever [insert Marvel/Fox and X-Men/Fantastic Four ironic joke here], the group hasn’t appeared in a Bond film since the 60s, only making casual, vague references in other Bond films. With all that cleared up nowadays, they finally appear for the first time in this new continuity, albeit with a twist here or there, but honestly, while it looks appealing and is exciting at times, it is also kinda boring.
One thing that I found neat in particular about the film was how it tied all the previous Daniel Craig-era Bond films together (including Quantum of Solace, which I haven’t seen, and judging by what I’ve heard about it, probably glad I didn’t). The Quantum group was behind the events in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, and Raoul Silva was the main villain in Skyfall, yet the films did hint at times that a larger group was at play and causing these events, though again couldn’t specifically name the group due to the aforementioned rights issues. With SPECTRE revealed as the group behind it all, it seemed fitting, and while Christoph Waltz’s portrayal of Franz Oberhauser, who is really the group’s leader and iconic Bond nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld (which was obvious he was going to be playing him, I mean seriously) was cool, it seemed a bit generic and obvious that he had a vendetta against Bond, though interesting since there was a more personal twist to it, as he felt his father loved Bond more than him.
However, while there’s good elements, there’s also bad or even “meh” elements. There are new characters here or there, like Mr. Hinx (played by Dave Bautista) the mostly-silent gigantic strongman henchman, Lucia Sciarra (played by Monica Bellucci) the widow of an assassin Bond killed, C (played by Andrew Scott) the “progressive” government member who pushes for more drone attacks and other surveillance methods instead of field agents, Dr. Madeline Swann (played by Lea Seydoux) the daughter of Mr. White (played by Jasper Christensen), who was a dual member of both SPECTRE and its subsidiary Quantum, a doctor that SPECTRE wants to kill because of information she has on them thanks to her father, who asked Bond to protect her before he killed himself after SPECTRE poisoned him. Longstanding characters also return like Gareth Mallory (played by Ralph Fiennes) the new M, Q (played by Ben Whishaw) the MI6 quartermaster, Eve Moneypenny (played by Naomie Harris) who is M’s assistant and Bond’s “friend” I guess, and Bill Tanner (played by Rory Kinnear) the MI6 Chief of Staff. There’s also a surprise appearance by the previous M (played by Judi Dench).
However, their roles end up going a bit nowhere or to the obvious. Hinx is just there to chase Bond and his ultimate fate is unclear as it is unsure whether he’s really dead or not after being dragged off a train by a chain (weird rhyme there lol), so who knows if he’ll become a recurring henchman for future films, and seriously that’s how Dave Bautista is used in this film? I mean, that’s Dave Bautista for crying out loud! He was Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy! He’s gonna be in Blade Runner 2! Lucia Sciarra just ends up being another hot chick that Bond sleeps with, because it’s Monica Bellucci who’s really hot and is a Bond girl in a Bond film, the oldest Bond girl in a Bond film to date, and simply provides some exposition (and foreplay) and never seen again, despite that Bond saved her from some SPECTRE assassins trying to kill her and they’ll probably send more to kill her next time, so good work on that, James! Also, he has sex with her on the day of her husband’s FUNERAL. And C just ends up being a government douchebag who, surprise, is actually working for the evil organization this whole time!
I mentioned that this movie is kinda boring, and it is. I’m not saying it’s bad. It’s got great visuals, cinematography, beautiful locations and landscapes for the settings, the premise is interesting, and the acting was great by everyone in it, regardless of screen time. However, the plot is pretty generic in its depiction of the hero vs. secret evil organization secretly controlling everything behind the scenes (as Honest Trailers put it, Captain America: The Winter Soldier was more interesting in this idea). The movie just seems formulaic and by-the-numbers at times, with the gadgets, the car, MI6 lecturing Bond on his methods, the girls who are basically there as sex objects, and a lot of talking moments that make the movie seem dull than interesting and providing some world-building, the movie keeps dragging and padding at certain points, and it seems a bit weird in trying to balance the realism and grittiness of the past Craig films with the wacky and outlandishness of the older movies. Even the theme song, “Writing’s on the Wall” by Sam Smith, seems pretty cool, but not as epic, cool, and memorable as “Skyfall” by Adele (though kudos for both songs winning Golden Globes and Oscars). The ending is also kinda abrupt. Basically, it’s kinda fun to watch, but nothing that memorable in it, even by James Bond standards, especially considering this is by the same people that did Skyfall.
Regardless, this isn’t a bad film, but not particularly a very good film either. The franchise will continue, as the end credits said “James Bond will return”. Sam Mendes, who did a good job directing this film and Skyfall, won’t return though from what I’ve heard, and it’s uncertain whether Craig will return for the next one, so who knows what’ll happen. All’s I can say is that the next one better be “shaken, not stirred” (hey I had to make a Bond pun for this, sue me).