Thoughts on James Bond's 'Spectre'

Given that I liked Casino Royale, felt Quantum of Solace was weak but kind of worked as a bolt-on to Casino Royale, and entirely failed to be overwhelmed by Skyfall due to its weak final third act, it would seem my frame of mind was appropriately measured in relation to the fourth Daniel Craig Bond film, with regard to hype and over-hype.

I felt that Skyfall was stylish, decently acted and had a great score… so if Spectre with the same cast, crew, composer AND director could at least provide that much, and not bore me with its longer 150min runtime (and dull-as-toast main theme)… I might come out feeling that £13.95 fullprice to see it was worthwhile. Either that, or I’d find out whether the filmmakers who made ‘Skyfall’ had no idea why that film made a record billion dollars worldwide, and consequently had no clue how to follow it up either.

(3hrs later)

Now that I’ve watched it, I’m actually rather positive about it. I think tonally it was spot on, and having been ‘warned’ about the ‘back to the past’ nature of the movie allowed me to anticipate the plot twists I might otherwise have objected to had I been taken by surprise by them. What I was left with after that was actually a very satisfying movie that took advantage of its lengthy duration to tell a very complete, very entertaining and predictable IN A GOOD way movie. Rather than being an action movie, it felt like an Adventure movie, and doing that allowed for a real enjoyment of the characters, the interactions, and a more measured unveiling of ‘plot twists’ rather than abrupt ‘bet you weren’t expecting that!!’ shocks.

I liked the direction, I liked the acting, I liked the story… I disliked the Sam Smith theme but did enjoy the credits. It had a real ‘adventure’ feel to it, and if this is the end of the Daniel Craig series of films it would seem that all four now create a rather self-contained whole in a satisfying way... albeit the death of Judi Dench’s ‘M’ is still a bit of a weak point, and the Khan-esque ‘reveal’ of Blofeld doesn’t really work without the audience knowing more than the character at why that name matters when it shouldn't.

And yes it is a bit of a pity that this movie in wrapping up that era really represents a retconned selective strip-mining of the character’s own past. But all that aside, and to my surprise, I enjoyed this film.

(the next morning)

That said, I probably shouldn’t have. This movie basically ‘breaks’ an unspoken Bond continuity that says James Bond is played by a different interchangeable character taking up the mantle of the prior 007, with some similarities but their own uniqueness. This way, every Bond film is emblematic of its time in technology, concept and theme, but still progresses chronologically, and is accurate to the world we live in (sort of). That’s why you have the same ‘Q’ across three Bonds, different ‘M’s across several, and little bits of back-referencing here and there as well. Bond is an instrument, and we will always have that instrument, and calling him the same thing is a way of reusing pre-existing tools that were useful.

But in this movie, Daniel-Craig-asBond meets Blofeld, even thoughConnery-as-Bond already met him. Or is it a different him? Is there always a Blofeld in Bond, in the same way as there is always a Joker for Batman?

And more then point, should there be and should I care? Should the screenwriters have such an easy time with a pantheon of villains to resurrect at whim?

The existence of Blofeld in the Here and Now collapses the Bond universes, meaning each new Bond is basically a reboot (or a complex some-are-some-aren't scenario) every time. Which means we can now stripmine the past because the past is a different universe. And if I cared about Bond Universes, this would naturally be something I disliked. But I’m increasingly inured to it because firstly I don't care about Bond that much... and also the notion of stealing from the past to pay the present, of tapping nostalgia by cheaply repackaging it... that’s what the 21st Century is about. It’s what the appropriately-placed Star Wars The Force Awakens trailer they played before the movie is all about too.

By making films like this, as viewers we are quietly told that there is nothing wrong in graverobbing. I suppose it's fine, after all the dead don’t mind, the old don’t matter, and the young don’t care because they’ll live forever. In principle, I should have hated this movie because by making this movie better, they only had to make prior movies worth slightly less by stealing from them, and theft is theft and a dearth of original ideas is bad.

But you know what? I don’t care. It wasn’t my grave that was robbed, it wasn’t my childhood that was raped, and I thought this movie was good.

I'll leave it to Star Wars to attempt to milk me for all the nostalgia I have in the most obvious, cynical and coldly manufactured way possible. Good luck with that, Disney.