Bond, James Bond. Over 24 movies, we’ve heard this phrase uttered a million times by a million actors (giver or take a million) and it never gets old. When a Bond film is announced and then hypes its way to release, there is a certain air of mystery and excitement. Who is the villain and what is their master plan? What new gadgets does Bond get this time? How many STD’s has he contracted since the last film?
Since 2006’s Casino Royale, the Bond reboot if you will, both the quality of the action and storytelling of the films has increased and changed dramatically. In general, the tone of the films have deviated from the typical action film with repetitious plot points to an adventure film that happens to have James Bond in it. It is much the same way that The Dark Knight was a gangster/mob film that happened to have characters dressed as a Bat and a Clown. It is also no coincidence that these films were released so close together as in the mid-to-late 2000’s, writing good films came first and then adding all the traditional troupess (superhero powers, spies, and bulletproof protagonists) was a large part of the film-making industry. Iron Man is another great example of this sort of style. The movie was first about the morality of arms dealing and terrorism, then eventually included a man in a supersuit. And as we all know, this method was extremely successful as all of the films mentioned above went on to either complete series or start an epic universe.
In Spectre, the James Bond franchise reemerges as what audiences think of as the “typical Bond film”. While its really the culmination of the story arc started in Casino Royale, it is very different from the films that proceed it. Casino Royale and Skyfall both gave the Bond films a much needed change of pace and style. They still had witty dialogue, gadgets, attractive women, sex and excitement, but gone were the “over-the-top” set pieces and world destroying plans. In short, those Bond films were much more subtle and personal. You can really tell the difference between them by just knowing the villain’s motives and ultimate goals. Mads Mikkelsen’s Le Chiffre from Casino Royale was there to win a poker tournament to pay off other villains. And Javier Bardem’s Silva in Skyfall just wanted to exact revenge against Dame Judi Dench’s M and MI6 for him being spurned by the agency and his “Mother”. This is a far cry from the last “traditional Bond film”, Die Another Day, which included an ice castle hotel, North Korean face transplants, and a giant sun focusing laser in space.
What made Casino Royale and Skyfall so special was Daniel Craig’s performance and tearing away all the familiar and expected Bond behavior. Daniel Craig’s Bond is vulnerable, he can be hurt, he makes mistakes and he’s all the more entertaining for it. Now don’t get me wrong, all the actors proceeding him had their merits, especially Connery who brought Bond to life, but none of them have been put through the ringer like Craig’s Bond. And with Spectre, you’re going to get a lot more of that, but as we’ve come to expect, Craig pulls it off effortlessly and showcases why he was the perfect choice for James Bond in the first place. Now, there is already a large discussion on whether or not he should return to the role for a fifth time as 007. I believe he wrapped up a good storyline in Spectre and should only return if it is absolutely necessary to the film’s story that Craig be the face of Bond. I’d honestly rather a fresh new face portray the most well known spy, but my choice is pretty controversial:
Back to Spectre. With a brilliant character, excellent track record, and all the hype in the world (at least what’s not being used for The Force Awakens), it really puzzles me why Director Sam Mendes decided to return the series to its typical troupess. The action was completely over-the-top, which while still enjoyable but felt out of place from the other films with Craig’s Bond. Even the elaborate torture machine has been reintroduced. SPECTRE as villainous organization is way more “World Dominating Illuminati”-Type than what we’ve seen in a while. The film makes it seem as if they’ve been behind every criminal activity from terrorism to mismatching hot dogs with hot dog buns.
At any rate, Spectre is very entertaining but lacks the subtle nuances of the more recent Bond films. Now don’t discount the film just because it eschews from what Craig has done with 007, but remember that the James Bond series was highly enjoyable with all the troupess in place. One of these famous troupess are the unique, diabolical, and just plain cool villains.
Christoph Waltz was universally regarded as absolutely terrifying in Inglourious Basterds as Colonel Hans Landa. Then everyone cheered for him passionately as Dr. King Schultz in Django Unchained. It’s also worth noting that he won Oscars (Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role) for both performances. So, bringing him on as the newest and most diabolical of all the new Bond villains was nothing short of a perfect casting decision. He commands all of the attention in almost every scene he is in like a Kardashian on TMZ.
Now I won’t spoil anything, but suffice it to say, if you know your Bond lore, you know who heads up SPECTRE. If not, go back and watch 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever and you’ll get it. Sadly Sam Mendes takes a page from J.J. Abrams’ playbook and chooses to hide details that any Bond fan will easily see. This robs any drama from any possible surprise revelations and just confuses anyone who hasn’t been following the franchise since the early 1960’s.
Coming into the film knowing Waltz will be brilliant pulls a lot of the stress from all the other actors. Ralph Fiennes, with his decidedly attached nose, does his job as the new M by being cross with 007 most of the time, but he gets to kick some ass this time around, which is pretty awesome. The other two actors who I adored in Spectre are Ben Whishaw’s Q (sadly he’s no Desmond Llewelyn or John Cleese, but he brings his own charm and idiosyncrasies to the character of Q) and Dave Bautista as the main brawler villain in the film. Bautista, wrestler turned actor, has been climbing the ranks and becoming one of my favorite people in Hollywood. He absolutely delivers the strong, silent, and menacing big gun of the film.
Anyway, Waltz and Bautista are the perfect villains for the traditional Bond style, and that’s really what Spectre is, just a return to the old Bond films which were mostly successful and beloved. I left the theater entertained, which is the whole purpose of movies, but not “wowed” by the film. Don’t get me wrong, you should absolutely see Spectre in theaters just for the sheer enjoyment of a Bond film and all that that implies, but just be ready to experience the Bond films of old, Aston Martin and all.
Didn’t read my fancy words, here is the short version:
You’re absolutely going to be entertained by Spectre. From the stylish action, over-the-top set pieces, Craig’s perfect portrayal as Bond, and some of the coolest villains in recent memory, there is no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy it. Just don’t go in expecting Casino Royale or Skyfall.
I’ll leave everyone with a parting gift. One iconic aspect of all Bond films that is always my favorite are the opening credits and the song that accompanies them. While the official footage isn’t available yet, Sam Smith’s music video (they still make those?) is available, so enjoy “(The) Writing’s On The Wall” and then go see Spectre while it is in theaters.