Spectre: Modern Setting, Retro Bond, Bringing the Bad Guy Home

Daniel Malice explains why Daniel Craig’s most recent representation of Bond failed to measure up in Spectre. Warning – contains multiple spoilers throughout.

For the most part, I liked Skyfall. It continued the themes established in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. Bond didn’t swagger around sun-drenched vistas in sunglasses and shorts while effortlessly and mindlessly seducing every woman he saw. Instead he grieved over a dead lover and turned to unhealthy levels of drink. Very modern, very necessary.  More than this, Skyfall did one thing that reinvested me in James Bond the character completely. It implied Bond had had a gay experience once upon a time. Yes, I thought, I’ll take several more of those moments in upcoming films.

At the same time as presenting a hugely progressive Bond, Skyfall gave us a glimpse of ‘Old Bond’, tying the two meanings of that term together quite nicely: firstly, calling into question Bond’s competency as an aging man, and secondly, sending the character back to his roots with the inclusion of retro cars, the reintroduction of the character Q, having M as a man again, and making Bond a blatant misogynist once more.

Here’s where Spectre comes in. All the Daniel Craig Bond films are sequels to each other rather than stand-alone stories, so naturally we have to see some reaction to the events of previous movies. Spectre succeeds in this but ambitiously attempts to tie together all of the events in previous films under one umbrella.

Narratively, this seems quite canny, no? In theory, I’d agree but the execution and shocking ‘reveal’ in Spectre represent for me the biggest narrative disappointment in Bond history. But more on that later.

It’s impossible to review a Bond movie without mention of the infamous ‘Bond Girls’ and I was excited to see both Lea Seydoux and Monica Belluci in the cast. I would consider both these women THE most beautiful to star in Bond so far, if it wasn’t for Sophie Marceau in The World Is Not Enough. The Bond Girls also represent traces of the progressive trend in Skyfall – being in her fifties makes Belluci the oldest Bond Girl to date. However, she’s only in the movie for about six minutes. Bond kills her husband, goes to his funeral, has a go at her, breaks in to her house, shags her, and then runs off. It’s hardly the best use of Belluci’s performing talents, which is, sadly, a theme that persists.

Mistreatment of women aside, my real issue with Spectre is what Sam Mendes and the writers have had the brass neck to do with the accepted canon of Bond. Christoph Waltz (another wasted talent in the film) fooled nobody by being cast as “Franz Oberhauser.” Every Bond aficionado knows this is a cover for that notorious 007 nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, king of the titular SPECTRE. Though I think it represents a huge step back into the quagmire of cheesy spy rubbish, I actually have less of a problem with reintroducing the character of Blofeld than with what Mendes and co decide to do to him.

Remember the trailer for Spectre? Look, it’s here if you don’t.

Right, so that burnt photo with the face missing? There’s Moneypenny’s voice over it talking about James having a secret, then Bond goes to visit an older gentleman. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’d assumed that the man in the picture and the man Bond sees later is a long lost uncle or something.

There’s a big spoiler here, so if you’re sensitive about that sort of thing, look away now.

To cut a long and yawningly dull story short, the boy in the photo is 007, the man is his adoptive father and the missing face is Blofeld, making him and Bond sort-of brothers.

That made my hand hesitate over the popcorn.

“What the actual shit is this?” I thought.

What unfolds next has Christoph Waltz at his most atmospheric and intense best, which is a shame given that he’s so badly let down by the plot at the time.  Basically, Blofeld reveals that all the events of the previous films were orchestrated by him, Bond’s hateful foster brother.

At this point I nearly choked on the popcorn I’d barely managed to get to my mouth earlier.

The Blofeld plotline in Spectre basically boils down to: My dad liked you better so I’m going to ruin your life and the world a bit at the same time.

This is nonsense. I mean, excuse the fuck out of me for daring to even because Bond and all, but it really is. Reboot this series again because this is absolute rubbish. It barely even makes sense.

It’s like this. Your favourite band bring out a rubbish album. You know it’s rubbish but you buy it anyway. That’s James Bond. That’s Spectre.

Watching this film was like seeing an addicted family member in recovery go years without using drugs only to have a huge unapologetic relapse at your 21st birthday party. By the end of the film, I felt like Spectre was mainlining in front of me while sticking up its middle finger and telling me to go fuck myself.

Oh, and the song is shit too.


Spectre is showing on Friday 18th and Saturday 19th December at No. 6 Cinema.