James Bond is a dick. That much is clear from the opening scenes of Spectre, the latest 007 movie. Bond endangers a large amount of innocent bystanders – in fact, he no doubt caused the death of one or two off-screen – and he murders someone who may just have been a pilot-for-hire. The doomed pilot seems more concerned about the bystanders than Bond is.
These initial scenes are visually impressive – taking place at a Day of the Dead celebration in New Mexico – but they are slightly wrong-footed, and they set the tone for the rest of the movie. It slavishly follows the overly familiar 007 recipe, hitting all the expected beats on the way to an underwhelming finale. But the writers didn’t ponder the details too much. A lot of it doesn’t track logically and emotionally, with some all-too convenient short-cuts showing off the creakiness of the script. Examples being an unbelievably convenient safety net and a very forced – and ultimately inconsequential – romantic crisis. Also, not being thrown off a train – or getting arrested – despite busting up the place and being able to blow up an entire compound with a single gun salvo. Seriously bad bit of construction there.
If you ever wondered about the continuity between all the Bond films, it is now even more official; James Bond is not a code name being passed on from one guy to the next. Why Bond bothers having the code name 007 when he is constantly going around telling everyone his actual birth name is still up in the air. It turns out that only the Daniel Craig Bond films are currently cannon. Bond’s big love is stated here to have been Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) from Casino Royale. Which sidesteps that Bond once planned to marry Tracy (Diana Rigg) in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and that he was fond of quite a few other women as well over the years.
This entry feels very much like old-fashioned Bond. Too much so. Women are firmly relegated to a supporting role and Bond gets designated the usual amount of two love interests, one for a brief fling and one for keeps. Or at least one for keeps until the next movie. Shockingly to some, Bond beds a woman close to his own age in this movie, although the other love interest is 17 years younger, so the usual Hollywood standards are still mostly in place. Moneypenny, Q and the new M get more to do than usual, but are never at risk of outshining the main player.
The money is on Daniel Craig returning for one more movie before bailing. He has publicly stated that he doesn’t like doing the Bond movies – Spectre was a very troubled shoot – and it seems that he doesn’t feel artistically challenged by Bond. You can kind of see that the emotional range of the character is limited and that he would be boring to portray over the course of multiple movies. But Craig doesn’t phone it in and he seems engaged enough. Apart from one scene where the make-up was distractingly overdone and he looks vaguely draggy, he still looks the part. And the cinematography in general is very well done, everything looking cool and stylish.
As always, Bond will return. But will he have new tricks up his sleeve when he does, or will it be spy-business as usual?