If you were at the cinema this weekend, you were probably there to see the Daniel Craig’s fourth outing as James Bond. Spectre hit screens this week, following 007 in the wake of M’s death in Skyfall. Following some unofficial orders leads Bond to confront his past, both in recent memory and from Bond’s personal history. By the film’s end however it is clear that the events have been building since Daniel Craig’s first appearance in Casino Royale.
Continuity has never been a big issue for the James Bond franchise. The biggest example being that six actors have portrayed the character on screen with barely any reference to how or why. Conversely, George Lazenby’s Bond gets married and her death isn’t avenged until Roger Moore throws Ernst Stavro Blofeld down an industrial chimney. Blofeld himself is played by multiple actors, all sharing distinctive traits and characteristics. But modern audiences want continuity. I’ve talked enough about the continuity in Marvel films. Is this James Bond attempting to cash in on the new found popularity of continuity in film?
Yes, is probably the answer, although not working at Eon films or having even a tedious connection to Sam Mendes, I can’t say for sure. But it seems clear that this is the intention given that Spectre draws on all of the films that came before. Not so much so that Spectre is unwatchable have you not seen the previous three but there are references within harkening back to Bond’s prior adventures. Furthermore, these four films seem to act as an origin for the entire franchise, setting up Bond’s love of Martinis, Aston Martins and one liners.
In terms of quality, Spectre is certainly enjoyable. Fans of the series will instantly recognise SPECTRE from previous novels and films. The criminal organisation has been around from the first Bond film but Spectre rewrites that to reveal this as Bond’s first encounter with the organisation and that the organisation and it’s shadowy leader have largely orchestrated the events of Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall. Fans who felt that the series was deviating too far from the staples and lore of the franchise will be pleased.
Audiences who just want a good adventure with fights, explosions and seduction should enjoy Spectre as well. In particular, Dave Bautista as Mr. Hinx makes a strong appearance. He’s ruthless and tactical, whist shaking off the comedic overtones he delivered as Drax the Destroyer in Guardians of the Galaxy. But only complaint is that he doesn’t appear enough. In fact, that can be said of SPECTRE and Franz Oberhauser. The villains live up to their SPECTRE namesake, working largely in the background and only making targeted appearances.
Unfortunately, the lack of a villainous presence leads Bond to do a lot of searching and killing before he gets to where he needs to be. There’s a lot of leg work and the payoff isn’t really worth it. In Skyfall, Javier Bardem’s Raoul Silva presents a constant threat and creates much more emotional impact with his targeting of M. The background politics and manipulation of SPECTRE make for a more subdued film, but one without impact. Even the personal reveals lack nuance. Spectre is still an enjoyable film but one without the same power in its twists and turns.
Spectre should appeal to fans and casual viewers alike, being much more like Skyfall than Craig’s initial appearances. Skyfall is the better film, if only for the opening title sequence. The inclusion of a literal octopus in Spectre’s opening is creepy, especially as it gropes nude silhouettes. But odd tentacle touching aside, you could do worse this Halloween than spending your time (and money) on Spectre.