The Current State of Bond
This article contains spoilers for SPECTRE.
SPECTRE was released on Blu Ray and DVD this past week and I was a little bit nervous in going back and watching it again. Not because I didn't like it, but because I've read and listened to many people, over the few months since its release, give it a damn good kicking. I really enjoyed it at the cinema but since then people have voiced many issues that they have with the film leaving me with a nagging doubt as to whether it was as good as I thought it was.
To fully understand how I feel about the movie itself, and what position the franchise is in at the film's conclusion, I believe you have to look back at all four of Daniel Craig's Bond films. So let's start at the beginning.
Casino Royale in my eyes is a masterpiece and sits in my top 3 Bond movies of all time. It is the origin story that I always wanted to see and at the films conclusion we are left with a character who, at one point, had decided to quit MI6 but had now accepted his role as the James Bond we know only too well. It set itself up perfectly for the formula that we had come to expect from a Bond film. Or so we thought.
What we got in Quantum of Solace was something very different. For the first time in the series history, we got a direct sequel and a lot of people didn't like it. I loved it. I have, and never will, understand the negative reaction this film got. While not as good as Casino Royale it was still a great action movie and wrapped up the Vesper Lynd story perfectly. We ended the movie with the iconic gun barrel sequence and Bond was now ready to go (again).
And then we got Skyfall. In which Bond was tired, beaten, battered and bruised. But hang on. Hadn't we only just started? Although this thought of Bond being old fits in perfectly with Skyfall being released in the franchise's 50th year, it didn't really fit with what they had been building in the first two movies. The Quantum element seemed to have been thrown out and we got a film that was ultimately about Bond and Silva's relationship with M. This worked great and Skyfall was universally praised (although I strongly disagree with some people calling it "the best Bond film ever") and the film finishes perfectly when we finally find out who our new Moneypenny is and Bond steps through the iconic double quilted door into M's office.
"Ready to go to work?"
Yes we are!
So bearing all this in mind, if you had asked me what I would've wanted from the next Bond movie I would've said:
- Open with the gun barrel sequence
- Solid pre-title sequence
- Start in M's office
- Mission handed out
- Scene with Q
- And then away we go...
Which is what we got, well kind of. Not for the first time, Bond is being treated like a naughty schoolboy and is basically grounded. So what does he do? He goes rogue. Again. I for one am getting a little bit tired of this trope. It's been used in 2 out of the 4 Craig movies now and although it doesn't harm the movie it's just something I'd wish they drop. Apart from that, the film delivers everything I wanted. This is the first film that feels like it adheres to the classic formula. And although I was a bit wary revisiting it I actually enjoyed it more the second time around. That's not to say I don't have a couple of issues.
The whole 'Oberhauser becoming Blofeld' thing adds nothing to the story. It can be taken out and Blofeld is just Blofeld and you lose nothing. There doesn't have to be that connection between him and Bond. There can still be a relationship that's built up with what, retroactively, is going on behind the scenes in the other 3 movies. In fact, having Blofeld helping out Silva actually helps with one of the issues I had with Skyfall. All that running in the tunnels under the tube always seemed a bit Dark Knight to me, with Silva always being a few steps ahead. But if Blofeld and his massive surveillance network are assisting him then that makes it a bit easier to swallow. Despite this, it doesn't ruin the movie for me. I still really like it. Although Bond throws his weapon down at the end and leaves with Madeleine, that perfectly fits the character that they have been building over his era. But that in itself is a bit of an issue for me.
Daniel Craig's Bond never wants to be Bond. He was happy to walk away and spend the rest of his life with Vespa. He didn't seem in any rush to return to MI6 at the beginning of Skyfall until it was directly threatened. And here he realises that Madeleine may be his last chance at a somewhat normal life. My wife commented at the end of the film that Daniel Craig looked like he had had enough and was tired. It could quite possibly be his performance as that fits in perfectly with his character arc or he's genuinely had enough of playing the role, and judging by his comments on the press after the film's release that's entirely possible.
So where does this leave us? If Craig does walk away, in one sense he's had the perfect ending. His Bond can go on and have the life he's seemed to want all along. It's wrapped up in a neat little bow, the producers will recast and reboot again and the Daniel Craig era will live inside its own little bubble. But if he does choose to come back I can only see it going one way. In SPECTRE There are a few nods to On Her Majestys Secret Service. We have Blofeld, we have a medical centre in the Alps and we have Bond happily driving off with his woman into the sunset. For me the next movie has to start one of two ways. Either the whole pre title sequence is Blofeld escaping, then titles, then he kills Madeleine, or we see Blofeld escaping and he kills Madeleine and then titles. Then we get the ultimate Bond revenge story. Basically, either way, we get the last couple of minutes of On Her Majestys Secret Service and the pre title sequence from Diamonds Are Forever stretched over an entire film.
Either one I'm happy with.
But its imperative that Blofeld kills Madeleine. The only real problem I can see with this is that I don't think they could end that movie without Bond killing Blofeld and considering they've been battling in the courts for so long to get the rights to SPECTRE and Blofeld back, they would be disposing of him after two movies, which seems a waste.
And that leads on to another problem I have. It seems to me, as soon as the producers won the rights back they couldn't wait to put him back in and I feel they've done this too quickly and that's why they've retroactively kind of written him in to the other movies. I feel they may have been better off letting Daniel Craig complete his arc and then use SPECTRE and Blofeld when they eventually would've recast the role.
And yet despite all this I still really enjoyed SPECTRE. I felt it was a great addition to the series and a good continuation (or possibly conclusion) of the Daniel Craig arc. So regardless of whether he chooses to come back I'll still be there waiting to see Bond 25 when its released, no matter who's playing our hero, who the villain might be and whoever ends up directing. It is a Bond film after all.