Some thoughts on Spectre

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spectreI’m not at my best this week thanks to a cough/cold combination that’s laying me low, so interesting political thoughts will have to wait for a while. However, I did manage to go and see Spectre the other night and it’s prompted a few thoughts, which I thought I’d share. Spoilers follow, so look away now or don’t click the read more button if you want to avoid them:

In general terms, it’s not a very good film. Daniel Craig spends most of it looking bored, the script’s a mess and it’s very much in the standard Bond script style where Bond goes to a place, Bond does something involving cars, fighting, alcohol and/or women, gets a piece of information and then moves onto the next location for more of the same. There’s none of the energy about Craig’s performance that enlivened the previous three films, and while some of the regular supporting cast do their best, it often feels like they’re in a completely different film to the one Craig’s autopiloting his way through.

I was amazed to discover afterwards that it supposedly cost $300m to make which either indicates that creative accounting is even more rampant in Hollywood, or that no one in the production knows how to spend money effectively. Compared to the set-piece ending sequences in previous Bond movies, this felt curiously small with even the blowing up of Blofeld’s base almost an afterthought.

Ah yes, Blofeld. In one of cinema’s least surprising ‘but who’s he playing?’ revelations since Star Trek Into Darkness, we discover that Christoph Waltz is the head of the Evil League Of Evil Spectre who have somehow remained entirely unknown despite having meetings at which hundreds of people are in attendance and entry is granted to anyone wearing the right piece of jewellery. For reasons that make no real sense and add nothing of note to the plot, Blofeld is given a background as Bond’s foster brother, though perhaps it can be explained by someone senior being such an Austin Powers fan that they wanted to make Goldmember‘s twist an accurate parody.

One frustrating thing from this part is that the big Spectre meeting does tease a potential plot development that is then swiftly dropped. We’re told that one of their primary sources of income is from the industry of sex trafficking, with 150,000 women being mentioned as having been trafficked by them. For a moment, you think the rest of the film might concentrate on Bond and MI6 trying to break up this operation, but that’s just being silly. Why would a Bond film do anything about the mass sexual abuse of women when there’s an ill-defined mass surveillance plot they can do instead?

The main plot appears to have come from a much more interesting Spooks-esque story about MI6 being forcefully merged into a new National Security operation that will be part of a global ‘Nine Eyes’ initiative to share surveillance information between countries. This is all headed up by Andrew Scott’s Denbigh, who never appears to know if he’s a fully-fledged part of Spectre (and thus entitled to play it the same way he plays Moriarty) or just an ambitious politician being used by Blofeld. Ralph Fiennes’ first full outing as M, meanwhile, involves him taking on the noble person leading the only honest team in the security services role that Peter Firth spent years doing in Spooks. The team he has around him are quite interesting, and appear to be established as the main supporting cast for the future.

However, that future is hard to predict now. Craig’s obvious disdain for the role on screen and in interviews, coupled with the way the film ends makes it quite likely that this is his last Bond. That not only opens up the question of who the next Bond will be, but how they’re going to introduce him. Do they pay heed to continuity and contrive a reason to bring him out of retirement? Or accept the long-held fan theory that ‘James Bond’ is just a cover and make the next film the debut of the new person given the 007 identity? Or do they just figure that 95% of the audience is just there for explosions, guns and whoever Bond is meeting women and plunge straight back into it, knowing that only a few obsessives on the internet will be bothered by it? Let’s be honest, it’ll be the latter with a new Bond who’s only interesting because of who he’s not, rather than who he is.