I don’t see the point in reviewing SPECTRE, there are probably thousands of reviews online already, but I couldn’t let a new Bond film pass without talking about it. So don’t expect my random musings to be totally coherent but do expect it to CONTAIN PLOT SPOILERS.
Firstly a little background; SPECTRE has been a part of Bond movies from day one, The eponymous Dr. No in the first film from 1962 was a member. The following year they were responsible for the plot in From Russia, with Love replacing SMERSH from the novel. But they didn’t appear in Ian Fleming’s novels/short stories until the eight book, Thunderball (1961). SPECTRE was always intended as an antagonist for the movies, Thunderball started out as a film script by Fleming that he hoped to get Alfred Hitchcock to direct. When thinks didn’t pan out Fleming adapted Thunderball into a novel and Dr. No became the first Bond movie. SPECTRE and its leader Ernst Stavro Blofeld appeared in just three Fleming novels, the others being On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1963) and You Only Live Twice (1964). The stories from the three books follow on from each other forming a trilogy, Fleming last great story arc for Bond.
This is a good point to jump on; SPECTRE has turned Daniel Craig’s four Bond movies into a story arc. It is sometimes a little forced and disjointed but a more concise arc than we have seen in any other series of Bond films. In the novel Casino Royale, Le Chiffre is the paymaster for a SMERSH controlled trade union. By the time the story found its way to the big screen his employers had become a little cloudy. In Quantum of Solace the big bad is revealed to be shady organisation called Quantum. The Raoul Silva is also revealed to be a SPECTRE member. It is a little clunky but it is an arc with a clear conclusion. Both the introduction and downfall of Ernst Stavro Blofeld represents the end of a chapter for Bond. A lot was made of Monica Bellucci, the oldest woman to play a Bond girl. unfortunately she isn’t given much to do. M (Ralph Fiennes) and Q (Ben Whishaw) are both given more to do than you would normally expect of their characters and make the most of opportunity. Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) on the other hand isn’t really given anything to do. Despite this the film fulfils most of the archetypes and motifs of the series making it the most Bond, Bond film that Daniel Craig has made so far.
Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) is an interesting love interest for Bond. A capable and interesting charter played by a fantastic actress, she is also the daughter of Mr White, a villain from Craig’s first two Bond films. This is an interesting parallel to Contessa Teresa “Tracy” di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg) in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Although Tracy’s farther Marc-Ange Draco becomes an ally of Bond’s he is still a criminal, the head of a European crime syndicate. Those who have seen On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (if you haven’t, it been out for over 45 years, what have you been doing) will remember Bond and Tracy driving away from their wedding in Bond’s Aston Martin. They pull over to the side of the road where Tracy is shot and killed by Blofeld and Irma Bunt. As Bond and Madeleine Swann drive away in Bonds restored DB5 I’m sure many people were expecting the worst, but killing her wouldn’t have worked at this time. Not only would it be too close to Tracy’s death, but also Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) in Casino Royale.
Ultimately SPECTRE is a really good film that I enjoyed immensely, but don’t think it reaches the heights of Casino Royale and Skyfall. And this leads me to the conclusion, it would be a good time for Daniel Craig to hand in his licence to kill. While he is young enough to go on for a few more films, he has had his story arc and is unlikely to have another three plus movie story. Any further additions will feel like add on’s. Who would take over and what direction the series should take is question for another day. I am in favour of a very different actor and a new direction, I still think there is room for a 50’s or 60’s set movie taking the character back to Flemings original character.