James Bond, a cultural phenomenon, takes a step back

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When you hear the name James Bond, what automatically comes to mind? Is it the fancy cars? Is it his iconic martini that should be shaken not stirred? Or, is it his suave personality? Perhaps it’s a certain actor you think of? Sean Connery, Daniel Craig, Pierce Brosnan and Roger Moore, are just a few of the illustrious actors who have taken the role over the years.

There is no doubt that James Bond is a cultural phenomenon and it doesn’t look like the franchise is losing steam any time soon. The theme songs for “Skyfall” and “Spectre” both won Oscars, the Bond girls became more high profile and there seems to be nothing that the franchise can’t do. The films contain spectacular and often unbelievable chase scenes, cool gadgets supplied by Q and sometimes a cultural relevance to the things that are happening in British and worldwide society (see the Nine Eyes program in “Spectre”). But, when does the spectacle need to end? James Bond films have always contained some level of spectacle, be it the exotic sports cars of classic Bond era films or the reality-bending gadgets from Brosnan’s era’s films. The Brosnan era films were often seen as lesser films by the critics. Box office receipts reflected that Brosnan was a favorite Bond of the people but the scripts were becoming more and more convoluted as Bond began relying more and more on the gadgets provided by Q. So, it was no surprise that when “Casino Royale” burst onto the scene in 2006, it was billed as a reboot of the character and the franchise and it was a welcomed reboot.

Enter Daniel Craig. He was a breath of fresh air as “Casino Royale” saw Bond at the beginning of his double-oh career. This Bond saw no gadgets and a chase scene through a construction site in Madagascar that was believable and a wonderfully choreographed parkour scene. “Casino Royale” brought us into a Bond era that was rooted in realism. It was strong, brutal, and needed. However, as the Craig era of Bond has continued, the films have slowly devolved into ridiculousness. I’m not talking about “Skyfall” or “Quantum of Solace,” I’m
talking about the latest Bond film, “Spectre.”

“Spectre” wasn’t a critical failure and neither is it the lowest scoring Craig era film on RottenTomatoes but it is “admittedly reliant on [the] established 007 forumla.” Where “Casino Royale’s” chase scenes were believable, “Spectre’s” are not. Nowhere, in reality, could a man fly a plane down a hill covered with trees with barely any wings left and no engines no matter how skilled a pilot he might be. It’s a sequence that feels completely unneeded.

Not only is the chase scene unneeded but “Spectre” was boring and unbelievable in terms of writing and characterization. Compared to “Casino Royale,” Bond is run of the mill in “Spectre” and the story suffers from the inclusion of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, a Bond villain recycled from previous films. It should be noted that Blofeld hadn’t been in a Bond film since 1971.

For “Spectre,” Blofeld got a new identity, Bond’s adopted brother. For me, the inclusion of Blofeld, especially as Bond’s adopted brother, feels trite in an
era that has otherwise been a breath of fresh air. A lot of it has to do with the poor writing in “Spectre.” “Spectre” is a train wreck beyond the sex and Blofeld. To summarize, the writing is uneven and not even Christoph Waltz could lift Blofeld from the doldrums of flatness and over the top cliché. Honestly, “Spectre” is one of those films that ends up being a disservice to Craig as Bond, especially as it came off the heels of “Skyfall.” Not only is it a disservice to Craig but it’s a disservice to the fans too. Seeing as the next Bond film will be Craig’s last, it’s sad that such a penultimate installment of his era is so mired in formula.

That is why it is so important that the spectacle end. The next Bond film should be more about how Craig’s Bond is a blunt instrument, not a suave agent. It should be less uneven and it should be tight and bare knuckles like “Casino Royale.” What makes Craig so great as Bond is his ability to be intense but also his ability to be multilayered in terms of emotion. It’s no surprise that Craig’s Bond has been our most “rounded” Bond. Perhaps that’s why “Spectre” was such a disappointment. Either way, I propose a return to a “Casino Royale”-esque film for Craig’s final outing. Let’s allow Craig to portray emotion as Bond and maybe let’s keep Blofeld in an eight by ten, inaccessible cell for the length of the next film as well, shall we?