While most 007 die-hards have been sitting in a ritualistic circle in the corner of the room and debating whether Spectre makes for an addition to the James Bond cannon as worthy as Skyfall was these last few days, I’m currently lounging in a leathery armchair at the center, happy with the fact that I even get to see Her Majesty’s favorite agent mix drinks and femmes again. Why must critics cast the film aside as being too reliant on formula, too reminiscent of the days of Pierce Brosnan, too lighthearted in comparison to the other dirt-on-the-ground gritty floaters of the Daniel Craig era? Why can’t we rejoice the fact that America’s most-adored superhero without superpowers is still alive and winning 53 years after his original conception?
When it comes to the James Bond movies, I’m not hard to please. Save for most of Roger Moore’s adventures (all tacky, excluding the tight The Spy Who Loved Me), there has not been a 007 romp I haven’t liked. That’s right: I even got a kick out of The World Is Not Enough (Denise Richards isn’t that bad) and the widely reviled Quantum of Solace. I can’t help myself. A middle-school sick day a few years back led me to watch every Brosnan header, with a fervor that made me forget I was sick in the first place.
Five decades in, the newest franchise offering remains an event. Though Spectre is the lighthearted, serviceable time-waster most critics are either panning or embracing it as, there is certainly no way a longtime fan won’t find something to compliment. Comparing it to the series’ better moments won’t do any good.
After opening with a breathtaking helicopter hijacking only a hero like 007 could pull off, Spectre finds itself in the mood for rebooting, replacing Judi Dench’s M with a less passive aggressive Ralph Fiennes, giving the newly minted Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) a bigger role to undertake, and reintroducing a classic Bond villain I don’t care to say the name of because that wouldn’t be very fair to you.
Spectre’s storyline mostly involves the uncovering of its titular evil organization, whose name you might recognize from Sean Connery’s years as James Bond. We discover that all the Big Bads from Craig’s incarnation were actually employed by the outfit, its head honcho being the masochistic Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), a Goldfinger for the digital age.
Bond discovers a diabolical plot to launch Nine Eyes, an intelligence program that will place all confidential information into Spectre’s hands and therefore make it easier to stage terrorist attacks around the world. In the process, Bond becomes acquainted with Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), the daughter of a conglomerate who may be able to give the newly merged MI5 and MI6 the information needed to stop such a deadly force.
Though Spectre doesn’t present us with anything we haven’t already seen before (comparable to the way Quantum of Solace underwhelmed in Casino Royale’s diamond encrusted footsteps), it is, nevertheless, a serviceable (there that word is again) entry into the ageless franchise — if you aren’t left satisfied then I suppose you’ll have to make a James Bond film for yourself; you’d have to be pretty easily underwhelmed to balk under 007’s license to thrill.
It is also rumored that Spectre will be the last time Craig steps into the role as Britain’s top agent, so let us take a moment to applaud him for providing us with a Bond who bears a genuine emotional palette, who doesn’t think of killing as just another part of the job but just another con of the job.
The supporting cast is good, too. And as his girl, Seydoux is the icing on the era’s cake as yet another woman not Christmas Jones-level helpless but instead seductive and perfectly capable. (Let’s not forget the added spunk Harris and Ben Whishaw provide as 007’s wingpeople, either.)
Spectre is a fulfilling leg in the James Bond race. There’s something for everyone. I suppose if Spectre doesn’t toot your horn, though, you can always turn around and rent Skyfall. B+