Generally, there are two types of people who go to see “Bond Films,” those movies that feature Ian Fleming’s super-spy James Bond: those who are Bond superfans, and those who are not. Whether you’re an action-film fan, you just enjoy seeing the latest and greatest releases, or you are the significant other of a Bond superfan, if you fall into that second category, you will likely be left wanting by Spectre, the latest in the 007 mega-series and current Bond portrayer Daniel Craig’s fourth outing in the main role. If you’re a Bond superfan, however, this movie is going to give you all you can handle, and then maybe just a bit more for good measure.
It does bear mentioning here: I’ve tried to keep them minimal, but there may be spoilers ahead for both this film and the larger “Bond Universe,” so consider yourself warned and read on at your own risk!
Why the large-scale discrepancy in how much you might enjoy the film? The devil is in the details, and the filmmakers have specifically designed Spectre to be the most lore-driven and homage-heavy Bond tale ever told. That means there are lots of nods to Bond history of movies past, lots of in-jokes and “easter eggs” for die-hards, and lots of ret-conning this story against what has happened previously in the Craig era. Which, again, is all well and good if you’re a routine Bond-watcher; much like a movie-goer who sits down to watch Star Trek III: The Search for Spock without having first watched Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, you’ll likely be moderately entertained, but you’ll be missing out on a whole higher level of movie-watching experience.
The plot of Spectre is fairly Bond-ian in its nature: after an action-packed opening sequence (shot spectacularly in almost one continuous take) lands Bond in hot water with his boss M (Ralph Fiennes), 007 receives a “message from beyond the grave” from a deceased member of Bond lore. This message prompts Bond to “damn the rules” and such, and head out to exotic locations like Rome and the Himalayas in search of the head of a shadowy criminal organization. After discovering who the nemesis truly is, Bond enlists the help of a former enemy’s daughter to attempt to unravel the mystery of the SPECTRE organization and its foul plot to subterfuge the world.
If you’re into James Bond, then you likely are forgiving of the “realism” inconsistencies associated with him being the world’s foremost always-smooth ass-kicker. 007 always gets to where he’s going quickly and effortlessly, no matter how far across the world he has to travel or how much time he has to do it in. In one of the earlier scenes, we see MI-6’s resident supergenius Q (Ben Whishaw) inject Bond with “nano-blood,” which will allow the folks at HQ to track 007, monitor his vitals, and all that good stuff. Bond doesn’t necessarily want to be tracked, though, so he convinces Q to give him 48 hours before the trackers “go live.” In that time, of course, he’s able to smoothly get to Rome and into the deep snowy mountains of Austria; we’re never shown how he’s moving from A to B, we just assume it’s feasible “because superspy.” This, of course, is similar to many of the modern-day superhero films we watch, so it’s a fairly forgivable movie-trope sin. Indeed, many people might label James Bond as one of the “original” movie superhero types, before the super-powered folk were making their way off the comic pages and onto the big screens – this is part of what makes his movies so darned fun to watch, logics be damned.
Director Sam Mendes wasn’t kidding when he and his production crew said that there would be references and ret-cons to many other bond films in Spectre. Again, I don’t want to spoil too much here, but all of the Craig era movies are heavily referenced (if you haven’t seen the most recent, Skyfall, I do recommend giving that one a viewing before checking this movie out, at minimum), and fans of the Roger Moore and Sean Connery eras shouldn’t be disappointed with their “easter eggs” as well. Over the course of the recent films, there was some consternation among the folks who wanted 007 to have a more “age appropriate” Bond Girl to interact with; those concerns were seemingly quelled with the casting of Monica Belluci in this film, as Belluci is actually two years older than Craig, but she is featured in only two early scenes, then the plot callously tosses her aside to let Bond go into action with 30-year-old Léa Seydoux. Rounding out the “male” portion of the primary cast are Christoph Waltz as Franz Oberhauser, aka “the villain with a big secret,” and Dave Bautista in a very Guardians of the Galaxy’s Groot-esque role of a big tough guy that only says one word during the entire film.
After 24 movies spanning almost 55 years, I get that it’s tough to give the same character anything wildly new or different to do with his on-screen time. Spectre, however, clocks in at 148 minutes, meaning that Mendes and company certainly thought there was plenty of story to tell. The movie has its high points and low spots, its crazy action sequences and its moments of “classic Bond” girl-swooning, and its fair share of surprises and references for true Bond fans. If you consider yourself one of those, then Spectre is very much worth checking out; if not, then unlike the super-spy with his “girl of the week,” you probably won’t find much to love here.