07 May 2021 1240 Views

SSSF: SPECTRE! Fixing James Bond’s 2015 adventure

by James Murphy

SSSF = Saving (supposedly) sh#t films. This week: SPECTRE..

Some movies are a paradox in that one cannot dismiss them as just ‘bad’ yet they nonetheless exist as disappointments. There are moments of good, verging on great and those, in turn, even give the piece re-watch value. Launching this new feature is SPECTRE, a 007 outing that had so much going for it and yet failed to cohere. NO TIME TO DIE might fix the broken pieces. Meantime? I can do my own little tweak..

  • I AM YOUR BROTHER! 

There is nothing wrong with Blofeld (spoiler alert..but hey the film is almost 6 years old now..so..) being a foster or even blood relative to James Bond. In today’s world, especially, post Cold war etc, it makes sense that the battlefield be an emotional one. Indeed, it’s a fascinating prospect.

What if one of your friends or family turns out to be a wrong ‘un; a baddie; a villain; a stalker? Is it soap operatic, sure, but then so is life. In many senses, it is more menacing than any nation to nation war because it feels more personal and harder to simply send in an army to fix. So, the idea of Ernst Stavro having a ‘bond’ to James Bond? It’s not just an Austin Powers level spoof. It is the idiom of today.

But it has to be done ‘right’. As in, explain how Blofeld became an agent of the enemy. Christoph Waltz could have pulled it off, easily. A chancer (akin to Koskov in The Living Daylights, perhaps?) evolves into a full boss level threat, via an organisation (QUANTUM, which then becomes SPECTRE?). They recruit him in part because they know of 007’s exploits, already. Ernst proceeds to advise them on how Bond can be weakened, based on a childhood memory.

From there, Waltz’s Blofeld becomes a latter day version of his Col. Landa from Inglorious Basterds. IE: a genuinely sinister and deadly threat but hubristic, nonetheless and not quite the supreme architect of all evil depicted in the Bond film we saw in 2015. Fixed!

  • NINE EYES IS BLIND:

Why does James Bond stand against the ‘nine eyes’ network of cameras being set up in this film? Yes, he and we know it’s being founded by baddies. Yet the script hints at a point of principle. That is just wrong, character wise.

007  would be unlikely to take issue with the introduction of mass surveillance. Indeed, he would see its merits, allowing him to play more Golf, go on more dates and spend more time in restaurants.

And if he did turn against it and ‘go rogue’ there has to be a reason, as with any ‘issue’ they pit against Bond, throughout the series (drugs, media, oil etc). Did they perchance intrude on his personal life? Maybe he kills an intruder outside office hours and hence a civilian, ‘under the queen’s peace’ (much better title btw).

Cue Bond on the run and his colleagues unable to help at least, officially (thereby giving them stuff to do without over playing them).

On that note, what if the enemy are trying to bring DOWN the surveillance network, rather than set it up?

You can still have the ticking clock countdown and even the moral debates about the merits of state spying on civilians. But if the system were being hacked from the outset and its launch threatened by being botched, then that would inject stakes and play direct to the fear of London and other cities suddenly under siege.

Imagine the Lord’s Army fighters from Casino Royale getting hold of this tech! Or: just abandon the Nine Eyes plot altogether and have SPECTRE actually threaten to steal a nuke or hijack a submarine..anything but the bland and rather pointless conclusion we endured..

  • OVERUSE /UNDERUSE: Deploy the cast, correctly!

Nobody gives a shit about Mi6 internal politics. And if you sign on as M/Q/MoneyPenny, just accept those as regular cameo work which entails small contribution to the franchise but ironically a safer bet than playing Bond or a baddie. The relentless overuse of Fiennes as M (and Judi Dench) has been a real weakness in the last 20 years of 007 films.

Q is an irritant and the idea he would get to the field to help James at this stage is stretching things. Little and often: that is the key. If you must extend one role, make it Eve (Naomie Harris) but the rest can sit behind desks for maximum two expository scenes.

Andrew Scott is miscast here. All the menace of a paper cut.

Dave Bautista needed one or two more fights with Bond and development, too. What if we THINK Hinx is mute and stupid but in actual fact, turns out every bit as refined as Bond, a kind of Red Grant type, maybe even a Blofeld in waiting?

Lea Seydoux is criminally underwritten in this film. Fixed, easily. If she is the psychiatrist, what if her own mental health seemed a bit at risk? Mood swings, of an almost deadly nature and 007 must confront those, mid mission, in close quarter, in a confined hotel room? You THEN make her the natural successor to Vesper, by show rather than tell.

  • BUILDING THE BOND SKILL-SET

Daniel Craig is a great 007. The voice, the bod, the poise, the bruiser moves in a fight, the humour. He has it all, nailed. I knew that would be the case, the moment I saw Archangel on BBC in 2005. Daniel’s like a walking literary pulp narrative, personified. And there is real star quality and uncommon conviction when playing professional skills.  

And yet: never seen his 007 ski or scuba. Those are not merely tropes to tick off but a vital art of Bond’s very being. No point sticking him in a wally white tuxedo if you will not back that with old school substance?

They REALLY MISSED A TRICK HERE. See, if SKYFALL set up the fact that this is a self contained era for Craig’s Bond? and therefore, linear in evolution..we could, theoretically have gone even further here in seeing a flashback scenario.

As in, yes, THAT  ‘young Bond’ prologue, akin to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: a contrived but acceptable montage of our hero acquiring some of his key assets.

Do we need it? No, course not. But if you set up this film as being rooted in the concept of revisiting the past, then you must surely..revisit..the past.

Explain why Daniel’s 007 is so conflicted on class. His inverted snobbery is hinted at here when he hears the Home Secretary went to a public school: WHY?! Go further or don’t go ‘there’ at all, Mr Bond! Meta (love that word btw) context: Fleming took the name ‘Blofeld’ from his own Eton days. Imagine if James Bond had been bullied by a similarly named bad boy at same school, in this universe? Cue a lifelong hatred of the elite yet an absolute need to be their protector on 007’s part. Still a ‘Scottish peasant’ (his words in the books) but also, wannabe Lord of the manor..the very motif set up by Vesper’s own assessment of Bond in CASINO ROYALE on that fateful train meeting..

Maybe give us a brief black and white flashback to kid James learning to ski (not too young..maybe a then Tom Felton type?) before graduating similar test at SAS school, or something? Brings things full circle and then pays off both in a ski chase with Dr Swann evading Blofeld’s goons and finally in the confrontation with the poisonous foster brother at the root of all the evil.

So yes, whilst I admire Daniel’s honesty (‘I cannot ski‘!); this is nevertheless a massively missed opp for his Bond tenure.

 

  • ANY LAST WORDS, MR BOND?

For all the above reservations? I enjoy SPECTRE. Ironically enough, it is the one I put on the most, albeit in the background while I do other things. It has fine action, set pieces, humour (‘cut out the middle man’) and momentarily captures the tonal balance it was after to begin with. I even like the much maligned score/song.  Watchable fun: it’s Sam Mendes /Barabra Broccoli so of course it’s generally good.

But oh-oh what might have been just a little bit better..THE WRITING WAS ON THE WALL? 😉

  • LAST WORDS: SAVED FROM SUPPOSEDLY SHIT STATUS : If a few tweaks can fix it? Then the film is not shit. The end?

JAMES BOND (AND JAMES MURPHY) MAY RETURN..



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