A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Tuesday, December 01, 2015


9/11 really was a turning point in world history.  Since that event, security has been strengthened everywhere.  The watchful eye of Big Brother has become ubiquitous.  No matter that the methods become intrusive and violate everyone’s personal rights, so long as thousands of lives are saved.   Those in charge of our security—whether elected or not—can also count on using this argument to further their own agendas.

It is here that our favorite super spy from the Cold War era, James Bond (Daniel Craig), still finds himself tugged in several directions between the old and new ways.   The old traditions of going into the field and killing the evildoers, or not, is dying hard. Then there are the new ways of posting cameras everywhere so that not even a terminally ill criminal can commit suicide in peace.

The theme of SPECTRE—the conflict of the old and the new—is carried over from Skyfall.  In the old corner, we have Bond, M and the rest of MI6, clinging to tradition of traveling the globe and personally dispatching the bad guy.  In the new corner is an ambitious bureaucrat called “C” (Andrew Scott), who is eager to shut down the OO section and establish a global surveillance network that could ultimately merge with SPECTRE, which is headed by a sinister looking figure by the name of Blofeld.

Ah, but the merger is stymied when one nation votes against the idea, defeating a motion which requires total agreement among the participants.  Oh, what to do?  Launch a furious propaganda campaign designed to convince the people that their errant leaders made the wrong choice?  Or launch a terror attack, dramatizing the need for global, omnipresent surveillance?

The first option takes too long and the results are unpredictable. The bureaucrats sneer at democracy, and create a crisis to justify their ends.  Ciao, Cape Town.

Blofeld (Cristoph Waltz) is charming and comes complete wearing Nehru jacket and his white Persian in tow.   (It is so good to see the white Persian on the big screen again.  When we last saw him in For Your Eyes Only he was scampering for his life while his wheelchair bound owner was dumped into a very tall factory smokestack.)  Now Blofeld is on a first name basis with Bond and (hint, hint) treats him like a despised little brother.

Okay, let’s get this straight, Blofeld.   All of your dastardly plots from the 60s, which included hijacking nuclear missiles, blackmailing the entire world, or an intergalactic laser beam to destroy nuclear arsenals and further your ambitions for global domination from a base inside a volcano, was all due to the worst case of sibling rivalry in human history?   Seriously, Blofeld?

Although Bond has to endure yet another torture episode (a holdover from the original Fleming novels), things end up badly for Blofeld.  As we all know by now, Bond tends to leave death and destruction (see the urban renewal project he completed in Mexico City in the film's prologue) in his wake.  Blofeld fares no better in his encounter with Bond.

I’ll admit I’m a bit slow on the uptake, but why did it take me until SPECTRE to realize that the opening credit sequences in the Bond films are surreal dream sequences plumbing the depths of Bond’s psyche.  D’oh!  How else can I explain the image of Bond meeting one of his Bond girls beneath an octopus that is easily fifty feet high.  Imagine an octopus that tall and no humongous deep fryer and fifty gallon drum of cocktail sauce to be found anywhere!

This latest Bond installment carries the tradition of thrills and satisfying cinema experience.  From the vertigo inducing helicopter flight fight over Mexico City to the final pursuit down the Thames, there is enough eye popping and ear drum splitting explosions to satisfy the hardest Bond fan.  Yes, the story does lose its way (where exactly have we met the terminally ill Mr. White before?), and the end is not necessarily a clear win for the good guys.

Skyfall was a game changer for the franchise; SPECTRE changed it further.

For one, Moneypenny gets a life!  Moneypenny has been sighing over Bond for over 50 years!  Bond, ever mindful of the perils of on the job romances, would be flirtatious, but never took her loaded suggestions/advances to first base.  In SPECTRE, Bond contacts Moneypenny while dodging assassins in a high speed chase through the streets of Rome late at night, and determines that she is NOT alone in her London flat when he calls.  Way to go, Moneypenny!   Of course this leaves Bond free to pursue romance elsewhere.

Also, M and Q get more involved in the field than ever before.  M (Ralph Fiennes) fights for his career and the future of the OO section against the previously mentioned formidable figure known only as C (or, as M pegs him, cocky as in cocky bastard).   Q (Ben Wishaw) is a bit of an anomaly.  He is loyal to M and the old ways,  yet always has his laptop at the ready, prepared to take down surveillance networks nearly - and let’s emphasize the word nearly - as quickly as Bond can draw his Walther PPK.

For another, the Bond girl lives beyond the closing credits.  This was unheard of in many of the previous films.   This was tradition dating back to the first Bond novel.   Not this time: at the end of SPECTRE Bond and his newest love (Lea Seydoux) drive off in his fully rebuilt Aston-Martin into the sunset.   Now there’s a scene on which to end the franchise.  Oh, but how can we just end the greatest money-making film franchise in history?

It is in that end that we find the conflict is compromised.  Old edifices implode and the villain is not entirely vanquished, allowed to face justice and die another day.

Okay, Daniel Craig gets to drive off into the sunset and perhaps a second career behind the camera (he is listed as co-producer for SPECTRE), but what about us?  Those of us who sat through the credits—there must have been hundreds of stunt extras—were rewarded with the four words we longed to see:  JAMES BOND WILL RETURN.
Whew, that was close!

(Thank you for reading.  Bartender, a round of vodka martinis shaken not stirred, for everyone!)


Anonymous Janey Moneypenny said...

So that's what the fuck was going on in the movie? All I remember was seeing Daniel Craig's chest...! :-)

RTG and I saw the movie together; I viewed his DVD of Skyfall the next day and then, yes, the plot of SPECTRE made more sense.

Todd is the cinema critic; I just like visual stimulation (have I mentioned Daniel Craig's chest?), so I'll comment on just two elements of SPECTRE. First, the Mexico City "urban renewal project", as Todd so amusingly called it, is preceded by some of the finest and most thrilling cinematography I can recall. Second, it was indeed good to see the white Persian cat again. Kudos to RTG for remembering where we last saw one of Bond's favorite pussies.

December 1, 2015 at 9:48 PM  
Blogger Raybeard said...

As well as mentioning aspects of 'Spectre' which I hadn't (some of which I omitted because I thought they weren't important enough - others I'd just forgotten), you put the film in a context of the whole series which I also didn't - and I like that. But I do once again (as I did in the middle of the Roger Moore Bonds) get the overwhelming feeling that it's all getting threadbare yet again. At least the Moore Bonds became self-knowing parodies, though it's way beyond that now, some 30 years later. I never thought I'd say it but I'd be relieved if they'd now shut down the whole franchise - but we know they won't as long as it keeps raking in the cash.
However, very grateful as ever for your own personal perspective.

December 2, 2015 at 3:03 AM  
Blogger todd gunther said...

Thank you Janey for your comments. It was a very nice afternoon at the movies.

Thank you raybeard. i hate to see Daniel Criag go, but it might be best to limit future Bonds to four episodes and then retire. Roger Moore really did hang around for too long!

December 9, 2015 at 6:29 AM  

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