All things considered it’s not really that surprising it took the James Bond franchise all of the 2000s till it became relevant again. James Bond entered the 2000s with the deplorably bloated and embarrassingly outdated Die Another Day before failing to find a substantial audience outside dedicated fans and upper level critics with the stripped down, gritty reworking under Daniel Craig. Then came the geek awakening of 2008, which is what really set the stage for 007’s return to prominence 4 years later. On the one hand 2008 helped re-solidify Batman as one of the most popular heroes on the planet, which goes a long way in James Bond’s favor given both characters are globe-trotting adventurers fighting colorful megalomaniacs with a pile of gadgets.
On the flip side Marvel’s cinematic universe took over the box office and suddenly sprawling inter-film continuity and classic era fidelity were cool again. That’s why Skyfall ended up like it did, full of recreations of classic Bond elements rather than the stymied realism of previous installments and even redefining James as a more Bruce Wayne like character with dead parents and a mansion. Now, as we prep for Bond’s next installment director Sam Mendes seems to be doubling down on the classic series revival elements for Spectre in its new full trailer.
This new trailer says a lot more about tone than it does about content. In terms of what Spectre will actually be about that seems fairly obvious from the name though this trailer does cement some new elements that weren’t previously obvious. From the intro we know Bond will be going rogue from MI6, something that seems to happen every other film these days, in order to combat Spectre.
The new concept of the Spectre organization seems to parallel some of what we’ve seen influencing the Syndicate reimagining for Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. It appears to be an evil organization formed around James Bond, with the express purpose of torturing him for some unspecified goal. My personal theory is that this will turn in some capacity towards Grant Morrison’s Batman foe the Black Glove, especially given the creepy familiarity Christophe Waltz’s character has for Bond.
The major theory on Waltz is that he’s playing a revived version of Bloefeld, the classic Bond antagonist and head of Spectre previously played by Donald Pleasance. That seems fairly likely from this trailer, especially given some of Waltz’s costumes look to be a direct reference to the iconic character but I’m frankly unsure. Between the coyness with which the production has played to that point and the history of great twists recently I could easily see it that Waltz is playing a Bloefeld stand in of some kind ala Ras al Ghul in Batman Begins or the Mandarin in Iron Man 3.
My biggest take away from this trailer, however, is, as I said, about the tone of the film. In particular Spectre looks to be doubling down on the classic Bond ephemera for this movie. They’re bringing back the Aston Martin, gadgets seem to be reappearing, and there looks like an even greater emphasis on exotic foreign locals than Skyfall.
Personally I think that’s all for the best, despite some solid storytelling in the past there just isn’t much need for the gritty realistic James Bond when you get down to it. I recognize that Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace are more faithful to the books but they’re ultimate just another entry in the Jason Bourne knock-off category, even if the stories predate Bourne the cinematography, tone, and focus are all completely zeroed in on that style of modern espionage action flick. The thing is that we don’t need more Jason Bourne knock-offs, the style is so low-budget requirement there are already a ton of movies in that style.
More than that it seems audiences are tired of the Jason Bourne approach as well, especially considering the complete box office failure of the Bourne Legacy. What’s more of the 4 spy films coming out this year; Kingsman, Spectre, Rogue Nation, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., all of them appear to be retrograde throwbacks to the silver age of ‘60s James Bond blockbusters. It seems the time for abject realism has pretty much past and fantasy is the order of the day. That makes sense; in a world increasingly dominated by the likes of Jurassic World or Avengers “gritty realism” comes off mainly unrewarding and drab.
Spectre comes out in US theaters on November 6, 2015