Film review: Spectre is the Bond of Bonds

SpectreIt’s a couple of months now since Spectre burst on to our cinema screens. Like a firework it blazed bright but its light has since been dimmed in comparison to the latest Star Wars epic. (Actually, I think that Spectre and The Force Awakens have quite a lot in common but that will have to wait for another time.)

Much of the hype surrounding Spectre arose because its predecessor in the series, Skyfall, was largely considered to have been a huge success. And I think that this hype has led to a specific flaw in Spectre. Since the 1970s, the Bond series has renewed itself by riffing off whatever it can find elsewhere in popular culture. So Live and Let Die is the Blaxploitation one, Moonraker the Star Wars one, Octopussy the (admittedly this one’s more of a long shot) Indiana Jones one, The World is Not Enough the Lara Croft one (or at least poor Denise Richards had to dress up like Lara Croft) and Casino Royale the Jason Bourne one.

Unfortunately for Broccoli, Wilson and Mendes, nothing emerged after Skyfall to trump it. And so Spectre is ‘the James Bond one’, closer to the standard Bond style than any of the Craig films so far.

And that’s the problem. When thinking of Spectre, the reasonably awake Bond fan will remember the little shout outs – an references to Live and Let Die here, a fight just the same as in From Russia With Love there. There are some attempts to continue plot points from previous Craig films, although Q’s modern gadget policy has been reversed (which is a shame, given that the National Gallery scene was such a highlight of Skyfall).

All of that is fantastic. It’s a real treat for the fan, with no downside for the non-fan. You don’t need to know this stuff to enjoy it. Films make reference to each other all the time – either to steal or to pay homage. But Spectre offers very little of its own that is actually new. There is no new motif that I can think of. Put another way, when Bond producers next decide it’s time for a ‘greatest hits’ package, what will be the reference to Spectre? What does it contribute to the series other than a feeling that seen this one, seen them all?

Originality is not the only target to aim for. The last Bond film that went out of its way to pay tribute to its predecessors, Die Another Day, got the tribute part right and the original bits – such as the invisible car – so, so wrong. But I think that Spectre felt too much of a series devouring itself: the brilliant ingredients superbly mixed but with an after-taste of not-that-much.


  1. There’s definitely a pattern here although I’m fond of Thunderball for several reasons. I enjoyed Spectre but for possibly the wrong reasons. Casino Royale, like OHMSS was a proper 3 dimensional movie and Skyfall had some unique twists (although Judi Dench to me was always part of Brosnan’s universe).

    After the ending of Spectre I really can’t see where they can hope to take it but one things for sure and that is that it’ll need a superb script.

  2. It’s the curse of the fourth Bond film, isn’t it? Thunderball was languid, with a dull villain and increasingly disinterested 007, then the underwater scenes suck all the life out of it. Moonraker was a camp, OTT remake of TSWLM (and YOLT) saved only by Roger Moore’s wit and charm (which counts for a lot, to be fair) and some genuinely spectacular visuals. As for Die Another Day’s misconceived ‘greatest hits’ package – sadly that was the first Bond film I saw where I actually left the cinema thinking ‘that was a bit rubbish’.
    I don’t think SPECTRE is *bad*, but I’m not sure it’s all that good – despite some wonderful moments and Daniel Craig on top form (carrying the movie in the way Moore just about carried Moonraker).
    The female lead, who is supposed to be a strong enough character for 007 to leave MI6 for, is underwritten and suffers by comparison to Vesper Lynd, in particular. Meanwhile the villain [SPOILER ALERT] is hamstrung by a ‘secret identity’ a la Star Trek: Into Darkness (who thought *that* idea would work after the drubbing that film got for hiding Khan in plain sight) and given the ‘daddy issues’ plot from Austin Powers in Goldmember. Bond and Blofeld as sort-of-foster brothers? Really?
    They needed a much stronger third act to make all of that work, but as the leaked Sony emails showed, Mendes and co really struggled with the script. The completed film starts strongly, but feels strangely unfinished, as a result.
    If only they’d tried making a movie that stood on its own merits, rather than trying to (unnecessarily) pull together plot threads from the previous Craig Bonds. SPECTRE, or ‘SkyFall 2’, is a classic example of a sequel that demonstrates the law of diminishing returns.

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