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How Spectre Twisted The Daniel Craig Era Of James Bond

Daniel Craig grimly aims his gun at a target off camera in Spectre.
(Image credit: Danjaq, LLC and MGM)

Fate has drawn us to this moment, dear readers. As No Time To Die hits theaters, Daniel Craig’s run of James Bond movies comes to an end. Which means that in preparation of the closing festivities to the Craig era of 007, our examination of his run must also come to an end. And the beginning of the end certainly resides in the events of 2015’s Spectre, the installment that reintroduced an old foe and some more traditional touches to the modern reboot era. But at the same time, in order to go a little more classic, director Sam Mendes’ film had to twist the Daniel Craig era of James Bond into something that was also very bold and risk taking.

When EON Productions finally got the rights back to what was once the archnemesis of James Bond’s classic run of films, Spectre presented an opportunity to go big on something fans hadn’t seen in decades. The groundwork laid by Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace rolled out the welcome mat, and Skyfall in its own way set the table for some huge developments. Before we get started, keep in mind that if you haven’t seen Spectre, there are massive spoilers ahead. With that warning in place, let’s begin. 

Dame Judi Dench speaking in a video in Spectre.

(Image credit: Danjaq LLC and MGM)

Olivia Mansfield’s Final Order

When we last left James Bond, Skyfall saw the untimely death of his former boss and confidante Olivia Mansfield (Dame Judi Dench). Known more commonly as M, her demise saw a passing of the torch in the intelligence community, as well as the revelation of one final secret she was keeping. Hidden among the personal effects she’d willed to James Bond was a simple set of instructions: 

If anything happens to me 007, I need you to do something. Find a man called Marco Sciarra. Kill him. And don't miss the funeral.

This is the event that kicks off Spectre’s story, thanks to a pre-credit sequence that sees James Bond on a rogue mission in Mexico City. Sure enough, Bond finds Sciarra (Alessandro Cremona), an operative for the shadowy organization that gives the film its title. Through a chain of events that involves setting off a bomb that was meant to take out a stadium, a chase through the streets of Mexico City, and Sciarra being kicked out of a rolling helicopter, Bond fulfills his final order from M. In doing so, he soon becomes a kite dancing in a hurricane.

Ralph Fiennes looking rather angry in his office in Spectre.

(Image credit: Danjaq, LLC and MGM)

James Bond And M: A Changing Of The Guard

After the events of Skyfall, Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) finds himself promoted to the head of MI6. Acting as the new M, his relationship with James Bond is pretty much strained from day one, as his “holiday” in Mexico City makes for some rather explosive headlines. To be fair, M’s predecessor would have probably admonished him for the same reasons; urging Bond to take the man in for interrogation, rather than give him the boot. But now his actions have given an old threat some new fuel. 

Bureaucracy rears its head once more in Spectre, as the forces that want to shut down the 00-program in Skyfall have continued to make themselves felt. This time out, an ambitious young man named Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott) is the face of the enemy, as he’s spearheading a proposal known as “Nine Eyes.” An intelligence network that combines the forces of its nine member nations into one central hub, overseen by Denbigh, who has been unofficially codenamed “C”, it’s intended to be the ultimate body of knowledge. Now, M and Bond have yet another common enemy to fight, and he might be more of a menace than they could have ever imagined. 

Young James Bond and Hannes Oberhauser pictured in a partially burnt photo in Spectre.

(Image credit: Danjaq, LLC and MGM)

The Bond Family Legacy, Or The Dead Are Alive

Once again, the past comes back to haunt James Bond in his hour of vulnerability. As time marches on, and more of the Bond family legacy is revealed, it seems that 007’s life as an orphan has yet again given a nefarious adversary the advantage. M’s final orders to kill Marco Sciarra seem to be connected to the fact that she knew about James Bond’s connection to another party in Spectre’s ultimate hierarchy. 

Enclosed in the box that gave Bond his so called inheritance from Olivia Mansfield were some personal documents: adoption papers and a photo showing Bond’s life with his adopted father, Hannes Oberhauser. After his parents had died in their climbing accident, the Oberhauser family took the young man in as one of their own. But someone in the family wasn’t very happy about this fact, Hannes’ biological son, Franz Oberhauser. Though you’d know him by the name he adopted after his official death: Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz).

Christoph Waltz stands in his control room menacingly in Spectre.

(Image credit: Danjaq, LLC and MGM.)

Ernst Stavro Blofeld, James Bond's Iconic Nemesis Reborn

Known as James Bond’s ultimate nemesis in the earlier incarnation of the franchise, Spectre gives Blofeld a new reason to hate Bond’s guts. Instead of merely seeing 007 as the ultimate foil to his plans for world domination, Ernst is now revealed to think of James as a “cuckoo” in the Oberhauser family. Fearing that his adopted brother pushed him out of the position of the child most loved in the family, young Franz triggered an avalanche that killed his own father. 

Presumed dead after that fateful incident, and living under his new identity, Ernst Stavro Blofeld begins to put together a group of like minded individuals. Attracting a certain kind of villain, the type who likes to play around with money, terrorism, and the stage of world power, Blofeld creates the organization that literally makes him the author of all of James Bond’s pain. In his insane jealousy, Spectre gets its title, and a new body of terror is given life.

Blofeld's org chart of SPECTRE operatives.

(Image credit: Danjaq, LLC and MGM.)

Reintroducing SPECTRE, In The Ashes Of Quantum

Originally, the events of Quantum of Solace were intended to introduce a substitution for the classic organization of SPECTRE. You can thank some extended rights issues for that particular twist, but by time the 23rd James Bond movie was going into production, those pitfalls were eliminated. Which meant it was time for Spectre to reintroduce Ernst Stavro Blofeld as a kind of CEO to the parent company of evil that ruled over Quantum. Through some detective work from Q (Ben Whishaw,) Quantum is revealed to be a subsidiary of SPECTRE, with all of the past foes James Bond has squared up with acting as its executive body.

Not only has SPECTRE been entangled in James Bond’s life ever since he interfered with the operations of Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) in Casino Royale, but Spectre sees an even more heinous infiltration in the works. As it turns out, Max Denbigh has been advocating for the “Nine Eyes” initiative, because it’d be a fantastic tool for SPECTRE to use in their continued undermining of worldwide intelligence operations. If only Mr. Denbigh hadn’t lived up to the nickname M gave him shortly before he fell to his death: “Careless.” 

Léa Seydoux sits in front of Daniel Craig, with a gun between them, in Spectre.

(Image credit: Danjaq, LLC and MGM.)

Dr. Madeleine Swann, Daughter Of SPECTRE

By the time Spectre starts, there’s only two men still alive on that roster: Ernst Stavo Blofeld and Mr. White (Jesper Christensen). By infiltrating a SPECTRE meeting he crashed, thanks to Marco Sciarra’s membership ring, Bond learns that “The Pale King” is in fact Mr. White, who has been slowly dying in seclusion. Catching up with his old foe, Mr. White offers him the ultimate tradeoff: information on SPECTRE, in exchange for ending his poisoned death on his own terms. Before committing suicide with a gun given to him by James Bond, Mr. White makes him promise one more favor: to protect his daughter, Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) 

Throughout the espionage thriller plotline that Spectre uses to embody the usual antics of James Bond, the budding relationship between Bond and Madeleine also takes center stage. Learning to love again for the first time since Bond’s tragic loss of Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) in Casino Royale, 007 falls for Dr. Madeline Swann as she accompanies him through the journey to the top of Spectre’s infamous criminal operations. The ultimate sign of kinship between the two comes from a story she tells about her childhood, and how a personal tragedy forced Madeleine to grow up sooner than expected. There’s a reason she despises guns, but knows how to use one; and that is part of the puzzle that ultimately resolves the Daniel Craig arc of James Bond drama in No Time To Die.

Daniel Craig and Léa Seydoux, sitting happily in the Aston Martin, in Spectre.

(Image credit: Danjaq, LLC and MGM.)

How Spectre Twisted The Daniel Craig Era Of James Bond

By the end of Spectre, we see James Bond do some things he’s never done before in this run. After saving Madeleine from near death at the hand of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Bond confronts him on Westminster Bridge. It’s the moment where we’d expect him to kill the man that turned the ruins of the old MI6  building into a funhouse dedicated to the foes and friends that died around 007 in his past adventures. 

But scaling back on his overdeveloped trigger finger, James Bond doesn’t take the shot. Allowing Blofeld to be taken into custody, the Quantum of Solace Bond shows up again, opting for strategy over blunt revenge. With the 00-program still in play, and Nine Eyes neutralized, Bond makes one last crucial decision that almost saw Spectre acting as the end of his story: he resigns from active service.

Climbing into the rebuilt Aston Martin DB5, James and Madeleine drive off into London, with all of the time in the world for their love story to continue. Spectre sees James Bond returning to the well of revenge, in an adventure that twists together the classic traditions of the 007 legacy with a sensibility that allows Bond to grow as a person. That growth will come with a price in No Time To Die, but for now, the Daniel Craig era has taken a twist that builds to the epic conclusion in both positive and negative ways. 

Next time, it’s all been building up to this! The saga of Daniel Craig’s James Bond comes to its big finale with No Time To Die, the film that concludes the Craig era of adventure. So if you haven’t already done so, go see the 25th entry of the James Bond movies in order, and prepare to come back to see how it all wraps up. But if you’ve already seen No Time To Die, and want to kill some time, check out what other 2021 movies are on the way to theaters near you! 

Mike Reyes

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.