In Defense Of Spectre: Why This James Bond Movie Has An Unfair Rep

Daniel Craig stand stoically in Mexico, during the day of the dead, in Spectre

A lot of things can be forgiven in the course of five, almost six years, but a good portion of the James Bond fandom still hasn’t found the time to forgive 2015’s Spectre. A common whipping post for 007 aficionados, it’s starting to build a reputation that we’ve seen few other Bond films accrue over time. If things keep going down this path, Spectre could become the new Moonraker, and I for one won’t stand for it. I ask my fellow James Bond fans to open their minds, and consider that maybe Sam Mendes’ second Bond film has an unfair rep.

Dame Judi Dench appears through a pre-recorded message in Spectre.

Spectre Picks Up Perfectly Where Skyfall Left Off

Serialization isn’t something that the James Bond series is best known for. Even when the Sean Connery era seemed to be leading to the reveal of the original SPECTRE, it was a loosely connected franchise. Quantum of Solace changed all of that, as it brought intense serialization into the 007 fold, and Spectre picked up perfectly where Skyfall had left the franchise hero. There’s even a strong, literal link between the two stories thanks to a cameo from Dame Judi Dench’s M in her pre-recorded will. As a result, we are allowed to get into James Bond’s head better than ever in the series, which helps the movie's big reveals and setups to lead up to what’s been promised as an emotional finale in No Time To Die.

Daniel Craig gets snippy over an enzyme shake, pushing it away in Spectre.

Daniel Craig’s James Bond Has More Of A Sense Of Humor In Spectre

A frequent criticism of the Daniel Craig era of James Bond is that 007 doesn’t have enough of a sense of humor. With Skyfall, however, that pattern seemed to break, and Spectre in particular carries that baton rather well. Mouthing off to a security guard that his name is “Mickey Mouse,” leading a rousing car chase through the streets of Rome with some car based gags, and even quipping “tempus fugit” while setting up an explosive watch gag all feel like Moore-era shenanigans.

However in Spectre, they aren’t so much intrusive as a pleasant ingredient that makes the finished product all the more fun. The scene where Bond swiftly dismisses an enzyme shake, as his customary martini is not an option at the ritzy clinic he visits to meet Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), is a perfectly edged gag that walks the cranky and comedy line Craig’s incarnation lives on.

Léa Seydoux aims her gun in a train compartment in Spectre.

Dr. Madeleine Swann Is The Ultimate Bond Woman

Female characters in the James Bond franchise aren’t always given their due, and they aren’t all created equal. Every now and then someone who can really call 007 out on his flaws comes along, though, and does so in fantastic fashion. Dr. Madeleine Swann from Spectre does just that, as her intelligence, independent nature, and ability to watch out for herself all allow her to be more of an equal to James Bond than most of his romantic partners.

That dynamic makes watching their relationship bloom all the more rewarding, especially as they drive off into the sunrise at the end of Spectre. Though that happy ending has left fans with a very real question of how James would ever return from retirement after meeting the love of his life – and that question will lead up to whatever twists are to be discovered in the tantalizing mystery we’re about to see unfold in No Time To Die. This has already led to rumors detailing some exciting developments that really could change all things 007.

Ralph Fiennes stands in his office, looking rather mad, in Spectre.

Tradition And Reinvention Mix Perfectly In Spectre

As new as Spectre feels compared to the way the 007 franchise has typically done business, there’s still a very traditional feeling present in the film. The gunbarrel is, for the first time in the post Casino Royale era, in its rightful place at the beginning of the film, reestablishing the old rhythm from the 007 series' heyday. We even get a traditional scene where Bond is in M’s (Ralph Fiennes) office receiving a pseudo-briefing and dressing down that set Spectre’s story up to a tee, and allows our agent to go off and have tons of destructive fun.

Meanwhile, Spectre breaks new ground with Bond’s relationship to Dr. Swann, as well as his interactions with the MI6 support crew. We're introduced to the personal lives of both Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw), and M even gets to help save the day outside of his old-fashioned office at MI6. The James Bond hallmarks start to come back in good measure, while expanding roles traditionally known as simply supporting players.

Christoph Waltz holds a tablet, standing in the middle of his control room, in Spectre.

Spectre Modernizes The Organization For The 007 Reboot Era

Back in the days of the Cold War, SPECTRE was an outlandish organization that represented the political climate of the world on a cinematic scale. But as the world changed, and even SPECTRE itself had to go on the backburner, the James Bond movies had to change their tactics when it came to dreaming up baddies. The return of Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) and his mythic organization in Spectre is more than just reclaiming a seemingly important piece of the 007 legacy, it also makes the classic menace into a modern power player.

Thanks to Quantum’s efforts to give the Bond films a more modern-feeling threat, SPECTRE was able to fold into that groundwork, making for a believable threat in a more grounded James Bond franchise. Surveillance, blackmail, and even the balance of power between individual nations are all on the line thanks to Blofeld and his partnership with the duplicitous C (Andrew Scott). While it looks like Rami Malek's Safin is going to be up to some new and dangerous goals in No Time To Die, his former employer helped lay down the groundwork for a plot we still don't know much about.

Christoph Waltz stares at Daniel Craig, boasting with a new facial scar, in Spectre.

Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld Is The Perfect Foil For Daniel Craig’s James Bond

Ernst Stavro Blofeld and James Bond are, thanks to the legacy of the Bond movies, an iconic hero/villain duo. So when it came to updating Spectre’s similarly landmark organization, a new Blofeld was needed to make it all come together. And oh, does the casting of Christoph Waltz tie the 24th James Bond movie into an amazing tale of sibling rivalry playing out across a field that could affect the fate of the world. While some fans may label me as cuckoo for enjoying what most have labeled as the "Brofeld" twist, I think it only makes things more interesting in Spectre, especially with someone like Waltz being a requirement when even revisiting a role so instrumental to the series.

Even the simple act of tauntingly drawing a heart in a fogged glass is menacing in Waltz’s hands, and his shadowy introduction into Spectre itself sets a chilling tone. In-between death threats and some unique torture devices, Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld works along the same lines of the classic Bond villain trope that sees the antagonist as a jealous reflection. The decision to make him the adopted brother to James Bond is a further touch that, in my eyes, is a brilliant revision of such a cartoonish and larger than life villain. Blofeld truly knows how to get under Bond’s skin, and with Waltz having this variant to work with it’s truly delicious stuff to watch on the screen.

Spectre excites me as a James Bond fan because not only does it honor the classics, it takes the time to reinvent the 007 saga in such a way that it’s fresh while reverent. In two movies, Sam Mendes helped reintroduce classic motifs and components of Bond lore in a way that modern audiences should be able to appreciate. It’s a shame that many don’t seem to understand that for the time being, but some of the best James Bond movies have suffered similar fates, if not worse. Still, why not check out Spectre once again at some point before No Time To Die hits theaters this fall? You might find that you’ll be reading the writing on the wall a little differently with a pair of fresh eyes.

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Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

Mike Reyes is the Senior Movie Contributor at CinemaBlend, though that title’s more of a guideline really. Passionate about entertainment since grade school, the movies have always held a special place in his life, which explains his current occupation. Mike graduated from Drew University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, but swore off of running for public office a long time ago. Mike's expertise ranges from James Bond to everything Alita, making for a brilliantly eclectic resume. He fights for the user.