James Bond has become something of a celebration. Whether it be screen 4 of the local multiplex or your own living room on a Bank Holiday, we’ve come to expect certain things from our 007. So versed have we become in the lore of Britain’s best secret agent, that we’re just as familiar with a raised eyebrow and calm-quip as we are with an Aston Martin’s rocket launchers.
That being said, it’s becoming increasingly harder to please an audience than it is to keep your pants on in Bond’s presence. Too many nods to previous 007 movies and you risk alienating the newbies. Not enough Easter Eggs and the die hard fans will complain that “this isn’t their Bond.” For all it’s bluster, Casino Royale burst from a narrative Walther PPK and owned it’s new edge. A splash of Bourne’s style along with the glamour and sex appeal, established the reboot and all fear’s of Daniel Craig’s Bond were quelled.
Following the 50th Anniversary celebration of Skyfall, Sam Mendes returns to do something we probably hadn’t expected. Something that flies in the faces of die-hard fans and serial-cinemagoers alike. He nudges Bond a little back to his roots. It’s by no means a re-hashing of any of the near comic book silliness of Brosnan, or the arse-slapping quips of Moore. Spectre takes care to keep a more real-edge set out in previous instalments of the Craig-era and continues it’s invitations to occasionally ask questions of the character. Is he altruistic behind the damaged armour of troubled youth? Or a total sociopath?
Spectre is just as happy to indulge the tropes of older Bond Movies. The opening is a gorgeously designed, tension-building set-piece usually reserved for the climax of other movies. Even if the actual song is benign, the opening credit sequence is beautifully imagined – both exquisite and unsettling. Then there’s the movie itself, which seems quite happy to indulge beguilingly silly stunts and plot devices. Today’s 007 may have more dirt in it’s Martini, but it also remembers to hang loose. Granted, it never becomes cleverly meta, but also not so wrapped up in keeping it’s feet on the ground does it forget to have fun with our expectations of the franchise and at itself.
It’s really this last point that shifts Bond back to the narrative nostalgia of old. Suspension of disbelief is required to get you passed some moments, but they seem knowing. After all, is this not we have paid admission for? Have we not come to escape? Not only are Bond movies a celebration, but also an institution. You need to slip into it like a tailored suit if you’re going to enjoy it.
4* – Dr. Yes