Spectre, the long awaited sequel to the backward-looking Skyfall, debuted this week, and in many ways, Sam Mendes’ film met the high expectations left in the wake of its predecessor. Although Spectre has its faults (and what 007 flick doesn’t), the newest entry in the 24-film franchise leaves far more up in the air than any before. Skyfall was a monumental success because of an unmistakable love for Bond’s storied past, and the film was a means for the narratively-vegitative series to start anew. We received a vintage DB5, a gadget-obsessed Q, a badass Moneypenny, and a perfect replacement for the otherwise irreplaceable Dame Judi Dench. Coupled with the title, the casting of a heavily-accented Christoph Waltz started a swirl of rumors that Bond’s oldest nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, would be making a glorious return, and with him, the resurgence of classic-era Bond. (With so many still unable to watch Spectre, it seems unfair to comment on whether or not the rumors are substantiated.)
Daniel Craig’s tenure as James Bond has always been about new beginnings. Taking over the series at perhaps its lowest point, Craig faced an uphill battle. Eased into his considerable role by Casino Royale, (Ian Fleming’s first novel), the fresh-faced Craig and his interpretation of James Bond began their assignments simultaneously. Through Craig’s four-film stint, the man with a license to kill has fallen in love (countless times), grown old and seen major shake-ups at MI6. Each successive film inherits narrative threads and distant memories from the productions that came before, an unheard-of tactic for the franchise. The loss of Vesper Lynd stung like no love had ever before (she has been given more posthumous screen time than Theresa Bond ever received), and past villains remained in the forefront of Bond’s mind.
If Skyfall is a crowd-pleasing Bond retrospective, Spectre is the crossroads where the Daniel Craig Bond series meet. Although the film brings closure to much of the strife Bond has faced since Casino Royale, a hasty finale more concerned with shock and awe deadens the impact of these revelatory moments. While James might have had the curtain on his continual misery lifted, the audience is left in a foggy haze of doubt. This will certainly not be the end of these characters, but they are left with nowhere to go.
Eon Productions cannot effectively maintain this “cinematic universe” strategy for the future of their series (creating a web of intertwined criminal masterminds, scantily-clad women and car chases), as the feasibility of such a complex system would totally undermine the standalone aspects the films have come to stand for. Having already dug up the most iconic aspects from Bond’s 50-year history, creating a third historically reflective narrative is unachievable, unless producers and writers are willing to scrape the bottom of the barrel for reference material (fingers crossed for another blimp fight). More importantly, how much longer will the world actually put up with the character’s bygone peculiarities? Knowing winks to the audience have become comedic announcements of “here’s the part where Bond and the younger girl finally have sex!” Even Daniel Craig has spoken out about the monotonies of portraying such a rigidly-defined, socially-deplorable character.
So how will the series branch out? Perhaps this obsession with the past will lead to a period-piece spy actioner in line with 60s-era canon. The recent focus on technological villainy has grown tedious, whereas a foe with a preposterous scheme to rule the world (like starting a space utopia or rendering a large portion of the world’s gold supply radioactive) would be a welcome bit of nostalgia, and serve as a lighthearted core to the film, an aspect noticeably absent from newer entries. Despite refraining from striking a woman for a few decades, James is still incredibly misogynistic, and as society progresses, the character will be forced to drop his behavioral anachronisms. A Bond who refrains from meaningless casual sex with women is hard to imagine (and frankly, completely improbable), but having the woman be as equally aloof — even once — would be a monumental step. Going further, after Rebecca Ferguson’s impeccable showing in Rogue Nation, maybe what the world needs is not a more female-friendly Bond, but an actual female Bond (and not a cop-out, James Bond’s daughter version, an MI6-trained agent who is elevated as a replacement and bestowed the 007 codename). While that last token might be a little extreme (in an environment where boycotting Star Wars is a thing), it is absolutely not too much to ask for another badass, Grace Jones-styled henchwoman, or god forbid, a Super Villain (I’m looking at you, Rihanna) to give old James a run for his money.
Regardless of what comes next for our beloved spy, let us never again speak of (or be subjected to) that opening montage with the trashy, tentacle-porn horror show.
Jordan Brooks (@viewtoaqueue) is an increasingly-snobby cinefile based out of London, England. As a contributor to several online publications, including his own blog, he has succeeded in fulfilling his life long dream of imposing strong opinions on others.