They’ve done it. They’ve ruined Bond.
A feat previously inconceivable, Hollywood has taken one of Western culture’s immortals and killed him. The Blockbuster industry has made the impossible a reality; they’ve sucked dry all of the verve from the most interesting man in the world, leaving him a bag of breathless bones—a sketch of his former self.
I really must applaud those responsible for so wholly committing to the complete destruction of the icon whose line, “shaken, not stirred,” has slipped from millions of lips. In true Bond-villain fashion, the writing team couldn’t be contented by a merciful, quick assassination; no, over nearly three hours, they chopped him into bits one predictable line at a time until he was not even a specter of himself.
007 is my favorite spy (because I know so many). I formed my attachment to him while studying in England, and for several years of my life, my foremost aspiration was to eventually become a Bond girl (one of the few who survived, if at all possible, though I’d take what I could get). While walking to the subway a few weeks ago, one of my friends who had never seen a Bond film asked me how I could be a feminist and still enjoy the deplorably objectifying series. The answer was simple in my logic: as a feminist, I have the right to like what I do, just like anyone else. That includes Virginia Woolf and Simone de Beauvoir, Lena Dunham and Toni Morrison, and James Bond and Nicki Minaj, and that’s not wrong.
My problem with Spectre has nothing to do with its treatment of women. Yes, Daniel Craig robbed the cradle with Léa Seydoux, her baby face contrasting the deep crevasses in his. But I’ve gone for older men, and I’d be a hypocrite to call out the maturity gap everyone seems to dwell on, citing Hollywood’s apparent ageism and misogyny as sources of adversity for actresses. What I will say is that, while age is just a number and shouldn’t define relationships, chemistry means more. Craig looks like he feels creepy when he barely grazes Seydoux without any sense of the debonair Bond whose strength and weakness are women. Funnily enough, the only time he eases into that seething, sensual bachelor is while seducing widow Lucia Sciarra, played by the beautiful Monica Bellucci, who’s four years Craig’s senior.
But forget romance. This series has always been rather thick when it comes to women. Still, Spectre’s issue has nothing to do with gender politics; it is barbarically daft writing coupled with apathetic performances that make for its demise. Critics have condemned Craig’s first three films for their starkness and lack of sensitivity; they say he’s too raw for the role, which is precisely why he’s my favorite. Spectre seemed to assuage these sourpusses with an old-fashioned opening before the first scene and a plot so unrealistic it wandered into stupidity. Things happened without intention or explanation; it felt like writers John Logan, Robert Wade and Neal Purvis piled into a room and brainstormed how best to replicate the Bond of another era, only with less mastery. After all, Craig is not Sean Connery, who was great for the ’60s and ’70s, but would seem silly now. Craig’s whole purpose was bringing Bond into the 21st century, and he’s done so for three movies. Why revert now?
Perhaps Craig knew the script was shit and the result would be malarkey. For whatever reason, he seemed completely uninterested in Bond from the first minute he stepped onscreen. His face throughout resembled a protesting teenager—he would show up to set, but wouldn’t like it. His viral quote about shooting another Bond sequel, “I’d rather break this glass and slash my wrists,” was engraved in his body language. He made it blatantly obvious: he’s done with 007.
In fact, the whole effort felt exhausted. The story was exhausted. The writers were exhausted. Craig was exhausted. I get being exhausted, but then don’t waste your time and mine pushing through the exhaustion for money’s sake. This is my qualm, and why I was so infuriated by Spectre: it’s not alone in ruining a perfectly wonderful piece of fluff by beating it over the head to bleed out as much mindless content as possible. The previews before the show included a Rocky sequel and the new Star Wars. Hunger Games comes out in a few weeks. Almost every notable hit is part of a franchise, most of which have lost any spark they once had.
The saddest part? Everyone involved in Spectre is hugely talented. Logan’s a Tony-winning playwright; Craig’s a stage actor who can make an impact when he wants. The rest of the cast has impressive credits to their names, including Christoph Waltz, who is maniacally droll and unbelievable here, but has proven his acting chops elsewhere. All of this possibility is being wasted because of a few bigwigs who want to make big bucks.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m all for new Bond films if they’re done well, add to the narrative and don’t feel vacant. But if all we get is a skeleton—no flesh or blood—I’d rather skip.
That’s why Spectre sent me on this tirade: it represents where we’re going as a society: lazy, empty and all about the money. The stories we tell are the precedent we know. If our precedent is void of anything but a few blowing booms and tired quips, what’s the purpose of that?