Have you ever noticed that Daniel Craig looks a lot like Kevin McKidd? Imagine a world where McKidd made it as Bond, and Craig was a doctor at Grey Sloan Memorial. I still wouldn’t hate myself any less for watching 15 seasons of the show.
The problem with the Craig quintillogy of films is that there isn’t a specific overarching story. To be fair, none of the other Bond films have an overarching plot either, and are very often self-contained films with minimal cross-contamination, even among the same actors. Between the Sean Connery films and the Pierce Brosnan set of films, you can count some similarities, but I know that there were some discontinuities that made the films more episodic than serialized. There are benefits to having a film series be self-contained, but when you decide to carry common themes over through the films, it gets difficult and unfair to have some similarities but not many.
The previous films, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace were excellent entries to the Bond pantheon of films, but were fairly self contained in the character arcs and mysteries. There were some hints of a larger conspiracy here and there, but were fairly diffused in the hubbub of the cinematic climax of each film.
So when you ask me to give a shit that Bond may have fallen in love with Vesper Lynd way back when, I have to question: did he ever fall in love?
James Bond has always been a playboy. A lover. A seductress with a gun. He’s never been one to truly fall in love, not really. It’s always been a ploy, a seduction technique, a means to an end. It’s a tool in his belt, a skill he’s learned. Love eludes Bond by design. So why is Vesper any different? Because we were told she is? Because plot? Love has not been Bond’s unifying theme (not that there’s ever really been one save for The Country), so it’s difficult for us as a smart audience to believe that Bond is ever truly motivated by love of any kind. So why does it play such a role at all in these subsequent films?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that love is a poor theme or unifying element, all I’m saying is that as a guy who’s seen almost all the Bond films, he’s not a Lover, Bond is a lover. It would take true gravitas to convince us that he’s actually fallen in love, instead of just using the woman in front of him to gain information, leverage or an edge.
Skyfall is a film that centers around Bond’s frailty and failure, his love for M and country. Bond is confronted with a mirror image in Raoul Silva, an agent abandoned to torture by M. Skyfall is probably the best first 2/3 of a Bond film as it confronts the agent with his choices, his reality and the consequences he faces if he fails.
If Bond is captured, M has no obligation to retrieve him, and expects Bond to die with whatever secrets he has; but even then, MI6 does not owe him a death. Bond is on his own, always has been, and always will be. His fate will be worse than Silva’s. Yet, M’s death has no true meaning. She dies, Bond is affected, and the later lore-verse is affected, but Bond is no less the assassin he was before.
The climax of Skyfall and the subsequent film, Spectre, are underwhelming and misaligned with the character growth alluded to in the film. While there are references to Bond’s childhood throughout Skyfall, and his pain and weakness is rooted in his childhood, it isn’t truly resolved. Early on, the film makes it a point to show that Bond is affected by his parents and his ‘unresolved trauma’. However, the climax has little to do with this character struggle, and culminates in a knifefight as boring as a gunfight. Silva dies, M dies, Bond’s childhood home is destroyed. So?
The emotional and physical impact of the climax of the film is diluted and devalued by the cheap ending. Silva represents Bond if he fails, and M is his set of values, his childhood home his True Self. By the end of Home Alone: Bond is a McAllister, all we get is a knife, an allusion to “The old ways are best”, and bunch of idiotic explosions. Bond’s childhood home absolutely erupts when a helicopter stumbles into it from 20 feet away. It’s very Michael Bay-esque, and lacks any true meaning. Then, M dies, Skyfall ends, roll credits.
Then this shit starts. Turns out, Bond’s childhood was the cause of all of the troubles to The Great Motherland Britain and MI6 and Bond. We get a ‘Step-bro, what are you doing?’ porno moment as his adopted brother drills Bond over and over again while cuckolding him in front of his hot blonde girlfriend who’s implied her father used her as a replacement for her mom in a hotel room that unfortunately had only one bed and a secret hole where her dad did secret shit.
Spectre is an ominous, uninspiring cockfest of a movie with little substance and a high virtue-signaling factor. And I don’t mean that they actually virtue signal incessantly, I mean that the movie sucks and keeps referring to better Bond movies and expects audiences to go, “oh my, not Vesper! Not M!”
The movie introduces an organization that’s been controlling everything from the start, and Blofeld has been Bond’s true enemy (remember that guy?), but Bond was only a “Kite in a hurricane,” and could never have seen it coming. It’s an interesting concept, truth be told.
A hardy, resilient assassin, facing off all alone against an organization that’s been plaguing him and the world for years, out of his depth, out of his league, out of allies. One man, alone.
Unfortunately, we get a silent Dave Bautista, another half-assed love story with Madeline Swann, and some sub-par action sequences featuring a skiing biplane and a pistol shooting down an entire helicopter. Spectre is the worst of the Bond franchise featuring Daniel Craig, and I only recommend you watch it if you’re a completionist. Spectre offers no improvements, developments or innovations to the Bond franchise, and unfortunately wastes an entry to the series, not that this sexist, slightly racist movie franchise has much to offer the sophisticated movie watcher anyways.
So now we have four loosely connected films chronicling Craig’s Bond as he barely battles Blofeld’s organisation, randomly fighting, defeating and shooting Blofeld’s associates throughout his tenure as 007. They’re not that great, they’re not that connected, and they’re not that memorable. I’ve seen Quantum of Solace and Casino Royale twice each, but I still had to look up their plots as I wrote this review. So what does this rev up to? What does the movie No Time to Die contain that I’d want to experience? A third iteration of a retired Bond? A second Bond Love story? A fifth run in with an all-powerful organization? Another run in with Blofeld?
The End of an Era
I recently watched and reviewed Layer Cake, a 2005 Daniel Craig film that precedes his tenure as Bond. I also just watched Kate, a revenge action film made by the same people who made John Wick. There aren’t too many similarities between the three aforementioned movies, other than ‘action’, ‘Daniel Craig’, and ‘Guns’, but there are enough to point out a few flaws in the Bond franchise.
Perhaps the impersonal, stoic, womanizing Bond that all the villains strike at is the true Bond, and there’s little to this killing machine beyond his suave exterior. Maybe James Bond really is just a man with a License to Kill. I wish he wasn’t, though. I wish Bond had love, flaws, fears and growth. I wish Bond was more than just 007, and we could believe it.
Neither film truly measures up to any Bond film in grandeur and luxury, but both films deliver a climax far more satisfying than anything Craig’s Bond movies have delivered. Perhaps it’s just a consequence of the series. All the Bond movies culminate in an orchestral, fiery grande finale, where the spy emerges victorious over his enemy. He fights the hardy, burly henchman, he shoots all the faceless followers, overcomes the overarching villain, and beds the willing dame. That’s James Bond: que the Gun Barrel theme.
The Daniel Craig Bond Films
Skyfall earns a 7/10 for its ambitious character growth, but fails in its catharsis. Major props to its visual bravado and inspiration.
Spectre, however, earns a 3/10. There is something to be said for the film’s production value, visual aesthetic and topical value, but the film has little, if anything, to offer.