‘Spectre’ Works While Paying Homage to Earlier Bond Films

Patrick Schmitt , Staff Reporter

2015 has been a big year in the world of movies. Theaters teemed with more and more people as December’s preceding months flew by, with the several highly anticipated Academy-reaching films teasing audiences every opportunity they got.

But if you were to stamp each month, before the chaos Christmas time brings, with one movie based on its sole success, Sam Mendes’ “Spectre,” the latest installment of the now 53- year-old James Bond franchise, would more than proudly front for November.

Not without its own hysteria built up over the past year, “Spectre” stomped through its first weekend with a whopping $70 million opening. Surprisingly enough, that was just a mere fraction of a $240 million budget.

But the box office phenom has had no problem making its bones, coming $60 million over said budget after a single week. This can be attributed to very clever marketing over the past year, and even moreso, Daniel Craig’s rapidly growing reputation as the James Bond character. And after three previous Bond films, it’s safe to say that “Spectre” earned him the title.

Craig’s return as Bond kicks off in Mexico City, where the MI6 agent tasks himself with the mission of finding and killing a man who is said to be part of a mysterious organization that seems to be involved with events that took place in the previous films.

After arguably going too far to achieve his goal, Bond is temporarily relieved of his duties at MI6. It’s here that we realize this won’t be one of Bond’s usual missions, and that he’ll have to take matters into his own hands.

This is a fantastic opening to the film, as Craig plays this particular aspect of Bond so well: the secret agent who drives nice cars, gets all the girls, fight the bad guys, yet still manages to break the rules.

If you’ve kept up with the past few Bond films, you’ll know that this habit is almost a direct consequence of the turmoil the character suffers after he finds he can’t always save the day for everyone. The result is a dark drive behind the face of a professional, suave assassin, which Craig has come to play brilliantly.

It’s after he finds out more about this evil organization that things begin to take a turn, not just in plot, but in character. Bond meets a woman early on, one with whom he doesn’t immediately end up in a casual relationship. This unusual response results in what is an actual love interest.

The problem may be, though, that it’s far too soon. It can be argued that James Bond is a character that should remain a lone wolf, looking out for himself and only himself in his duties as an agent. But it’s here, in “Spectre,” where extremely quick character development is gambled with, and Bond may or may not be falling for a single woman.

Whether the story that leads him there is credible or not is up to audiences to decide.

But it’s not all hugs and kisses on this ride. Spectre’s action and chase sequences are nearly impeccable. From the streets of Rome to the hills of Morocco, Bond fights and eludes villains to keep you on the edge of your seat. All the while, the echoes of so many older Bond films such as “You Only Live Twice,”  “A View to Kill,” “Goldeneye,” and “Diamonds are Forever” can be seen and heard.

There are others, but you’d have to see this film twice or more to catch them all. The movie’s entire second act, in fact, while driven by its own circumstances, seems to be a giant love letter to previous Bond movies.

Motivated by a subtle cheesiness that a true Bond fan can only smile at, the climax of “Spectre” will take you for a ride that will have you gnawing at your finger nails, even though you’ll probably be able to guess what will happen.

It’s not 2012’s “Skyfall,” but it’s something that now stands on its own as a James Bond movie — and will go down in history as such. I’m glad it exists, and will happily take it as is.

In fact, don’t be surprised if you catch me at a local theater for one more round.