Skyfall was the Bond movie that shattered audience expectations as well as box office records. Now director Sam Mendes is back to try and make lightning strike twice. Did he pull it off with Spectre? I saw the film last night, and I’m here with a few mildly spoiler-y thoughts before you go see it yourself this weekend.
First, this isn’t a full-blown review of Spectre. It would be cruel and unusual punishment for me to steal that from our resident 007 scholar, Justin Westbrook, after he spent 10 whole weeks counting down the best Bond movies. His take will be better than mine and is coming in the next day or two.
Second, and in the interest of full disclosure, I was invited to see Spectre early and for free thanks to Jalopnik’s friends at the British Consul General, who hosted a screening Wednesday night at Austin’s Moviehouse & Eatery along with a bunch of cars and customers from Aston Martin of Austin. (I showed up in a Range Rover, which I feel was appropriate enough.) We’ve hung out with them before at Austin’s F1 events and they’re good people. The office has been doing a bunch of stuff recently to promote British excellence in industry and arts in the U.S., like this campaign tied to the movie:
And that is classy as hell. I wish America had some equivalent of that, but the best we could probably do is that Chevy pickup truck designed by Kid Rock. Come back, Great Britain. Be our colonial overlords again. We’ll be cool with it if you let us keep a reasonable amount of our guns.
Now, onto Spectre, as promised.
Overall I liked the film. I didn’t like it as much as I liked Skyfall or Casino Royale, but it’s very much worth watching and very easy to enjoy. Here are my main takeaways:
It’s fun. It’s a lot of fun, actually. Of the four Daniel Craig Bond movies so far, this one is more of a fast-moving, swashbuckling international romp than the the others. In fact, some of Spectre’s action sequences recall the humor and ridiculousness of the Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan-era Bond films, but are able to do so without descending into full-blown cheese.
That’s largely a good thing, especially if you think the Bond series has perhaps waded too much into dour, self-serious Bourne territory with the last few installments.
It’s very much a sequel to Skyfall and the other Craig movies that came before it. Spectre definitely isn’t like the older Bond movies that were standalone adventures, and ones that only seldom referenced one another.
The events of Daniel Craig’s previous outings as Bond loom large over this film, from the death of Judi Dench’s M to the bombing of MI6 and the legacies of characters like Vesper Lynd, Raoul Silva, Mr. White and Dominic Greene.
Much like how The Dark Knight Rises worked to tie together themes and storylines from the previous Christopher Nolan Batman movies, Spectre serves as a bookend to its predecessors—even if it doesn’t always connect those threads smoothly. You don’t have to have seen the earlier films to enjoy this one, but it certainly helps.
You will wish the cars were real. Aside from the cavalcade of Land Rovers in one snowy chase, you cannot buy the two star cars in this movie, and after seeing them on film I feel that is a major tragedy.
The flame-throwing Aston Martin DB10, which was made specifically for this movie, is achingly beautiful in motion. I desperately hope that design sees production in some form. (In the film’s story it’s also very much a prototype, which is played to hilarious effect in the centerpiece chase.)
But as good as the DB10 is, the Jaguar C-X75 steals the show. It’s only in the film for that one chase but it’s absolutely stunning. When you leave the theater you’ll want to write to Jaguar, Williams Advanced Engineering, Ian Callum, your congressperson, your mom and anyone who will listen and beg them to build it for real.
It’s surprisingly conclusive. And that’s all I’ll say without giving away too many plot details. Spectre doesn’t just tie the Craig Bond movies together, it wraps them up and feels like an ending to them. James Bond will return, but will Daniel Craig return? He seems burned out these days from spending a decade as 007, so maybe someone else (*cough*IDRIS ELBA*cough*) could take up the mantle with a new series of stories. Or maybe Craig has a few adventures left in him and his tale will go in a new direction.
Spectre opens this weekend. You should go see it so you can seethe at Máté Petrány because he got to drive the C-X75 and you didn’t.
Patrick George is Jalopnik’s managing editor and chief arts critic, a position he recently appointed himself to because he’s the boss now and can do whatever the hell he wants.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.