Satellite Selfies and Marketing Ploys Aside, Spectre Satisfies
Fans of the James Bond franchise have spent years eagerly awaiting Spectre, the latest installment in the perennially-beloved spy film series. Currently the second-highest-grossing film in the Bond franchise, Spectre revives the action-packed fun of the Roger Moore era. Though the film struggles to match the brilliance of Skyfall (2012), the film’s strong cast, visual splendor and incremental progress towards a more feminist outlook make the film a respectable addition to the Bond series.
Suave, witty, agile and aloof, 007 has often been viewed as the epitome of debonair masculinity. Heineken’s recent marketing campaigns for Spectre, starring Daniel Craig himself, capitalised on these qualities displaying Bond engaged in various espionage missions. In one TV spot dubbed The Chase, Bond is shown making a getaway on a speedboat – caught off-guard, a young woman on a ski is dragged along for the ride, swooping up a tray of Heineken beer and derailing two criminals with her feminine charm in the process. At the end of the ad, the young woman is shown pathetically attempting to help Bond fend off another criminal. After failing to do any damage, she shrugs and smiles, as if accepting her role as Bond’s passive and dim-witted accomplice. Heineken’s second promotional project – taking the world’s first selfie from space – was also a turnoff to viewers. The brand’s satellite internet-enabled “Spyfie” felt like a feeble attempt to attract young viewers to the brand and the film.
Despite the film’s questionable promotional tactics, it is safe to say that Spectre itself is a step in the right direction. After Bond (Daniel Craig) kills a notable criminal and seduces his widow (Monica Bellucci), Bond learns of a nefarious organization known as SPECTRE. The film follows Bond as he attempts to overthrow SPECTRE and its villainous leader Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz). The film’s main “Bond girl,” Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), is the daughter of a criminal formerly associated with SPECTRE. Sam Mendes (Skyfall) returned to direct the film, and though critics and fans have generally given the film positive marks, most argue that Skyfall remains the superior film.
Evaluated on its own, one might argue that Spectre is crudely misogynistic. Indeed, certain elements of the film are particularly disappointing to sit through, though not out of the typical Bond realm. Lucia Sciarra, portrayed by veteran actress Monica Bellucci, was heavily promoted as a “revolutionary” role due to Bellucci’s age. Despite the hype, viewers were left disappointed by Bellucci’s character, who was seduced by Bond and quickly discarded. With only minutes of screen time, Bellucci’s character felt like a mere afterthought in the lengthy 150-minute film. Bond, though charming, retains an air of sexist superiority throughout the film.
Spectre, however, must be commended for its improvements over past Bond iterations. Dr. Madeleine Swann, for instance, is no ordinary Bond girl – compared to vintage characters like Honey Ryder and Pussy Galore, Swann is a vast improvement. Written in a way that emphasizes her intellect while avoiding blatant plays to the male gaze, Swann is more than just Bond’s sex kitten. Though, naturally, Swann falls for Bond’s coarse charm, her character remains an improvement over previous renderings of Bond girls. Unlike the women featured in Craig’s previous Bond films, Swann does not die as punishment for sleeping with him. Viewers who squirmed at the senseless murders of Bond girls in earlier films will find the change to be a pleasant one.
Perhaps the best way to enjoy Spectre is to remember that the film is simply an elaborate fantasy. Bond’s animal magnetism is as fictional as the fast-paced chase scenes set in Rome and Mexico City. Though Daniel Craig’s own perspective on Bond and the film are actually incredibly refreshing. In a recent interview, Craig countered a reporter’s praise of Bond, reminding him that the character is “actually a misogynist.” Craig claims that he’s done his best to make his portrayal of Bond as unprejudiced as possible, given the restraints of the script.
Though the Bond franchise has a long way to go before it can be considered truly feminist, Spectre is a step in the right direction. Though occasionally sexist, the film remains a thrilling and enjoyable addition to the classic spy series.