On last week’s podcast I remarked to Evan that 2015 was such a great year for movies that even the crushing disappointment of my most anticipated film of the year couldn’t undo what a win this spin ‘round the sun was. Even with SPECTRE shitting the bed, on the 2015 spy tip alone we got Kingsman, Spy, and Mission: Impossible ~ Rogue Nation keeping us up to our shoulder holsters in sexy action and intrigue.
And I dare say that SPECTRE, Sam Mendes’ cluttered ode to both the Roger Moore era and the Age of Nolan could have looked at its previously listed peers and taken a cue or three. Because, friends, a little silliness and disreputable fun would be a welcome sight in the 007 franchise right about now. Kingsman reminded us these movies can be a little nasty; Spy reminded us you can tick all the franchise boxes while being downright hilarious. Rogue Nation reminded us they can be groundbreaking yet still a load of fun.
I’m not saying anything the filmmakers don’t know - SPECTRE’s Touch Of Evil-esque pre-title sequence, that amazing train fight, a super-chill Bond parachuting out of a car wreck onto a Rome city street - in a better movie these scenes would be on a few “Best Moments of 2015” lists. But they were lost in the mire of SPECTRE, a flunky of the “twist-first” school of storytelling. (Spoilers for a movie still in theaters) The overstuffed film delivered an unfortunate series of events spiraling from an early decision to have Christoph Waltz’s Franz Oberhauser turn out to be Bond’s long-lost foster brother - who has faked his death and re-emerged as Ernst Stavro Blofeld. This shit was corny when it was on One Life To Live; I’m not sure why it’s since become the backbone of blockbuster storytelling. Lost in service of this dumb twist was a chance to really capitalize on the narrative and thematic promise of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. as an organization - an insidious secret society with its hooks in everything, with members entrenched at the highest levels of government, an infestation that causes a paranoid 007 to question everyone and everything he believes in. A story in which 007 doesn’t go rogue, but is the only one holding fast against a system gone rogue and turned against him. I’d have watched the living shit out of that movie.
All of which is my way of explaining why today’s news (if it’s news; it’s from the Mirror) about Christoph Waltz being signed to Bonds 25 and 26 is actually a good thing. Yes, they fucked up S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Yes, they fucked up Blofeld. But what you have to understand about the 007 franchise is that while they are guaranteed to fuck things up once in a while, it’s never stopped them from moving forward, optimistically toward something better. Sometimes you have to throw up on the sidewalk if you want to keep partying, and just because SPECTRE got some vomit on my shoes doesn’t mean I’m ready to go home. I have 007 FOMO and I don’t think this party is over.
Anyway, the Mirror says that Waltz is signed to return - but only if Daniel Craig does too. That makes Waltz’ return a non-starter for some, folks (e.g., literally every relative I saw over the holidays) who’ve written Craig off as being “officially” done. I know y’all know better, but a lot of folks took Craig’s exhausted comments at the end of the SPECTRE shoot to mean that he’s ready to hang it up. I get thinking it’s time for him to be done; he’s getting older, and we’re impatient twats with no attention span and we all want the new shiny thing until the Monday after the new shiny thing opens. I get it! But I want you to think about the excitement Craig brought back to this franchise in 2006. Think about the good times. Search your heart. I know you’d prefer he went out on a win. One more film between Craig and Waltz, discarding whatever bits of continuity they want, in fine 007 franchise style. Literally ignore all the backstory from SPECTRE and just move forward like Don Draper says. (Bonus points if you call the film All The Time In The World and snuff out Madeleine Swann in the pre-title sequence.) Get a director with some blood in his veins who’s not afraid to stop being so goddamned respectable and is willing to make 007 a little weird again. Give us a worthy Bond vs Blofeld event for the 21st century, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance. THEN you can reboot on a triumph, not on a stumble. We’ll all feel better about Craig’s run - and his legacy - if this happens.
Matthew Vaughn always abandons his sequels, so don't get too excited for Kingsmen. There will be no Man From U.N.C.L.E. 2. One day Tom Cruise is going to die on camera - just like he wants - and that will be the end of the M:I films. But 007 is forever; we have to tough out the bad times together and nurture the one spy franchise we have that will never, ever end.