The Chronicles of SPECTRE: SPECTRE (2015)

Christoph Waltz in SPECTRE

Christoph Waltz in SPECTRE

By Nicolas Suszczyk, Guest Writer

No analysis of the chronicles of SPECTRE would be complete if we didn’t examine the latest James Bond outing, SPECTRE, the fourth 007 film starring Daniel Craig and the second directed by Sam Mendes.

Back in December 2014, when the film title and cast were announced, Mendes told the press that Bond fans “knew what it was about” as the title was revealed. It indeed featured the old Bond nemesis, the organization Sean Connery and George Lazenby’s portrayals of 007 fought in the 1960s, the one lead by Ernst Stavro Blofeld with Dr. No, Emilio Largo, Rosa Klebb and Fiona Volpe as proud agents loyal to the cause.

But of course, much like the classic Bond elements and characters throughout these four Daniel Craig entries, the organization has been rebooted and adapted to the 21st century.

James Bond kills Marco Sciarra, an Italian SPECTRE agent operating in Mexico, where he planned to blow up a stadium. Bond attends Sciarra’s funeral in Rome. Bond meets Sciarra’s widow, Lucia (Monica Bellucci). The woman leads 007 to a meeting at the Palazzo Cardezza, where Sciarra’s replacement is discussed.

Harkening back to the SPECTRE board meeting in Thunderball and the Blofeld’s briefing with Rosa Klebb and Kronsteen in From Russia with Love, the organization leader joins the meeting as the members stand up in respect.

Back in 1965, SPECTRE had to steal atomic bombs or start a war to rule the world. In 2015, this new SPECTRE attempts to control the intelligence services worldwide through the Nine Eyes program championed by Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott). Denbigh is also known as C and is the leader of MI5 –- now merged with MI6 –- and a headache for M (Ralph Fiennes) and Bond.

Under the argument that the 00 section is obsolete and new technology and drones can do the same job a man can and better, C convinces the head of nine intelligence services from across the world to join the integrated network. Many of the services were “convinced” after some terrorists attempts occurred in their countries, perpetrated, of course, by SPECTRE. One of them was Sciarra’s ill-fated plan to blow a Mexican stadium during the crowded “Day of the Dead” celebration.

“World domination, the same old dream,” James Bond said when Dr. Julius No explained his plan to topple American rockets from Cape Canaveral to dominate the world.

The same old dream is back with a twist now. Worldwide domination is, this time, more subtle. It will be achieved through moles in the intelligence services and by having SPECTRE controlling everything.

It’s fair to assume the redefinition of SPECTRE for these times has been done in a brilliant way.

Guerra, a Spaniard member, offers to take up the late Sciarra’s assignment: eliminate a certain “Pale King.”

Another agent, the muscular Mr. Hinx, shows the leader he’s more suitable for the job. Hinx blinds Guerra with his thumbs and breaks his neck. At this point, 007’s cover is blown by the leader himself: Franz Oberhauser (Cristoph Waltz), his foster brother.

Later, James Bond is captured by the villain while visiting his lair inside a crater in Morocco, the control center for the Nine Eyes program. The SPECTRE chief provides 007 a painful torture taken from the pages of Kinglsey Amis’ Colonel Sun 007 continuation novel. As a white Persian cat approaches the captive secret agent, Oberhauser reveals his new name: Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

Cristoph Waltz’s incarnation proves to be the perfect adaptation of the mastermind for the 21st century: sinister, deadly, shadowy and creepily funny at the same time. Forty-eight years after Donald Pleasance showed his bald and scarred face to Connery’s Bond inside that volcano lair in Japan in You Only Live Twice, Waltz is equally cold-blooded and reminiscent as the iconic villain.

This time, the screenwriters (John Logan, Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth) added a twist. This Blofeld is Bond’s foster brother. This Blofeld killed his father (Hannes Oberhauser, whose connection with the young 007 can be read in Ian Fleming’s Octopussy short story) in revenge for the latter’s preference for the “orphan with the blue eyes.”

Through this series of essays we saw how, after Thunderball, Blofeld eclipsed SPECTRE as the main villain.

In this case, the new Blofeld is linked to the events of the three first Craig films with villains Le Chiffre, Dominic Greene and Raoul Silva being agents of SPECTRE. The terminally ill Mr. White was a high ranking member who disobeyed Blofeld and now he’s hiding on his Austrian retreat.

The dialogue between Bond and his old enemy exposes how threatening this new SPECTRE is.

It has no compunction in killing innocent relatives of their targets or former associates –- White’s daughter Madeleine and Sciarra’s wife Lucia, for example.

And, in the same way Telly Savalas’ Blofeld was responsible for Tracy’s death at the end of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Waltz’s Blofeld declares himself as “the author” of all of Bond’s pain by showing his implication with the demise of Vesper Lynd and (Judi Dench’s) M.

“My wounds will heal, what about yours? Look around you James: everything you stood for, everything you believed in… are ruined,” Blofeld points out revealing a scar affecting his right eye –- Bond’s doing during his escape from his imprisonment in Morocco.

SPECTRE has been redefined in an exceptional way for this new era. The “four cornerstones of power” under the acronym weren’t mentioned, and as a matter of fact one of the script drafts linked the name to a platoon integrated by Oberhauser and Mr. White during their wartime activities.

Nevertheless, this new SPECTRE deals with counterintelligence, terrorism and revenge. The Nine Eyes is the organization’s way of infiltrating the worldwide secret services while using terrorist attacks to convince those nations undecided to join C’s network. On the other hand, its leader has a personal vendetta against 007.

To those who wondered why the previous Bond villains looked a bit weak, the answer is in the return of threatening organization and 007’s greatest nemesis of all time: Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

Business of Bond: MGM goes studio shopping

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

What studio will release the next 007 film?

Even as SPECTRE rolls out, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is gearing up its search for the next James Bond distribution deal, according to stories in THE WALL STREET JOURNAL and DEADLINE: HOLLYWOOD.

Sony Pictures has released the last four 007 films, going back to 2006’s Casino Royale. That deal runs out with SPECTRE.

Here’s an excerpt from the Journal’s story by Ben Fritz:

Several studios are planning to pursue those (distribution) rights, according to people familiar with the matter, even though there is surprisingly little profit in releasing Bond films.

The Journal dug up a Sony document that saw the light of day because of last year’s computer hacking at the studio.

With Skyfall, which had worldwide box office of $1.11 billion, “Sony made just $57 million” on the the 2012 007 film, “a small sum for a movie with such a huge box-office performance,” according to the newspaper.

MGM made about $175 million while the co-bosses of Eon Productions, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, made about $109 million, the Journal reported, quoting the same document. MGM and Danjaq, Eon’s holding company, declined to comment to the Journal.

Sony’s take might be even less for SPECTRE, according to the newspaper.

In the same leaked document, a Sony executive projected that if “Spectre” were to cost $250 million to produce and repeat the same box office as “Skyfall,” Sony’s profit would be $38 million.

The budget for “Spectre” is just under $250 million, said a person close to the movie, compared with $209 million for “Skyfall.”

MGM and the Wilson-Broccoli clan co-own the Bond franchise. MGM got its share after it acquired United Artists in the early 1980s. UA, in turn, acquired its stake in Bond when Eon co-founder Harry Saltzman sold it in 1975 because of financial problems.

Despite the relatively small return, other studios are expected to seek to displace Sony as MGM’s 007 distributor.

“Here’s what we hear,” Deadline’s Anity Busch and Mike Fleming Jr. wrote. “007 rights gatekeepers (MGM CEO Gary) Barber, and Wilson and Broccoli, will wait until Spectre plays around the world and accumulates an ungodly global gross that will only strengthen their leverage. And then, early next year, they will make the best deal. If that means bidding farewell to Sony, so be it.”

The Deadline Hollywood story does some handicapping about the prospects for different studios striking a deal with MGM. Busch and Fleming, in particular, play up Warner Bros. as a 007 distribution contender.

The duo write “a source sighted” MGM’s Barber and Warners chief “Kevin Tsujihara at the Montage Hotel recently…According to our source, the chatter seemed more intense than a meet and greet. It looked like they were throwing around numbers. Not surprisingly, Warner Bros has been oft mentioned as the most aggressive in this hunt.”

To read the entire Wall Street Journal story, CLICK HERE. To read the Deadline: Hollywood story, CLICK HERE.

SPECTRE longest 007 movie at 148 minutes


According to an invitation for a U.K. press screening, SPECTRE is the longest James Bond film at 148 minutes.

A PICTURE OF THE INVITATION was tweeted by Henry Fitzherbert, who writes about film for the U.K. Express newspaper. (You can CLICK HERE for an Oct. 4 story about SPECTRE he wrote.)

The showing is scheduled for the evening of Oct. 21 at Odeon Leicester Square, according to the invitation and the movie lasts 148 minutes.

The previous 007 record for running time was 2006’s Casino Royale at 144 minutes, followed by 2012’s Skyfall at 143 minutes.

Earlier this month, SPECTRE director Sam Mendes  denied to TIME OUT LONDON that SPECTRE was longer than Skyfall. Here’s a quick excerpt.

So, we asked the film’s director Sam Mendes (who also made ‘Skyfall’) to clarify the issue for us. ‘I don’t know where that came from,’ he told us from the edit suite where he’s hurriedly putting the final touches to the film – so he should know. ‘At the moment it’s exactly the same length as “Skyfall”. Whether that means it’s the longest, I don’t know. But, no, it’s almost to the second the same length as “Skyfall”.’

It should be noted that running times can vary a bit from country to country.

How James became Bond: A decade of Daniel Craig

Daniel Craig during the filming of Skyfall

Daniel Craig during the filming of Skyfall

By Nicolás Suszczyk,
Guest Writer

How time flies! It was ten years ago we saw Daniel Craig rushing the Thames River on a speedboat to meet the press during his announcement as the new James Bond, on Oct. 14, 2005.

Casino Royale, set for November 2006, had many challenges: introduce a new Bond actor, reboot the series and provide a good balance between the action scenes the book lacked and the drama content that filled the pages of Ian Fleming’s first novel, published in 1953.

Directed by a familiar face, GoldenEye’s Martin Campbell, the film was the target of a lot of criticism concerning the new face of 007.

Craig, then 37, had a hard time when production started: a website boycotting him plus tabloids calling him “James Bland.” He seemed far different from Pierce Brosnan’s suave portrayal of the British spy, last seen in 2002’s Die Another Day, a movie that went too far with CGI effects and overly seen clichés.

However, the 2006 film proved to be a great box office hit and the press had to admit its misjudgment of Craig’s portrayal. The actor showed us a strong and fearless Bond. Lethal but equally weak and romantic, Craig’s Bond fell in love and tragically lost Vesper Lynd, the female lead of the movie played by Eva Green.

In Casino Royale, Craig’s 007 could balance Sean Connery’s ironies with Timothy Dalton’s violence, as well as bringing to screen a modern sense of humor. “Do I look as if I give a damn?” he says when asked if his drink should be shaken or stirred, or cuts M off the phone after interrupting her for an “urgent” call. Indeed, this was the Bond the 21st century needed.

Campbell’s crew
Much of the 2006 film success came, of course, by the expert hand of director Campbell and his crew: veteran cinematographer Phil Méheux, editor Stuart Baird, composer David Arnold and the second unit directed by Alexander Witt (who returned in Skyfall and now in SPECTRE).

Martin Campbell, director of GoldenEye and Casino Royale.

Martin Campbell, director of GoldenEye and Casino Royale.

Not to mention the cast selected by Debbie MacWilliams: Eva Green contrasting the original Vesper from Fleming’s book with a self-confident and seductive character that falls for the spy; Mads Mikkelsen bringing up a young and debonair Le Chiffre; and Giancarlo Giannini and Jeffrey Wright bringing to life to René Mathis and Felix Leiter, 007’s allies in the novel.

The film wasn’t a success because it was a Bond film, but because it excelled in showing us “how James became Bond,” as the audience exploded into an applause when getting the classic “Bond, James Bond” introduction spoken by Craig in the film’s last minutes.

‘Direct sequel’
In 2008, Daniel Craig returned for the much anticipated Quantum of Solace, conceived as a “direct sequel” of Casino Royale.

Craig provided a fine performance, but the script fails to give the audiences what they wanted: Quantum of Solace was, in result, poor in comparison with Casino Royale, both technically and literary, as the script had to be completed during filming when the WGA strike affected Bond scribes Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. Craig said he and director Marc Forster were de facto writers.

The film provides some nice shots of the Italian, Bolivian and Austrian landscapes courtesy of director of photography Roberto Schaeffer, as well as some original and dynamic music by David Arnold. But the story seems dull, uninteresting and full of badly shot scenes with Forster trusting many scenes to his second unit director, Dan Bradley.

Many moviegoers and Bond aficionados felt that the reboot and the idea of bringing up a redefined 007 went a bit too far with the 2008 film, that didn’t gross as much worldwide as its 2006 predecessor.

An original ending, where Bond faced of Mr .White one last time, ended up in the cutting room floor and was replaced by a final scene of the secret agent capturing Vesper’s treacherous boyfriend and throwing her distinctive necklace on the snowy ground.

Bond’s 50th
James Bond wouldn’t return until 2012’s Skyfall.

Once again, Daniel Craig returned as Bond. It was the longest gap between two Bond films with the same actor playing the main role.

As the series celebrated its 50th anniversary, the propaganda machine opted for leaving the Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace story behind and going for a completely different plot in which the secret agent would have to protect M (Judi Dench) from the hands of Tiago Rodrigues aka Raoul Silva, a dismissed MI6 field agent with a desire of revenge towards his former boss.

The first Bond movie directed by Sam Mendes promised a lighter Bond film, with many winks to the first adventures of the series and more humoristic situations: a gadget-laden Aston Martin DB5 and references to an exploding pen, as well as the re-establishment of Q and Moneypenny, left apart after Pierce Brosnan was separated of the role, now played by Ben Whishaw and Naomie Harris.

The idea for Skyfall was, apparently, steering away from the story arc started in Casino Royale and apparently closed in Quantum of Solace. In a very similar case that Goldfinger, Skyfall seems completely unrelated to its two predecessors: the 1964 film didn’t have SPECTRE as the enemy but the self-employed Auric Goldfinger and his plan to irradiate Fort Knox.

The 50th anniversary Bond film proved to be a great success, providing a story balanced between the classic Bond humor with dramatic and violent situations, plus elements taken from the two last Ian Fleming novels: You Only Live Twice and The Man With the Golden Gun.

The film has also had five Oscar nominations, including Adele’s main title song that got the Best Song award. The film also shared an Oscar for sound editing with Zero Dark Thirty.

SPECTRE promotional art

SPECTRE promotional art

In a couple of weeks, the 24th James Bond films will hit theatres. It’s simply called SPECTRE, as the old criminal organization led by Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

Eon Productions convinced Sam Mendes to return one more time to the director’s chair, as well as many of his crew members. The base of the script was written by Skyfall’s John Logan, with the return of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade and additional scripting by Jez Butterworth.

The script was leaked shortly after the film was announced on December 2014. While producers claimed it was only an old draft, it is understood that the story inside this leaked script featured many classic elements of the franchise, resulting in probably the most “traditionalist” Craig Bond film.

In SPECTRE, Bond travels from Mexico to London, Rome, Austria and Morocco to uncover the truth behind a criminal organization known as SPECTRE (according to Mendes, this SPECTRE is not an acronym, thus not related to Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion). The organization’s leader, known as Franz Oberhauser (Cristoph Waltz) is someone from Bond’s past and has a vendetta against him.

The film apparently ties the story left over from Quantum of Solace, as 007 meets again with Mr. White, and there are a few connections with Skyfall’s plot. The movie sees the return of Ralph Fiennes as the new M, Ben Whishaw as Q and Naomie Harris as Moneypenny. New characters include Léa Seydoux as Madeleine Swann, Monica Bellucci as Lucia Sciarra, the widow of a SPECTRE assassin, and Andrew Scott as Denbigh, a bureaucrat rival the new M will have to face.

The sixth Bond actor also is as co-producer with Andrew Noakes and David Pope. It is understood that this is due to his collaboration in the making of the film and his strong bond with director Sam Mendes, a closer friend of him since both met during the shooting of Road to Perdition.

Stephanie Sigman, playing Estrella in the upcoming film, said on an interview with that she learned a lot with Craig, since we was very technical with the shooting: “He’s very experienced doing films. He was helping me with how to move with the camera.” On the other side, The Telegraph claims that the British actor saw his films as a big story arc and had the idea of introducing the Bond folklore elements gradually.

It is still unknown if Daniel Craig will return for a fifth Bond: in some interviews he claims he’ll play the character as long as he can while sometimes he points out he’s way too physically tired from playing Ian Fleming’s character.

What is true is that the blonde guy who ten years ago raised some eyebrows as he wore a life vest while being taken on boat to the HMS President vessel for his introduction has made many achievements in the franchise and became a member of the James Bond family.

Caveat Emptor Part V: Craig’s ‘kind of secret plan’

SPECTRE poster

SPECTRE poster

The Telegraph, IN AN ESSAY BY ROBBIE COLLIN has some quotes from another interview with 007 star Daniel Craig where the actor describes the “kind of secret plan” he had for the film series after being cast in 2005.

Here’s an excerpt:

I spoke to Craig around three weeks after he’d completed work on SPECTRE, and we discussed the necessity, as he saw it, of harking back to Bond’s past in order to push the franchise forward. (The actor has taken an unusually hands-on approach to all four films to date – influencing characters, shaping plots, and even reworking half-finished dialogue on the Quantum of Solace set during the writers’ strike.)

“I always had a kind of secret plan when I started doing these movies,” he told me. And this was it: by starting with the “stripped-back” script of Casino Royale, he wanted to reintroduce the series’ more familiar elements gradually, in a way that would make sense in a modern-day context – and “do it in as smart a way as possible, so that they’re not obvious”.

Bond fans who recognised the references would be delighted that traditions were being upheld in unexpected ways, while newcomers to the series would just see them as part of the “rich tapestry” of the world of the films.

“And that’s a lot harder to do than people think it is,” he said. “To do it with subtlety and wit and all of those things takes solid, solid work.”

What role, if any, directors (including Casino Royale’s Martin Campbell) ,screenwriters (including Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who’ve worked on all four Craig films to date) or producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson had in the plan were not described in the essay.

Once more, let the buyer beware. Some fans argue Craig likes to have fun with the press. If that’s the case, it’s up to you to decide how much weight to give the actor’s words.

To read the entire essay, which covers quite a bit of ground about the evolution of the series from Pierce Brosnan to Craig, CLICK HERE.

What SPECTRE’s song tells us about the Craig era of 007

SPECTRE poster

SPECTRE poster

Sam Smith’s title song for SPECTRE stirred strong reaction, from former 007 actor Sir Roger Moore giving it a big vote of approval while a number of fans on social media declared it to be “the worst Bond theme ever” with some even launching an instant petition drive to have the song moved to the end titles from the main titles.

All of that may be missing the forest for the trees. In some ways, the title song for the 24th James Bond film reflects the Daniel Craig era of 007 films.

Starting with 2006’s Casino Royale, this isn’t a Bond who always wins.

In Craig’s 007 debut, Bond won money from terrorism banker LeChiffre, only to see a mysterious organization steal it back. This never happened to the other fella. It was also a major deviation from Ian Fleming’s first novel.

In 2012’s Skyfall, Bond “failed” (Craig’s own words in a recent ESQUIRE INTERVIEW) when Judi Dench’s M dies at the end of the film. “That was a big decision,” Craig told Esquire.

And, of course, in all three Craig 007 films to date, the agent doesn’t get the girl at the end, formerly part of the Bond film formula.

Part of Smith’s “Writing’s On the Wall” evokes a similar mood. At one point, Smith (who’s singing from Bond’s point of view), tells us this:

A million shards of glass
That haunt me from my past
As the stars begin to gather
And the light begins to fade
When all hope begins to shatter
Know that I won’t be afraid


How do I live? How do I breathe?
When you’re not here I’m suffocating
I want to feel love, run through my blood
Tell me is this where I give it all up?

In other words, Smith singing as Bond evokes the struggles of Craig playing Bond. The song also appears to contain hints of SPECTRE’s story.

Here’s a non-spoiler example.Early in the song, Smith sings, “I feel like a storm is coming.” In the trailers, Mr. White, Bond’s nemesis from Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, tells Bond the agent is “a kite dancing in a hurricane.”

Coincidence? We’ll see when the movie comes out — especially when the song is matched with Daniel Kleinman’s title design.

Does the title song of a Bond movie really matter?

New SPECTRE poster

New SPECTRE poster

In the past few days, there have been reports, speculation, etc., about who may be perform the title of SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film.

Here’s a question that isn’t being asked much: Does the title song, or the selection of a title song performer, really matter that much for a James Bond movie?

For example, the 2006 Casino Royale got a lot of good reviews and is held is high opinion by a lot of fans. But very little of that has to do with “You Know My Name,” the song played over the main titles.

Meanwhile, the title song to 1967’s You Only Live Twice, written by John Barry and Leslie Bricusse and performed by Nancy Sinatra, is considered one of the best 007 title songs.

Yet, a lot of fans feel the film You Only Live Twice isn’t up to the standards of the first four Bond films made by Eon Productions. Part of that stems from how it was the first movie to throw out the main plot of an Ian Fleming novel.

For that matter, 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is another highly regarded Bond film. It didn’t even have a title song. Instead it had a Barry instrumental for the main titles. It was the last time the main titles didn’t feature a song.

Yes, a good title song can enhance the movie (“Nobody Does It Better” for The Spy Who Loved Me being an example), but it’s rarely make or break. In the 21st century, however, the sort of perspective is in short supply.

An announcement may be coming Tuesday. Meanwhile, over at the MI6 JAMES BOND WEBSITE there’s an attempt to make sense of the latest news.


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