After interest in the franchise had been flagging, following Pierce Brosnan's dismal 2002 entry Die Another Day, Daniel Craig’s portrayal of James Bond has seen the character become more popular than ever. Whether it’s the more human portrayal, the grounded plots (relatively speaking) or something else entirely, one thing is certain: Spectre is going to make loads of money. And also, it’s probably going to be good.
But unlike the previous Bond films, just walking into this one with no prior knowledge might not be the best move, as it’s set to be the conclusion to a story that began way back in 2006 with Casino Royale. For those of us who can’t be bothered with a James Bond marathon the night before to give you all the details, here are the 10 Things You Need to Know Before Seeing Spectre.
11 The Casino Royale Reboot
2006’s Casino Royale was a reboot of the series (and arguably the film that popularized the term "reboot"). Once Daniel Craig took over the role, the series was rebooted to give us a fresher, less certain main character, one who’d only recently gained his title of 007 and was less ‘suave, debonair, master secret agent’ and more ‘dangerously over confident sociopath’. An argument could be made that Bond has always been a dangerously overconfident sociopath, but Craig’s version emphasized these traits.
Thus we were given James Bond early in his career, still developing his guiding principles and yet to tangle with any of his iconic villains. Casino Royale was also notable for leaving out a lot of common series tropes, such as Miss Moneypenny, progressively ridiculous gadgets and the deliberately-hammy tones of the previous entries.
In short, this reboot was meant to give us a more grounded Bond universe, where people would react to the idea of an invisible car in exactly the same way they would in real life, but a British secret agent with a dangerously itchy trigger finger and a pathological urge to ignore orders is still A-okay.
10 Daniel Craig's Version of Bond
As previously mentioned, Daniel Craig has brought us a rebooted and revamped version of James Bond, less likely to get dolled up in a Tuxedo and more likely to get covered in blood while leaping across rooftops, parkour-style. While elements of the established character are definitely there (he has broken out the tux a few times), Craig’s Bond is a more gritty character, and this is important to know within the framework of the four-movie narrative.
Typical 007 flicks have been standalone affairs, almost without exception featuring a smooth, detached spy with a pre-packaged set of personality traits and loaded down with both gadgets and situational quips. While Craig’s Bond isn’t missing the black humor, the more grounded take on the character means that he’s gathered scars throughout his life that continue to affect him in his job. What’s more, he carries the consequences of his actions throughout the various movies instead of dropping them at the end along with his token love interest.
Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) of Casino Royale is most prominent here, as she breaks the typical Bond Girl tradition by having a powerful influence through more than one film, as well as being what could be considered Bond’s true love and not a piece of one-hit-wonder eye candy.
9 The Overarching Narrative
Unlike previous Bond films, which been part of the same chronology, but very tenuously linked, the four Daniel Craig films have all formed part of a single narrative that needs to be understood for Spectre to make proper sense. Casino Royale introduced a new, younger James Bond, and had him entering a Texas hold ’em tournament at the Casino Royale to force a high-ranking terrorist to lose all of his money and thus become an informant for the British government. Among other things.
The movie introduced the enigmatic Mr.White and the terrorist organisation Quantum (more on them later) and eventually had Bond retiring with Vesper Lynd, a woman with whom he’d fallen in love. Their plans to start a new life as beautiful people lying on a beach all day were interrupted by Vesper seemingly betraying Bond, which leads into Quantum of Solace. Here, Quantum is dealt a heavy blow and Vesper Lynd is revealed to have been innocent.
Skyfall introduced both Eve Moneypenny and classic gadget engineer Q, and ended with the original M (Judi Dench) dying and passing in the role to a new M (Ralph Fiennes). Crucial to the plot of the film is the question of MI6’s relevance, and whether the spy agency can truly have an impact in the current era.
8 Bond's Mysterious Past
James Bond has always been a complex character, but he’s notably lacked a solid backstory. We’re lead to believe that the Sean Connery version was the true origin of the character, and what came before wasn’t nearly as interesting as what he’s doing on-screen.
Blame it on the origin story craze, but Daniel Craig’s Bond has a backstory, and it’s been steadily unfolding. Skyfall was where we discovered that ‘lil James spent a lot of his childhood in Scotland, in the family house (that would be the titular ‘Skyfall’). His parents died at an unspecified point, leaving him an orphan who was eventually recruited into MI6 with loads of things probably happening in between.
The important thing to remember here is the death of Bond’s parents, as it left the young boy without a strong parental figure. Spectre is set to shed some light on that part of 007’s life, long before he was forged into the iconic secret agent. Did he find another parent figure? Is it the Scottish guy with the beard?? You’ll have to watch and find out.
It’s probably the Scottish beard guy, though.
7 Mr. White's Reappearance
Mr. White is set to make an appearance in Spectre, though since he’s now channeling John Hurt circa Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and thus looks completely different, you might find yourself wondering why a fizzled-out old man is important to the story.
We were introduced to the enigmatic Mr. White back in Casino Royale, where he organised the funding of international terrorism and was generally a shady dude. He later executes Le Chiffre, sparing Bond because of a deal made by Vesper Lynd. Bond is pretty ticked off that his life of beachwear modelling was interrupted by the death of his lover, causing him to track down Mr. White and bring him into MI6 for questioning (after a lengthy car chase, of course).
It was clear that Mr. White was working for an unknown agency, revealed in the next film to be Quantum (hence, that film's terrible title: Quantum of Solace). After revealing that his organisation has agents everywhere, Mr. White escapes custody and is later seen in Tosca, enjoying the opera and still being a shady dude. And then… he escapes again.
The Spectre trailer shows him in a disheveled state, indicating that he’s fallen from power within Quantum, which may no longer exist. And what could replace it? That would be…
6 Spectre - The Classic Criminal Organisation
Possibly the definitive example of an evil organisation, SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) has tangled with James Bond and the MI6 time and time again as their nemesis and most persistent threat, most notably in the early Bond films, which starred Sean Connery (and George Lazenby, but we'll pretend that didn't happen). As the name implies, they’re up to nothing good and demand complete loyalty from their employees, which generally means they kill those who disappoint them. Also, their symbol is an angry octopus.
As the name somewhat strongly implies, the latest entry in the franchise will see Daniel Craig’s Bond going up against a new version of SPECTRE, now called ‘Spectre’ (no more acronyms), who have made their presence felt throughout the previous three movies despite remaining unnamed. Interestingly, the rights to use the organisation and its related characters were up in the air until 2013, so their inclusion might be a slight case of retconning. Still, they remain the most iconic and far-reaching criminal organisation Bond has ever tangled with, making it likely that this will be the climax of the entire four-film story. As for their leadership…
5 Ernst Stavro Blofeld (and cat)
SPECTRE (the original movie version) has traditionally been led by Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the archetypal, scarred evil genius who strokes cats and tells people that he’s been expecting them. Basically, if you’ve ever sat in a spinning chair, chances are you’ve done an impression of this guy.
Spectre replaces his character with the mysterious Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), who nonetheless bears a number of similarities to his villainous predecessor. Both are prominent figures within their criminal organisations, and it would seem that Oberhauser has a significant connection to Bond’s past. Whether or not he follow’s Blofeld’s lead and gets himself a cat (and possibly a spinning chair) remains to be seen, but fans of the series should be on high-alert for hints of the original megalomaniac in Waltz’s character.
4 The Struggling MI6
Bond has a tumultuous relationship with his employer, despite his true loyalties never wavering. Skyfall features MI6 facing questions of its relevance, especially in the wake of the loss of a hard drive containing top-secret information on British agents all around the world.
Towards the end of the film, M is called to face a hearing in which the panel question whether a world of cyber-terrorism truly has any use for an agency that employs actual agents who run around using fake passports and ridiculous gadgets. It’s an issue that resonates with the real world, though the ending of Skyfall presents us with Bond back in action, MI6 with a new leader and all apparently being forgiven.
However, these are events worth remembering in Spectre, which seems set to show MI6 still in the middle of bureaucratic in-fighting and struggling to prove its own worth, with even the 00-system seemingly in jeopardy.
3 Bond is Returning to his Classic Roots
Here’s something that seems sort of paradoxical: Spectre is set to return Bond to his classic roots. Casino Royale might have tossed out a load of conventions and most of the classic supporting cast, but they’ve steadily returned throughout the story and the latest entry in the franchise is gearing up the be the Bond-est Bond of the modern era.
Obviously we have Spectre, Bond’s greatest nemesis from the early films and causer of general mayhem. Early hints suggest that they’ve had a role from the beginning, fitting given that they’re supposed to be a far-reaching organisation with sinister octopus tentacles reaching across the globe. What’s more, Spectre will feature the classic James Bond set up: 007 undertakes a mission (or something) for MI6, which is headed up by not-Judi-Dench-but-still-M, and he’s aided in his adventures by both Miss (Eve) Moneypenny and MI6 quartermaster Q, who has simply moved on from gadgets that require maximum suspension of belief to hacking sequences that require maximum suspension of belief.
Thus we should expect Spectre to be a little bit less of a gritty, Jason Bourne-style action flick and more of what endeared people to Bond in the first place, though updated for a modern audience.
2 Daniel Craig's Bond - The Story in a Nutshell
For the truly lazy amongst us, or just those who can’t commit to that Daniel Craig-athon, here’s a quick run-down of what happened when.
-Casino Royale introduced us to a new James Bond at the start of his career as an 00 agent, and had him tangling with Le Chiffre. The events were secretly orchestrated by Quantum, specifically one of their leaders known as Mr White. The ending to Casino Royale has Bond tracking down Mr White and taking him into custody.
-Quantum become the main, named antagonists in Quantum of Solace, which sees Bond attempting to force the agency out of the shadows and get revenge for his lover’s death. The end sees Quantum dealt a significant blow, with many of its agents compromised or dead.
-Skyfall has using his supposed death to retire before returning after MI6 is threatened by a former agent. Crucial to the film is Bond’s past, his early childhood and how he came to be 007, elements which are set to be explored further in the latest film.
Spectre might be a fairly standard Bond movie, with the return of classic elements, supporting characters and villains, but it stands out as the end of a quadrilogy; for the first time, you might want to have a bit of info before walking into the cinema.
Or you can just go in blind. There are probably enough explosions to keep everyone happy.
Spectre will be released in theaters on November 6.