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James Bond: SPECTRE is Back October 22, 2015

Posted by intellectualgridiron in Pop Culture.
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Daniel Craig rocks the black turtleneck a la Roger Moore in “Live and Let Die”. As the Sterling Archer character would say, “It’s the tactical turtleneck, Lana, the…’tactle-neck’!”

In just two weeks (and change), a new James Bond film shall hit the theatres.  It shall be the 24th in the official series dating back to 1962 (“Never Say Never Again” from 1983 was never acknowledged as official), and Daniel Craig’s fourth go at the iconic, timeless role.  His inaugural appearance as Bond in “Casino Royale” in 2006 was a smash debut, initiating a new tone to the franchise unseen to such a degree since Roger Moore debuted as Bond in “Live and Let Die” in 1973.  Oddly enough, Craig’s second appearance as Bond (“Quantum of Solace”, 2008) frankly did not work out quite so well, but that was primarily the fault of how badly the story was written, for Craig maintained his intense effort toward the role.

Throughout the Bond series that spans 53 years and counting, there has been a consistent pattern of the third time being a charm.  That is to say, Sean Connery in particular and the series in general truly hit its stride during the ever-popular “Goldfinger” from 1964, the third in the series.  Roger Moore came to truly “own” the part in “The Spy Who Loved Me” from 1977, his third turn in the series.  Similarly, Craig truly put his mark on the same role in “Skyfall” (2012), which is considered by most to be his finest effort/contribution to the franchise thus far.  Indeed, “Skyfall” has had mass appeal, as many viewers have considered it one of the all-time greats of the series as a whole.  What was particularly intriguing about the 23rd installment film was that it was released on the 50th anniversary of James Bond on the silver screen, and, moreover, the story set things up for the entire series to come full circle, complete with a new “M” and his relatively modest, albeit stately, office by film’s end.  Even the story began its final act with Bond driving his silver 1963 Aston Martin DB5 though some of the most desolate Scottish terrain imaginable, as if it were the early 1960s.

So at this point, two major questions arise, and both are variations on ‘where do we go from here?’  To put it another way, after such a grand contribution to the series in “Skyfall,” are we setting ourselves up for disappointment the movie that is soon to follow?  Also, in what direction is the series to head, now that the storyline has come, as already mentioned, full circle?

 To answer the first question, we ought to look at history.  Sean Connery followed up from “Goldfinger” with “Thunderball,” which, while not nearly as iconic as its predecessor, was still a huge hit when it was released in 1965.  Similarly, Roger Moore followed up on “Spy Who Love Me” with “Moonraker” in 1979.  Full confession:  the latter is a personal favorite of mine.  James Bond goes into space, after all:  no other movie in the series can lay claim to that!  Better yet, they brought back the iconic Bond henchman Jaws; Moore’s performance was reliably smooth; and Lois Chiles remains one of the most underrated of all the leading Bond Girls (lightyears better than Olga Kurylenko from Q of S, but that sets the bar quite low).

The bottom line is, both follow-ups were at least very pleasing.  If the pattern holds, we ought not to be disappointed with the upcoming installment.

 But let us get further to the point.  For the longest time, we Bond fans have been hungry for a return of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. (Special Executives for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) to the series for a very long time.  The last time Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Ol’ “Number One” in the evil organization) made an overt appearance was “Diamonds Are Forever” in 1971, for goodness sake.  Granted, SPECTRE was originally meant to operate in a Cold War-dominated world.  Author Ian Fleming made no mention of it in his novels, but rather used SMERSH, the Soviet equivalent of the CIA, instead.  The switch to SPECTRE was made with the introduction of James Bond to major motion pictures with “Dr. No” in 1962, where the main villain of the story/film openly described the organization to Bond over dinner in said villain’s luxurious lair.  To this day, nobody has been able to pronounce the acronym in such a delightfully sinister way as Joseph Wiseman did in his role as the half-German, half-Chinese evil nuclear scientist!

Bond_24_SpectreLogosSo yes, it’s been so long since we last heard an overt reference to S.P.E.C.T.R.E.  The fact that it shall be front-and-center to the plot (and title) of the upcoming new Bond movie has us fans practically chomping at the bit to see it.  With the storyline having come full circle upon the conclusion of the last film, it has been as if the writers read our minds in thinking that it is time for the return of this evil “A-Team.”  The shattered windshield in one of the movie’s posters has been designed to appear as the octopus-like logo of the nefarious organization, in another nod to the classic Connery-era bond films.

SPECTRE_ONE_SHEET2Even more intriguing is the garb in which Craig has been wearing in the movie’s promotional photos.  The white dinner jacket is perfectly within the grand traditions of Connery and Moore, but what has really grabbed the eyeballs, so to speak, is the black turtleneck, which Roger Moore rocked quite well during the nighttime raid sequence on the fictional Caribbean island of San Monique (a thinly-guised Haiti, because voodoo) in “Live and Let Die.”  But why?  Do so many fans and casual observers alike recall such a garment?  Or is it on account of another, semi-iconic spy character in Sterling Archer?  He is the main character in the animated TV show on FX, “Archer,” who is well-known for wearing this shirt during his shenanigans as a secret agent.  The comedic show in question has attracted a strong following among the educated 20-and-30-somethings, and that alone has created considerable cross-franchise intrigue.

 Regardless, we eagerly await the release of the 24th official Bond film, “S.P.E.C.T.R.E.”  The historical parallels of the series, combined with timeless elements lead us to a prognostication that this is an installment surely not to disappoint!

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