There’s a kind of math to the James Bond film franchise. An equation of interlinking variables that have been chained together to yield Bond’s cinematic adventures since 1962 and that are still in use in the MI6 assassin’s latest outing, Spectre:
The Bond Girl: You know, the lady he bones but doesn’t seem like he’s going to inadvertently kill.
The Femme Fatale: The lady he bones who it seems like maybe he might inadvertently, or just straight up advertently, kill. The Femme Fatale has some sort of link to the villainy afoot.
The Car: Five wheels, one for steering. You know, a car.
The Villain: Some sort of deformed weirdo.
The Villain’s Lair: The part of the movie that looks the most like a soundstage.
The Villain’s Trap: Some sort of prison cell or laser or animal that threatens Bond’s life of dong.
The Henchman: Pretty much anyone working for the villain who has some sort of zany way of brutally murdering people.
Exoticism: Not just a lavish, foreign location, but a lavish, foreign location in the middle of a strange, cultural celebration, as viewed through the righteous gaze of 20th century colonialism.
A Condescending Meeting with M: Wherein Bond is chided for being too cool for school.
Gadgets: Something that explodes, is smaller than usual or is a submarine disguised as an alligator.
Bond Pissing off Q Like it’s His Job: The part where 007 pisses all over the applied sciences with a wink and a smile.
Over-length: The part of the film (or this list) where you finally break down and check where you are in the running time only to discover you still have five minutes until you’re at the point you conservatively thought you were at twenty minutes ago.
I’m sure there are a multitude of other recurring variables that truer Bond fans could point out, but the point is the franchise is comprised of defined components that pop up more often than not and that this arithmetic is at once the Bond films’ most glaring weakness and their greatest strength. With such stringently defined variables a viewer can extrapolate a decent amount of information about a Bond film just by looking at the cast, never mind seeing a full trailer. As a result, genuine shocks and surprises aren’t exactly part and parcel to the franchise. On the flip side, however, constraint can often breed creativity. The variables of a Bond film can be a set of rusty shackles, or a well-constructed springboard. Variables have been turned on their head or blended together to great effect. At their best, the variables of a Bond film are a rhythm track for a revolving door of soloists to strut their stuff over.
With all that in mind, when I tell you Spectre is the most adherent the franchise has been to the Bond formula since Daniel Craig’s debut in Casino Royale, checking off enough boxes to achieve Bond Bingo several times over, you can get a fairly accurate idea of what your opinion of the film will be.
In preparation for the release of Spectre I watched all 23 previous Bond films this year, a majority of them for the first time, and as a the cap on a year spent traversing the history of 007 for the first time, as the first new James Bond film I’ve seen after drinking the franchise Kool-Aid, Spectre is kind of perfect. I immersed myself in Bond in recent months enough to confidentially say that I can’t give you a solid assessment of Spectre as a film, but as yet another expression of the Bond equation it more than did the trick.