Day 26 of 30 Days of SPECTRE!
Today we continue our JBR listener interviews to hear what they think about SPECTRE.
On the first of today’s shows we have the legend that is Mr. Rory Couper, the man responsible for securing Chris & Tom’s tickets to the SPECTRE red carpet premiere at the Royal Albert Hall. And in the second show of the day we have Mr. Brian Dobson, all the way from Gosport, on the south coast of the UK.
Listener Interview #3: Rory Couper
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Listener Interview #4: Brian Dobson
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“The Bond film I didn’t know I wanted” – very nicely put, Rory. Me too.
Good to know! It’s much better than actually getting the film you think you want. It was a nice surprise.
Spurred on by the quick-fire questions:
Fave Bond film: Majesty’s …
It’s so sad that Lazenby wasn’t allowed to complete his journey, because Connery came back as an even lighter Bond in Diamonds, almost as Majesty’s never happened, which was a shame.
I must say though, that every time I see Casino, it comes closer to that top spot.
Fave Bond girl: Vesper
Eva Green is uniquely beautiful and brilliant. Tracy – the “strongest Woman” Bond ever met. Diana Rigg manages to be completely convincing, and we all feel completely gutted when she dies. Pussy Galore – way ahead of her time, !
Fave Bond villain: Difficult. I like Christopher Walken as Max Zorin in AVTAK, and Jesper Christensen is a brilliant Mr. White, but he might actually just be a henchman.It’s too easy to say Blofeld, but he does have quite the impact on the whole Bond universe.
In general I find Bond-villains kinda weak. Karl Stromberg (TSWLM) had a plan, but next movie, Hugo Drax had the same plan, really. Not good.
Fave Henchman: Wint and Kidd. Very passionate about their work.
Jaws obviously. Mr. Hinx has potential, but they missed out on a lot of opportunities in SPECTRE. I can only hope they did that in order to bring him back in full force.
Fave Bond: Daniel Craig is the first Bond that has really developed the character. Every time I watch him, he grows stronger, and what looked like he was uncomfortable in the role in Casino, has begun to look like he is in complete control, showing us exactly what he wants to show us, and has done so, right from the start.
Fave Scene: I completely love the scene where Vesper is sitting in the cold shower and Bond joins her. It is more romantic and more sexy, not to mention more character-defining than any other scene in Bond history, perhaps excluding Tracy’s death.
On a lighter note, the Esprit jumping off the pier and going into the water in TSWLM. The entire concept of Bond in one scene: Action, womanizing, gadgets, humor, surprise. Makes me smile every time.
Earliest Bond memory: Boat race in Live and Let Die.
I had no idea what Bond was all about at that time, and at age appx 9-10 years old, I just found J.W. Pepper funny. The Spy who loved me, was the first Bond-movie I watched in the cinema.
Finding that Couper and Dobson pick a lot of the same faves as I. The above was posted before listening to today’s episodes though. 🙂
It’s not true that people who did not like Skyfall like Spectre and vice versa. There are some hardcore Bond fans – like me – who simply don’t like Bond being Nolan’s Batman. That’s what happened both in Skyfall (stripped Bond+Batman) and Spectre (classic Bond+Batman).
Notwithstanding all its flaws, Skyfall’s narrative worked better than Spectre to me for its core premise was both very strong and implied – Mother/Sons triangle – contrary to the one in Spectre, extraneous and weak (childhood issues that create both a hero and monster).
To me Spectre puts the last nails on the coffin of the promise of 2006’s reboot. After CR, everything was possible, including creating a new continuity – at least for the Craig films – that should have never needed to scoop as low as DAD being a heartless collection of past homages.
The producers basically put themselves into a corner here. Spectre’s mixed reviews make it impossible for them to decipher what the fans and the casual Bond audience really want in terms of tone, narrative and continuity. The open-ended ending of Spectre with the establishing of Blofled, Hinx and possibly Swann as recurring characters make it even more difficult to scrap that story right now. Let’s not forget we’re not sure if Craig will return or not. The very fact of giving him a producing credit in Spectre is a double-edged sword: if he had a hand in the creative mess that Spectre is, will he have the willingness to work at it again when he’ll hit 50?
I’ll give you a worse thought than that one. Thanks to the way this movie bungled Blofeld and SPECTRE, there will be thousands of people who first encounter them this way. Then, when and if they go back and watch the older movies, they’ll watch them from the perspective of Bond and Blofeld having once been unfriendly housemates.
What a bummer of a thought that is.
That is a frightening possibility indeed. I did not think of it.
I just thought the retconning of Silva into Spectre was horrible enough. Almost as horrible as the suggestion that Blofeld had a hand in Vesper Lynd’s death – which would water down the whole emotional impact of CR and the weight Craig’s Bond has to carry from then on – the suicide of the woman he loved.
I hated “Spectre,” but it hasn’t hurt “Casino Royale” for me. And I think it may actually have made me like “Quantum of Solace” more (not that I dislike it; I don’t, I like it just fine).
But I agree that it retroactively makes “Skyfall” weaker. And that’s a real shame, because I loved “Skyfall.” But if I’m being asked to believe that Silva was working for SPECTRE the whole time, then I kind of hate that.
I suspect I’ll forget that the next time I watch “Skyfall,” though. It’s too good a movie for me not to.
Agree with you that the silver lining of Spectre is making QOS more relevant and interesting over multiple rewatch. That one is a special case. I hated it when it came out. I still think it’s flawed. But it tastes better and better upon multiple reviewing. Like an acquired taste.
I agree with both of you. When you compare the slow build up of Blofeld and SPECTRE in the Connery era to the ridiculous Austin Powers/Dr Evil Thor/Loki plot in Spectre It’s seems that the writers now have less respect for the audience than they did in the 1960s.
I disagree with you guys saying the Blofeld-Bond connexion is
1/ not really a family bond when you go into the whole debate about half-brothers/ski-mates over two winters don’t make them DNA brothers
2/ unimportant to the narrative of the film in the end
Here are my answers both points:
1/ The point is not to to say they are not DNA brothers or real half-brothers or whatnot, the point is they are brothers in a figurative sense.
If they were not brothers in a figurative sense why insert that scene with the photos at Bond’s apartment at the beginning of the film? Why the extraneous exposition dialogue between Blofeld and Swann in the interrogation scene? Why Blofeld saying it out loud in the MI6 building at the end? The film goes into several awkward moments to try to make us believe they are brothers.
So we can only conclude the film-makers clearly wanted us to believe they have a figurative family connexion, like Bond had with eg Trevelyan in GE, Silva in SF, Leiter in LTK.
That connexion is central to the narrative of Spectre, the Craig films and the whole Bond continuity to a lesser degree because of the following.
2/ That family link is important because its the plot point that explains the cause/reveal of Blofeld’s dementia: Bond is the person who created Blofeld’s dementia by stealing his father’s affection over the course of two winters!
It does not mean that Blofled created Spectre to torture Bond psychologically because of what happened in Austria in their childhood – though the retconning of Spectre in all the Craig’s films suggest Blofeld used the power of his organisation to unleash his private vendetta on Bond instead of killing him in the events of CR for example, when White had a clear opportunity at killing Bond in Venice after Vesper Lynd’s death. It means that Oberhauser became Blofeld because of Bond. Or that Bond facilitated the overtaking of the Oberhauser’s mind by the evilness lurking dormant inside it under that later took the name of Blofeld.
So at the end of the day, Craig’s Bond had an indirect hand in creating the ultimate evil mastermind and his organisation. That is very much like in the recent Batman films and more generally akin to most Gnostic-inspired story-telling where Good and Evil have a common ancestry.
I think that is a step too far. The literary Bond only had slight doubts about Good and Evil in the events of Casino Royale (that is used in a dialogue between Bond and Mathis in QOS, the films). The stripped back Bond we were promised in CR (and cryptically alluded since the Dalton days and the beach scene in GE) should only bear the burden of the death who come too close to him because of the radical nature of his fight against Evil. Bond should not have a responsibility for – or a common origin with – the Evil he’s supposed to fight.
Sorry for the wrong spelling above… I’m just so pissed off they got it so wrong with the reintroduction of the Blofeld character.
I still think you’re reading the scenario incredibly literally. Perhaps it didn’t translate in the podcast, but the angle I was coming from is to consider the ambiguity of how it’s executed. Very little is made specific. The fact they removed the card game (as discussed in 30 days podcast no.23) suggests to me that they too wanted to leave the connection open to multiple interpretations. Why you’d then choose to fixate on the interpretation that ‘pisses you off’, I don’t really know.
I don’t think anyone is falling over themselves at the Oberhauser/Blofeld angle, but neither is the source sacrosanct. It can be reinterpreted without having a knock on effect across the canon, the same way many of the films are wildly different from the Fleming originals.
The Craig era is its own entity and there is no reason they won’t/can’t return to a Blofeld closer to source with a new actor further down the line. If you don’t buy it, you don’t buy it, but I’m at a loss to understand some of the hysteria that I’ve seen around the web.
Regard the specifics of the previous three films tying seamlessly into SP, well, that was never going to happen. It was a loose retcon built on the emotional thrust of the last three films. Blofeld has not, as I’ve seen stated on other forums, been playing some sort of long game, a masterplan that unfolds over the course of a decade or more. It’s clear Bond has merely been a fly in the ointment, where Blofeld is the silent meteor that came crashing into his world. He can claim responsibility for the events of the last three films simply because his organisation casts a shadow across them. How involved he actually was is again open to interpretation. He can be directly or indirectly responsible. I’m not sure how many people Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has either killed or had killed, but I imagine he takes indirect responsibility for any and each death attributed to ISIS. The same applies to Silva, there’s nothing to say that ESB simply provided resources, manpower and capital for Silva to execute his plan. Nothing suggest ESB conceived it.
There is also nothing specifically stating that, as you say…
“Bond is the person who created Blofeld’s dementia by stealing his father’s affection over the course of two winters!”
That’s invention on your part. He hints that Bond could be seen as responsible for his actions, but who’s to say that isn’t just a psychological play? As above, multiple interpretations. If you want to be negative you can twist the narrative to suit, likewise if you want to be positive. Personally, I’d rather take the positive route as there are so many great aspects of this film that it seems a shame to dismiss all that because you’re unshakably butt-hurt over a reinterpretation of ESB.
Well you make a couple of good points here.
First I will definitely listen to Podcast #23. I didn’t read the script before watching the film and I tried to stay as spoiler-free as possible.
That said, we’re talking here about the possible interpretations of a narrative structure which supposed to push the film forward. We’re not talking about the possible interpretations of the film as whole. That drastically reduces the number of possibility to interpret that said narrative structure.
Also, all the clues given within the film push us into accepting what you call a “literal” interpretation, not least the sentence Blofeld utters to Swann in the Torture Scene: “in a way he’s responsible for the path I took”. A bit more on that later.
Based on the unheard amount of personal backstories in the past Bond films since LTK (pretty much all films since ’89 had a “this time it’s personal” element of thrown into it), I tend to think that that particular narrative device was more likely due to lazy script writing than an actual willingness to make the whole thing open to interpretation. It could very well be a possibility based on the whole etheral feel of the film and the actual non-acronym name of the organisation, but even in that case it’s not well executed – for the simple reason that so many people came out of the film with the same substantiated opinion that I have.
I would agree with your point about the retcon not necessarily affecting the canon.
Now when you say the source is not sacrosanct I could theoretically agree. But empirically the vast majority of hardcore Bond fans will agree that the Fleming source as it was written (be it characters, scenes, narratives) is the most potent stuff translated on screen. I remember Tom repeating that several times in the past podcasts. The examples are obvious : OHMSS, CR etc. You can’t have it both ways.
So when you go and introduce the major villain of the series, should you alter his origin to shoehorn it to the psychological undertones the franchise took since Skyfall or you try to keep it close to Fleming as much as you can since it has proved to be so potent in the past?
Now your last point ie: “Bond is the person who created Blofeld’s dementia by stealing his father’s affection over the course of two winters!” That’s invention on your part”
Please read me again.
I said it was either Bond created the dementia of Blofeld or Bond facilitated its emergence. At the very least the second possibility is highly implied when Blofeld says to Swann : “in a way he’s responsible for the path I took”. If it’s not what it’s meant to say, there absolutely no reason to believe whatever each character says in the film.
Overall I would say our love for Bond should not make us blind to lazy script-writing. A film can be interpreted in different ways as a whole, but not an action film narrative if there’s not a twist à la 6th Sense at the end.
Most importantly, the very fact they think they made a classic Bond film with Spectre is beyond me!
It might look like a classic cosmetically but its core is not. Please read Umberto Ecco’s 1979 Narrative Structures Of James Bond to understand what is classic Bond and why. Fundamentally, we have here a sacrilege of apocalyptic proportions when it is strongly implied that Bond is somewhat connected to the Evil he fights. It crosses the “this time it’s personal” line into the wrong direction. As mentioned before that is a Gnostic narrative type that is common in many narratives but has never been the central motif of Fleming’s Bond nor the classic Bond films.
Like style in general, Bond has always been about finding the eternal within the ephemeral – ie always the same narrative core for the Bond stories which closely look like an eternal combinatorial game as explained by Umberto Ecco (the eternal) with cultural elements of the era the films/stories were made (the ephemeral).
There is an inversion of values when you take the fad of the day (the Gnostic and psychology-heavy backstory story-telling of the day) as the center of your Bond story and paste cosmetically some classic Bond parts on it .
Sacrilege of apocalyptic proportions? I’m very much in the ‘to each their own’ type of camp when it comes to film discussions, but might that not be taking thing a little far?
Has not classic Bond always been about flamboyance?
To be more precise I should have written “sacrilege of apocalyptical proportion when Bond is somewhat RESPONSIBLE for the Evil he fights”. That is a big big no no.
I think if the film plays its cards right it can work. Is it different from the norm? Absolutely, but I don’t see why it should not happen just because Umberto Eco, a great thinker and writer by the way, came up with some theories about the Bond stories.
You do imply you liked Spectre. It is a value judgement as valid as mine (I did not like it very much) and I am not refuting it for you can’t refute such a statement if it not argued properly.
What I am doing here is arguing my own value judgement as strongly as possible. If you can’t refute my arguments one can only conclude there are sound reasons think Spectre is not as good as some think. That won’t prevent you from liking it anyway.
By the way, I like DAF and OCT quite intensely.
The idea that ‘one can only conclude there are sound reasons to think SP in not as good as some think’, is applicable to, literally, anything. One can conclude that you’re talking codswallop, one could also conclude you’re talking sense. Both are opinion, neither are fact. What fascinates me is that you sound a little like others I’ve come across on various forums whose sole mission appears to be to get those who maintain a positive outlook to concede some ground in their opinion. To quote Blofeld, ‘Most odd’.
I’m afraid you’re wrong on at least three points.
A judgement value is not a statement of fact. I can argue empirically that Craig is blond or that Sam Mendes is not as good a Bond director as Sam Mendes with reasons : in both cases, if you can’t find flaws in my argument or find a better one, it stands to reason to believe that the fact or statement of fact argued is likely true.
I can argue ad vomitum that Spectre is not a good film, it can’t change the fact you will like it or not.
Secondly, you’re believing my mission is such as you described is a sign you might be seeing patterns that are not existing and even an evil agency behind it that I would be part of. No wonder you’re open to multiple interpretations ad infinitum and you liked Spectre – at least thematically.
And finally the cold anger that I’m reading between your lines is not consistent with the cooler approach you suggested me to have initially. It also might be the reason why you’re seeing this evil agency anywhere. Spectre is not your child nor your lover. If I criticise it I am not criticising you (or even deny your right to like it – please see first point).
“I would ask you if you could remained emotionally detached” because that seems to be your problem Mr. Couper (M in CR).
Apparently I am also minimally emotionally involved : I meant “Sam Mendes is not as good a Bond director as Martin Campbell”.
You need some air, dude. I have no interest in dissecting the minutiae of conversational semantics. My wife is due to give birth imminently so I have bigger fish to fry than being sucked into psuedo-intellectual debates. I just enjoyed the film, I’m sorry you didn’t. Have a good evening.
I gladly agree with you Sir, if you mean that “I need some air” as in getting ejected from my seat because there is en evil henchman pursuing me with evil intent and zero clue about how to ram me off the road.
So I’ll let you extinguish the fire that is consuming you and then reevaluate the use of the word pseudo-intellectual considering all that what you answered me in your last two posts are 1/ guilt by association 2/ ad hominem attack – hardly relevant
I thought that Tom and Chris would relish a strong , consistent and quirky detailed reasoning of why some people don’t like the film. Being the interviewee of the day I hoped you reached to their “high standards”.
Wish you all the best with your wife and baby.
I don’t have to imply anyhing. I do like Spectre. Of course it’s okay to dislike the film. I’d never bemoan you for it, believe me on that. I’m merely a bit puzzled as to the turn the conversation as taken, what with quoting Eco as reason enough to argue that Spectre isn’t as good as some people claim. And what’s with the ‘one can only conclude’ phrasing? Are we debating the merits of a Bond movie or practicing our thesis hypothesizing for a university level final exam?
Trust me when i say I’m the not the sort of person that wants to strike an argument, but I’m a little lost as to what’s going on here.
Look I’ve just tried to offer a interesting and fresh angle on why Spectre failed to excite so many people (incl. hardcore Bond fans) and being rational about it so that it’s understandable by all.
I am as much a die-hard Bond fan as anyone here, with tastes that are very much similar to Tom and Chris’s (the four classics, OHMSS, CR, TLD and the odd ones out like OCT etc.). So I have no intention of destroying the film for the sake of it as another person has accused me of doing on this thread.
Many many people hated Spectre mostly because of the weakness of the narrative/the reveal/the retcon/the ending. So whether you just say: “oh these bits didn’t ruin the film for me so I don’t see why it should ruin it for others” and just assume that your personal values are universal or you just try to understand why it has such an impact on other member of the Bond fan community.
As fun as it is to take potshots at DAD, at the end of the day if you want to be consistent hence relevant in your love for Bond, you need to scrutinise all films as dilligently.
I wasn’t trying to imly that because certain things didn’t bother me, then they shouldn’t bother others. On the contrary, i reread my previous post and explicitely said that’s fine if others don’t like the movie. What i had trouble grasping were the posts in which you used theories written by Eco to support the argument that the movie isn’t that good. It’s a matter opinion, as you said. In 2005 i could have decried them making a movie without Moneypenny and Q, that you can’t make a Bond movie without them. Well, they gave us CR, which turned out rather nicely.
I’m getting the feeling that we’re virtually on the same page yet turning in circles because of semantics and whatnot. Ceasefire, okay? This argument is getting silly.
No bad intentions on my part at all.
Eco summed up the acme of the classic Bond narrative in two words: a combinatorial game. The Villain plays Bond and Bond plays the Villain during the film as if they were at a card game. One knows that Bond will win but one does not know how it’s going to happen.
CR (both novel and film) exemplifies that theory by having a card game in the center of the film/novel and having a villain whose name means number – Bond has zero chance of beating him.
Another example is FRWL: the audience knows from the start it is a gigantic chess match rigged against Bond with the objective to kill him. Bond also has zero chance of surviving.
This is the classic Bond narrative.
Then how you dress it up doesn’t really matter: presence and absence of Q and Moneypenny, stripped back Bond, classic Bond with gadgets, emo-Bond à la Dalton and Craig, campy Bond à la Moore. It’s just a matter of finding the right tone.
Spectre scraps that classic combinatorial narrative by replacing it with some psychological motivations all over the place.
It gets so many thing wrong in the process to make that non-Bond narrative work (withholding of information from the audience as who to is Franz Oberhauser when Bond meets him in Rome, the awkward retcon to build up Blofeld’s threat, and the most important of it all to me, hinting that Bond is partly responsible for the Evil he fights – that is a big no no for me).
At the end of the day you have a film which is too cool for its own sake because there is no sense of a game within it – hence no threat, no thrill.
I read the following in another thread and I find particularly brilliant: the film fails to match the buffet of emotions you get when you watch a classic (ex: Goldfinger: during the car chase you laugh, you’re thrilled, you’re scared in the space of less than 2 min). Spectre feels like a prolonged meal consisting of one dish (a sweet and sour ice cream).
I agree that the film asks you to treat them as figurative “brothers” even though they are not related. Why else would it motivate Blofeld to kill his own father? And since when was Blofeld a crazy? And if he is crazy why didn’t he kill Bond? They’ve basically shoehorned a DAD level plot into the Craig universe.
The Blofeld backstory is not only ridiculous (too much of a deviation from Fleming in my opinion) it is not even used well in the film. Frankly I’m amazed that so many Bond fans are willing to accept this.
I don’t know about you but I’m going to ignore it in the same way that I ignore the fact that Bond and ESB have already met before OHMSS.
Speaking of the Red Carpet Premiere, I waited several hours at the barriers and finally managed to get autographs from two stars of the evening on my soundtrack booklet. Check it out!
Really enjoyed listening to your thoughts on the podcast, Rory!
Thank you, mate. Hope to see you again sometime soon!
I love how indecipherable mine is… that’s a sign of true class! 😉
Was great to see you there Ralph! Look forward to the next JBR hangout in the New Year!
Actually it’s Ralf and I enter Mr Hinx mode when people spell it Ralph! I think it was Steve at the Casino who mentioned that Ralph Fiennes also has some issues about misspelling (or mispronouncing) his name… Coincidence? I think not!
Oh well, names are for tombstones, baby! You are forgiven.
That London meet-up was amazing, can’t wait to meet the community again next year (hopefully)
I don’t know what you mean Ralf? You must have been seeing things! ;o)
I was afraid of Mr Hinx giving me a serious beat down! :oD
A stray dawg wandered into my shop last week. Long hair & street grime; just SAT there like a perfect lady looking at me. Of course I fell in love and kept her and have named her ‘Moneypenny’
Do you know how few people these days actually know who Miss Moneypenny is?? About %15, tops.
What if Moneypenny had been the big secret Blofeld reveal? AND his long lost sister?!! Holy shit now THAT woulda been a MINDBENDER!!