SPECTRE of the Past: Bond’s personal history looms heavily

What are the knowns of Spectre? We have Daniel Craig returning to the James Bond franchise for the fourth time, in a universe that now has established Ralph Fiennes’ Gareth Mallory as M, a Miss Moneypenny retired from the field, and a cynical Q. The world hasn’t quickly smoothed over the symbolic destruction of what was viewed as an antiquated institution, the headquarters of MI6 – the ruins remain. Is that how James Bond needs to consider himself? There are certainly ruinous aspects to him, as the teaser trailer indicates.

Establishing the Facts

The destructed MI6 building. Image credit: Den of Geek

Naomie Harris’ Moneypenny hands over “personal effects” recovered from the Bond family property, Skyfall, which too was destructed in the previous eponymous film, after forensics examined them. They include a heavily damaged photo of two children with an adult, and a document named as “Order of Temporary Guardianship”, paired with Moneypenny’s words that James Bond “has a secret”. The face of one of the children in the photo is burnt through, and the viewer must surmise that one child is Bond himself, after the early death of his parents, entrusted to a new familial situation.

A History of Bond

After Skyfall taking Judy Dench’s M and her personal history as an excuse to start examining the character of James Bond, Spectre seems to be unravelling more to James Bond. Adding in knowledge of Ian Fleming’s novels about 007 and the cast list, the mountain scene from the photograph suggests that the adult is Oberhauser, skiing teacher and mentor of James in his youth, though we are yet to know how Christoph Waltz will be portraying this character and the inferred age difference, with only ten years between him and Craig. On the other hand, there have been media suggestions that Oberhauser is only a name invoked to cover for something completely different.

Something in the findings from Skyfall prompts Bond to seek out a familiar foe, showing that the world-building from Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace continues. Mr. White looks worse for wear than he did last time, and expects 007 to kill him. It seems that Bond suspects that White knows something, very much in line with the character we know to introduce villains to one another, and foiling those who don’t fit into the larger agenda. One of the questions that thus arises is whether Quantum and SPECTRE from previous Bond generations co-exist (as enemies or partners-in-crime, pardon the pun), or whether Quantum has evolved from SPECTRE. Neither can be conclusively answered, as Bond drops a ring on the table by a dishevelled Mr. White with the SPECTRE emblem of an octopus, somewhat subtly recreated in the released teaser teaser poster for Spectre.

Pawn, King, or an Entirely Different Role?

What White does seem to know is that 007, as always, doesn’t necessarily know what he’s getting himself into: “You’re a kite dancing in a hurricane”. Previous shots also establish one of the “Bond girls”, Monica Belluci, who in a novel situation seems to be of a similar age to Bond, at a funeral. It could be completely unrelated to matters at hand, or indicate that an organisation is afoot, eliminating those who could assist Bond in his quest to uncover whatever truth he desires to know. And there seems to be one character that has hoped that Bond’s journey would lead to their encounter, as the recognisable voice of Christoph Waltz welcomes the spy, with the observation that “it has been a long time, and finally ‘here we are'”.

It is interesting to find out whether all preceding films in Craig’s tenure of the position can be written to have led up to this moment, or whether there is more of a two-movie arc to his continuity – Casino Royale paired with Quantum of Solace, and Skyfall followed by Spectre. With complete certainty though, this film seems set to continue bringing in nostalgic elements of the James Bond universe in line with modern day developments, such as the desire for a serious tone and realism. Keeping this frame of creation in mind, there seems little room for disappointment with the release of Spectre.