'Spectre': What that villain reveal means for the movie series

The newest James Bond movie stars Christoph Waltz as a mysterious villain. Here's what makes his character different from some of the previous antagonists faced by Daniel Craig's Bond.

Susie Allnut/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures/Columbia Pictures/EON Productions/AP
'Spectre' stars Daniel Craig.

The new James Bond movie, “Spectre,” features the return of Daniel Craig as the British spy and has Bond going up against a villain named Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz).

(Spoilers for “Spectre” follow….) 

In the movie, which was released on Nov. 6, Bond encounters Oberhauser, whose father raised Bond following the death of Bond’s parents. Franz Oberhauser was not pleased by the affection his father showed for James. James thought Franz was dead, but it turns out he’s alive and is going by a new name: Ernst Blofeld. 

The Bond series is certainly taking a risk in bringing back what is probably the most well-known villain from the spy series. Blofeld has previously been portrayed by actors such as Donald Pleasence. Before now, the Bond movies starring Craig have mainly centered on villains that had not previously been seen onscreen. The villain Le Chiffre, who was the antagonist in the 2006 movie “Casino Royale,” had not yet been seen in the official Bond series, and Raoul Silva of 2012’s “Skyfall” was new to the films. 

Has the decision to include Blofeld paid off creatively? “Spectre” has gotten mixed reviews and had a less positive reception than “Skyfall” or “Casino.” (Craig’s other recent outing, “Quantum of Solace,” was largely seen as a misfire). The verdict from critics seemed to be that it was too much of Bond business as usual. 

As new versions of movies are adapted, it is no doubt difficult to decide whether or not to include famous antagonists. Some decisions to do so are unquestioned wins. For example, some fans expressed doubt when actor Heath Ledger took on the role of the “Batman” villain the Joker for the 2008 movie “The Dark Knight.” Actor Jack Nicholson’s popular portrayal of the character was seen as a hard standard to live up to. But Ledger’s performance was universally acclaimed and the actor won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the role. 

Some can get more mixed results. One of the most famous “Star Trek” villains is Khan, who faces off with Captain James T. Kirk in the “Star Trek” film “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” often cited as the best “Trek” film of all time. Actor Ricardo Montalban took on the role for that movie. The current “Star Trek” series portrays younger versions of the original “Trek” characters and the 2013 film “Star Trek Into Darkness” had the crew face off with Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch), originally known as John Harrison. But the film did less well with critics than its 2009 predecessor and the reaction from fans over the decision to include Khan seemed to be a collective shrug. 

When those behind a movie decide to include an iconic villain, there’s often the pressure to put some kind of new spin on the character or story.

One of the next series to do this will be the “Batman” series – again. The movie “Suicide Squad,” which will be released next summer and will center on villains in the “Batman” universe, will feature actor Jared Leto in the role of the Joker. Fans will no doubt be curious to see if the film can tackle a famous antagonist in a satisfying manner.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.