James Bond: why Sam Mendes judges "Spectrum" much worse than "Sky Fall"

With “Skyfall” and “Spectre”, Sam Mendes directed one of the best episodes of the James Bond saga, and one of the most dispensable. And the British director knows very well what “Spectre” lacked compared to the immense success that was his first film 007…

Sky Fallthe great success of the Craig era

In 2012, Sam Mendes presented Sky Fall, his first 007 film. There’s something for everyone with this 23rd official film of the famous franchise. The spectators are ecstatic and come in large numbers to the halls. Which obviously suits MGM and EON Production since the film brings in more$1.1 billion at the worldwide box office, with more than 7 million spectators in French cinemas.

James Bond (Daniel Craig) – Skyfall ©Columbia Pictures

The family theme, the performances of Daniel Craig and Javier Bardem, the photography of Roger Deakins, the original song by Adèle… The planets have indeed aligned to Sky Fallwhich received several awards including two BAFTAs and two Oscars in 2013. It goes without saying that it is the greatest success of its British director Sam Mendes, who succeeds as a bonus with this James Bond film to get the franchise out of a bad patch after the disappointment Quantum of Solace.

All the lights are therefore green and Sam Mendes is confirmed in July 2013 at the realization of the following 007: Spectrum. But by general opinion, Spectrum does not reissue the performance of Skyfall. If the film fulfills its global box office mission with $880 million in revenue, reviews are mixed. And it’s not Sam Mendes who is going to go against this advice, having just given a rather negative opinion on his second and final James Bond film.

Sam Mendes: “With SpectrumI felt that there was a pressure”

In a recent interview given to The Hollywood Reporterthe director of 1917 returned to his two James Bond films. If he doesn’t say Spectrum is, in itself, bad, he nevertheless recognizes with lucidity that this one is not at all up to par Sky Fall. According to him, the excitement generated by the success of Sky Fall created a pressure which was not used in the production of the 2015 film.

These films are very difficult to write. During the 10 months of interruption (for “Skyfall”), it is there that the scenario really developed, because we had time to explore new things, like the association Bond – Silva. And I didn’t have that time for “Spectre”. And we can see the difference between the two scenarios. With “Spectre”, I felt there was a pressure. Certainly Barbara and Michael (the producers of the film) pressured Daniel and me to do it, and it makes a difference. The fact that everyone was telling me “We want you to do this”, and courting me eagerly for it, that was something.

James Bond (Daniel Craig) - Specter
James Bond (Daniel Craig) – Specter ©Sony Pictures Releasing France

Time, here is the element that Sam Mendes lacked to achieve the best Spectrum. He had shown himself hesitant at first after Sky Fall. Indeed, he then had commitments to the theater and did not want to get back to a new James Bond right away. While on their side, the producers wanted to go as fast as possible to take advantage of momentum created by Sky Fall. Finally, the two parties agree and the filming of Spectrum is pushed back to the end of 2014 so that the director can honor his commitments. But this “lost” time will not be made up…

Sky Fallthe interruption that changed everything

This negative pressure felt on Spectrum actually finds its source in an inverse configuration. Indeed, at the end of 2009 and beginning of 2010, MGM experienced serious financial difficulties. Sam Mendes was chosen in January 2010 to direct the 23rd James Bond, but the pre-production of Sky Fall stops, only to resume in December 2010, once MGM has been refinanced. It is about the 10 months of interruption to which Sam Mendes refers, and the time then available to work at the best possible story.

As Sam Mendes details in the interview given to THR, it was during this period that he and screenwriters Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan notably had the idea of kill M (Judi Dench). An ultimately revolutionary idea, since it is the onset of mortality in the Bond clan.

It materialized the passage of time, for the first time, in the saga. It created this reality that the characters are mortal, that they’re going to age and probably die.

Sky Fall
Skyfall ©Columbia Pictures

It is indeed the first time that a main figure of the 007 franchise has died. And in the cinema of Sam Mendes, where filiation and family are very strong themes, it’s not anecdotal, and it’s even a central element in the story of Sky Fall. This latency imposed by the financial difficulties of the MGM thus allowed the authors to go very far, and to give his identity in the Craig era while redefining the franchiseuntil the ultimate event of Dying can wait.

A time which therefore allowed the development of a stunning scenario for Sky Fallwhich did not benefit Spectrum. This why, no doubt, between Sky Fall and Dying can waithe looks very pale…

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