Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Films 2015

5. Straight Outta Compton














Like basically every other rock biopic, Straight Outta Compton is about packaging a series of disparate, contradictory events into a feel-good through line. Presumably the thinking with these things is to renew enough interest to sell some more best-of compilations. Shepherded to the screen by Dr Dre and Ice Cube in full control freak mode, F Gary Gray's film ditches any of the misogyny or outright underhandedness inherent to NWA's story to arrive at a heart-warming yarn about a bunch of friends knuckling down and doing well.



4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens


















JJ Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt's rejuvenation of the Star Wars brand not only locates several distinct, likeable characters, it also finds time to snatch ideas from the Prequel run and transform them into engaging narrative grist for an expanding saga. It's tempting to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens as Lawrence Kasdan's moment, the Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Wars sequels writer finally getting to steer one of the great movie brat franchises without Steven Spielberg or George Lucas breathing down his neck. The structural bones may be familiar but the relationships and agendas Kasdan and his co-writers plant promise a different kind of saga.



3. Ex Machina
















Ex Machina completes a loose trilogy from writer-director Alex Garland about the effects of othering and automation on the human psyche. Never Let Me Go (adapted from Kazuo Ishiguro's novel) proposed an underclass of clones bred for the express purpose of organ harvest, Dredd a ruling class of men and women trained to act like robots. Ex Machina circles similar neuroses, lasering in on a new lifeform that is able to take the limitations men have imposed upon it and transform them into a formidable arsenal.



2. Bitter Lake
















Adam Curtis waded through thousands of hours worth of raw news footage to assemble a piece that presents history as a chaotic beast that refuses to fit into any one narrative. Bitter Lake plays as an antithesis to the kind of glib, bullet point reporting designed to fill its audience full of certainty. The film clocks in at 136 minutes and rambles incessantly. Curtis uses growling sunspot electronica and shapeless video footage to arrive at a street-level impression of how various hot and cold interventions have shaped Afghanistan post-World War II.



1. Mad Max: Fury Road


















How does this film even exist?

Original Review


Also Liked:

Whiplash / Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation / Chappie / Tomorrowland / John Wick / Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief / Spectre / Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films / Inside Out

Monday, 28 December 2015

Video Games 2015

5. Grow Home
















A genuinely stressful experience in which you pilot a shambolic robot as it climbs up a star-scraping beanstalk. Initial prods can cause your droid to stumble off wildly, a model of movement that seems entirely unsuited to a slow, methodical climbing game. Once you finally manage to figure out the finickity controls though, Grow Home comes into its own, mutating from a frustrating Octodad into a tense, physically draining approximation of ascension.



4. Everybody's Gone to the Rapture
















Slowly nose around an abandoned, provincial village, activating a series of sparkly, etheral conversations that drip-feed information about the total destruction of mankind as a physical entity. Find enough of these Radio 4 style chit-chats and Everybody's Gone to the Rapture allows you to trigger a cosmos altering crescendo. The Chinese Room's game mixes The Archers with John Wyndham to arrive at a deliberately paced snoop 'em up that faithfully simulates the onion-layered bullshittery at the core of British social interaction.



3. Fallout 4
















Potter around an irradiated Boston getting into scrapes. Fallout 4 proposes a storyline about a parent desperately seeking their kidnapped child but this is more of a regulated series of diversions than a narrative backbone. Instead Bethesda's game is at its best when you go completely off-piste, excavating haunted slate mines or dressing up as a radio serial vigilante at the behest of a neurotic zombie.



2. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
















Hideo Kojima's final game for Konami isn't just the all-time greatest open world adventure game, it also gifts the player a truly wonderful action figure in the form of Venom Snake. Despite some fussiness bumping up against objects and their physical barriers, everything about driving this iteration of Snake is such fun that it takes an eternity for you to recognise the ceaseless repetition that powers this sequel. Whether creeping into Soviet forts or radioing-in precision artillery strikes, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is one-hundred hours worth of opportunities to feel unbridled, interactive joy.



1. Bloodborne
















Bloodborne reminds me of Resident Evil or Devil May Cry. It's a game that plonks you in a corrupted version of something recognisable (architecturally speaking) then, when you've found your feet, it forces you further and further towards the source of this malignant transformation.

FromSoftware's genius lies in how this exploration unfolds. Progress is explicitly tied to raising various RPG stats but the environments and enemies are such fantastic actors you hardly notice. Since the player is always pushing deeper and deeper into some hallucinatory, transgressive horror, every step taken feels like trespassing. All visual and aural data demands you turn around and flee. You simply shouldn't be here. You proceed against all reason. How's that for a psychological model for adventure?


Also Liked:

Downwell / Axiom Verge / Xeodrifter / Tearaway Unfolded / Curses 'N Chaos / Arcade Archives: Mat Mania Exciting Hour / Under Night In-Birth / Ultra Street Fighter IV (PS4) / Call of Duty: Black Ops III (multiplayer) / Fallout Shelter / DmC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition / Resident Evil HD Remaster / Transformers: Devastation / Devil May Cry 4 Special Edition

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Music 2015

5. Lazerhawk - Escape from Germany



Produced for a John Carpenter tribute tape, Lazerhawk crosses the master's burnt-out St Louis beats with Sylvester Levay's fizzy TV music. Charles Bronson's robot brain is telling the attack helicopter to fire hellfire missiles at the muggers.


4. Tame Impala - 'Cause I'm a Man



Slowly sink into a pool of luxurious R&B while some guy who wishes he was Prince sings about being a massive bellend.


3. Blur - Ong Ong



Football terrace knees-up - smiling, laughing, singing, arm in arm with some cunt you've never met before. I have no interest in soccer.


2. Rihanna X Kanye West X Paul McCartney - FourFive Seconds (WoodysProduce Remix)



WoodysProduce slathers sweeping Casio noise all over Rihanna's deliberately spare, acoustic single. Get in there lad. Fuck it up.


1. Gabrielle Aplin - Sweet Nothing



Played this over and over and over trying to work out why I loved it so much. You've gotta do that. You've got to be ruthless with yourself. Everything you like is shite anyway. Finally, I dredged up a feeling of Anna Karina plucked out of Pierrot le Fou to front the Foo Fighters. Not cool, fuzzy 1995 Foo Fighters either, we're talking 1999, Learn to Fly, dadrock era Dave Grohl and pals. Magic.

Also Liked

Le Matos - Like Perfume on a Pig / Taylor Swift - Style /  TV on the Radio - Trouble / Thomas Happ - The Dream / Shamir - On The Regular / Blur - Lonesome Street / Radiohead - Spectre

Who Ha - It's Snowin

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Backwards Compatible - PlayStation 2 on PlayStation 4 #1



















Sony's recent decision to begin releasing emulated PlayStation 2 games on the PlayStation 4 opens up a vast library of classics and curios. In this short series I'll be doing a quick run down of the titles that made an impression on me during the sixth-generation.

The three Grand Theft Autos have already been released and other established greats like Resident Evil 4 and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater also have pretty decent high-definition spruce-ups, so we'll be skipping over them to concentrate on some (slightly) more obscure output.


1. Silent Hill 2 


Although we've already had a Silent Hill HD Collection on PS3 and 360, that disaster had to be patched umpteen times to reach a level of adequacy. Better to abandon Hijinx Studios poison port to make use of whatever backwards compatibility solution Sony has dreamt up. 

See Also: Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly

Guide a rickety waif around a spooky castle, exorcising ghosts with an old camera. 


2. R-Type Final


Irem's psychedelic shooter has the player racing after a fleeing alien armada, doing as much damage to the battered, retreating invaders as possible. Alternate gameplay paths take you through diseased futures and bloody field hospitals, whilst also offering the opportunity to betray humanity and mutate into a higher life form. 

See Also: Gradius V

Treasures scroll shooter is available on PS3 but frame rate drops kill the fun. 


3. Shadow of Rome 


Apparently, Capcom's barbaric gladiator sim was a concerted attempt to appeal to the western market. Thanks! I guess. Players are actively awarded for their savagery with a crowd mechanic that revels in creative bloodshed. Cut a man's head off and you'll receive a polite applause. Sever his arm and beat him to death with it whilst also chomping down on a greasy chicken leg and you'll have the auditorium on its feet, screaming your name. 

See Also: Maximo: Ghosts to Glory

Ghosts 'n Goblins repackaged as a third-person brawler. 


4. Hyper Street Fighter II: The Anniversary Edition


Hyper Street Fighter II featured a novel approach to arcade preservation. Rather than limit the players to one version of Street Fighter II, this Hyper upgrade made every update and revision available simultaneously. Want to pit Championship Edition's Bison against his Super Turbo counterpart? Hyper was your game. 

See Also: Capcom vs SNK 2: Millionaire Fighting 2001

Another fantastic Capcom fighter that allowed players to choose from several distinct super gauge mechanics.  


5. Killer7


Like many of Capcom's Gamecube exclusive, Killer7 quickly made its way to the PS2. Killer7 puts the player in charge of a contract murderer with a horde of distinct, playable personalities as they battle against Sentai superheroes and zombie suicide bombers. Killer7 is a delirious, deliberately fractured experience that uses simple inputs to drive players deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness. 

See Also: Michigan: Report from Hell

An earlier, trashier effort from Killer7 dev Grasshopper Manufacture that casts the player as a leering cameraman hoping to video as many grisly deaths as possible. 

Ennio Morricone - Eternity

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Return of the Jedi













Viewed hot on the heels of the Prequel Trilogy, Return of the Jedi sings, managing to tell an emotionally engaging story that thrives on character moments. Jedi is simple, once the gang has disposed of the Hutt fraternity the focus narrows to two mutually supportive storylines - the rebel army's attempts to scuttle the second Death Star and Luke's collision course with Vader. Unlike the messy second trilogy, there is very clearly a main character, Luke Skywalker. His mission is both effortlessly understood and thematically rich.

It would be easy to frame Luke and Vader's confrontation as two gunslingers lumbering up to see who's top dog, but that requires an animosity that neither character possesses. Vader's intentions are particularly cloudy, we're not sure if he's preparing to invite his son into the family business or staging a needlessly complicated suicide attempt. When he talks to Luke he rambles on about fate and the inevitability of Skywalker corruption. Vader is old and broken, a deadbeat father who could never fully pull himself together. Lacking any sense of certainty other than violence, Vader cannot understand his son.













Vader's thinking is built on presumption, he assumes he understands Luke's dilemma, but he doesn't. Neither, for that matter, does Yoda. The ancient Jedi coaches caution first and foremost. He understands the inevitability of Luke and Vader's conflict but his ability, or willingness, to guide is slim. Vader and Yoda both think in the abstract, they understand their power as an ability to tap into something greater than themselves.

Since they both consider this power ultimately unknowable they allow this intangible might to steer them. They are passengers. Luke is not. The Force does not overwhelm his thinking, it is a tool in his arsenal. Luke has not only made peace with his heritage, he has decided it can be changed. Fate is malleable, Vader can be saved. Luke is a redeemer, he allows himself to be captured by his father and The Emperor because it isn't a setback. Luke's identity is fixed and immutable. They won't change him, he will transform them.

This is what makes him so threatening, Luke is certain that no matter what he will not waver. Yoda feared what close proximity to Vader and Papatine would do to the young Jedi. The father turned, why not the son? He needn't have worried, Luke is not so weak willed. When father and son meet on Endor, Vader attempts to gloat about his son's capture. Luke brushes it off, then lasers in on their predicament. There is good in Vader and Luke intends to draw it out.













Vader is instantly subordinated. As the prequels went to great lengths to illustrate, Anakin Skywalker has always been a hollow child desperately seeking approval. He wasn't born into the Jedi's inhuman religion, he was captured by it, crowbarred into a lifestyle that did not suit him. All his misery rooted in a blood-test and some half-remembered prophecy. Luke is different, he sought this life out, seizing it in the company of Obi-Wan Kenobi and conquering it under the tutelage of Yoda.

Luke goes even further than his masters, able to control both The Force and the untidy emotional drives that the Jedi feared and buried. The Prequels are built around an order of Knights that shrink at the sight of their own shadow. Any dalliance with their humanity is treated as an opportunity for total calamity. Luke Skywalker has transcended this limitation. He feels and loves, willing to lay down his life in order to draw out his father's goodness.

When the Force Ghosts appear to Luke at the end of Jedi, they are acknowledging not only his success but also his superiority. He did what they could not. Luke knows love, he felt it and expressed it. He understood its value and therefore its power. Luke walked into Jabba's lair unarmed to rescue his best friend, he removed himself from Leia and the Endor rebels as soon as he realised Vader could track his Force signature.













Luke will die for the people he loves and is willing to bet, given the opportunity, his father will too. The Emperor scoffs and ridicules Luke, assured of his fall, but the son is playing a longer, deeper con. Luke appeals to Vader on the most basic, biological imperative - blood. Service to a dusty old crone is nothing measured against the adulation of your child. In this moment, wracked by Force lightning, Luke is the master offering Vader salvation.

Worry surrounds Luke in Return of the Jedi. His masters advise prudence and his sister pleads with him to flee. Even worse, his enemies assume that Luke's defeat has already been written. Rather than try and understand what Luke has become, everyone appraises this chosen one using their own limitations. When he sets the pyre that burns away his father, Luke Skywalker has become the most dangerous being in the universe. He has surpassed them all, Sith and Jedi alike.

BluntOne - Posionous Potion / Stonery



Darth Vader by Mike McMahon


Sunday, 13 December 2015

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith













The prequel series is marked by a conceptual dithering. George Lucas invokes certain themes and ideas but only in a superficial way, so you end up wondering if the insinuation was even intentional. Big, interesting topics exist only as suggestions, colouring the edges of incessantly bland, inhuman exchanges that defy any sense of personal identification. In The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones it's clear to the audience that the Jedi are not an infallible collective. Their robotic behaviour doesn't mark them as intergalactic samurai, it's an obvious, preventable flaw that is very clearly sowing the seeds of their eventual downfall.

In this respect Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is a marked improvement. It's an iterative instalment that at least attempts to address some of the phase's issues. Most immediately this means giving Anakin Skywalker someone to talk to who is sympathetic to his experience. Skywalker doesn't hold conversations, he bubbles over, spewing venom and invective at whoever is near, usually his mentor Obi-Wan or his wife Senator Amidala. Revenge gives him someone prepared to talk through his thinking rather than just pull a grim face and try and forget he's ever spoke at all.

Ian McDiarmid's Palpatine fills a crucial role for Slywalker. He offers guidance and understanding. He doesn't criticise Anakin for his feelings, he sympathises and congratulates him. Palpatine wins Skywalker's heart by positively reinforcing behaviour that will be useful come their insurrection. Anakin has never had a father figure in his life and none of the Jedi seem willing to take on the role. Qui-Gon came closest but, following his death, the Jedi who've followed are either dogmatic and numb or openly contemptuous. On the rare occasion they do engage with their messiah on a personal level, they assault him with infuriating rhetoric that condemns his feelings.

Palpatine is the opposite. He flatters and encourages Anakin's violence. He's a friend who claims to understand the dark, terrible humanity that lurks in this young man. Not only is this what Anakin needs, it's what the film needs. The coupling reinvigorates Revenge. Suddenly there's a foothold for emotional investment. The two conspire, Palpatine slowly seducing Anakin and taking an almost sexual delight in his apprentice's moral decay. He's Dracula basically, an impossibly old evil that feeds off youth and turmoil. All told, the Star Wars prequels are a peculiar set of films. George Lucas has built three-acts around a vapid, hollow monster desperate for love and direction. They'd be wonderful if they weren't so dull.

Midge Ure - The Man Who Sold the World

Starcadian - Chinatown

Friday, 11 December 2015

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
















Like The Phantom Menace before it, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones occupies a non-committal middleground that strangles any possible hint of enjoyment. Anakin Skywalker's slow metamorphosis from a nasty, entitled brat into a nasty, entitled murderer is played at arm's length. Writer-director George Lucas is unwilling to really spend time and engage with who or what Hayden Christensen's hero is becoming. Hence Skywalker's story is bracketed off from the usual derring-do, and told in quick, embarrassed gasps.

Finally let off the Jedi's leash to protect / harass Natalie Portman's Senator Amidala, Skywalker conjures up a reason to return to Tatooine and visit his mother. In a profoundly sterile film that centres around the soulless reproduction of an entire race, Anakin's uncomplicated, childish desire seems refreshingly human. Once home, Skywalker follows a harrowing breadcrumb trail, eventually finding his mother bound and brutalised in a Tusken Raider camp. He reacts as Ethan Edwards from The Searchers might have, slaughtering each and every one of them.

Now whilst this reaction is neither moral nor heroic, it is emotionally understandable. Much more so than Master Yoda's desire to scoop up the galaxy's Force sensitive toddlers and rechristen them Younglings. Lucas, perhaps mindful of revelling in such impure, kneejerk instincts in a PG rated film, keeps a physical distance between Skywalker and his audience. We're never allowed to occupy the same head space as this murderous Jedi, Anakin's venom is kept at a discreet, revolted distance.

Shmi Skywalker's fate is a crucial moment in the Star Wars prequels, indicative of an alarming disconnect between what we're being told and what we're actually being shown. That Shmi was consigned to slavery at all voids any moral high ground the Jedi presume to hold. All the money and resources at their disposal and they couldn't buy out Shmi's contract and place her in some apartment on Coruscant? Is the emotional and spiritual well-being of their messiah so unimportant? Lucas makes the Jedi a monastic cult of Knights who kidnap and brainwash the vulnerable, demanding they measure up to a set of ideals that prioritise emotional remoteness. These are the people we're supposed to root for?

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
















Star Wars, thanks to some canny salesmanship by George Lucas, quickly became the poster boy for a deluge of blockbuster movies patterned after Joseph Campbell's studies into the monomyth. Although the Luke Skywalker we see in Star Wars isn't a particularly interesting character, he does, per Campbell's instruction, depart from the safety of home and experience profound change in his life. This personal and spiritual growth is something that he himself chooses. We watch Luke face challenges big and small, building a repertoire of skills that could conceivably take him to the point where he is able to deadeye a pinhole vent on the Death Star.

In 1977 George Lucas understood how to build a relationship between a character and his audience. Luke is a dreamer who transforms his aspirations into action. He also displays a certain nobility of character, one that allows him to hold steadfast while the world around him becomes insane. We watch him become a man basically. One of the many reasons why Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace doesn't work is that it doesn't have a character we can completely track this kind of growth with. Anakin Skywalker, although crowbarred into this role, cannot fill it. We find him as a complete person, despite his lack of years.

Once discovered by the Jedi order, Anakin is subjected to tests that instantly confirm him as special. This point is hammered home by an exchange between Qui-Gon Jinn and Anakin's mother Shmi that explicitly organises the child as an intergalactic anointed one. We don't watch Anakin becoming something more, he's already an expert blessed with supernatural Soap Box Derby skills. David Lynch's adaptation of Dune took a similar approach with another Man-God rising out of boring political turmoil, but that film at least had the sense to lose its messiah in escalating, identity-shredding violence.

Dramatically, The Phantom Menace is a series of dead ends. Anakin's brush with war is about as damaging as a roller-coaster ride and, despite Pernilla August's nervous, beleaguered performance as Shmi, neither is there any great mystery lying at the heart of her son's conception. Given the hesitant chemistry between Liam Neeson and August it's a shame that Qui-Gon Jinn isn't some sinner Jedi seeking amends by rescuing his enslaved, illegitimate child. Unfortunately, Anakin Skywalker really was just willed into being by The Force. It's a purely mechanical development that robs everyone around it of any possible agency. That's The Phantom Menace in a nutshell. A strange, passionless film that reads more like an information dump than an organically told tale.

Boba Fett by Cam Kennedy


Sunday, 6 December 2015

007 - Quantum of Solace













Quantum of Solace opens with a shot that suggests a heat-seeking missile tracking in on its mark. We collide with Bond mid-mission, 007 attempting to spirit away a high-value target while the world around him breaks and explodes. Marc Forster's film is cut to the bone, a terse image assault that constantly and continuously stresses hostility. Matt Cheese and Rick Pearson's editing is incredibly confrontational, shots are ordered in either brief, functional reports or elegiac drifts.

Connery era editor (and On Her Majesty's Secret Service director) Peter R Hunt provided a template for communicating Bond's dilemma. Data streamed in from every conceivable direction, sometimes at odds with the preceding image. Quantum marks a supercharged return to that blueprint, emboldened by Christopher Rouse and Rick Pearson's hyperactive work on the Bourne films. This obsessive drive at functionality works perfectly for Quantum, Forster's film arranged to reflect the headspace of Daniel Craig's assailed, venomous hero.

Following Vesper's suicide Bond has, basically, stopped being human. He doesn't eat, he certainly doesn't sleep. 007's inflated musculature is gone too, replaced by the kind of snapping sinew you'd expect of some prowling, predatory lizard. Even his face is different, held in a pained, lopsided scowl that suggests Clint Eastwood staring at the sun. Casino Royale gave us a striver, fine-tuned to evoke understanding and sympathy. Quantum has no such aspiration, this is James Bond as pure machinery.

Quantum of Solace is Bond stripped of all the pretension and lies. An adventure completely outside of the structural formula that keeps much of the series feeling used up on arrival. It doesn't even pass the two-hour mark. Thanks to an aggressive release schedule and the 2007-08 Writers' Strike, Quantum wasn't worked and reworked to fit Eon's template. It's a mutant, a lone voice in a long, self-satisfied string of films that, for once, doesn't care about gadgets or holiday destinations. In their place we have a piece about a phantom that cannot find peace, the revenge mission that Diamonds Are Forever denied, Point Blank in a tuxedo. What higher praise is there?

Batman Beyond by Dan Mora


Yoko Shimomura - Ryu's Theme (CPS-1 and CPS-2 Arrangements)



Thursday, 3 December 2015

007 - Casino Royale (2006)













Casino Royale's James Bond is vulnerable, both physically and psychologically. Run-ins with the films various heavies leave him bruised and bloody, there's always a sense that he's straining, Daniel Craig is rarely seen without a veil of sweat. The casual arrogance that has driven four decades of powdered and puckered secret agents is played like a con.

Craig's Bond doesn't wade into every situation an expert, he's a bruiser, careful enough to roam around a room before committing to violence. Screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (with Paul Haggis polishing) have re-thought Bond from the ground up, scattering clues and signifiers throughout the film that indicate a markedly different reading.

Casino Royale's 007 (if for this film only) hasn't come from privilege. He isn't a gentleman, born to inhabit opulent casinos, he's a chancer. Although Bond never confirms Vesper Lynd (Eva Green)'s pointedly probing questions, her comments dangle so unopposed it seems sensible to assume they're exposition. Bond is still an orphan, but he's made into an interloper.













When Lynd pegs him as having entered an esteemed university thanks to someone else's charity, 007 looks evasive. Casino Royale places a chip firmly on James Bond's shoulder. He's stuck, by his past, by his lack of money, always playing catch-up. Lynd takes pity, furnishing him with a tailored Brioni dinner jacket that better allows him to fit in with the millionaires at the high stakes poker table. This new 007 (thankfully) doesn't tally with the invincible, flawless persona we're used to. He's incomplete.

Craig doesn't even look the part. Aside from his blonde hair, this Bond is broad and muscular were the last two were dark and wiry. He's heavier and even more brutally tuned than ex-bodybuilder Sean Connery. When casting their new Bond, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson have taken Ian Fleming's description of the character as a 'blunt instrument' to heart, chiselling out a version of Craig that looks like he could collide with a small car and come off better.

Casino Royale also hones in on Bond's desperate desire to please, an underutilised component of the Fleming character's psychological make-up. Purvis and Wade's approach to this quality (one that could potentially weaken their character and make him appear a toady) is to have him act out. Bond doesn't break into M's house to further his cool-guy agenda, he's doing it to impress her. He's asking her if any other agent has ever been so bold? It's a challenge, absolutely, but it's an audacity born out of an essential loneliness. One that Vesper spots.













She categorises the Double Os, the murderers, as lost little boys, desperate for order. Orphans, malcontents, Bond is doubly damned. Despite what Spectre would have you believe, these are the threads that allow Craig's four to operate as an unbroken run. Skyfall gives us the antithesis of this adventure, a different agent that turned bitter and rogue under torture. Quantum of Solace and Spectre offer resolution, Bond fulfilling his promise then throwing his gains away.

Casino Royale is Bond as a superheroic text. The film takes as many cues from Christopher Nolan's Batman and Sam Raimi's Spider-Man as it does the Jason Bourne series. In every case we're watching a man assume and struggle with a mantle. Casino Royale does this by proposing a Bond that acts like a working class squaddie who has been elevated, socially, by a mysterious benefactor. Bond took this new arena as a challenge, fine-tuning himself until he was able to hang in there and outlast the moneyed competition.

That's his power, an idea straight from Fleming, Bond won't be broken. He'll suffer, bleed, and curse his failing body but he won't give in. Royale complements this idea beautifully by making all of Bond's victories either moral or completely inconclusive. This new 007 isn't someone used to outright triumph, he just has a habit of living longer than the people trying to kill him.