November 3, 2015 // 4 Comments
Cards on the table, I am not that big a fan of the Bond franchise. I’ve tried, I’ve really tried, but for some reason they just do not click with me. I think it’s partly because the whole spy movie thing always felt like it was in this weird space between sci-fi/fantasy and real life thrillers. It doesn’t give enough of what I like of either one, so I always came out of spy movies – Bond especially – with the same general reaction of, “Yeah, that was alright.”
So as a British institution, I am saying that I have no particular attachment to this franchise or any Bond in particular. For the record I think Daniel Craig is fine as Bond, with both Casino Royale and Skyrim being great movies whilst Quantum of Solace is a meh one. All that said, I admit I was mildly excited to see the newest installment, Spectre. The idea that they would be introducing this secret organisation that had plagued Bond in the older movies back into this continuity was exciting to me.
I was also praying that I could turn in a positive review for once. I’m three movies in and it’s been nothing but mixed to negative reviews. Sadly, Spectre is going to be more of the same.
For me, the biggest problem with Spectre is that even if I hadn’t seen all the articles and interviews where Daniel Craig has made it impossibly clear that he hates playing Bond; the movie itself makes it clear as day. His performance can be best summed up as watching a man passive aggressively running out the clock. Where the previous Craig Bond movies had him with some amount of roguish charm, there’s none of that here. Bond is a blunt instrument in this movie, appearing, saying his lines, doing his action thing and then bedding ladies through the power of the script.
One scene involves Craig’s Bond seducing a woman who is giving exposition in the throws of passion. About ten minutes after Bond killed her husband in the opening. It’s as bizarre as it sounds.
Bond’s sheer lack of charisma and charm in this movie could be helped if the plot was strong, but sadly it’s not the case. Bond is going rogue… again. This time it’s to follow up on the last will and testament of M (which is mentioned once then forgotten) which leads him to look into the mysterious organisation of Spectre, lead by a mysterious villain played by Christoph Waltz. Meanwhile, the 00 program is under threat of being shut-down in favour of a worldwide surveillance organisation created by Andrew Scott’s C.
Also Lea Seydoux plays a Bond girl who is the daughter of a minor recurring villain in the previous Bond movies that I forgot existed.
If that part about the surveillance organisation made you wonder if Spectre ends up being a clever take on the controversy involving in the NSA then you are completely wrong. No, it’s a stupid take on the controversy involving the NSA. The problem with that subplot is it seems to have no idea how the NSA – or drones for that matter – actually work. Ralph Fiennes’ M at one point tells C that the 00 program is better because his agents can think and adapt in the field… which is a semi-decent argument against drones but an utterly non-sensical one against surveillance. It seems to think the lack of a person being involved is why people are worried about the NSA… which is almost the exact opposite of the real life issues there.
How the organisation of Spectre ties into all this and to the plot at large is also, sadly, disappointing. Rather than being this dark, almost cult like entity that the opening sequence – we’ll get to that – suggests, all we see is a few people in suits before Waltz’s lead villain runs away with the plot. Waltz’s motive and the way it’s revealed that his organisation has had a hand in everything evil that has happened up this point are straight up fan-fiction levels of writing. In a desire to make the grudge between the goodie and baddie more personal, they’ve ended up making it more ridiculous and hard to follow.
Now, all of this would be more tolerable if the movies had a campy silliness to them, but this era of Bond has always aimed for the more grounded reality. For the first three movies, this was a benefit, but honestly here it’s a serious detriment. The goofiness of the plot-line, the jokes littered throughout and phasing in of Bond staples like the gadgets, feel out of place with the overall darker tone. Spectre should have been a movie about Bond tackling something bigger and stronger than he’s ever faced, but ultimately feels like just another Bond movie.
For the record, I didn’t pull the idea that Bond is facing an unstoppable monster of an organisation out of nowhere. The imagery for the Bond theme this time has Bond facing down legions of black figures, entwined in the tentacles of the Spectre logo and confronted with a skull-faced figure. This imagery suggests we’re getting to the point in Bond’s story where he may not outright lose, but victory is not guaranteed. Nor apparently was an appropriate song as Sam Smith’s Writing’s on the Wall isn’t a bad song, but it doesn’t fit the mood of the visuals at all.
Also Casino Royale took the dancing, sexy girls out of it opening and was better for it. I know it’s a staple but it needs to well done to work. Making me think of tentacle hentai is probably not the way to go.
Supporting cast wise, everyone is great but underused, particularly the aforementioned Ralph Fiennes as M. Also worthy of note are Ben Wishaw continuing to impress as the new Q and Naomi Harris making me wish she got more screen time as Moneypenny. Both deserved more presence in the movie than they got, but hey ho, we needed to spend more time building up Bond’s romance so we could have stakes when she gets kidnapped. Not like his friends and co-workers we’ve had time to get to know over the last movie would’ve had any stakes if they got kidnapped or anything.
Ultimately, Spectre is not the worst franchise movie in a year where Fantastic Four, Jurassic World and Terminator Genisys all exist, but it is a disappointing movie nonetheless. Spectre had potential to take the new Bond movies into a place they’ve teased but never truly reached outside of Skyfall. Bond could’ve gone up against his greatest challenge yet, but that just did not happen this time around. I think it’s also telling that Spy, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and The Man from U.N.C.L.E – all movies obviously meant to cash in on Bond’s release this year – were all way better movies than Spectre.
On the plus side, if you’re disappointed with Spectre like I was and want to see something similar but better… I just gave you three strong recommendations.
Or you could just rewatch Archer like I probably will.