I've Been A Film Enthusiast as Long as I can remember. I Suffer from the Same Disease Leonard did in Memento.
John Logan, Neil Purvis, Robert Wade, and Jez Butterworth
In retrospect, perhaps Skyfall and Casino Royale set the bar too high and Quantum of Solace was just a hiccup in the Craig-Bond series. Perhaps the return of Oscar-winning director Sam “Don’t call me Eva” Mendes to helm Bond 24 also skyrocketed our expectations. That’s on us.
But we really didn’t expect Daniel Craig’s 4th (and possibly final) outing as Bond to be this limp, lackluster, lazy, lethargic and other words that begin with ‘R’. It’s our fault for expecting transcendence. It’s Spectre’s fault for just not being very good.
Check that. The action sequences are superb, some even better than Skyfall. It’s that filler in the middle, what supposedly passes for plot, is where Spectre’s quality falls…from the sky as it were.
Spectre reminds me of last summer’s laughably mediocre Terminator Genysis, in that the action is good but the story is weak and they both misspell words in their title and they both feature people from Austria and they both feature the world ending.
You’ve all heard that star Daniel Craig has been rumbling about how he’s tired of playing Bond even though he’s contracted to do one more picture.
If you haven’t heard that then star Daniel Craig has been rumbling and grumbling and about how he’s tired of playing Bond and those darn neighbor kids have their music up too loud even though he’s contracted to do one more picture.
After sitting through Spectre you hope Craig does one more Bond just to end his series on a positive note. At least Craig had Skyfall and Royale, which is more than one can say for Pierce Brosnan or Timothy Dalton.
Spectre begins, as all Bond films do, with a spectacular action sequence involving a helicopter and a bunch of Mexicans during the Day of the Dead Festival. We then segue into the traditional naked girl silhouette opening credits sequence where Sam Smith sings a song that is nowhere near as good as Adele’s in Skyfall. Perhaps the song needed more Mexicans.
You’re going to be reading that lot during this review - “nowhere near as good as Skyfall”. Or just once.
It was the best of times; it was the worst of CraigBond movies since Quantum of Solace (which I didn’t think was that bad). Times are a’ changin’ for our friends in British Intelligence. MI5 wants to merge with MI6, presumably to make MI5.5 and M’s (Ralph Fiennes taking over for Judi Dench) new overseer C (Andrew Scott, who played Moriarty in the Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock series, which is not a good piece of casting since his appearance just screams “I am really a bad guy”) is kind of an officious ass. Or maybe he’s just being British.
Anyway, C wants to do away with the double-O system and consolidate all surveillance under one super program that can see and hear everything everyone does under the guise of protection. Moriarty and Voldemort working in the same office. What could possibly go wrong?
Meanwhile, Bond is investigating a cryptic clue from dead M (Judi Dench, her body taken over by Ralph Fiennes). After 20 minutes of exposition and sex with Monica Bellucci, Bond is led to a super-secret meeting, apparently at the same place where they had the orgies in Eyes Wide Shut.
Bond thinks he’s so slick but the head of the organization (Christoph Walz, sleepWalzing through this part) , bops his head out of the shadows and puts Bond on blast. How did he know Bond was there? And how did he know who Bond was? What was Dream House? Why isn’t anybody watching Steve Jobs? It’s the best movie of the year!!!
We’ll find out, but in the least interesting way possible.
All through this Secret Organization stuff I kept on thinking about how much better this was done in last summer’s Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. You’d be better off seeing that again. At least you’d have some semblance of fun.
Since you can’t have Bond without an inappropriately aged Bond Girl, Bond hooks up with Dr. Madeleine Swan (Lea Seydoux- Blue is the Warmest Color aka that French movie that has subtitles so you don’t have to feel all that pervy because it’s art, yeah, it’s an art film), a daughter of an enemy he’s sworn to protect. She tells him the group he’s looking for is named Spectre.
All this adds up to…not much. Spectre is definitely not the worst movie of the year, but certainly the most disappointing.
What Works With Spectre
- Ellie Goulding’s excellent pop album Delirium also comes out the same day Spectre has a wide release. This has nothing to do with Spectre, but it’s the best thing having to do with British people that’s opening this weekend. At least I’m pretty sure she’s British. She could be from Southern California for all I know.
- Again, the expertly rendered action sequences almost make you forget you’re watching a pretty mediocre film. The best of them is set on a train and involving Guardians of the Galaxy’s Dave Bautista. It’s one of the few times in the film you’re really sucked into it and not constantly thinking “When is this movie going to get good?”
- As far as Bond Girls go, Lea Seydoux’s Dr. Swan seems the least like window dressing and can actually take care of herself. It actually feels organic when Doc Swan eventually releases the Craig-en and not such a given that she’s going to bed Bond. This probably has to do more with Seydoux’s charisma than what’s written on the page.
What Doesn't Work With Spectre
- There’s nothing wrong with trying to Nolanize Bond, give him some semblance of heft in his backstory, especially after the creampuff that was Pierce Brosnan. The problem with Spectre is that when tries to convey something meaningful, it ends up dull and forced and without any weight to it at all. In a 2.5-hour movie, the audience feels it when it misses way more times than it hits. You’d think the 4 credited writers (John Logan, Neal “Never Nervous” Purvis, Robert Wade, Jez Butterworth) would have figured it out. Maybe they needed one more writer. Or two less.
- The more Spectre promises, the less it delivers. The first act builds up this mystery as to Bond’s past (unsuccessfully linking the 3 previous movies), but the more you find out, the less stimulating any of it becomes. If Spectre were a book, you’d think you skipped a chapter that’s not worth rereading. By the time the credits roll, more than a few members of the audience will think “That’s it?”
What Really Doesn't Work With Spectre
- Christoph Walz- No doubt he’s a great actor (he certainly deserved his 2 Oscars), but his Oberhauser is just the same generic villain he played in Green Hornet…and Water for Elephants…the appalling Three Musketeers…and Horrible Bosses 2. It doesn’t help that his “reveal” is the worst kept secret since Benedict Cumberbatch’s in Star Trek: Into Darkness, and that it’s handled almost as a throwaway. His motivation is lightweight and subsequently so is any payoff.
Maybe only Quentin Tarantino can fully show Walz’ talents. Wouldn’t be the first time.
By siphoning all the goodwill you held toward Casino Royale and Skyfall, Spectre leaves you barely stirred, hardly shaken.