Spectre - Middle of the Road Bond
How do you keep James Bond fresh at this point? The series is at its midlife crisis (53 years!) at a point where the series can’t necessarily always count on relying on its formula. However, the Bond formula works on me. Very rarely will I see a Bond film that bores me. Why is that, I sometimes wonder? Bond has become its own genre. The gadgets, the villains, and the girls have a comforting presence that has become its own.
Two of the Daniel Craig Bond films (SKYFALL and CASINO ROYALE) have tried to subvert the formula in an effort to keep the series fresh. One, was QUANTUM OF SOLACE, which was a Bond film in name only (much closer to a BOURNE film). SPECTRE isn’t great, but it definitely feels like a Bond film. It is at its strongest when it just opts to be itself, and at its worst when it tries too hard. It’s OK.
Bond (Craig) is on a mission that his former boss, M (Judi Dench) asked her to do prior to her death. Unfortunately, the current M (Ralph Fiennes) sees Bond as trouble, and grounds him. So he breaks the rules to go off to track down this organization. Eventually Lea Seydoux gets tied into it, and Christoph Waltz as Blofeld (spoilers, Christoph Waltz is Blofeld).
I can see how someone would hate the plot holes in this movie. Either they work or they don’t, SPECTRE is not a very smart movie. It’s less CASINO ROYALE, and more like a mid period Roger Moore Bond. However, the film has a very brisk pace, to where, despite its dumb moments (which it has aplenty), it keeps you engaged.
Craig doesn’t bring anything unique to the film with his steely-eyed killer orphan Bond (it seems like a rejected Pierce Brosnan script). He is, however, still very charismatic. He and Lea Seydoux don’t have much chemistry, but both actors work well enough in the film, that it never sinks below serviceable.
What keeps SPECTRE alive is the craftsmanship. SKYFALL director Sam Mendes returns, and he brings a flair to the movie that gives it a feeling all its own. Hoyte Van Hotema’s cinematography is gorgeous, and a lot of the supporting work is fun.
Unfortunately I don’t understand why some of these actors are here. There’s a surveillance plot (that is a blatantly obvious NSA allegory) and Andrew Scott (Moriarty from SHERLOCK) wants to watch everybody all the time. This function doesn’t entirely make sense, and only seems to be there to give Ralph Fiennes’ M and Naomie Harris’ Moneypenny something to do. It was stupid and was the only point in the movie where I had a strong dislike for it.
The references sometimes work. I liked seeing Mr. White (Jesper Christensen, one of the villains from CASINO and QUANTUM) cameo. I liked seeing one or two references to Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd (one of the best Bond girls of the series). However they got out of hand pretty quickly, and the efforts to connect SPECTRE to the other films at times seemed pretty foolish.
Christoph Waltz was disappointing. You look at this guy and you think “that is a man that will play a Bond villain.” He never seems to be having much fun in SPECTRE (with the exception of one monologue near the end). If they’re bringing him back, I hopefully they’ll come up with better stuff for him to do.
SPECTRE is passable. It has a lot of good set pieces that are complimented by a good theater viewing. At the same time, it is forgettable enough to where I wouldn’t recommend it beyond a rental or a ‘one and done.’ I was expecting something a little better, but I didn’t walk out mad or overly frustrated.