Monday, February 8, 2016

Spectre (2015) review

Note: This review will contain spoilers for Spectre.

    The very likely last James Bond movie starring Daniel Craig ends not with a bang but a whimper. It's not as bad as Die Another Day but, really, that's a tremendously low bar to set in a series which has twenty-four movies. However, the excellent acting and stunts don't disguise this is a medicore script designed to tie around the return of an organization which has already had its appearance spoiled by the title.

    The premise is James Bond assassinates a member of the Quantum organization (revealed to be a branch of Spectre) in Mexico City. This causes the destruction of half-a-city block and gets Bond suspended but doesn't stop him from investigating the parties responsible. Meanwhile, MI6 is getting merged with MI5 and part of this event will include a massive new networked information database spearheaded by C (Andrew Scott). Tracking down the mysterious Mister White (Jesper Christensen), he is put on the trail of Hans Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz).

    Spectre centers around the revelation the filmmakers must think is terribly clever and that is Hans Oberhauser is Blofeld. Which is about as much of a surprise as the main villain of Star Trek: Into Darkness being Khan. Unfortunately, the movie fully enters hack territory by revealing Hans/Blofeld is actually James' foster brother and all three previous movies were secretly plots by him to ruin James' life.


The Illuminati scene is the movie at its best. Despite, you know, Bond infiltrating it with great ease.
    The problems with this are manifold but boil down to the fact it presumes a family connection is more interesting than a professional one. Batman doesn't need the Joker to be the one who killed his parents nor does he need to be Bruce Wayne's long-lost brother. It also reduces Blofeld from, in the words of Ratigan, "The World's Greatest Criminal Mind" to an obsessively jealous man-child who is infinitely less interesting as an antagonist. The fact this is a twist in Austin Powers in Goldmember doesn't help matters.

    I don't mind the wielding of arcs and was of the mind Quantum should be a branch of Spectre since Quantum of Solace. The treatment in the book, however, diminishes Skyfall and villains like Raoul Silva as well as Mister White. It even diminishes Bond's relationship with Vesper Lynd as it makes her a target of his foster brother's revenge rather than someone who already had her own interesting plotline.

Monica and Craig have amazing on-screen chemistry which is...well, utterly wasted.
    The movie also wants to be topical about surveilance but it doesn't really have anything to contribute on the subject. We shouldn't watch everyone and everything with government satellites because otherwise an international criminal organization will hijack the system to their nefarious ends somehow manages to be less realistic than Hydra taking over SHIELD's drone system in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

    Christoph Waltz is probably the best actor you could have gotten for playing Blofeld but, ultimately, the character he's playing is closer to Javier Bardem's Silva than Donald Pleasance or Telly Savalas' Blofeld. He seems to be sleepwalking through the wall as well, keeping the quiet menace from his Inglorious Basterd's role but lacking any of the humanizing or quirky touches which made him so terrifying. The best moment in the movie is when he talks about Spectre's business at an Illuminati-esque boardroom, all the while knowing James is present just to screw with him.

    Craig, himself, gives a Journeyman's performance rather than a masterwork but he doesn't embarrass himself either. He's been pretty vocal about his boredom with the constant ups and downs of his Bond career but is too professional on-screen to show it. The best moments in the movie are with Monica Belluci and its with her Craig shows the most onscreen chemistry. It's a pity she's not the primary love-interest as the two of them could have probably done an excellent movie together. Oldest Bond girl or not, Monica Belluci is Monica Belluci and sizzles on the screen even with a bit part.

Lea Seydoux might as well be a piece of art in the movie for how much she's allowed to act. 

    Lea Seydoux's Madelaine, unfortunately, has the classic Bond girl role of simply being there to look pretty and give someone for Bond to emote on. She's absolutely gorgeous, don't get me wrong, but I don't buy any sort of emotional connection between her and Bond whatsoever.

    I also found any real chemistry between them blunted by the fact James is sleeping with the daughter of the man who murdered the (1st) love of his life. Madelaine's origins vaguely resemble those of Tracy Bond but the story doesn't give her the room to grow Diana Rigg had. As a character, she reminds me of From Russia With Love's Tatiana more than Vesper or Tracy, a case rather than a romance.

    Which is a pity.

The best fight in the movie is wholesale stolen from, well, From Russia with Love.
    The cinematography is gorgeous, the stunts are well-done, and the locations are beautiful but this is Bond at its most paint-by-the-numbers since, well, Die Another Day. It's not as incredibly stupid as that film, thank God, but it's aggressively generic. Only the fact the actors are extremely competent at their job keeps this from being a complete wash. Still, I feel bad for Ralph Fiennes and Ben Whishaw as the movie struggles to create something for them to do lest they waste two very good actors.

    In conclusion, Spectre is probably the poorest offering of Daniel Craig's time as Bond. As much as people harp on Quantum of Solace, with good reason, both Bond girls were well-developed and there were some genuinely affecting emotional moments. This is just dross and ties up loose ends which barely needed tying up to begin with.



  1. The word banal comes to mind when I think of this think.

    As you say it's very by the numbers and for all the talent involved in this film, both acting and directing etc, for it to turn out what we got felt very deflating overall.

    Granted they had to deal with a lot of medding and script rewrites that really showed in the last act of the film when the plot got really stupid with character's making dumb moves.

    Plus most of the actors got little to work with, Batista as henchman got nothing to work with, a real waste as he could have had some brilliant bits of comedy or other scenes that would have allowed him to do more with his role.

    Waltz I think overall just seems to keep playing the same character over and over again. Without Quentin giving his characters witty lines and proper fleshing out. His limited range comes out in the way it did for this film.

    I felt Ben Whishaw was the best actor in the film, he continues to make his own mark as Q and doesn't try to replicate the late Desmond in anyway. Which allows him to stand on his own feet.

    Daniel is pretty much bored with the role now as you said, but at least he wasn't bad here. I think the producers will try to make him do at least one more film. But whether he goes with it will be a wait and see.

    The film was just so boring I felt overall that I nearly fell asleep watching it in the cinema. As bad as Die Another Day was with Halle belle at her worst. At least it's so bad it's good for me to at least enjoy it a little bit.

    Spot on about welding of arc's, I get why it's done but you need to make sure it's consistent and actually fit's the pieces being put together. Here they undermined all of the pervious 3 films, and in a manner that was just eye rolling.

    Sometimes it still feels that the bond films don't know what they want to be anymore, as Craig films have too often felt like Bourne films to me to enjoy. I get why they changed tone and genre style after the Austin Powers films came out. But the series lost the charm it once had and just became very generic overall.

    Even Skyfall while great overall, still didn't feel like bond to me as much as I wanted it to.

    Its similar to how I and a number of others felt about GTA 4 when it came out and Rockstar changed a lot of the style of the characters and story. To it's detriment which is partly why they went back to their over the top style for ballad of gay tony and GTA 5 overall I think since most fans weren't happy with GTA 4.

    I think Kingsman is the closest bond type film I have enjoyed in the last decade. That film did a great job of mixing plot, character and humour together that made for an entertaining. But also interesting film.

    Hopefully Sony and the bond producers can avoid the mistakes they made with Spectre with the next bond film.

  2. I'm a large fan of Daniel Craig's interpretation of James Bond and enjoy the series for what it is. I really enjoyed Casino Royale and was a big fan of Skyfall. I'm also a man who thinks Quantum of Solace is 75% a really good movie but fumbles the last 25% with a few mean-spirited moments which don't quite have room to achieve true poignancy (Strawberry Fields, Mathias) as well as an overall poor villain. I don't think the movies have to be goofy kitsch to really work even if I understand why some people lump the Craig-era with Timothy Dalton in terms of, "The filmmakers are taking this a wee bit TOO seriously."

    I'm no one to speak on the subject of taking Bond too seriously as, essentially, that's why I created ESOTERRORISM. Derek Hawthorne is basically what happens when you put a Bond quip machine next to an Emma Peel-stand in and then set them against monsters. He's about as nonserious as you can get in a deadly serious situation.

    Even so, I think the Daniel Craig era would be appropriate to close out here as they've been establishing Bond as wanting to retire for four movies now. It'd be good to take the time to reboot the franchise again and insert a proper new figure into the role of the world's greatest superspy. Idris Elba is too old to play the part now but there's a number of up and coming actors who I think could pull it off. Ones who can successfully pull off the world's greatest superspy in the age of Infonets and hackers.

    I'd also like to state I consider GTAIV to be the best of the GTA's hands down even if that's partially because Saints Row took the silly while GTA took the satire. I also think GTA V wasn't nearly as enjoyable to me as IV.