Spectre (James Bond 24) (2015)

I have a lot of thoughts on this film, and I find it easiest to split them up into what I loved, what I liked, what I disliked, and what I hated.

Note that this will contain spoilers.

What I loved about Spectre:

*Daniel Craig was as good as ever, and had more comic moments (executed perfectly – loved that mouse scene!) than in the preceding three Craig films.

*Ralph Fiennes does great work with what he’s given.

What I liked about Spectre:

*Some of the connections with the previous three films worked well (the Vesper mentions gave me appropriate pangs of regret).

*The majority of the supporting cast give enjoyable performances, Dave Bautista and Léa Seydoux in particular.

What I disliked about Spectre:

*The theme tune was so dull I felt like I was forgetting it as I heard it

*Bellucci’s bit part – was really expecting more here.

*The Spectre meeting was too much; it looked like a parody of a secret society. All the Spectre locations were a bit camp, at the very least, really – could have worked if the tone of the film was different, but it felt clashing as it was.

*Waltz’ disappointing performance. Waltz is a terrific actor, and casting him as Blofeld was great work, but it just doesn’t come together. Largely the fault of the script and the awful twist.

*Léa Seydoux’s character just did not work for me. The actress is fantastic, but the daughter-of-Mr.-White role felt clumsy, and the “true love” angle with Bond a retread of the vastly superior Casino Royale. Casino Royale seemed to preclude Bond ever truly falling in love, or trusting a woman he’s romantically involved with, again so I was disappointed with this development, much as I enjoyed seeing Seydoux and Craig play off each other.

*The lazy “kill a bunch of henchmen with nary a second thought, but have the ‘you shouldn’t kill’ moral burst back up when faced with a primary enemy/someone with personal attachment too” trope is common, and I dislike it every time I see it.

*The needle torture scene having no effect on Bond. Building up a torture scene, and having it not do anything it all, makes it feel like a waste of time. Also, why does the torture machine immediately release Bond after Blofeld is injured?

What I hated about Spectre:

*Nearly all of Skyfall’s work is wasted. Moneypenny, resituated in Skyfall to be a competent action spy hero in her own right, is a glorified secretary in Spectre. Why go to all the work to differentiate her from her classic variations if that’s exactly what she’s going to slide back into? Most glaringly however is the bizarre retreading of Skyfall’s themes of Bond becoming outdated. I see absolutely no reason for this to be in the film. Yes, the faux-NSA subplot is relevant to today, but the entire thematic underpinning was literally covered in the last film. I thought the ending of Skyfall worked wonderfully as a soft reboot, situating Craig’s Bond is the sort of classic Bond role, with a new M, Moneypenny, Q, and feeling self-assured about his place in the world. But no. We have to go through all that hubbub all over again, with a dissapointing performance by Andrew Scott. Casino Royale felt like a Bond prequel in the way it slowly built up his character into the figure we know today, and Skyfall (and Quantam to a lesser extent) expanded on that, with Skyfall finally ending with Bond basically ready to go, fully-formed. To have that cast away and to retread the prequel aspects of the Craig films – a Bond unsure of his place in the world, MI6 questioning whether the 00 program is outdated – felt bizarre.
*The twist in the film is literally the twist from Goldmember. It’s so hackneyed, so maudlin, so perfunctory. The existence of Dr. No in the Austin Powers films made me think a modern Blofeld would be cleverly written to avoid seeming self-parody…but instead, the Craig films inexplicably directly lift Dr. No’s main character plot point (being Austin’s brother). It boggles the mind.

*The writing of Blofeld is mind-numbingly stupid and juvenile. He became a criminal mastermind, terrorist extraordinaire, because his daddy liked Blofeld’s adopted brother – James Bond – more than him. Their being relatives was too much already, but jealousy of James being the driver of Blofeld’s evil irreversibly weakens the character. Rather than exploring the psychology or ideology of Blofeld, we get…daddy issues. Rather than Bond exploring various individual spy missions, and embarking on seperate action-packed missions, he is now retconned to have been fighting against his jealous brother sacrificing immeasurable amounts of human life and infrastructure just to bring him pain. Rather than a stylish and at times intelligent spy series, the Craig series is retconned to be a clumsy soap opera. I’m nervous to think of what the next film will be like, if Craig and Waltz are still involved.

*The ending of the film was extremely frustrating. I’ve already complained about the film retreads ground from Casino Royale and Skyfall, particularly in the “outdated Bond/MI6” and “Bond ditches MI6 / Bond isn’t a fully formed Bond figure we know and love yet”. Casino Royale ended with Bond changed from his initial character (in that film) enough that we could recognise him as the Bond we know. Skyfall fully and utterly completed the transformation, even setting up the requisite supporting cast of Q, Moneypenny, M, etc. But even after four films, the Craig series seems still not happy to finally let Bond be Bond, for Bond once again retreads old ground, quits MI6, demonstrates he’s not the fully formed Bond we expected from the end of Skyfall, and we’re once again in prequel mode, this time presumably to a quasi-remake of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, with Seydoux’s character playing the role of Tracy di Vicenzo.

Spectre can’t retroactively ruin the utterly perfect Casino Royale, or extremely watchable Skyfall, for me…but I feel it tried its absolute hardest to. A clumsy, disappointing mess of a film, especially when considering the huge amounts of talent involved.

I give it two stilted action sequences, and a doot doot poster.

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