Ever since 1962, when Dr. No, the first film of the Bond franchise was released, audiences all over the world have had a persevering interest in knowing what our favorite agent will do next. Surely, some of the films have been more successful than others, but the one thing we have to admit is that James Bond is good even when he is bad. The plot can be predictable and we know pretty much exactly what we are going to get, but we pay for our movie ticket, anyway. There’s just something about Bond that is familiar, dangerous and ridiculous, all at the same time.
As for Spectre, most likely it won’t be in your top 5 James Bond films (in fact I can almost guarantee it). Although visually impressive, though nowhere near as good as Skyfall, which is what you get when you change your Director of Photography; and featuring some great actors, it fails to truly reach the audience. Now I’m not saying that Bond has great depth and a complex storyline to begin with, but still, Casino Royale was a game changer and opened our eyes to a new age Bond – the spy that makes mistakes, the Bond that is more believable, the Bond that is human. Spectre falls prey to the idea of the classic Bond and forgets the new-age Bond that the other Craig movies presented so well (yes including the less liked Quantum of Solace).
Spectre begins with a brilliant opening scene: Bond in Mexico City on the Day of the Dead, dressed for the occasion in a skeleton mask. You can’t help but see the irony in this – he has lost everyone he’s ever cared about and is a dead man walking, just waiting for an excuse to slip into a grave. However, after a strong start, the film seems to be less and less entertaining as two and a half hours pass by.
A follow up to Skyfall was going to be a tough act no doubt. How do you follow up with a movie which showed his gritty past and a dead chief of MI6? The trailer set a great tone. Heck, even Sam Smith’s song paired with the opening credits visuals preps for Dark Knight epic level of grit. As an audience, we were ready to delve into a darker place in Bond’s life.
Bond receives a message from his late boss M warning him about a criminal organization Spectre and, against the wishes of his current supervisor (Ralph Fiennes), goes on a quest to take them down. At the same time, the double-O program is on a brink of being shut down, so our agent is mostly on his own. He ends up in Rome, in the arms of Lucia Sciarra (Monica Bellucci), but after he gets the information he needs from her, infiltrates a secret society run by Oberhauser, played by Christoph Waltz. Now, what kind of a monster puts Christoph Waltz in the role of a main villain and then gives him so little screen time? He is presented as the most eccentric mastermind, and yet the magnanimity you’d expect is lackluster.
Throughout the film, Craig uncovers secrets from his past that are all related to his previous Bond films, which in terms of storyline felt a little lazy, and unfortunately none of them seem plausible. Mendes tries to forcibly combine all the past stories into one epic climax.
Speaking of Daniel Craig, his portrayal of Bond is what we’ve come to expect by now – he is stern, intense and, as usual, lacks a certain humor and charm some of his predecessors had. Nonetheless, his approach is quite fitting to the overall feel of the movie.
Every scene at the beginning is set in a way that makes it clear it’s meant to be iconic. The problem is that none of them actually feel iconic. The action sequences are too long and, instead of being thrilled, I felt like I was watching a montage of previous action sequences. Barring the opening action scene, the car chase scene, the car chase scene with a plane, the hand to hand combat, the two climax action scenes offered absolutely no new original action choreography. If you are a huge action flick fanatic, I can guarantee you’ll be able to pinpoint which movies these scenes are similar to.
Director Sam Mendes had a difficult task ahead of him with Spectre. While the effort is definitely visible, the outcome isn’t as commendable. It was almost as if he didn’t know where to take the character next, how to really go deeper and make sense of all the breadcrumbs the previous three films have left for us.
It is somewhat disappointing, but overall, Spectre is a passable piece of entertainment and since Bond fans will go see it no matter what anyone says, just know that you’ve been warned. Don’t expect too much from it, be prepared to contend with clichés and to forget most of it after a while. Everything from the characters to the plot to the script is predictable and cliché, and in fact, forgettable.
Christoph Waltz was cast as the villain and created speculation that he would play 007’s greatest adversary, and we couldn’t wait. Franz Oberhauser, the head honcho who leads Spectre, the most devious criminal organization ever, is not trying to penetrate intelligence agencies across the world through the digital world. Digital terrorism could have been an interesting topic to explore, but wasn’t explored simply because the reveal that was to come at the climax was meant to be epic – it was meant to blow people’s minds. It was meant to be the best fan service in a long time. Sam Mendes set up the film so that when the audience finds out that Oberhauser is actually Blofeld, a huge gasp would leave people speechless. Great idea for fan servicing. He even explained how Oberhauser becomes the scar faced Blofeld – epic. Heck, he even put in the famous white cat! But here’s the problem. For long time Bond fans (read as the older generation) this reveal is epic, but for the wider audience, who barely remembers the Pierce Brosnan movies, how much worth does this reveal really have? The problem is that the previous Craig movies don’t even lead up to this revelation, making it even less impactful. Then there’s the classic criticism of ‘show don’t tell’. At one point Blofeld claims that he is the ‘author of all your (Bond’s) pain’. Great! But I’d rather see how that is the case and not be told. The plausibility that he masterminded every move ever since Casino Royale is ridiculous. The movie itself makes crazy attempts at sense (for example a motor boat with a key just sitting next to a demolition site just so Bond has an escape plan), but this idea at the climax was simply too hard to digest. What could have been an epic tie in to older Bond movies, fails to even get recognized by 80% of the audience. While Blofeld is no doubt one of the most popular pop fiction arch-nemeses ever, and '80s and '90s kids have grown up watching odes paid to Ian Fleming's villainous characters through the animation series Inspector Gadget and even the comical Austin Powers; the original character, who showed up in as many as 7 other Bond films, means very little to the new generation of Bond watchers. Again a hint of him or Spectre in some of the earlier Craig movies may have helped the cause.
The one thing we have come to expect from James Bond is that he is an intelligent spy who knows how to get out of sticky situations using his wit, charm, and presence of mind. Unfortunately, in this movie most of his success is through instinct and sheer luck. There is nothing intelligent about the path he takes and is nothing more than a mindless action flick, and to be honest, there’s nothing wrong with that – as long as your action scenes are up to par. Sadly that wasn’t the case either. Like Quantum of Solace, this movie too will sink into forgetfulness, which is sad for Craig – it’s a horrible way to end a great legacy.