Published on November 8th, 2015 | by The Editor0
Spectre (Two Reviews for the Price of One)
Both Ian and Craig saw Spectre, so we’ll give you a Bond two-fer. Ian will review the film and Craig will follow with his thoughts.
NOTE: We usually try to avoid spoilers in a review, but this is one of those movies that begs discussion of some of the secret plot points.
First up: Ian Goodwillie’s Review
Overall, I’ve enjoyed the Daniel Craig era. This is one of those times the gritty reboot worked out well. Bond has struggled to be relevant in a post-Cold War world with many of the movies in the years prior to Casino Royale getting cartoonish. Pierce Brosnan made a great Bond but the movies they put him in were, for the most part, terrible. For Craig, Casino Royale and Skyfall were great. Quantum of Solace not so much.
And Spectre? It is, at best, a messy but enjoyable film.
Bond is trying to tie up the loose ends of the first three films, loose ends that only he seems to see. In doing so, he bounces around the world putting himself and MI6 in jeopardy to solve a mystery left behind by Dame Judi Dench’s iteration of M.
The path leads him to Spectre, an infamous organization in the history of James Bond. It was responsible for much of the chaos Bond faced in the old films and in Spectre it’s revealed that they have been behind all of the trials Craig’s Bond has faced. Christoph Waltz plays the leader of Spectre, and as we find out, is also Bond’s brother. He’s the son of the man who took Bond in after his parents died. And Bond also thinks Waltz’s character died in an avalanche alongside his father decades earlier. Waltz then reveals his new name, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the main villain from many old school Bond films. That’s a lot of big reveals in one film. But there’s a slight problem with all of this.
Nothing substantive was done in previous films to set this up. The claim of Blofeld is that he and Spectre were behind everything that happened to Craig’s Bond.
Le Chiffre and the death of Vesper Lynd.
Mr. White and the machinations of Quantum.
Raoul Silva and the death of M.
Spectre is supposedly the organizing factor behind everything, and all so Blofeld could torment his hated adoptive brother while building his criminal organization. Unfortunately, we are given nothing in the film beyond Blofeld’s claims to support this. The way to build this conspiracy was to leave clues in the previous films implying to the viewer that something much bigger is going on that Bond does not perceive. Then, Spectre would have shown him connecting those dots. Instead we get Bond haphazardly careening around the world until he blindly and virtually accidentally stumbles upon the truth. As dumb as this sounds, we’re missing a montage blatantly showing how everything pieces together but that can’t happen because there are no pieces to assemble or connections to make.
The other issue is the adoptive family. The death of Bond’s parents has been a huge part of his mythos, particularly in the Craig iteration. But somehow the subsequent deaths of his adoptive family didn’t rate a mention, unless I’m forgetting something, until their existence became convenient to the plot of Spectre. Again, a payoff with virtually no set up.
This is only amplified by the fact that Christoph Waltz is criminally underused in this film. If he is the secret main villain of all four movies, a little more screen time is warranted.
And the reveal of Blofeld is cool if you know your Bond history. If you don’t, the name and reveal of it are simultaneously meaningless and unnecessary. Once again, there is a complete lack of build up over the previous films to lead up to this payoff.
All of this would have worked infinitely better had more time been spent creating a trail of bread crumbs for the watcher to follow throughout the previous three films. More mentions of the adoptive family. More discussion of a clandestine organization in the shadows that Bond and MI6 should have been investigating for years. More effort building the tension period. The reveals mean nothing to the overall story if no time has been spent building their importance in the watcher’s mind and Bond isn’t looking for it in the first place.
And then there’s the ending. Bond rides off into the sunset with his lady du film, seemingly quitting MI6 and the life of a spy. Except for one small detail. If you’re keeping track, and I am, this is the third of Craig’s Bond films that has featured him leaving MI6 behind. Quantum of Solace is the only film that doesn’t have him trying to leave the life. It’s a tired plot device at this point since we all know that for the next Bond film to happen, whether it’s Craig or not, Bond has to get dragged back in again.
Spectre is also old school Bond, cheesy in a number of ways. Dave Bautista’s assassin character is a classic henchman; ludicrous, overpowered, and taken out in a ridiculous fashion. I thought I was watching Roger Moore fight Jaws for a second. The new Aston Martin even shoots flames out the back to distract Bautista while Craig ejector seat launches to freedom. And Blofeld’s base is in a goddamn meteorite impact crater. It might as well have been on the Moon.
That is some straight up Bond cheese imported directly from the 70s, 80s, and 90s.
And, to be honest, I really enjoyed the nostalgia factor of it. But it also betrayed the modern sensibility of Craig’s films. The justification of MI6 in the information era that has been at the core of this reboot takes a backseat to Blofeld’s insane plot, which is unfortunate. This is what made the films relevant. The nostalgic cheese factor is a cool but a more intense film in line with the aesthetic of Craig’s Bond would have been better.
And I know what you’re about to read will seem crazy after all the negative stuff I’ve had to say but Spectre isn’t that bad of a movie. It has some pretty big flaws but it’s also got some great action, some decent intrigue, and some definite classic Bond appeal to it. Spectre is actually still quite enjoyable. I’ve read a few reviews where they’re calling this the worst Bond film in 30 years. If you ignore The Living Daylights, Licence to Kill, The World is Not Enough, and Die Another Day, that might be true. Spectre isn’t even the worst Bond film Craig has made. That title goes to Quantum of Solace.
Spectre may not be the best Bond film but it also isn’t the worst. And where Bond goes from here is highly indeterminate. But it is clear that Craig has to come back for one last round, and to set the stage for his successor.
I’d hate for this to be his last time behind the wheel of the Aston Martin.
Craig Silliphant’s Thoughts:
Spectre is the 24th outing for the canonical James Bond films, and the 4th time Daniel Craig has donned the tuxedo and grabbed the Walther PPK. There has been a lot of ballyhoo about Craig commenting that he’d “rather slit his wrists” than play Bond again. I’m not pretending to know whether he will or won’t, but it’s also worth noting that this came out right at press time for the movie and did the job of getting the movie on the radar of public consciousness. They are also comments made after Craig finished a tough 8-month shoot, so it’s not surprising that he’s ready to stop thinking about it for a while. If memory serves, he’s under contract for a 5th film. So while he may be over it for now, we’ll probably see him again. That said, I’m rooting for Idris Elba (someday) along with the rest of the Internet. (Ian also wrote a piece about Bond and where we go from here).
Ian already gave you the plot and his issues with the movie, as well as what he thought worked, and I’d have to agree with pretty much everything he mentioned. Except about Licence to Kill — I think that one got a bit of a bum rap, as did Timothy Dalton. But that’s a debate for another day. Spectre probably lands in the middle somewhere in terms of its strength among the Daniel Craig entries. I’d say that it’s better than Quantum of Solace, but not as good as Casino Royale or Skyfall.
Director Sam Mendes brings his excellent direction to things, like the beautiful tracking shot at the start of the film. And there are some great action set pieces, like a plane chasing jeeps through the mountains. Bond has never looked as good as it has under Mendes steady hand. It’s gorgeous and artfully shot, but it’s still a Bond movie as you’d expect it, with globe-trotting, cool car chases, and ladies galore.
However, the movie also feels a bit phony or unrefined in terms of the plot sometimes. Ian mentioned the fact that they’ve shoehorned in the idea that Spectre was behind everything. I agree with him. I would also add that this is a pretty huge and unbelievable coincidence — the man who runs the largest underground criminal terrorist organization in the world just happens to have grown up with a boy who became the world’s toughest spy? It’s like when you read a news story about twins that were separated at birth, but met and realized they were both firefighters or whatever. Truth should be stranger than fiction.
This is the tip of the iceberg in terms of the lazy writing. Worse, is that Bond doesn’t really do too much clandestine spy work. He literally walks up to several places, like the Spectre meeting, the desert base, too lazy to have much of a plan, stupidly wandering into danger. “Hello, I’m Bond, James Bond, and I’ll be spying on you today. Please don’t kill me immediately.” He even has a phone conversation with Moneypenny that he should know would be recorded. I thought, ‘oh, he’s playing them and leading them into a trap! He knows they’re listening!’ Nope. He’s just stupid. Or rather, the writers make him do stupid things to get to the next action scene, which kills the intrigue. Lastly, the film could have easily had half an hour trimmed out of it, but so could most Bond movies.
Now, after all that complaining, as Ian also said, I still found it pretty entertaining. It’s a Bond movie, not a serious fill-um. But they did establish a higher sense of reality with the post-9/11, post-Jason Bourne Bond, the brute spy crashing his way through a world of viper terrorists and criminals. This cool iteration of Bond is betrayed in Spectre. This is an obvious attempt to mix the new Bond with the silly older Bond movies and gags, which sometimes works, and sometimes pulls you out of the movie.
The movie will probably take some bashing, and while Ian and I got nitpicky here, I am with him in saying that all in all, Spectre was still a decent, if not electric or original entry into the Bond canon. Overall, I would recommend it.
And oh yeah, those were some saucy, unintentionally hilarious Octoporno titles at the start.