I have to be honest, I’m not a very big James Bond fan. Perhaps it’s because I wasn’t exposed to the films at a young age, so seeing Roger Moore kick ass on the moon with a 1970s film budget really didn’t blow my mind at the age of seventeen. I’ll admit that Goldfinger is a classic though, and I loved two out of three of the Daniel Craig re-boot Bonds. Quantum of Solace was a prime example of the horrors of the 2007 writer’s strike, but Casino Royale and Skyfall were great films. Skyfall in particular, with it’s stunning cinematography by Roger “God” Deakins and non-campy performances, didn’t even feel like a Bond film. Going into Sam Mendes’ follow-up Spectre I was concerned it couldn’t live up to the precedent set by Skyfall, but I honestly wasn’t expecting one of the worst Bond films I’ve ever seen. That is not to say that Spectre is a bad film, it’s just pretty mediocre. That is also not to say that it’s necessarily one of the worst of the series, because I’ve only seen twelve Bond films and eight were Brosnan and Craig installments.
The problems start in the opening credit sequence, one of the least exciting I’ve seen in the series. Casino Royale gave us this pulse-pounding roof-top chase and Skyfall gave us that riveting train sequence. This gives us Daniel Craig suavely changing out of a Dia de Los Muertos suit and a surprisingly calm helicopter take-over. Judi Dench’s M is gone, and Ralph Fiennes has taken over as Bond’s handler. Fiennes is a fine actor, but him and Craig don’t possess the chemistry that Craig shared with Dench. Their back-and-forths are awkward and seem forced, and Naomi Harris’ Moneypenny is presented a lot quirkier here than she was in Skyfall. In fact, everything is much more in keeping with the groovy one-liner campiness of the earlier Bond films and it just doesn’t work with a Bond we already established as more hardened and realistic.
The misogynist women-are-objects aspect also rears it’s ugly little head as well, with the Bond girl (the criminally underused Lea Seydoux) swooning to a man that basically tells her what to do. It would be nice to see a lesbian Bond in the future or at least a Bond girl that actually has a personality and doesn’t drop her panties to the site of Bond violently murdering someone. “What does one do after they kill someone?” Ralph Fiennes’ M asks in the movie. Craig provides an answer, grab a woman and start stabbing her with your dick. Maybe I’m being too harsh, the character of the suave, ladykiller Bond was created in a time where no one really thought twice about it being demeaning to women. It just seems odd that Sam Mendes would have Bond fall into old habits if the last three movies worked towards re-shaping him for the twenty-first century.
I expected the high-point of the movie to be Christoph Waltz as the villain, but he’s barely used and incredibly underwhelming. Javier Bardem and Mads Mikkelsen underplayed their villains as well but they had a piercing level of aggressiveness under their characters’ cool surface. Waltz just comes across as boring.
This review might make it seem like I absolutely loathed Spectre, but I did in fact enjoy most of the action sequences. A car chase sequence involving Dave Bautista had me on the edge of my seat. It was very well-choreographed. However, thirty minutes of combined action sequences don’t make up for two solid hours of clunky exposition that isn’t clever. I suppose the film is less of a action/thriller and more of a mystery, though. The mystery being that if creating a more realistic and vulnerable Bond made Casino Royale and Skyfall so successful, why would a seasoned Academy Award winning director fall back on shit that hasn’t worked since the eighties. Grade: C+
Daniel Craig’s Dia de Los Muertos Suit Grade: A