As the threat of shutting down the 007 program nears, thanks to new MI-5 leader, C (Andrew Scott), who wants to equip world intelligence agencies with highly-sophisticated surveillance rather than trained killers, James Bond (Daniel Craig) stumbles upon the criminal organization behind his former foes. With the help of Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) and White’s daughter Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), Bond tracks down SPECTRE and its leader, Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), who’s connected to both the surveillance system used by the intelligence agency and Bond.
When you take away all of the entertaining elements Spectre (a.k.a. Bond 24) uses to distract you—the secret agent gadgets, hot women, flashy cars, perfectly-tailored suits, gorgeous tracking shots through Mexico City during Dia De Los Muertos—it’s easy to see that it’s not a good movie. And that surprises me. Not only is Spectre the follow-up to 2012’s Skyfall, the highest-grossing and most critically-loved Bond film, but it’s also the most expensive Bond movie ever.
It’s hard to understand how this movie got it so wrong when it has the same resources that led to Skyfall‘s success (i.e., same director, same writing staff), plus millions upon millions of dollars that could remove creative roadblocks without issue. But watching the movie, it’s obvious that the sentiment behind its making was “F*** it!” Little thought was put into its screenplay.
Considerably less was invested in its new characters, both villains and Bond Girls. You know what got plenty of attention? The $37 million Aston Martin DB10 concept cars that were destroyed while shooting one chase. It’s that attitude that screwed Spectre. Worse, it’s reported that the film has to make $650 million just to BREAK EVEN. While I don’t doubt it’ll make that money back (thanks to the foreign box office), I wonder how much it will actually bring home in profits. No wonder Sony’s in shit shape.
So how mediocre of a film are we talking? Well, if we’re measuring against other Daniel Craig-featured Bond films, it’s not even close to the awesomeness of Skyfall. It’s not as sleek as Casino Royale either. It’s maybe just hovering over the shitpile that is Quantum of Solace. The only thing that makes Spectre better than Quantum of Solace is that no plot can ever be as dumb as the Bolivian water supply plot.
That’s not to say this movie’s plot is good, though. The government surveillance intended to replace agents and soldiers that’s revealed to be run by villains is a plot we’ve seen multiple times in the last year, so it’s predictable. Think Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, and Kingsman: The Secret Service.
And then there’s the plot with Franz Oberhauser, who later turns out to be the infamous Ernst Blofeld (Bitch, please. Everyone on the internet knew the moment Christoph Waltz was cast). The idea of Blofeld being behind all of Bonds former enemies, including Le Chiffre, Mr. Greene, and Silva, does cement the idea that Blofeld is, in fact, Number One (and will return to challenge Bond in future films). But somehow, that idea of him being the brains behind all of them takes away from how interesting and evil those villains were. Like Silva being told to kill M by Blofeld is way less terrifying than him simply being crazy and out for revenge against her and Bond.
Acting-wise, it didn’t feel like Waltz was really going at the insanity and villainy like he did in other movies (like say Inglourious Basterds, where he felt more like a Bond villain than his actual Bond villain). And what was the point of Dave Bautista’s Hinx? He smashed some dude’s eyeballs into his brain, which was pretty awful, but then he was just some boring muscle.
Of course, the most frustrating was Daniel Craig, who I swear just did this one for the paycheck. God, he wasn’t even that hot, you know? Not once was I in awe of his fight, his tuxes, or his smarmy “Yeah, honey, you’ll definitely sleep with me” attitude. He just wasn’t into this movie, and it showed. You can tell he’s ready to retire (and he’s given enough interviews saying so).
Now, the thing I know all of you pervs want to talk about. Bond Girls. It’s one of the most coveted roles in Hollywood for actresses (What an honor it must be to play a throwaway lover or plot pawn). With every new Bond film, it’s a big deal to announce who the lucky few are. This year, however, it was an even bigger deal because Spectre is the first time a Bond film features an age-appropriate “Bond Girl.”
Monica Bellucci (51) plays Lucia, the widow of a criminal associated with SPECTRE. Fun fact, she’s actually older than Craig (47). I wish I could tell you the hype about Bellucci in this film was well-founded. But it’s not. She’s in the movie for maybe 15 minutes and nothing more than a throwaway lover who Bond sexes to get information on SPECTRE before dumping her a hot second later. Because of course.
Naomie Harris’ Moneypenny is back, so you’d think that would balance the movie’s occasionally gross issues with women. She’s a favorite among Bond film fans, and Harris has great chemistry with Craig. But she, too, gets the short end of the stick. It’s like the writers don’t know how to write a female role that isn’t Judi Dench’s M or a woman who sleeps with Bond. Which is why Moneypenny is relegated to casual workplace flirting and “Help James Bond” plot.
And then there’s Léa Seydoux’s Madeleine Swann. Seydoux is 30, which is about average for Bond Girls. She’s a gorgeous French actress best known for her role in the award-winning Blue is the Warmest Color. Seydoux does share the screen with Craig for most of the movie, which is impressive, and she ends up being the woman Bond throws it all away for, which is something to be said (though I’m still pissed that it couldn’t be Vesper Lynd). However, Craig and Seydoux have no chemistry together. Their passionate scene is blah, and when she tells him she loves him after, what, two or three days, it’s almost laughable. It’s some Disney princess shit, if you ask me.
Also, Sam Smith’s “Writings on the Wall” is a terrible song. The end.
Overall, Spectre is such as letdown after Skyfall (which I consider to be one of the greatest Bond films of all time, if not the greatest). It’s entertaining, sure, but it returns to the typical Bond template of all action, fast cars, hot women, no subtlety, and a story with the depth of a puddle. I love Daniel Craig’s James Bond, but his performance in this movie was totally phoned in, and you can tell that he didn’t want to do another (though I’d probably do another for $39 million, too). The point is it’s time for a new James Bond and different aesthetic.
By the way, I’m riding the Idris Elba for James Bond train.
For my radio review of Spectre on “Pat & JT in the Morning,” visit this link (starts around the 28:50 mark)