Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Spectre Of Bond!


I finally got around to seeing Spectre, the most recent installment of the James Bond franchise, and I guess this may be Daniel Craig's final outing as the super spy. That makes sense given how the story wraps up in this one. By the way expect some heavy spoilage as we proceed through this review. I'm just assuming everyone who wants to read this has seen it by now and if you haven't what I have to say is of no interest yet, if ever.


The story picks up as have the other Craig Bond's telling more of the extended story of Bond's rise and falls as a spy and assassin for Her Majesty's Secret Service. He's fulfilling a final posthumous mission given him by the deceased "M" and so he appears to have gone rogue yet again to his boss the current "M". But quickly we learn that there's more afoot as there is a push to channel all of the world's intelligence gathering through a single filter, one managed by the immediately suspicious "C". It turns out it's all a scam by the ultra-secret organization named Spectre which is led by the all-too familiar Ernst Blofeld who turns out to be Bond's "brother" of sorts. And we learn that everything in the previous Craig Bond movies has been the ultimate scheme of Spectre and Blofeld who seek vengeance on Bond for stealing the affections of their shared "father".

Sigh.


It all ties together a bit too neatly for my tastes. Having all the threats of the previous three movies be really Spectre plots I'm okay with, but for it all to be some vendetta because of daddy issues is too much. I was very much reminded of ret-conned comics which end up having all the disparate plot threads of previous years merged into some master plot, usually with some totally boring secret familial reveal.

And that aside, while this Bond movie has all the parts you'd look for in a Bond adventure, and dandy parts they are indeed in some cases, the whole shebang never seems to rise above a simmer and certainly never to a boil. The climax is simultaneously overwrought and undercooked.


Lea Seydoux is stunning but she and Craig have almost no chemistry that I could detect. Monica Bellucci had more but sadly she got the role of the throwaway Bond girl of the first reel.


Dave Bautista is mighty as Mr.Hinx, the dour and silent assassin for Spectre, but despite much effort on everyone's part the fights between him and Craig never get beyond the obligatory. You never feel Craig is ever in any real danger, so Hinx is always just a piker.


Andrew Scott as the devious "C" is a great actor but is given little to chew on in a thankless role that makes little secret of his dubious status. Seems like a double-switch might have been called for since he was so obviously a plant for Spectre.


Most disappointing was Christopher Waltz as Blofeld. Aside from the wonderful introduction scene in Spectre's mysterious boardroom he has almost no presence and giving him a big old scar doesn't help. He's a villain not worth the killing as we learn at the movie's end.


Ralph Fiennes is wasted as "M", and I was really looking forward to some great classic M and Bond repartee. After a great debut Naomi Harris disappears as Moneypenny. These two along with the Ben Whishaw as "Q" form a squad of "Bondettes" who battle furiously at the end for little reason. They seem to have stuff to do in the movie, but sadly little of it seems really to matter much.

I appreciate the effort to keep the Bond misadventures vaguely within the confines of human capacity (which they've violated in previous incarnations for sure) but there are such a things as suspense and tension and this movie for all its glamour and gloss never achieves either.

If this is Craig's swan song for the role as it plays, it's a sad send off to an actor who really reinvigorated a withered franchise.

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8 comments:

  1. It sure was a disappointing movie. They need to get back to the classic formula in my view. This could have been a Bourne movie, and Bond films should be leading, not following. I also feel that Craig's Bond is far too reckless (as previously witnessed by him getting M killed in Skyfall). His attempts to rescue the girl put her life in jeopardy by the method he chose to do it, and it's only by the sheerest luck that she wasn't killed. Craig's Bond is a great fighter, but he has no charisma, the viewer never gets to feel that he actually knows Bond, other than that he's a crap strategist. There's just no charm about him - all he is is a blunt weapon, which Fleming's Bond certainly was, but he was also MORE than that. Craig hasn't yet captured that 'more'. Let's just hope that the next one nails it. (I believe he's signed up for at least one more.)

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    1. I've liked Craig up to this one, especially in his debut and the third one Skyfall. (The second movie was kind of the road to nowhere.) I tend to agree that the action here was random, and as you say depended on a great deal of luck for Bond to win out. Bond should be smarter than his foes and not just luckier.

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  2. The relationship with Blofeld that was the big reveal came straight out of Austin Powers. I had the same thought that this was interchangeable with Bourne and many other of the new thriller franchises, which have certainly accelerated in quality recently. The whole movie had a feeling of elegy, referencing many scenes from earlier Bonds that I bet someone has catalogued somewhere.

    I associate Bond films with a movement they created in the sixties for stylish fantasies that were referred to at first as "Spy Spoofs" by the media which had trouble adjusting to how over the top they seemed compared to traditional thrillers. They incorporated hip fashions, exotic women, futuristic cars, outrageous science fiction plots, and bold music, approached in a way that was equally wry and cold-blooded.(I think they did eventually lose what was a good balance and become silly for a while.)

    In Europe this produced some of the more psychedelic offerings like The 10th Victim (with Ursula Andress) and Danger Diabolik (based on an Italian comic and starring John Philip Law from Barbarella) both of which had scenes lifted for Austin Powers.

    And in television, the spy craze spawned some of my favorite TV shows as a kid, starting with the Man From Uncle, which in turn generated an awful lot of acronym agencies in all media. We can thank Bond for Thunder Agents, SHIELD and Spyman. And the ITV Avengers, Wild Wild West and the Prisoner.

    The reason I tend to go on for so long on this (sorry) is that the more I think about it, the more I recall how gigantic the Bond franchise was in the culture, right up there in the stratosphere with the Beatles and maybe Batman. It definitely nourished my fantasies as a kid, giving me some of my favorite films, comic books and encouraging a lot of my early exploration of prose fiction.

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    1. I hadn't though about Austin Powers, but you're right. It's almost a parody of the real story. It's a downright dumb idea, almost a concept killer.

      Spies ruled when I was a tot. SHIELD, UNCLE, THUNDER, UNIT even RIVERDALE, seems like everywhere you looked there were spies. Been watching some vintage spy movies lately, look for some reviews.

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    2. The Avengers pre-dates Bond, as it started in 1961, but it's true that the Bond style eventually had an influence on the show.

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    3. Kid, that was a fair cop on the Avengers and I stand corrected. We didn't see the Avengers in the States until the late sixties; it was the Diana Rigg stuff, which I've always associated with the post-Bond stylishness that marked so much of the mod/psychedelic wave of entertainment at the time.

      A close relative of Mrs. Peel I didn't mention was Modesty Blaise, who started practically the same time as the Bond movies. The exquisitely awful Modesty movie was the reason Peter O'Donnell ended up doing novels about Modesty, which I read and enjoyed well before I ever saw the comic strip. And I read the Dr. No comics adaptation and started reading the Ian Fleming books a couple of years before I got to see the movies. I guess I was too young. It's not always easy to keep track of this stuff, but it's great to remember.

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    4. I think your essential point was correct 'though, Russ - Bond did influence the show. Just not at the beginning, when it wasn't quite what it later became. Talking of Modesty, it's just a shame that film-makers never produced a series of Modesty Blaise movies in the same style as the Bond ones. She'd be the perfect choice to build a film franchise around.

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  3. The Craig movies have sucked almost as bad as the Brosnan movies, so I hope he moves on and they get much better writers for the next Bond.

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