(Caution: major spoilers below.)
★ ★ (out of five)
I managed to catch Spectre on its opening weekend up at San Francisco’s Kabuki theatre. I went in having avoided reading reviews, but was as cautiously optimistic as I would be about any new Bond movie.
It had a strong opening with a pre-credits scene set in Mexico City containing some beautiful long shots and with a pretty healthy mix of expose and action. The set and costume design was impressive in scope too, having apparently required 1,500 extras, 10 giant skeletons, and 250,000 paper flowers to get right.
But things took a steep turn downhill from there. At the surface the movie seemed to have all the elements of a good Bond thriller – fast cars, exotic locations, action scenes, expensive suits, and even a secret desert lair for the bad guy (one of many homages to the original series of movies); but the whole thing failed to come together into a compelling whole. Spectre was entertaining to watch, but wasn’t an attention grabber, and left me largely unenthused for the duration of its considerable 148-minute runtime.
The trajectory toward mediocrity of the Daniel Craig reboot franchise may be one of the most disappointing developments in recent movie history. While it got off to an explosive start with the remake of Casino Royale, maybe one of the best Bond films ever made, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall were both pretty lackluster, and now we have the most underwhelming sequel yet.
There is nothing so large as acting, dialog, or effects that prevent Spectre from being good, but rather a lot of smaller contributing factors. Here are a few that struck me:
- Making Oberhauser as Bond’s adopted brother was totally unnecessary. Although probably a step to make things more personal, it made the whole premise too unbelievable.
- The Craig franchise’s need for antagonist inflation, with each new villain required to be more evil and less empathetic than the last. Audiences would be fine to just see each movie stand on its own legs.
- Oberhauser was a two-dimensional villain. For someone who were expected to believe is the baddest person on the planet, he lacks character, motivation, ability, and a worthwhile master plan.
- Very active roles were written in for the supporting characters of Q, Tanner, M, and Moneypenny. Although likely trying to capitalize of viewer familiarity from previous films, their involvement in everything from initial investigation to the final action scene is unnecessary and defies belief.
- Every phrase uttered about technology is ludicrous (with the possible exception of the explanation of the Nine Eyes surveillance system itself). Like many other modern movies, they should have just left computers out if it.
- Scenes in Q-branch are way too cute, especially with the culmination of the theft of the DB10.
- Despite the long runtime, no time was slotted in for the “play” that’s spoken so loudly throughout the Bond series. The action is fun, but the lifestyle aspect of the movies is one of the things that makes Bond what it is.
- Andrew Scott’s casting as C. He doesn’t fit into the movie, and there’s a reasonable chance that his inclusion was purely pandering to the masses of Sherlock fans (for the uninitiated, a series where he plays Moriarty).
But at least the new Seamaster 300 was nice. It’s not clear right now whether this will be the last movie that Craig stars in, but whether it is or not, I’ll stay hopeful for the next one.
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