Every once in a while we are treated to a film that transcends the boundaries of the tropes it’s bound to. Skyfall was a great example of that; it reintroduced Bond supporting characters (Q, Moneypenny), picked fun at the spy genre it popularized (Bond’s low tech gadgets), and was a great film wrapped in the Bond universe. Spectre is no where close to that.
By Kenneth Shipp
The great “wrap-up” to the Craig era of James Bond had a lot going for it. Sam Mendes and crew knocked it out of the park last go around, so why not bring them back? Casting Christoph Waltz to play Oberhauser/Blofelds was a great addition to keep up with the great Bond villain roster. And the plot motivation makes sense: finish what was started in Casino Royale. However, that is easier said than done.
I was immediately thrown out of the experience with the opening scene. They had me immersed until Bond jumps into a helicopter, proceeds to fight his mark inside the copter, it does multiple mid-air loops, and successfully kills mark and pilot before pulling the copter out of a stall, narrowly missing the crowd below. Nope, sorry, I thought we were going for realism here. Like the realism established in the previous film. Even with the train fight and later the subway crash in Skyfall, I never questioned whether I believed what was happened before me. They failed in the first 15 minutes and it didn’t get better from there.
I won’t go scene for scene about the ones that irritated me, but they typically were the ones that retreated to conventional Bond stereotypes or tropes. Like the car chase with Dave Bautista (more on him in a second, he was excellent) it ended in generic Bond fashion. The usual interaction and throw away Bond girls were in play again were they had been downplayed in the previous 3 Craig films. Every time I got excited in this film, I would immediately be let down by the lack of cohesion with a screenplay that seem to be aiming for Royale, Goldfinger or Skyfall and keeping hitting Moonraker. The forced inclusion of Mr. White’s daughter and her subsequent romance with Bond just… doesn’t… fit….. at all. I really wish I could have taken a hacksaw to this portion of the script.
The high points were great though: Q, Moneypenny and M were solid and had stepped up roles from the previous films. Q in particular stood out for me as being serious and delivering better lines than Bond this time around. Now, let’s get to my favorite person in the entire film: Dave Bautista. His first appearance on screen seals the deal and his character nearly beats James Bond to death with his bare hands, harkening back to his opening appearance where he makes quick work of the assassin whose place he takes in Spectre organization. It establishes him as an immediate threat that makes us aware that Bond will not fare well against him. Waltz was solid, but the script wasn’t crafted well for him with the exception of a few choice scenes. The torture scene not being one of them; I shouldn’t need a medical professional nearby to help me understand if any of the threats he made were actually real. The story follows well enough, but there are plenty of distracting moments that fail to keep us engaged with Bond’s mission to finish Spectre.
Despite all of this you will still enjoy this film and it’s another solid Bond worthy entry to the series, just don’t expect this one to rise above the genre like better Bond films have been able to do.
007: Spectre 7 out of 10
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