WARNING: SPOILERS (KIND OF) BELOW
Earlier this week I made a list of the ten best James Bond films in anticipation of the newest entry Spectre, which hit theaters about a week ago. I had a chance to see the movie on opening night and after some time chewing it over I reached the conclusion that Spectre is no where near the top ten 007 movies. Its not even close. In fact I'd put it lower on the totum poll of worst Bond flicks, and there's been some real stinkers over the years.
The plot (if you can call it that as incoherent as it was) follows the events after the previous entry, Skyfall. Bond is sent on one final mission by Judi Dench's M from beyond the grave to track down a known terrorist. Once Bond does in a dazzling pre-credits sequence, he finds a clue that leads him on a long and winding road to a big bad organization known as SPECTRE, an acronym which the film never bothers explaining. The head of the organization, Connery era throwback Ernst Starvo Blofeld, is revealed to have been behind the events and bad guys from Casino Royale onward. The typical car chases, fight sequences and sexual escapades then ensue for the rest of the bloated two and a half hour runtime.
Even though it's predecessor's plot was a bit cockamamie, Spectre's story is beyond ludicrous, and unfortunately it's what cripples the film the most. The story is about a person from Bond's past who is performing terrorist activities, pretty much for the fun of it with no motivation, and has a personal vendetta against 007 and MI6. Sound familiar? It should, because its pretty much Skyfall's story minus Javier Bardem for Christoph Waltz. It seems that the screenwriters have gotten so lazy that they are now repeating story structure, themes, and ideas. One of the overshadowing themes in Skyfall was questioning whether our technology based world still had a place for secret agents. Bond's triumphant, bittersweet victory in Skyfall's ending answers that question: yes we do. Why then are we getting the same rehashed idea in Spectre? A whole subplot is dedicated to asking MI6's place in the world, but the last film has already asked and answered that question. The audience doesn't need to see it again.
Along with repeating underlying themes, the story is not well structured. There are long periods of time in which the movie drags, due to problems with pacing. There are a few good action sequences, like the opening in Mexico city, but they are overpowered by large stretches in time where not much happens. Bond follows something somewhere, goes someplace else, rinse and repeat. The film moves from point A to point B without much thought as to how we got there. There are also unbelievable moments in which Bond is some sort of Terminator super assasin. One scene has Craig shoot one tiny cannister of gas, and the facility is which is held hostage suddenly explodes into a million pieces. I know this is a Bond movie but come one, the Moore films had more credibility than this.
The actors due what they can with the lackluster script they are given, but ultimately fail to draw the audience in. Craig is good here as 007, but it falls short of what was offered in Casino Royale. Italian actress Monica Bellucci only gets ten minutes of screen time, and Ralph Fiennes looks like he's just going through the motions. The biggest waste of talent though is two time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz, who gets little to do here except spout an occasional line of cliche dialog. As Blofeld, Bond's arch-nemesis, fans were excited to see the character return. They were even more excited when it was announced he was going to be played by an actor with such caliber as Waltz. However the opportunity here is wasted. Waltz doesn't show up until the third act, and while stalling the villain sometimes works (Apocalypse Now) here it just feels lazy and uninteresting.
After Skyfall moviegoers were eagerly anticipating the next installment in the Bond franchise, especially since Sam Mendes was returning to the helm to direct. What was produced unfortunately was an uninspired mess. What should have been Bond's return to the classic years ends up feeling more like a lazy homage. And that's no way to treat the famous secret agent who's been around for half a century. Here's to wishing more for the next entry when James Bond inevitably returns.
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