After Skyfall, which I quite enjoyed, the latest installment to the 007 franchise feels a bit… lukewarm and frankly disappointing. It’s unfortunate because the movie has a solid basic premise and it largely consists of very nice looking cinematography, interesting set pieces and action as well as overall good acting, but the pieces never seem manage to come together in a satisfying, wholesome manner. I find myself agreeing with Pierce Brosnan’s opinion that while being excited for Spectre, it’s just too damn long. Running at two and half hours, there doesn’t really seem to be that much happening in the story despite taking us across the world, from Mexico City to London, Rome, Austria and even Tangier. There are more than few cases where the movie even feels like it’s not even telling a story, instead it’s just going through the motions to get to the next plot point. It’s essentially a mystery story that never seems to get off the ground and none of the following plot twist manage to have any meaningful weight behind them because you never got engaged to the story in the first place. Granted, I might be missing something because I never bothered to watch Quatum of Solace, but I don’t feel that it really has that much significance in this case.
Spectre simply ends up having too many cracks in its armor: you have several scenes that are excruciatingly predictable to a point where it just kills any dramatic gravitas from the scene, the villains turn out to be complete letdowns and on more than one instance the attempts at humor just flat-out come off as off puttingly corny. Take the opening set in Día de los Muertos for example, it was visually gorgeous and off to a good start with the action set piece when the next door building starts to collapse and crashes through the roof where Bond was standing, ultimately taking Bond with it, and you get this gag where Bond is freefalling through the now demolished building only to be saved by landing on a couch that breaks his fall in the most comfortable way possible. You laugh, but then you immediately find yourself thinking that it wasn’t actually that funny, it was closer to being a Pavlovian response. And then only minutes later you get the big helicopter fight number that never manages to click right or feel particularly exciting or suspenseful, it lacked the necessary dramatic weight to make it exciting, especially in the end of it when Bond has to level the helicopter from its death spin and stop it from crashing to the ground, not for a second did it ever feel that there was even a remote chance of Bond not pulling it off.
The credits sequence was as expected, very well done and it had more than few pretty clever ideas in it but it did miserably fail to connect with the theme song itself, which I found to be entirely dull and not fitting at all as far as Bond themes go. In retrospect I also found the media fanfare over Monica Bellucci being an older Bond girl to be pretty asinine when she’s in the movie for maybe ten, fifteen minutes tops, sleeps with Bond once (entirely off screen) and then is never seen again. She has such a small and insignificant role that I might even have to put Teri Hatcher in front of Bellucci in terms of being memorable as a Bond girl.
On a more positive note, Dave Bautista actually surprised me by being a semi-decent actir in the role of the story’s token heavily built henchman for SPECTRE. He certainly was no Jaws, but by remaining silent for most of the movie and letting his massive body do all the heavy lifting actingwise, he had enough charisma to make him kinda okay as a glorified thug. By all means he was far better in this than in Guardians of the Galaxy where he had the stage presence of a wet blanket. But nothing about his performance made me particularly impressed.
Considering the title of the movie, and SPECTRE in itself as a concept being this giant evil organization, the movie completely fumbles the execution in bringing it to the 21st century. Granted, they do get the secret Illuminati vibe right at the beginning, but once you get to the desert and Bond finally confronts Blofeld, everything just converges into a gigantic anti-climax. I know it’s far too kitsch for Craig’s Bond to be doing the same type of thing that you saw the older movies do with SPECTRE, like have a volcano lairs and shark infested trap doors and whatnot, but this modern version of the organization was so forgettable and bland it’s actually pretty infuriating. It makes sense in a way but goddamnit, it shouldn’t be this bland and featureless. Like the entire resolution with Blofeld, SPECTRE as an organization failed entirely to leave any type of lasting impression, so much so in fact that calling the movie Spectre feels utterly disappointing and almost misleading.
I suppose by far the biggest problem with the movie is the glaring insistence to try and wrap everything about Craig’s tenure as Bond into one big, thematically cathartic conclusion, and not being able to pull it off. There are numerous connections and references to the previous movies that at first feel organic (if you’ve seen the movies) but by the end it all grow tiresome. And it’s all the fault trying to connect Blofeld to Bond’s past on a personal level as well as making him be secretly responsible to for all the hurtful losses James had experienced in the previous Craig movies, everything from Vesper dying to the fall of the previous M in Skyfall. And the biggest flaw in all of this is that despite all the talk and gleeful mannerism, the story never really manages to sell it to you. You as a viewer experience this weird disconnect where you register his words but they have no real effect on you, your response is just indifference, you can’t even be bothered by how silly it ends up being. Even the great reveal that Blofeld is James’ adoptive half-brother barely raises an eyebrow. I can’t even find it in me to blame Christopher Waltz for any of this as he really does seem to do his best with this poor material, and on his own he is kinda fun as a more modern, goal oriented villain but it never manages to work in context to Bond and the larger plot, and he never feels as important as the plot likes to presents him as.
The final climax to the movie is also incredibly silly and fails to work on any level, not s a fulfilling conclusion to Craig’s entire character arc as Bond nor even as a stand alone finish to the story told in Spectre. It is baffling how the movie is completely unable to create any real tension to its climax, even when there’s a giant plot oriented countdown clock ticking away the remaining minutes before SPECTRE’s evil plan is accomplished. Actually, I need to digress a little and have a small word about the whole global intelligence data share cooperation plot device. As much as I enjoy the goofy concept behind it, it just totally takes me out of the movie when you have a country like China being more than willing to allow its intelligence data to be shared on an international level, processed and governed by a third party. It’s China! One of the most eager nations on the planet to control and censor everything within its borders when it comes to information on the Internet.
It’s just so disappointing for any picture, let alone a James Bond feature that looks this stylish and good to fail completely in telling an interesting story. It’s no wonder this has received such a less than enthusiastic welcome, the movie never comes together properly and in the few instances where it almost manages to tie up something in a semi-decent way, at the last minute it fumbles it. So much wasted effort, it’s sad.