Monday, March 14, 2016

Spectre: a review

So, I just saw Spectre this weekend.

It was .. ahem.... how do I put this....?

It's NOT the worst Bond film I've ever seen.

It's not even the worst Daniel Craig Bond film I've ever seen.

However, this is the one that pissed me off the most.

Let's start with the good elements: The bit players were great. M, Moneypenny, and Q were quite enjoyable.  Even "C" was entertaining, played by Sherlock's Moriarty, Andrew Scott, who is for once, UNDERacting -- and you know he was hired by the Bond people because they particularly wanted to have him fall from a great height, to his death ... because they didn't kill him like that in The Reichenbach Fall, and the Bond people rectified that.

As for the rest of the film?

It sucks. It's dreadful. It's confusing. And worst of all, it's BORING.

The plot is simple: Judi Dench's M has one last mission for Bond -- an assassination, then show up at the funeral. Bond goes, seduces the widow of the man he just assassinated, and is pointed to a secret meeting of Spectre. Bond overhears a name he knows, sees someone who is dead, and is promptly chased out of the meeting. Bond hunts down the person whose name he overheard, and is told to go pick up the girl of the day to find out more. She is of course kidnapped.At this point, I start having major problems.

When the Bond girl du jour is kidnapped from a clinic that looked like it should be owned by Telly Savalas in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Bond chases the bad guys' three car caravan with a plane. Yes. he's using a plane to chase cars. Now, I've seen Bond films where he is chasing someone through the streets of Moscow on a tank, and where he's been chased down a snowy mountain where Bond was using only one ski ... and yet, somehow, those feel far less absurd than this chase with the plane. Also, those were at least entertaining.

The editing is terrible. At least, I presume it's editing, and not just a terrible script. One moment, we see Bond standing in front of a clinic in the Alps as the bad guys drive away, and the next, he's in an airplane flying after them. Where was the plane? No idea. Did we see it at all in the film before then? Nope. Does he explain? Not at all. It gets worse later on, where Bond gets out of an empty, abandoned and gutted building before it explodes .... by riding out on a perfectly good and usable speed boat that's apparently just left under the building. Yup. Apparently, speed boats are so disposable, it was just left there.

The editing problem, of course, doesn't stop there, either. Again, it's a presumption on my part. I'm assuming that there was a complete story here, but you couldn't tell that from the film. As you can tell, Spectre is about ... SPECTRE. Or at least, I presume it's the same one from the original series, we don't know. What does this Spectre do? They're ... bad guys. Professional bad guys. Do they have a purpose? No idea. Any goals? Not really. They want to link in and control every intelligence network across the planet ... though, what are they going to do with it? No idea. If they're terrorists, what are they going to do with it?

Yes, originally, the name stood for the SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion ... but not here. Not that we can tell.

Wait, there is actually a goal for Spectre ... to make James Bond's life miserable. Yes, in this version, when Bond's parents died, he went to live with a friend of his father's. The family he was adopted by had another child. This kid didn't like how Bond had taken all of the attention from him. So, this kid faked his death, formed Spectre, and adopted the new name, Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

Yes, you read that right. Blofeld's sole purpose in life was to make James Bond's life miserable. He became a supervillain and terrorist mastermind because he had daddy issues...

That was about the point I called bullcrap.

It, of course, gets better. Sam Mendes (the director) and company made an attempt to link all of the Danial Craig films together by having Spectre tie in to all of the previous bad guys. This Blofeld even claims credit for every dead Bond girl.  EVERY. SINGLE. LAST. ONE ... though the how of all of this is decidedly unexplained. How did he kill these women or know they were important to Bond? No idea. How did he make the first girl kill herself? Must be magic.  How were the previous bad guys connected to Spectre? They just were, now shut up. How did we know this? Because Q scanned a ring and a fingerprint into a laptop, and he knew it. How did he tie them all together, given that Spectre hadn't been know before this film? Who cares, we're about to blow something else up.

Yes, but--

Shut up, it's a Bond film, "It's not supposed to make sense."

Yeah, yeah, I call BS. Every Bond film has had the villain explain, in perfect detail, exactly what his intentions are, with a fairly good description of the how and why of it. Sure, the plots were insane, but they usually at least tried to spell out what the hell they were doing, why they were doing it, and what they hoped to achieve with it. Whether or not it was creating a Utopia on a Bioshock-like underwater city (or a space station), start a nuclear war, or hold the world hostage in exchange for amnesty, the scriptwriters tried, damnit.

This? Oh, Blofeld has daddy issues, and he's going to take over the worlds' intelligence networks. Is he going to use it to become rich and powerful? No idea.

Even Hans Gruber is a better super villain than this.

But, surely, the action must have been good, right?


The opening takes place in Mexico City during the day of the dead. The colors are so muted, they might as well have filmed in Sepia (which they may have). I've seen Mexico more colorful in Once Upon a Time in Mexico, which was still a better movie than this. During this sequence, a building blows up during an exchange of gunfire. What blew up? Great question. Ask the writer. We then had a helicopter sequence than attempted to mimic some of the stunts from The A-Team film, and failed spectacularly.

Yes, they had a fist fight in an out-of-control helicopter, rolled it, had it do a loop, and it was all boring.

This isn't the only mysterious explosion in the entire film. Bond blows up the main headquarters for Spectre by shooting one pipe.  Yes, apparently, whoever built the gas mains for Spectre was the same contractor who designed the Death Star.

This film ends by Bond driving off into the sunset, presumably to stay with the lead actress of the film, Léa Seydoux. At one point, she declares that she loves him ... except their personalities seem to be summed up as "blonde." Yes, I know the "e" of blonde is feminine and I'm referring to both of them. Bite me. I would say that Daniel Craig did a great impersonation of wood, but you can at least believe that a block of wood was alive at one point. The majority of the chemistry between our leads boiled down to the fact that they were equally bland.

Dave Bautista played an assassin for Blofeld, and he had more personality than Bond did, though he only had ONE WORD OF DIALOGUE IN THE WHOLE FILM. Andrew Scott would have made a better Blofeld (his character was certainly more interesting). Additional congratulations to Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, and Naomie Harris on managing to lend their characters personalities in a film decidedly lacking in any.

Oh, yes, and how can I forget the wonderful film that spent about a quarter of the film just showing us scenery? "Oh look, desert. And more desert. Maybe some snow.  And more snow.  Isn't it so very white and snowy?"

Hi, Mister Mendes, I don't care about the scenery. You could have used those minutes of scenery, or "See Bond. See Bond drive. Drive, Bond. Drive!" (or walk, or stand there) and used it to, I don't know, explain what the hell was going on!

But no, f this movie. F this actor, director, and most of the crew on top of that.

By the time I was done with Spectre, I immediately put in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and saw just how glaring the differences were. For one, the movie had COLOROn Her Majesty's Secret Service had character, good banter, and could intercut dialogue, plot, and scenery. Something Sam Mendes should probably learn how to do. I watched Telly Savalas deliver a clear, concise summary of what he had in mind, with panache and style. And I realized just how badly Spectre had cast Blofeld. Heck, I would have taken Ian McShane, but that would have cut out all the daddy issues. I could have lived with it.

All-in-all, Spectre burned all of the credit that Skyfall had earned with me. Mendes created an overly-complicated mess out of a franchise that deals in simple and straightforward plots. They took a colorful character and filmed it in sepia. They had a good actress in Monica Bellucci, and not only did she disappear from the film, never to even be mentioned again, they focused on Léa Seydoux, who delivered a performance so lifeless, she made Denise Richards in The World is Not Enough look believable as a nuclear scientist.

In short, I'd rather watch Woody Allen's Casino Royale than Spectre.


  1. Most of Once Upon A Time In Mexico was filmed in San Miguel Allende, which is a very nice town but mostly stone colored. I may be in some of the background shots.

  2. Remember the snippets of the Mexico City staging "making of"...? They had to have used a filter to bleach out all the color. The Mexicans are not shy with color-- even on Dia de los Muertos.

    But here's the thing. IF They had filmed during an actual celebration, people would have been dancing and funky all over the place. People just walked and swayed which I found jarring knowing what I know about... having grown up 30 miles from the border. It has the same carnival atmosphere that you get from a New Orleans funeral writ large. But then Our *Hero would have stood out like a bloodless thumb.


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