Spectre: One step forward, two steps back
Movie Review – Spectre
The 24th entry in the much-loved 007 franchise sees James Bond (Daniel Craig) receive a message from the late M (Judi Dench). This message makes Bond go rogue and travel to Mexico City and then Rome, where he meets the widow (Monica Bellucci) of a criminal.
With the information he gets from the widow, Bond is able to track down a shady organization whose members wear rings with the insignia of an octopus. Bond finds that this organization, known as Spectre (a familiar name to Bond fans), is led by evil mastermind Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), a man from Bond’s past who was presumed dead.
To get answers about Spectre, Bond tracks down his old nemesis, Mr. White (Jesper Christensen), and is sent to White’s daughter Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), who has the information required to locate Spectre’s headquarters – all in order to stop Oberhauser.
Spectre starts off on the right foot with a spectacular sequence that swoops through the streets of Mexico City showing the Day of the Dead festivities. During these celebrations, Bond takes on his first bad guy.
Following this scene, we get one off the loveliest title sequences in the franchise, demonstrating continuity by showing scenes from moments from the last three Craig films, with fleeting glimpses of Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), and M (Judi Dench).
The filmmakers deserve credit for attempting to bring the story full circle by connecting all Daniel Craig entries into one big story that centers around the evil Spectre organization – a definite step in the right direction for the franchise, and something that has never happened before. Hopefully, we’ll see more of that in the future.
From there on, the steps backward begin.
Monica Bellucci’s appearance in the movie is utterly disappointing. I expected much more considering the caliber of an actress that she is. We were supposed to be over the whole ‘women sleeping with Bond for no reason’ ploy. She’s in the movie for 15 minutes —if not less— just as a vehicle for Bond to get a piece of information necessary to get the plot underway. She could have easily played the movie’s villain or better yet, a more suitable love interest for Bond.
There’s a similar problem with Christoph Weisz, who gets almost completely wasted as a Bond villain. It never feels like he represents a real threat or conveys anything resembling fear. He was much scarier in Big Eyes, not to mention other movies in which he has played the bad guy. They sell him as the head of Spectre thus being Raoul Silva’s boss, which is impossible to buy. Bardem’s character in Skyfall was a hundred times more sinister than him.
Speaking of Bond girls, I couldn’t believe when the script tries to put Madeleine Swann —a character I could never empathize with, despite how pleasant she’s to look at— in the same level as Vesper Lynd (Eva Green in Casino Royale). There isn’t a single justification for her being in love with Bond at any point of the story, much less for him – being the character that he is, to actually respond to her on that level.
The secondary storyline is too similar to the one in Skyfall. M (Ralph Fiennes), Eve Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), and Q (Ben Whishaw) are dealing, yet again, with a government branch —this time the ‘Nine Eyes’ surveillance system operated by Joint Intelligence Service head Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott)— wanting to dismantle the 00 program for being archaic.
Many Bond purists will love Spectre for all these same reasons, calling it a return to form for the series. But the fact remains that the movie backpedals in many of the progressive regards that the three previous films, especially Casino Royale, had stepped forward. Which is something that is not appreciated.
There is no need to go back to the franchise’s old design. We are ready for a more human Bond, one that is interested in more than just how many evil guys he can kill, and how many beautiful women he can seduce.
Ultimately, Spectre disappoints by failing to deliver a great story in which all previous Daniel Craig entries connect, and also sees the return of many ridiculous over-the-top aspects of the old films. Consequently, it ends up being an entertaining and barely serviceable entry in the franchise – the most mediocre since its reboot.
Considering Daniel Craig will be playing James Bond at least one more time, there’s still a chance the franchise can bounce back with whatever they have planned next.
Directed by Sam Mendes
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