16
Nov
15

Did ‘Spectre’ Stand a Ghost of a Chance?

spectre

Starring Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes, Monica Bellucci, Lea Seydoux, and Andrew Scottt.

Directed by Sam Mendes

ME: “Dad, what do you think of the new ‘Bond’ movies?”

DAD: “Well, the stories kinda suck.”

ME: “What do you think of Daniel Craig as Bond?”

DAD: “He’s good but I wished they had retired the character after he [Albert Broccoli] died.”

True conversation.

Not too far from the premiere weekend crowd I watched “Spectre,” the much-anticipated sequel/next-installment of the James Bond franchise, last Tuesday. Oh, boy. Is it entirely disappointing? Is it worth the price? Read on.

I can honestly say that I’ve grown up watching Bond but from the viewpoint of a different side of Bond: the post-Dalton/Pierce Brosnan Bond. While Timothy Dalton played a grittier, more “real” side of James Bond (far from the suave Roger Moore Bond) Brosnan’s Bond was one now having to compete with the feminist 90s giving him smart female counterparts that were either Bond girls or even M herself (Judi Dench took over the traditionally male role of ‘M’ in “GoldenEye”). Famke Janssen, Michelle Yeoh, Sophie Marceau, Halle Berry were all strong, independent female characters to the counteract James Bond and while the latter two Brosnan movies left a lot to be desired (namely a decent story) the actors and characters they played stood out and above the source material. However, “Die Another Day” was the death-knell for Brosnan’s Bond.

His successor, as you now know, was Daniel Craig. With the reboot/remake/origin movies being the way Hollywood was going it was only fitting that Craig start BEFORE “00” status as Bond “rough around the edges” Craig’s portrayal was a breath of fresh air for the franchise and washed out the bad taste in our mouth left from the fourth Brosnan feature. Here was a new Bond before being suave, using gadgets, guns, cars, women… this was the indoctrination of a character with over 20 films of history and we were more than glad to have him. While “Casino Royale” shifted the direction of the wind being blown to keep Bond sailing, “Quantum of Solace” was a dead calm of a “sequel.” The director and producers failed to learn the lessons of “License to Kill” in that James Bond is NOT a character out for vengeance but the “savior” of queen and country. Trying for a different wind director Sam Mendes was brought in for the third venture, “Skyfall,” which proved to be even better than “Casino Royale” and made us almost forget about “Quantum…” With the audience and critical acclaim of “Skyfall” Mendes returned for the latest venture, “Spectre,” and unfortunately succumbed to tripping the trope fantastic.

Warning. Spoilers ahead.

“The dead are alive…” are the first words greeting us as we pan into a crowd in Mexico City on Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). James Bond (Craig) and a companion are masked and moving through the crowded celebration. Once behind closed doors Bond goes on “personal assignment” which ends in a building being demolished and an overly long fight inside a helicopter over the crowd. Back in England Bond answers to M’s (Fiennes) interrogation saying that he was on “holiday.” M is furious and puts Bond on suspension before having to face James Bond Trope #1: The not-so-secret spy agency is in imminent threat of being dissolved. Ever since “GoldenEye” someone working for the British government keeps asking “Why is Bond even out there? Isn’t the Cold War over? Do we even need spies?” etc. It never fails. The best response given was Judi Dench as M saying, “He’s doing his job!” Again, this has been going on for 20 years only this time M is finding that a new security agency, CNS, is bringing together all technology to be the eyes and ears of the intelligence agency without having to leave home and Bond’s vacation may have caused their time to be cut even more.

Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw) are secretly being utilized by Bond to uncover a massive, secret organization. His reasoning? Cinematic Trope #2: a character leaves the main protagonist information saying, “If something happens to me, then, this…” M (Dench) left such a message for Bond to hunt down and kill one Marco Sciarra (Allesandro Cremona). Bond sneaks out of England, finds Mrs. Sciarra (Bellucci), hooks up for the night (Bond Trope #3), and infiltrates a Spectre town-hall meeting before barely getting out alive. Realizing that he recognized the guy running the meeting we’re now taken to…

The residence of Mr. White (Jesper Christensen), the most common thread of all of the Craig Bond films. Apparently Mr. White is on the outs with Spectre (unclear if it was a matter or conscience or being behind with dues) and gives up info on his daughter before “checking out.” Continuing the quest for vengeance we go to…

An upscale office building somewhere in/around the Alps were estranged daughter Madeleine Swann (Seydoux) works. Bond introduces himself, she gets captured (Trope #4) and even though she’s lived her life being the daughter of a spy/assassin she does little more than keep herself from being drugged via syringe. Wait, she saves Bond’s life a little later (Trope #5: Being knocked down doesn’t necessarily mean knocked-out) and they fall in love with as little chemistry as possible (Trope #6?)

Meanwhile, back in England…

The all-seeing, all-knowing new privately-funded security network is about to go live. The “00” program has been disbanded. Bond is now rogue and M refuses to help as CNS can here/see/read everything transmitted. Bond is rogue. And now we go back to the middle of the desert in North Africa were Bond and Swann encounter…

The villain’s secret lair (feel free to pronounce that a la Dr. Evil). Standing outside giant circle in the middle of the desert Bond and Swann are greeted and taken into the head of Spectre, one Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Waltz). James’s history is exposed as we find that when his parents died a man adopted him and he became the step-brother. The step-brother purportedly died in an avalanche as well as his father only to come back as Blofeld (mom’s last name). The avalanche was no accident; Blofeld killed his dad in retaliation for getting a step-brother. Rough.

That’s as far as I’m going with the story. You know James Bond is going to survive/win; nothing new under the sun there. My complaints are: checking off the tropes just to advance the story, action sequences that just ran too long, under use of Monica Bellucci, a boring story, and a lackluster movie theme, Sam Smith’s “Writing’s On the Wall.” On the plus side when the humor works it works and Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw get to do more stuff. The opening segment is reminiscent of “Touch of Evil” and is one of the coolest Bond openings for Craig and company, if not overall. The beginning is good, the middle struggles and is drawn out, but the end was really good.

My grade: C

 

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1 Response to “Did ‘Spectre’ Stand a Ghost of a Chance?”


  1. 1 PT Dilloway
    November 16, 2015 at 8:06 pm

    The brothers connection is reminiscent of Goldmember. Irony abounds.

    Like


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