Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Spectre Review

Well, it’s always fun to review a divisive movie so let’s begin. And I’ll begin by saying, I hate this movie. Daniel Craig is my favourite Bond and Casino Royale may be one of my favourite action movies of all time. And we all remember when Casino Royale came out people praised it for being time appropriate. It was gritty and realistic. It treated the character like he was a human being rather than a superhero. He got bloodied, emotionally scarred and from beginning to end you felt like you ‘got’ this James Bond. The romance in Casino Royale was, dare I say, kind of moving and Eva Green is easily my favourite Bond Girl. Even, the action, fantastic as it was, still seemed grounded in some kind of reality, enough that nothing made you groan or pulled you out of the movie.

So why is it that now, barely a decade later, people who defend Spectre defend it by saying we’re back to a more “classic” or “proper” bond. A decade ago we collectively said, we’ve outgrown the unrelatable superhero Bond with Casino Royale. Spectre says, “No we haven’t!” And as if Casino Royale never happened, we’re back to goofy action that defies logic. We’re back to ridiculous escape scenes that leave our hero unscathed both emotionally and physically. We’re back to the “run, shoot, drive, gadget, straighten tie, end scene” Bond. And though they enthusiastically inundate us with eye-rolling action goofiness, the one thing they somehow manage to omit from our “classic” bond, is a sense of humour. Bond used to be funny, right?

I don't know why I have this here. I just find the Archer turtleneck hilarious.
It’s like we’re getting the worst of both worlds. The careless camp of the corniest bond movies, and the often dour tone of the new. I’d say the action scenes here are almost reaching the ludicrous (no pun intended) levels of a Fast and Furious movies, but with none of the fun. At very least, a Bond movie should have that one game changing scene or stunt that makes people pay attention. The bungee jump in Goldeneye, the game changing parkour scene at the beginning of Casino Royale and yes, even the car chase on ice in Die Another Day. I found myself thinking of the last Fast and Furious movie. At least they dropped cars out of a plane! And the over the top scene where the car flies between buildings? One of the best things I’ve seen all year! Great fun. Then I thought, “God help me, I’m watching one of my favourite franchises ever and longing for a scene from the Fast and Furious!” and “I had more fun with this plot in the last Mission Impossible movie!”

Among the many things missing from Spectre is my beloved Judi Dench who provided the last three movies with heart, soul and in my opinion some legitimate laughs, especially when she manages to cut Bond down to size. Ralph Fiennes is a great actor but as the new M he has nothing to do except be the guy who lets us know, “Bond has gone rogue.” Yes, Bond goes rogue again. AGAIN! What was great about Dench’s M is that she is not just another woman to swoon over bond, but also, she is not just another Beta-male for Bond to have a testosterone match with. Moneypenny, Q and that bald guy are there to provide exposition when needed. I found Lea Sedoux quite dull and when she tells Bond, “I love you” my wife and I looked at each other, genuinely appalled. And we’ve seen all 5 Twilight movies in theatres!

"I think I'm winning."

Was Spectre all bad? There was a car chase where Bond has some interesting banter with Moneypenny. That was the closest thing to enjoyment I had for the entire outing. There are other ominous moments, like the scene from the trailer in the dark room where we see Christoph Waltz silhouette.

Some of you might be thinking, “Yeah! Christoph Waltz is in it! I love him!” Yes. He’s in it. I like him too. But, he’s underused and has very little to do. And I really don’t get this villain. I get Le Chiffre, from Casino Royale. He’s a greedy business man with a gambling problem. I get Raoul Silva from Skyfall, who was creepy and did a great job of convincing us that he was betrayed by M. Christoph Waltz’s character claims he has a vision for the world, and it has something to do with spying on everyone on the planet. Okay? His super-villain soliloquy is incoherent, having something to do with a meteorite and making something beautiful out of something ugly. The rant has nothing to do with anything, and like so many things in Spectre, just reminds you of the same scene done much better in another Bond movie.

Was he moving his hand to straighten his tie and then realized he was wearing the wrong kind of tie?

For me, an action movie is all about the villain. The villain’s motivation gives the plot its momentum and often its thesis. They try to do that here and fail. It feels like to beef up the villain, they gave Waltz’s character a secret past with Bond and that’s where Spectre’s hollowness really shows. Here I’m going to have to go into some spoilers. Ready? Spoilers starting… Now!!!!

Maybe you saw the last Star Trek movie where it was teased that the main villain was Khan. Or was he? Well, it turns out he was. And no one cared. Why should they? I’ve heard of Khan but Captain Kirk hasn’t. When Benedict Cumberbatch says his name is “Khan” Kirk responded to this revelation with a furrowed brow and shrugged shoulders. Spock even had to ask old Spock. “Who the f**k’s Khan?”

They do that in this movie and it’s embarrassing. If you don’t see it coming from the trailers and one of the very early scenes in the movie, Christoph Waltz plays Bond’s stepbrother. He allegedly killed Bond’s stepfather and any woman Bond has had sex with, retroactively revealing that he was somehow behind the events of the previous three films. Why is this villain such a jerk? As best I can understand it’s because he was jealous of Bond’s relationship with his father, but they don’t go too much into detail there, possibly because they seem to realize how stupid, weak and contrived that motivation was for a villain who wants to take over the world. Bond, played by an emotionally bereft Daniel Craig, doesn’t react to any of this news either. But the astonishing revelations don’t end there! During a torture scene, Christoph Waltz, up until that point known as Obernhauser reveals that he changed his name to Blofeld! Blofeld? Wow! That’s the name of a character from other Bond movies! But in this continuity Bond doesn’t know that name. The name isn’t mentioned once before that scene and is not mentioned again afterward. I don’t even remember Bond raising an eyebrow at this before the torture scene resumes. And why should he? James Bond has never seen a James Bond movie, he doesn’t know or care who Blofeld is. And quite frankly in this movie, neither do I!

Previous Bond movies have been building to (or perhaps just hinting at) the discovery of “Spectre” a shadowy organization that rules the world, and when you actually get there, well, it’s difficult to care. It’s one of those movies that feels like it was written backward. They knew Bond had to discover Spectre. They knew they wanted Bond to discover that Blofeld was his brother, but they didn’t seem to know how to bring the story to that point. So, at different points in the movie someone will just tell Bond what he needs to know as a pander to the audience, to give this weak movie a feeling of scope that is entirely unearned. “I’m your brother Bond! I’m Blofeld Bond! All the other bad guys you fought in previous movies work for me, Bond!”  It’s also very telling and strange that each of these revelations is mentioned once and never brought up again. But what is totally unforgivable about these reveals is that they don't change the movie at all! They don't add anything to the characters, the plot or the franchise. I suppose one could argue that they don't take anything away from the movie either, but this insistence on meta, self-referential "plot points" felt like failed attempts to add substance or surprise to a movie that really needed some of both.

The heady success of Skyfall also seems to have convinced the producers that Bond movies now need to make over a billion dollars at the box office, making this the most expensive Bond movie ever made. What does that mean? Lots of safe decisions. If you were to pick Bond clich├ęs out of a hat and pin them to a bulletin board, the result would be Spectre, which may not be a horrible thing for some fans, but was a huge disappointment for me who likes the plot driven movies that came before it.

Is it time for a reboot? I’ll miss you Craig but… Where do we go from here? Everything you got right in Casino Royale, Skyfall and God help me even Quantum of Solace you got wrong here. Worst Bond Girl, a villain with no intelligible motivations, unconvincing escapes, forgettable action, dull characters and an extremely bored looking Daniel Craig.

¸4 references to old Bond movies out of 10

Bonus Bitching!

Other things I hated: 1) Horrible unearned romance that makes the kiss between Lois and Clark in Man of Steel look like Romeo and Juliet. 2) At least three instances of Bond walking into a trap and the villain letting him off the hook because… movie. 3) They blow up the villain’s compound by shooting a gas valve. Like, the whole compound immediately explodes like the Death Star from a few bullets! 4) Tired, clicheed, “The bad guys want to spy on everyone” plot except, James Bond IS A SPY. His job is spying on people… I don’t… get…. 5) They were trying to shut down the double 0 program in the last movie. They’re STILL trying to shut it down here and I’ve stopped caring. 6) I know it’s a Bond movie and we have to suspend disbelief, but where the hell is he finding planes and boats with keys in the ignition ready to chase down bad guys?