Spectre (2015)

Spectre CLEAN

CHRIS: The opening sequence of this movie starts out well, with director Sam Mendes deftly following Bond through gorgeous shots of Mexico City. There is action, humor and suspense, in other words, everything you could want from a James Bond flick.

Then it all goes down hill.

The title sequence is an erotic abortion with not only one of the worst Bond songs, but one of the worst songs of all time playing over garish CGI tentacles and Daniel Craig’s 007 pectorals. Sam Smith sings like I do when I’m mock-singing. Anyone who thought this song was good deserves to be banned from the Entertainment Industry (TM).

What we get next is what feels like a 5 hour slog through beautiful locations that James Bond struts around in. Each scene plays out like a little vignette that doesn’t really tie all that well together with any of the other vignettes. The plot feels like someone designed a computer program to go through every previous Bond film, run an algorithm and spit out the “ideal” Bond film which comes across like hot diarrhea. It even feels like they tried to borrow from this year’s Mission Impossible movie before getting bored with the idea and wandering off into other territory.

The story shifts back and forth from obvious revelations to confusing narratives populated with characters who sometimes grow bored with their own existence, desperate to punch or shoot each other just to feel alive. About 2/3 of the way through the movie, entering the 30th hour of this slog, I prayed to a god who no longer cares to end the movie. Instead, I sat there like Alex DeLarge, forced to endure the terrible images being cast in front of my eyes. I could pinpoint the exact moment my spirit broke, except I dare not relive the pain.

The henchman and villain are remarkably boring and uninteresting, which is especially painful considering Christoph Waltz is one of the great actors of the past five or so years. It seems like more time was spent on ordering a bunch of helicopters to showcase instead of developing characters.

At one point, the Bond Girl, Dr. Madeleine Swann (played competently by the beautiful yet puffy eyed Lea Seydoux) is kidnapped (the first time) and Bond comes to the rescue by flying a plane into the vehicle she was abducted in. It was a metaphor for the entire movie.

This is far and away the worst of the Daniel Craig Bond movies, and easily a contender for the bottom of the list of the entire 007 catalog. This is the kind of film that derails or outright kills a franchise. Bond is probably strong enough to survive this, but you might not be.

SVEN: I can’t say I reacted as powerfully as you did, but your powerful reaction provided me with much amusement. Indeed, your words set my jowls aquiver with laughter.

First, let me briefly mention the things I liked.

-The opening sequence.

-The girl. She smolders. Would.

-A few of the action set pieces. The train fight and the plane chase were pretty fun.

Things I disliked (spoilers follow):

-The villain. Christoph Waltz was born to play a Bond villain. Instead, he’s playing a reference to a character from a previous movie. This ties in with dislike #2…

-Continuity. We’re seeing this more and more in blockbuster movies these days. Film-makers increasingly seem to think simply including references/homages to beloved characters/movies/moments is in and of itself awesome. (Hey audience! Check out these goggles from the first Jurassic Park movie! Pretty awesome, right? Right?!)

At a certain point, Waltz reveals that his name is Ernst Stavro Blofeld. It’s supposed to be a big AHA! moment that sends chills down the viewer’s spine, but it’s meaningless unless you’ve seen some of the forty year old installments in this series. Given the movie’s own internal logic it’s utterly insignificant. The last Star Trek movie did this too. Cummerbunds calling himself Khan meant nothing in that movie’s internal logic. The characters have no concept of Khan, and any audience member who does remembers Khan looking/behaving completely differently.

The movie also asks you to believe that this villain is behind the work of the villains in the previous Craig movies, but I don’t buy that at all (mostly because little to nothing in those other movies built up to such a revelation). If anything, this cheapens the impact/power/poignancy of those other films by retroactively downgrading them to a precursor to this lame plot. Which reminds me…

-The plot. Has a Bond movie ever had lower stakes? The villain/plot doesn’t pose much of a threat here to either the characters or society at large. At the end, they’re trying to prevent an intelligence system from going online. Let’s pretend it did. What would happen? Nothing, really.

-Brothers. Why are they brothers? This is pointless, far-fetched, and stupid.

Conclusion: You’ll probably watch this because it is another Bond movie, but I won’t be recommending it to anyone anytime soon. M:I5 is the mindless globe-trotting action movie from 2015 worth watching.

The Bond series has long been the king of eschewing continuity. Indeed, the best part of this movie (the opening sequence) occurs before the film is polluted by the influence of previous installments. I understand the impulse to do something new/different when you’re making another installment in a series that contains 20+ issues, but got-damn the piggy-backing does not work here.

I like movies because they are the only real art form that gives you a bang-bang open and shut story that makes (or fails to make) its point in an economical two hours. I also like that everything you need to enjoy/understand the movie is contained within the movie itself. I don’t like that some of these recent big movies require you to have ridiculous sums of foreknowledge and attempt to tie in elements from so many other products/storylines. Doing so really hamstrings what can be done in any one installment. I think this is the major reason I am so resistant to the Marvel movie machine. (Have any of the last fifteen Marvel movies really shifted the characters or world from the point they began? The M.O. seems to be preserving the status quo at all costs.)

JAI: This movie was pretty palatable for the first half! Good, even? By the end of it though, I was baffled by what anyone’s motivations were, and why anything I was seeing was happening. I felt like I could visibly see on Daniel Craig’s face that he has better shit to do than still play James Bond.

Four screenplay credits and three story credits? It feels like it. It feels like they had no idea what to do with this movie and couldn’t agree on any strong plot points.

Bond is an uncomfortable “Rich white man” archetype at the best of times, and even this latest installment in the series fails to update his image in ANY way, to ANY degree. What a tired, outdated, and uninteresting character. Whatever new life was breathed into the franchise with Casino Royale has completely dissipated back into moronic schlock. And it’s too full of itself to notice that nothing that happens makes any sense.

The list of things that I found incomprehensible is longer than this $245 million movie’s credits. The movie starts off with some typical Bond silliness (Why does Bond remove his costume when he goes to shoot some people? Literally everyone else is wearing costumes, so not only does he not have a disguise while doing something that society frowns upon, he is making himself MORE noticeable), which I expected. That’s fine, whatever. It’s built into the dumbness that is the James Bond character, the secret agent assassin who goes around telling everyone his real name while forgoing any attempt at subterfuge. This is the GOOD part of the movie. By the end of it, he sleeps with a woman right after killing their husband (For an unknowable reason, killing her husband put HER life in danger), and his nemesis is an estranged half-brother who knew him when they were boys but happens to have gone on to own a fabulously rich, huge, global organization of cutthroat terrorists (Their goals? I have no idea. “Is that supposed to matter? They’re rich and they blow people up!” — The writers).

The faces of characters from movies past are paraded past us several times, for no logical reason and to no effect. Plot devices become increasingly far-fetched, yet still seem to serve no purpose because the story never becomes any clearer. That fucking SPECTRE ring that Bond takes off of the guy in the beginning of the movie somehow makes its way all the way to the middle of the movie on his finger (Or being taken off and handed to other people, multiple times), where it is scanned and somehow contains the fingerprints and/or DNA of all the main villains from the Daniel Craig-era movies?? And the scanning program makes a little SPECTRE logo diagram of them??? That’s so absurd that I can’t even spend the time to articulate the many ways in which it is COMPLETE shit. And it doesn’t even matter, because that has LITERALLY NOTHING to do with anything that advances the plot!

Bautista was pretty cool, and his fights were great (Although the car chase was bizarre. What was the threat, there? OH NO HE’S IN A REALLY EXPENSIVE CAR WATCHING ME, I’D BETTER EJECT). As soon as he exited the film, the stupidity ramped WAY up. James Bond takes a woman he’s sworn to protect into the middle of a desert, hoping that his nemesis — the leader of a global terrorist network, which he has seen firsthand to be utterly ruthless — will send a luxury car to pick him up and give him a ride to his secret, billion-dollar compound of presumed (Yet suspect, to the viewer) evilness. Otherwise, they would like, just die. So SPECTRE sends him an Uber, lets him into the compound while armed, then politely asks for his gun and shows him around the place. HA HA, WHAT COULD THEY POSSIBLY FEARFROM THE MAN WHO APPARENTLY HAS SINGLE-HANDEDLY DEFEATED ALL OF THEIR THWARTED OPERATIONS EVEN THOUGH HE HAD NO IDEA THEY WERE EVEN CONNECTED. So of course he manages to grab one little rifle (Another long list of complaints is being thrown aside here, for expediency), and only needs to spend about twenty seconds to kill every guard and also shoot some kind of fuel tank which blows up the ENTIRE BASE. Whew, another tough escape from a sticky situation for James fuckin’ Bond.

This kind of lazy/terrible writing makes its way into all kinds of action sequences. The final action scene has Bond in a little motorboat, chasing a helicopter. Does he need to think of a way that he can catch up to it, or a way to get help, or a way to bring it down? No, he just pulls out his little sidearm and shoots at it a few times. This fucks up the helicopter’s shit so bad that it crashes, instantly killing everyone aboard (Which I cannot swallow, because they actually crash-landed superbly) except the central villain. Every action scene after Bautista’s exit is incredibly stupid, and feels like it has nothing at stake.

In the end… Bond could be interesting. But he’s currently a dinosaur, displaced from his own time. It would be easier to just reinvent the damn character (Really, HOW are these stories so bad?), but I guess they’re too afraid of the hundreds of people who might care if they tampered with any of the conventional Bond staples.

The helicopter fetish in this movie was weird. There’s like five goddamn helicopters in this movie. I mean, at least three. Bond flies nearly all of them, as well as a plane. There’s no way one good scriptwriter would write all of that into a single movie! What a mess. I was surprised that Q didn’t have a special helicopter for him that he could use to fight the final boss helicopter.

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