Spectre feels like a misplaced, outdated throwback after Skyfall and Casino Royale built such a strong introspective image of our battle hardened, numbingly misogynistic, ultra-British, stiff upper lipped hero.
We’ve come to categorically recognise the Bond franchise through sharp suits, dry wit and shaken Martini’s and yet Clarisse Loughrey gets her review spot on, “Spectre feels nervous”. It tries so hard to collaborate with the anachronistic misogyny, iconic scenes and camp dialogue of old that it forgets all the hard work put in by Campbell and Craig in reviving the Bond franchise with Casino Royale.
Spectre‘s most spectacular downfall rests it’s weary head after a fairly hectic travel agenda. Mexico City, Rome, Lake Altaussee, Austrian Alps, Morocco, Tangier, Sahara Desert, London. Such a messy transition of locations may shine a light on the far reaching tentacled arm of Spectre, and perhaps even allude to the necessity of an unlegislated joint security agency in a digital world.
But for all of Spectre‘s pacey action sequences and recurring Bond villain leitmotifs, including a secret lair inside a crater, it’s difficult not to think of this as a love letter to the campy, flamboyant adaptations that became the crux of the Bond canon. Rather than a continuation of the successful reboot undertaken by Casino Royale and honed by Skyfall, Spectre suffers under the weight of expectation when it should thrive on Bond’s new direction.
"She fell in love quick."
Opening with a stunning five minute tracking shot set in Mexico City during the Día de Muertos celebrations the film gets off to a fitting start. Following Bond into a hotel through the crowds of suitably parading skeletons we travel in the lift and into his room. Done with his disguise he characteristically leaves his female cohort in limbo and ventures out onto the rooftops to deal with Marco Sciarra, a member of Spectre bent on terrorist activity.
Our sequence is interrupted by some casual eavesdropping and accidental destruction of an entire building, followed by a visual sofa gag that achieves a smattering of appreciative gruffs from the audience.
Thrust into a spiralling helicopter stunt, hanging from the door and barrel rolling for fun Spectre suddenly feels at odds with the refurbished Craig image, that four minutes before had sent chills down my spine.
As predicted M punishes Bond for his unsanctioned mission and grounds him, scuppering any chance of following up the posthumous video message left by Judi Dench’s M. Only a fool would actually believe Bond was finished and after some gentle persuasion Ben Wishaw’s Q assists in the temporal disappearance of Bond as he heads to Rome to discover the truth behind Sciarro’s cryptic ring, leaving M to deal with the yuppie head of the Joint Intelligence Agency, C, and his ‘Nine Eyes’ plan for world surveillance.
Wending his way through Spectre’s inferior ranks at a secret meeting Bond peers over the balcony at the shadowy figure chairing the meeting concerning Sciarro’s replacement. When in comes Mr. Hinx, played by Dave Bautista. Oozing canon henchman material with his indomitable build and visually scarring manicure he soon captures the attention of everyone in the room, except this sinister shadow who has his gaze set firmly on Bond.
Taken aback by his sudden introduction to the meeting Bond appears to have seen a ghost. Franz Oberhauser, played by Christoph Waltz, is dead by all accounts and yet here he sits at the head of a leading world criminal organisation that has it’s meathooks firmly tenderising the security agencies of the world through terrorist activity.
The sinister twist behind the entire Craig installment, from Casino Royale to Spectre all leads back to Franz Oberhauser, the spectre that haunts and guides Bond to this moment.
For the sheer anticipation and lasting impression of Skyfall I expected so much more. But something was a miss and I feel my misgivings are not misplaced despite popular opinion. Craig and Mendes appear to get bogged down by the potential storyline Spectre throws into contention and at 148 minutes it is overly long.
Remove the painfully dull 21st Century post-Snowden ‘Nine Eyes’ mumbo jumbo and you have yourself a concise Bond film devoid of any preachy political bias. The return of the greatest Bond villain in Ersnt Blofeld, pussy an’ all, did more for my anticipation than an endless stream of shameless canonical throwbacks taken straight from the ‘How to make a Bond film’ playbook.
Hoyte Van Hoytema’s wishy washy cinematography during the action sequences really let down his marvellous work in the scenes that took a little more care. The opening scene for example and the Saharan vistas are magnificent but at times things all feel a little forced. The Austrian lake scene is ten times better than anything shot in the Alps and yet they consist of similar snowy landscapes. It appears the demand for an action sequence lets him down.
Also, Dr. Madeleine Swann’s stout of heart, boarded up, cold clinician played by Léa Seydoux reeks of Eva Green’s strong independent Vesper Lynd, for the better. But the wise words of my brother shatter this facade. “She fell in love quick.” We’ve seen Bond’s womanising in action countless times but Madeleine was developed all wrong and subsequently way out of place.
[INT: Writers meeting] – “Let’s give Bond an intellectual yet similarly psychologically scarred equal to play with in this film.”
“Oh oh and then make them fall in love during a torture scene.”
Yeah, good one guys. If you’re going to copy and past the Bond/Lynd relationship at least make it important, not just a way out.
Given my anticipation leading up to Bond 24 I am frustratingly unimpressed with what promised so much more. Spectre was Worth my Time if only to compare my misgivings with what everything Casino Royale and Skyfall did right. After so much promise from the trailers and rumours surrounding the return of Blofeld, Spectre fails to leave anything but a wake of misplaced praise from over-glorifying critic reviews that are too scared to challenge the status quo through fear of sending the country into a rioting mass of Bond loving fanatics.
Thou shalt not swoon on anticipation alone.