'Spectre': Sexy Spy Spectacle


*Fixes sleeve under coat before starting to type*

Spectre is the latest addition to the 007 franchise’s illustrious saga. It marks Daniel Craig's 4th run at the iconic international super spy. From Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and then Skyfall, Craig’s Bond has always stood out as darker, grittier and more grounded that the rest of the previous Bonds. But Spectre is touch closer to the classic spy-romps of James Bond’s earlier years. Whether that’s favorable or detrimental to the series (or at least Craig’s 007 in particular) is still up for debate.

James Bond, endorsing the Aston Martin since time immemorial.

On one hand, Craig’s naturally stern demeanor perfectly fits his more realistic adaptation. It’s what made Casino Royale and Skyfall so good. Bond was skillful, intellectual but vulnerable, emotional, damaged. Putting him in a campy atmosphere may result in some tonal inconsistencies. On the other hand, a dash of fun has been missing in the franchise for a while now. It’s so damp and serious that a bit of outlandishness may be a welcome change.

What results though is a spectacle-filled spy film that manages to entertain but ultimately feels hollow. 

Don’t get me wrong, Spectre was good. I enjoyed it very much. It was fun and delivered a Bond so full of badassery he’d have you wishing you had a suit you could run around and play debonair spy with. That opening sequence was a standout scene and was a great way to pump the audience up. The other action pieces were diverse, well-executed and fueled with fervor. That sexy Aston Martin and all the fun features it’s rigged with is every man’s wet dream! (Even though that car chase scene was a tad too long.) The liquor and sexual relations is textbook super spy. The stylish cinematography underscored 007’s sleek and handsome world. It’s everything you’d want and expect from a James Bond movie.

LOVE that opening scene!

Spectre was good, but it wasn’t great. (Especially not if this is going to be Daniel Craig’s last Bond movie.) Spectre’s showy nature came at the expense of any significant character work or plot innovation.

Daniel Craig may be a strong, suave and sophisticated James Bond, but Spectre does little to develop his story. His supposed ties with the film’s villain felt like it was supposed to be major, mind-blowing revelation, yet it just felt obligatory and superficial. His relationship with “flavor of the month” Bond girl also felt underserved and consequently made a decision he makes at the end of the film feel cliché. I felt no deep emotional connection between Bond and any of the characters around him. (Save Judy Dench’s M, in that very short appearance.)

Daniel Craig, the definitive Bond of this generation.

The film’s main villain was frustratingly underdeveloped as well. The announcement that Christoph Waltz was playing this installment’s Bond villain initially got me thrilled but his Ernst Stavro Blofeld was barely in the 2 and a half hour movie. When he does appear, “The Pale King” was never a ruthless terrorist leader but a charming, seemingly gentle man. He failed to incite the level of intimidation I felt with Javier Bardem’s Silva or Mads Mikkelsen’s Le Chiffre (not to mention how unceremoniously easy his whole empire was taken down). His motivations were blandly generic and the reason behind his hatred for Bond was paper thin.

An underutilized Christoph Waltz.

Was there any reason why he couldn't talk for himself?

Dave Bautista’s Mr. Hinx was nothing but a physical foil for James Bond (something he most definitely succeeds at), but at least it was an intentional homage to past Bond henchmen.

Batista as Mr. Hinx, our generation's Odd Job.

At least one of this feature’s Bond girls fared better in the character-development department. (Nope, it wasn’t Monica Bellucci, who was practically just there as a cameo!) Léa Seydoux’s Madeleine Swann was a great anti-Bond. She had a strong, independent attitude that challenged Craig’s own rigid attitude. But a bit more screen time would have helped sell their romantic relationship and Swann’s transition from someone who detests the killing industry to someone who falls for a killer.

Moni-cameo Bellucci

Lea Seydoux' Madeleine Swann is not your typical Bond girl.

I also did enjoy Ben Whishaw’s Q, as I’ve always had since his first outing as the character. His anxiousness, dry wit and geekiness aptly contrasts Bond’s confident, all business demeanor. Naomie Harris’ Moneypenny on the other hand balances out the team with warmth and loyalty. I only wish Bond’s support team had a bit more to do.

Ben Whishaw’s Q is the perfect contrast to Bond.

Ralph Fiennes’s M’s has problems of his own, as Andrew Scott’s C tries to shut down their agency’s operation. The subplot was reminiscent of Jeremy Renner’s in Rogue Nation, but Spectre’s execution of its two story fronts felt so disjointed that it was difficult to care so much about the political side of it. And subsequently, when the two stories converge, it lacked the organic development for it to really pack a punch. If anything, the subplot just felt like a nuisance.

So basically, the film revolved around Bond going on a globe-trotting adventure following clue after clue to locate Spectre’s lair. Without any noteworthy plot twist or freshness, weighty emotional backdrops or character ties or personal drama, or even a really distinctive action piece, there’s very little that makes this 007 memorable.

Spy craft, vodka martinis and sexual relations: everything you expect from a James Bond film...
but not much more.

One major thing it does try to do is link all the previous Craig 007 films. But other than saying that all the previous villains were all under Blofeld’s employ and all the other name dropping, there really wasn’t any profound correlation between the films. Without a single breadcrumb in the previous films suggesting a higher power pulling the strings, Spectre’s attempt at canonizing 007 felt like a cheap and forced stunt to attract more viewers.

Spectre had a lot of fun action beats and ravishing visuals. James Bond and his team never cease to impress throughout. It was definitely good enough to keep the audience entertained, but it suffers from a lack of emotional gravitas that Casino Royale or Skyfall had in spades and a villain (and a final showdown) worthy of 007. If this really is Daniel Craig’s last appearance as James Bond, them my biggest frustration is that it could have been more than just a good film. It should have been a classic! The pizzazz and clever callbacks to the classic Bond may have been pretty, but I’d want his Bond to go out great instead of adequate.

Bond. James Bond.


*First seen on The Philippine Online Chronicles.

writing on the wall
P.S. That soundtrack tho...

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