October 22, 2017

Spectre is a Damp Squid

This week I took a stroll into one of Belfast’s cinemas. I won’t say it’s name for legal reasons so we shall call it Nodeon.

A small popcorn and coke set me back £3.20 and the popcorn tasted like recyled cardboard. On the brightside, the staff were friendly and the comfy seats were a pleasure for the anus.

We had to walk through a crowd of viewers for the previous Spectre screening, all wearing black ties. I would make some joke about their pomposity but the ties probably signalled they were out to raise money for charities which makes them pretty much immune to ridicule.

Finally I got to watch everyone’s favourite STD laden spy return and boy was it average.

The movie opens with the Day of the Dead festival. Bond promptly seduces a women before stepping out her bedroom window and creating an international shitstorm. He runs in through the floats and displays (probably getting photographed a million times) before jumping into a helicopter to fight some baddies. Bond, in a showing of true idiocy attacks both the pilot and the passenger. Only luck saves the lives of Bond and the defenceless crowd from helicopter rotor based decapitation and possibly death. I found myself wondering how many hits on youtube Bond was getting and if his enemies ever paid attention to viral videos.

I’m usually a fan of Bond’s opening credits but Spectre’s tentacle porn display backed by Sam Smith’s subpar track left me less than inspired.

Q (Ben Whishaw), Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and M(Ralph Fiennes) return from Bond’s previous outings along with a brief cameo from Judi Dench’s M.

Q, Moneypenny and M

Andrew Scott arrives to play the role of C, a rival to M. C believes the double 00 program to be an anachronism in an age of information wars. He intends to win this war by sharing the information on UK citizens with the rest of the world. C comes across as a clear villain from the minute he steps onto screen. His plans are played off as something big that requires legislation to facilitate it but the GCHQ has been sharing UK data with international spy agencies for rather a long time in real life.

New femme-fatales bolster Spectre’s lineup.

Lea Seydoux takes on the role of Madeleine Swann, daughter to Mr White, who appeared in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.

Monica Belluci (the new oldest bond girl) has approximately 2 minutes of screen time. She talked about being a “bond lady” rather than a “bond girl” which is awkward because essentially all she does is get saved by Bond. Then he pushes her against a surprisingly robust mirror where she promptly strips and gives him another clue in the treasure hunt. He rewards her with the sex. Belluci’s characters begs Bond for help but he just leaves her with a telephone number for an American embassy. Good thing for her, the organisation out to kill her doesn’t have a wide reach or anything…

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Dave Baptista turns up as the muscle man baddie that Bond has to beat this time round but doesn’t really give us any memorable action set pieces.

If you are starting to get a feeling that this Bond movie is sticking heavily to the classic script then you’d be dead right. Every standard Bond scenario is included. Every scene feels meticulously planned in all the wrong ways. It feels like spontaneity is dead. No moments stand out as individually interesting. It uncludes the Bond standards; the sponsored car, the effervescent horny women, the Evil McEvil villain. When Casino Royale came into town it felt dark and intriguing, now it’s like the lights have been turned on and we can see that nothing has changed from the Brosnan days.

In Spectre, Bond continuously overcomes odds which he stacks against himself through stupidity and the hunger to be a lone wolf. The real life M15 even commented on how Bond is unlike their real life agents:

they are perhaps more ordinary than perhaps is described in fiction

Bond displays an almost fanatical lack of self preservation, strolling into obvious traps throughout the movie. At one point the movie’s villain, Franz (acted by Christoph Waltz) even comments on this. Bond soon finds himself in a new torture chair. The scene lacks the grit of the ropey, testical slapping antics of Casino Royale. As a side note, whoever has been creating the hand restraints for torture devices in the bond universe needs to be fired.

The eponymous villain organisation, Spectre takes the stage for the first time in the Daniel Craig Bond movies although Franz would have you believe Spectre has had a part in all of the previous Craig movies. Franz boasts that he is the author of all of Bond’s pain but the link to Bond’s history feels forced at best, downright cliched at worst.

References to characters from the previous movies are shoehorned in to try and back up Spectre’s supposed scope but that just opens up plotholes. Raol Silva was part of the Spectre plot? What? Why? How? It makes no sense at all. In fairness little of Skyfall’s plot makes sense if you stop to think about it but the slick pacing distracts you. Spectre sputters between action sequences and boring exposition so you notice every little plothole.

Craig’s Bond followed the path shown by Bourne. Audiences wanted a more visceral realistic Bond and the studios were more than happy to provide. More and more of the modern action movies are action-comedies and Bond directors don’t seem to know whether to follow suit or not. Worse still the dark realistic violence of the reborn Bond universe has to be kept separate from the comedy scenes lest it fall into the region of dark humour, so abhorred by mainstream audiences. Spectre feels trapped in the swirling trends of modern cinema and in an odd way, the characters and their actors feel lost at sea too.

Bond has overcome being the “old dog” in Skyfall only to have to fight the same fight in the new movie. If Craig stays presumably this will be a theme in the next one.

Lea Seydoux, is a fine actress and when they give her the space to build the character of Madeleine Swann she does with aplomb. This doesn’t last long however. Soon they need her dish out some needed plot points and fall in line with the pre-destined Bond-girl role. It’s painful to watch. She is wasted on this role.

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The Bond B team with Q, Moneypenny and M running around London seems odd. Doesn’t M have any loyal agents? 009 is mentioned, can’t M bring him in on this?

Andrew Scott’s C and Christophe Waltz’s Franz end up feeling like inferior simulacra of the villains they played on other mediums.

At this point in the review it probably seems like I’m railing on the movie and that’s unfair. The movie never really becomes bad, it’s just inferior.

The building collapse scene wasn’t as good as Casino Royale. The car chase isn’t as good as Quantum of Solice. And the train fight isn’t as good as Skyfall. Spectre is easily the most mediocre of Craig’s movies. The action scenes and plot points feel like they are placed there to fill out the Bond checklist rather than because they belong organically to the movie. Whilst Spectre is a perfectly watchable action movie don’t expect it to be memorable, because it isn’t.

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