Four spy movies have come out this year that ranged from excellent to okay. Starting in February, we got the release of Kingsman: The Secret Service (A-), Spy (B), The Man from U.N.C.L.E (B+) and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (B). These are all movies that are highly entertaining and in some way clearly influenced by past Bond films. I mention these movies because one of my biggest regrets this year was how I treated these movies in relation to my high anticipation for the latest 007 movie Spectre. Okay, Rogue Nation was fun but its premise is a clear rip off of the criminal organization in the James Bond films. Trust me, by the time Spectre comes around, nobody will even be talking about Mission Impossible.
After the events of Skyfall, James Bond (Daniel Craig) is going after Spectre, a secret Illuminati like organization that is responsible for everything evil in the world. The group is run by Ernest Stavo Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), a man mysteriously hell bent on destroying the things that are around Bond. All while this is happening, his spy agency is becoming dangerously close to being terminated in the name of supporting a worldwide organization that would track the online records of every country.
To understand how much of a flavorless let down this movie was, you have to understand how much I loved Skyfall. I was never really on board with Craig bond movies until this film. This film managed to take all of the elements that people loved about the franchise and they were able to present us with something that was nostalgic and innovative at the same time. On the 50th anniversary of Dr. No, Skyfall gave us an unforgettable villain, excellent back stories, breath taking action scenes, intelligent writing and absolutely striking cinematography from Roger Deakins. Director Sam Mendes wasn’t afraid to take risks and go even bigger than the franchise had ever gone before. For my money, this is still one of the best action movies we’ve seen so far this century.
Now that you know that, this is how Spectre was built. Take bits and pieces of the past few Bond movies, hold all of the humor and joy that made those aspects entertaining, take out any of the originality that the previous Craig Bond films included and give it a half assed ending that’s supposed to present itself like this was everything that it has been leading up to for the past 6 or so years. Oh wait, forgive me, I’ve forgotten the most important thing. Above all else, remember to stretch the movie out to an ungodly 2 hours and 30 minutes.
This movie is the definition of the sophomore slump. Skyfall was a huge hit that everyone loved and it seems that MGM basically told Mendes that he could do anything that he wanted for the next film. In reaction to that, he has taken everything people loved about Skyfall and milked it for all it’s worth. The big story, the funny elements, the villain who has a past with 007, he took all of these things and he did them again but this time with the sincerity and the soul of a greatest hits compilation. Yeah, you’re technically getting everything you wanted from Bond but it all seems too unsubstantial and presented with no love.
There has been a lot of news recently about this being Craig’s final movie and you can honestly tell that he’s tired of playing Bond. All of the charisma and energy he has had in the previous Bond movies feels lost and he doesn’t seem to be having any fun with the part anymore. All of the attempts the movie makes to make him seem funny or charming don’t work and they make the movie occasionally awkward. Craig way always best when he was a playing grittier and darker Bond and it feels like after Skyfall, we’ve seen every aspect of this Bond that we can. There’s nothing new that Craig can add to this character and he mostly seems to just be going through the motions like everyone else who worked on this movie.
The love interests are also one of the poorer elements of this movie. One of the amazing things Skyfall did was how little it forced James Bond to be in a relationship. He has a brief amount of time with a girl in the first half but in the later parts of the movie, it becomes a lot more focused on finally dissecting what it is that James Bond is a symbol and as a person. In this movie, we’re back to forcing James Bond to be a relationship with someone. Léa Seydoux plays the daughter of a dead crime boss who is helping Bond get to Blofeld. She’s a great actress (hell, she’s already been in a Mission Impossible movie before) but her character represents some of the worst elements of the Bond girl. Bond is disgusting older than her, she isn’t given any development and finally, despite disliking Bond at first and not spending much time with him, she still falls in love with him. It’s unrealistic and it doesn’t help that Seydoux and Craig have horrible chemistry with each other because of their ages and Craig’s inability to escape being cinematic dead weight here. Their romance honestly reminds me a bit of those old Moore films where he would be in his 50’s and he would be paired with someone in their 20’s, I honestly thought we were over doing that.
Early this year I complained about how The Syndicate from Rogue Nation was a cheaper, more forced version of the old Spectre and now the new Spectre is an even more forced and useless version of the old Spectre. This movies shady criminal organization is even more poorly explained and generic because we basically only get to see Spectre as a whole for one small scene and then for the rest of it it’s just Blofeld doing average, mediocre villain stuff. At least The Syndicate was in some way explained by its characters but Spectre feels like something they added just to be there without really thinking it out, ironic considering that it’s the title of their movie. Rogue Nation is also a lot more light hearted whereas Spectre seems to be taking everything way too seriously; this makes the story much easier to forgive in the former.
Blofeld is especially disappointing since he’s being played by Waltz, a terrific actor. In the original Bond movies, Blofeld was clever, mysterious and always able to get away. Here, they basically cash in and give him a half-baked, under explained back story and a villain arc that is predictable, abrupt and disappointing. It doesn’t help that they also have Waltz playing the exact same character he’s played in almost every movie since Inglorious Bastards.
The thing that kills Spectre isn’t that it’s poorly written and clichéd in everything from the villain to the romance to the main characters but it’s the fact that despite all of this, they try to pass this off as being the final, epic conclusion to James Bond’s arc. The way they conclude this movie is that this is the end of Daniel Craig’s Bond and this is what it’s all been leading to since Casino Royale. Spectre is the reason Bond’s always been unhappy and if you’ve been watching these movies carefully, you can see how Blofeld has been carefully setting everything up because of his past with James Bond. Léa Seydoux was the woman who was the perfect match for him and everything in this franchise has been leading up to him meeting her and falling in love with her like Batman and Catwomen in The Dark Knight Rises or Hermione and Ron in The Deathly Hallows. Léa Seydoux is the final Bond Girl and this isn’t just some cheap, half assed scheme they thought of at the last second because they needed an end to Bond’s arc.
I don’t usually try to curse on this website but the sweeping conclusion to this movie is complete and utter bullsh*t and you’re kidding yourself if you legitimately believe that this is something the writers didn’t just pull out of there ass because they had to. I get it, Skyfall took everything out of you and you’re failing to come up with something new. Whatever, you can still make a simple, mildly entertaining Bond movie out of that like Quantum of Solace. One of the worst things you can do is to take that mediocrity and actively destroy the franchise for no reason simply because you had to do something different. It is offensive the level of things they put into this movie that they expect the audience to go along with.
If that killed Spectre, the final nail in the coffin is the pacing. In Skyfall, there was so much going on that it had to be 2 hours and 30 minutes. Spectre on the other hand is a movie that is only 2 hours and 30 minutes because having a longer running time makes them look cooler and it makes there film appear more “epic”. There are too many scenes here that are either unnecessary or go on forever and it’s clear they only made this movie super long because a longer running time infers that this is going to be a large and gigantic conclusion when in reality the movie could probably be easily told in about 90 minutes or so. This is the most arrogant example of a movie being long for the sake of being long since The Lone Ranger. And believe me; you do not want to put in a category of any sort with The Lone Ranger.
It’s almost a Greek Tragedy how there were all of these movies in 2015 clearly inspired by James Bond that did things from those movies in fresh and exciting ways. Kingsman, Spy, Rogue Nation and The Man from U.N.C.L.E all made great arguments for the legacy of Bond and the fun and charm that come from those sorts of movies. It’s just funny in a warped way that in a year of terrific spy blockbusters, the worst one came from the franchise that inspired them all. Spectre is long, half cooked, passionless and patronizing to the fans of the series. It has the occasional action scene and as a whole it’s a well-made movie but substance wise, this is the weakest of the Craig films to date. It says something about how little people care about the Craig movies at this point that more people are speculating who will be the next Bond than discussing the actual Bond film in theaters right now.
Release Date: 11/6/2015
Directed by: Sam Mendes
Based on Characters Created by: Ian Fleming