Monday, November 9, 2015

Making a SPECTRE of Himself: Spectre Review



SPECTRE

I simply cannot help it. I cannot claim to be an 'analytical critic' like my bete noire Kyle Anderson (despite any hard evidence of him being either analytical or critical).  I claim only to be an honest one.   As such, I say Spectre, the newest James Bond film, is dull, long, predictable, boring, drowning in dourness, and at certain points downright idiotic.

James Bond 007 (Daniel Crab...I mean, Craig) is in Mexico City during the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations tracking down an assassin.  This is without the authorization of M (Ralph Fiennes), who is under a great deal of pressure to keep the 00 Program going.  Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott), the Joint Intelligence head, wants to merge MI5 and MI6 and dump the 00 Program (a particular fixation for the man Bond nicknames "C", a nickname that sticks with everyone).

Well, Miss Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw) are essentially roped into putting their careers at risk to help Bond, whom M has ordered to stand down, by helping him track down the meaning of the cryptic message given Bond by the late M (Judi Dench).  She asks from beyond the grave for Bond to attend the funeral of the man she sent Bond to kill in the case of her own unhappy end (which came about in Skyfall).  At the funeral, he finds and screws his victim's widow, Lucia (Monica Bellucci).  She tells him her husband was part of a secret organization, which is having a meeting that night.


Bond manages to get in, where the mysterious head recognizes Bond and both escape each other.  M is worried that news from Rome about a car plunging into the Tiber is Bond, but Q (who had installed a tracker on 007) assures him Bond is not in Rome (in other words, he lied). C, however, is irritated when his Nine Eyes Program is voted down by the South African delegation, as all nations involved must make it unanimous.

Bond now searches for Mr. White, who has information on this shadowy group.  Mr. White is dying, but he tells Bond of his daughter, who knows something.  He finds her, now going by Dr. Madeline Swann (Lea Seydoux).  At first, she wants nothing to do with Bond or her father, but when she's abducted Bond has to rescue her, especially from the henchman I had dubbed "Silvertips" (due to what looked like silver thumbnails) but who I found out is called Hinx (former pro wrestler Dave Bautista).  They go next to Tangiers to follow the cryptic clue of Mr. White, find papers, photos and maps that take them to some base in the desert (where on route they are attacked by Hinx and then get sexy time).

They finally come face-to-face with Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), who actually knew Bond as a child.  Oberhauser's father had given little Jimmy skiing lessons after the death of the Bonds, and had asked Franz to see him as a little brother.  Franz, jealous of the attention, killed his father in an avalanche and faked his own death too.

He now goes by a new name: Ernst Stravo Blofeld!

Blofeld tells Bond he created Spectre, he had organized the misery in Bond's life, and that C worked for him.  Bond escapes, Swann is recaptured, and the loyal MI6 officers must help Bond to stop Blofeld/C from taking over all the world's security systems.

Guess Who?

It's a pity that the last James Bond film I actually liked was Casino Royale.  Everything after: Quantum of Solace, Skyfall, and now Spectre, have been exercises in disappointment.  At least Skyfall was at least pretty to look at.  Spectre doesn't even have that.  Skyfall has a pretty (though overrated) theme song.  Spectre doesn't even have that.

Spectre's theme, The Writing's On the Wall, is not awful.  It's pretty enough, and Sam Smith's falsetto expresses his usual "I'm lonely and in need of love" theme that he hits again and again.  However, how exactly it fits into a Bond film or the story (such as it is) of Spectre neither song or film say.  During the credit scenes, I could have sworn Bond was indulging with an octopus (my friend, Fidel Gomez, Jr., thinks it was the Bond Girl who was getting it on with the octopus).

Ultimately though, I can't picture The Writing's On the Wall being among the great Bond Themes. Nothing about it says "BOND".  Also, like with Skyfall, the lyrics are inept ("glass" and "past" are not rhymes.  Yes, I can see it took Smith and his cowriter Jimmy Napes 20 minutes to put this song together...and as much as I may think it would be nutty, I wouldn't put it past the Academy to throw a Best Original Song nomination to this bit of fluff.

They did it for Skyfall...

Dead Can Dance...

The fact that The Writing's On the Wall isn't great is the least of Spectre's problems.  Spectre is boring, just plain boring.  Craig is surprisingly willing to add bits of humor into his performance (though the overall comic elements, like the 'Elements" button for the new car ending up being music for 009's enjoyment seems so out of place in what is suppose to be a tense chase scene).  Apart from that, I can't believe Craig's Bond would find any interest in anything, nihilist to his hollow core.  Craig looked bored, even uncomfortable, trying for these bits of humor, and still can't convince me he as Bond would enjoy the company of any beautiful woman (the seduction of Lucia coming across as rote and Swann's as bizarre...seeing as it came right after he and Swann were nearly killed on the train by Hinx).

Scott is playing C as so obviously a villain I put down in my notes right after he appeared "Max=C is inside man for Spectre".  It was so obvious that C was involved in Spectre's plans that I was surprised no one thought of it sooner.  Waltz was camping it up as the monologue-spouting, pussy-petting, Nehru jacket-wearing "Not Blofeld".  Again, it was obvious Waltz was Blofeld.

What wasn't obvious but downright laughable was "Not Blofeld's" motivation.  He created the SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion...because his Daddy bonded with the orphan Bond?!  Is that serious?  Are we to believe this massive criminal organization was birthed as a result of a pouty German boy's jealousy?  It's like saying The Joker became a criminal because his father liked Bruce Wayne more.

The whole "Dad Liked You Best, So I'm Going to Become A Criminal Mastermind Because You're So Obviously Going to Become a Secret Agent and I'm Going to Stalk You at Every Turn" story is so downright patently stupid that it's more amazing it took four men to come up with it (John Logan, Neil Purvis, Robert Wade, and Jez Butterworth).  I know they were trying to find a new and unique way to introduce one of THE Bond villains, but this is just such a silly and illogical plot. 

I kept wondering why James Bond couldn't apparently remember his 'big brother' or the father-figure who died in a skiing accident.  Guess Bond is less caring than I gave him credit for.

Seydoux is one of the most boring and bored Bond Girls in memory, a blank expression most of the time (the other times, mildly contemptuous of the proceedings).  She didn't do much in terms of plot apart from both managing to help Bond beat Hinx on what I took to be a literally empty train and get held prisoner.  Bautista was a non-entity as the mostly silent Hinx.

The best descriptions for Spectre are 'dour', 'rote', 'unenthusiastic' (apart from the opening scene in Mexico City every action piece was boring and lacked any sense of tension). Spectre doesn't know what it is: an homage to Bonds of the past?  A continuation of the other (mostly crappy) Craig-era Bond films? An odd mix of the two?  Mindless entertainment (with 'mindless' being the operative word)?  

The Writing's On the Wall all right...Spectre just flat-out stunk.               

DECISION: D-

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