I could never understand how a movie like Skyfall could accrue the critical praise that it did. I thought having a man like Javier Bardem show up in a ‘serious’ Bond movie as a camp Austin Powers villain was criminal misuse of talent. That was among other problems that made Skyfall bad and to honest I’ve long since grown tired of smiling and clapping for poor movies just because they happen to be Bond movies. This follow up raises the Bond bar from poor to average, at best.
The film sees an ageing James Bond go after a mendacious conglomerate of spy organisations that are in fact all tentacles of one beast – the Octopus iconography of course shows up. This organisation (‘Spectre’ – why didn’t they just call it NATO and be done with it?) is here to encroach on freedoms and even put pressure on the likes of MI6. Against his superior’s (Ralph Fiennes, underused and misused) wishes, Bond goes semi-rogue to infiltrate Spectre, facing off against the shady Christoph Waltz (underused and misused) with Dave Bautista acting as heavy.
Spectre is a movie that hops from one stunning international beauty spot to another, with the flimsiest of plots running breathlessly after it and, often, completely missing in action. That’s not really something that can be recommended especially when it goes on for 150 minutes. I can tell why Daniel Craig called the whole thing a nightmare, even if he conveniently recanted. They seemed to just fly the man over Europe and to Mexico – maybe – many of the scenes in Mexico look off, with the awful synthetic lighting you often see. The bad guys like Waltz and Spectre in general are sorely neglected, so seeing Craig simply trek from one place to another isn’t going to cut it.
I like that things are a bit more topical in Spectre and less… silly, than they were in Skyfall. The turning of the screw against we lesser pissants by intelligence organisations is a serious concern and that’s at the core of this movie. Bond is put in a near ‘Bourne’ position, almost rebelling against growing powers of darkness, sometimes in real life the bad guys are on our side. Another good thing that has grown throughout the Craig tenure is that Bond is no longer infallible. I can’t stand serious movies where the good guy can do no wrong. Not here, Bond, these days, has things go wrong for him. He screws up from time to time.
The film is also a looker, the tedium is elevated now and again with slick chases thundering through the Austrian Alps or a chase scene involving Bond in a DB10 and Bautista in a C-X75 through the streets of Rome. Crucially, these scenes are also filmed with a steady camera and considerate editing, everything is granite-steady. A lot of it is practical too and if not, they damn sure made it look like something expensive was destroyed as opposed to simulated. Although when it comes to looks, I’m surprised social justice warriors aren’t up in arms that Monica Belluci was just another de-facto bedroom conquest for 007. Or maybe even they (SJWs/feminists) aren’t beyond the reach of Bond cultism. Give them time.
Here’s why Spectre can’t be recommended. It almost tries to be a mixture of Mission: Impossible and Bourne. But lacks the wit and guile of the M:I series and lacks the political cynicism and bite of Bourne, the film is sedate and almost fatally boring. Ben Wishaw is also still a terrible ‘Q’, with all the charisma of a switched off iPhone, he also appears too much in this movie. He’s not the guy you’d go on a bender with, like Desmond Llewelyn. You know, make the next movie much shorter and cut out the egregious product placement.