Spectre amounts to nothing

by Trevan McGee on November 7, 2015

in Print Reviews,Reviews

Rating: Rock Fist Down

It’s hard not to compare Spectre to Skyfall. Yes, both movies star Daniel Craig. Both movies are directed by Sam Mendes. Yes, both movies feature James Bond visiting exotic locales, sleeping with beautiful women and saving the world while looking dapper doing it. But the more time has passed between when Skyfall was released and now, the more apparent it becomes that it was a series high note; an anti-Bond movie in a lot of ways that makes it harder to return to business as usual.

Spectre is definitely business as usual. Its pre-title sequence is a series best, featuring a long, sweeping camera shot of a Day of the Dead festival in Mexico that would make Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu proud, but immediately following that sequence, we’re given tentacle-filled intro while Sam Smith warbles his way through yet another Bond song and from there it doesn’t get much better.

The plot is a simple revenge story at first but eventually, it spans into a global conspiracy that finds Bond hunting a group he’s never seen, but is everywhere. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Spectre serves as both a retcon of the previous Craig-starring Bond movies and a nod to entire franchise.

Bond pursues a woman close to his own age for about 15 seconds. A character comments on how he’s really making Bond jump through a lot of hoops. There’s another drawn out torture scene/elaborate death trap. Bond gets an incredible car that he totals in less than 10 minutes of screen time. There’s a ton of product placement. It’s all here. But commenting on it doesn’t make it any less cliched and boring.

At the heart of it a mysterious mastermind played by Christoph Waltz. Waltz is in full villain mode, but he still gets a few small, but effective opportunities to add his unique humor and delivery to the character. Likewise, Ralph Fiennes returns as M. It’s fun to see Fiennes in a tough guy role, as his character is supposed to represent the old way of doing things.

But that’s what made Skyfall so interesting and Spectre so disappointing. Skyfall was about Bond the man – a government agent who put his faith in his handlers and his job, only to have both fail him completely. It deepened the character’s mythos while humanizing him at the same time and it didn’t hurt that Roger Deakins shot it.

There’s nothing in Spectre that hasn’t already been seen in the Bond franchise. Even the plot was covered better by Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. It was winking and self aware, but it was also fun.

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