New James Bond flick “Spectre” doesn’t rise to the height of “Skyfall”
When Moneypenny tells Bond in “Spectre” that she knows he “has a secret, something [he] won’t tell anyone,” the tone for the rest of the film is set. There will be no depth to the story or complex themes to be found. Of course, no one comes to a Bond film looking for those things.
Bond is a formula, one that has been challenged a time or two since Daniel Craig donned the tuxedo, but has never quite risen above the simplistic ideas set out in “Dr. No.” It would be easy to point at inconsistencies and silliness—Mike Myers made a career of it—but there would be no point.
Much like other genre films, Bond films are not meant to be challenging, they are meant to be enjoyed. They are cotton candy rather than a bowl of peas. Some of the films are more enjoyable than others, largely due to reliance on the formula and the talent of the actor. Pierce Brosnan made an excellent Bond, George Lazenby…not so much. “The Living Daylights” is easily outshined by “Goldfinger.” It’s an ongoing conversation for late nights and good friends.
Daniel Craig brought a raw edge to the role that gave it the punch in the arm necessary to translate the character to a modern world. His films focused more on hand-to-hand brawls and rooftop foot chases than gadgets and one-liners. His was a serious Bond, a troubled hero with a past and a heart. Even within these four films, there is a definite pecking order. “Skyfall” and “Casino Royale” are high points within the entire genre, Craig films notwithstanding. “Quantum of Solace” and “Spectre” are certainly towards the bottom.
“Spectre,” however, holds the distinction of being Craig’s (potentially) last Bond film and gives a fitting end to his commission as a cultural icon. It ties the four films together in ways that haven’t been done in years, which is likely satisfying to fans that pay attention.
For the rest of us, who can’t quite remember who the villains are and what their evil plans for world domination were, “Spectre” is marginal at best. I recognized some of the names being dropped as arms of the organization that definitely isn’t Hydra, but given the distance between films, the connections are spurious.
That isn’t to say that the film doesn’t remind the audience. At two-and-a-half hours, the film is packed with exposition and explanation, taking care to keep the audience abreast of the twists and turns of the film, such as they are.
But no one came to the film hoping for a rehash of old villains. No, the truth is, we are all looking for Blofeld. Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the evil genius supervillain that was first introduced in “From Russia With Love” and returns in “Spectre,” portrayed by the excellent Christof Waltz.
Blofeld is the ultimate in Bond villains, inspiring knock-off characters like Dr. Claw (“Inspector Gadget”) and Dr. Evil (“Austin Powers”), and his inclusion in this franchise should have blown the roof off the film. Unfortunately, the character is used so sparingly, and captured so easily, that his presence is almost a waste.
The film falls short in other ways as well. “Skyfall,” the previous Bond film, was a stunning achievement in the Bond franchise. It is likely the most beautiful of the genre itself. Indeed, the film was nominated for an Academy Award for cinematography and, in all honesty, should have won.
“Spectre” doesn’t return to the look of “Skyfall.” Instead, it opts for the washed-out yellow hues of “Quantum of Solace.” Some of this may be due to the chosen exotic locations for the film, but there’s no reason that a Mexican “Day of the Dead” celebration shouldn’t be as eye-popping as Hong Kong nightlife.
Ultimately, however, the film does what it intends. It is a bookend for the story that began with “Casino Royale.” If each film is a chapter, then the Daniel Craig Bond tale is a fairly decent book. The film ends with a strong feeling of accomplishment, both for the character and for the actor.
It will be interesting to see where the franchise goes from here—a new actor, a new villain, a new era? Anything is possible. Rest assured, though. James Bond will return.
He always does.