Another Bond movie hampered by undeniable weaknesses. Spectre often arrives in places without telling us what information 007 is acting on. Those places encompass Mexico City, Rome, Austria, Tangier and it blows up lots of London’s MI6 home turf. It’s also another serious Bond that isn’t exactly smart. In “Spectre” it has an action scene that is as stupid as anything in “Quantum of Solace.” Bond commandeers a plane and chases down three cars driving down a mountain in Austria. What is his plan? To crash his plane into the cars and knock them into the snow?
“Spectre” is in no ways bottom drawer Bond. But as days passed, I realized, is that there is not even a single great scene in this movie to contrast with the bad ones. It’s terrible to say that I wasn’t fond of a single scene once I thought back on it.
The opening unbroken tracking shot that glides through the Day of the Dead crowds of Mexico City, up to a hotel suite, and onto rooftops for an impromptu mission is one of the more artistic shots in any Bond flick. It has promise. An explosion happens, a building collapses, a foot chase ensues, and suddenly Bond is hanging onto a helicopter duking it out with a bad guy. Sounds like classic Bond, except I got the feeling I’m really just watching CGI bytes tussling in mid-air, not real people. At least I knew I was watching stuntmen in the opening of “For Your Eyes Only” (1981).
“Spectre” unfolds with two parallel plot lines. One has Bond tracking a secret terrorist organization with the nemesis Blofeld as its chief leader, and the second is the shaky status of the double-0 spy program that could shutdown and be replaced instead by a new surveillance-heavy spy system. This means Ralph Fiennes as M and Ben Whishaw as Q have more substantial roles this time. Sandwiched in-between is some minimal romantic spark between Bond and Dr. Swann (Lea Seydoux, a brainy and sophisticated European) who was the daughter of Dr. White. Remember Dr. White? We’ve seen him in three of the last four Bond movies. Him again? That’s what I said.
The thing is, the terrorist plot is attempting to add onto the series’ lore and yet when it comes down to it, “Casino Royale” (2006) had no Blofeld but did so much more with the organized terrorized plot and did it smartly. With enticement. With lucidity. At the time, I loved it but maybe didn’t realize how near perfect Craig’s debut actually was. Bond movies haven’t been able to measure up to its class ever since. You have to like the new ones with some tempered expectations. I mean, when Bond crashes the Spectre terrorist conference, my thoughts were: How did Bond get through door security? And what was the point of the meeting’s purpose anyway except to give us low-grade exposition?
Going in, I was in high anticipation knowing Christoph Waltz was a baddie. Why hire him and tell him to not be as flamboyant and witty as “Inglorious Basterds,” his most famous role? Why tell him to dial it down and play it sedate? And the whole concept of the villain with a disfigured one-half face and one-blind eye is becoming a little passé.
I’ve come to miss the campy fun factor with the Bond movies when sex and danger was the non-chalant routine, and plots like “Spectre” weren’t so dire and steep in laborious “big issues.” Do we really need the plot about government stooges that want to ax the double-O program? Coming out, I can’t help but say the “Mission: Impossible” series is the one that’s currently out-classing Bond with its splashy and brisk adventures.
Footnote: Blofeld was the most popular villain in the Sean Connery era Bonds. See “From Russia With Love,” “You Only Live Twice,” “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (with George Lazenby as Bond), “Diamonds are Forever.”
148 Minutes. Rated PG-13.
JAMES BOND / ACTION FANS / BLOCKBUSTER WEEKEND CROWDS
Film Cousins: “From Russia with Love” (1963); “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969); “License to Kill” (1989); “Skyfall” (2012).