My best friend, Mum, brother and I went and saw Spectre on it's opening night for Australia last night. I had managed to:
a) Avoid Sam Smith's theme song
b) Avoid major trailors
c) Avoid pretty much everything about the plot
Though I was excited, my excitement was tempered with typical Bond viewing cynicism. After all, Skyfall and Casino Royale are exceptions to the Bond film rule. I left Spectre neither shaken nor stirred. It was distinctly average. Nothing more, nothing less. Perhaps I shouldn't have re-watched Casino Royale, Skyfall and Goldeneye just before going, given all three are in my top 5 Bond list, but there we are.
Thoughts under the cut.
- The opening gambit in Mexico City on Day of the Dead was way awesome! I also liked that the quote 'the dead are alive' ties into both M (Judi Dench) and Blofield operating from beyond the grave. I do love it when Craig Bond era does meta.
- The theme song was every bit as shitty as people made out. Urgh. Especially after Adele's powerful and elegiac Skyfall. Florence for the next Bond theme! The credits were pretty great though.
- The first hour of this film was pretty great - the franchise suffered losing Judi Dench but I knew that would be the case and was braced for it. Moneypenny and Q remain excellent, and I am sure Ralph Fiennes M will define himself more clearly in time. At the moment, he is rather one note.
- The lead-up to Spectre was both doom-laden and poetic. I liked Mr White's "You are a kite blowing in a hurricane, Mr Bond' before a shot to the head. I liked the fear and desire and darkness of Monica Belluci's part (how much better would this film have been if French lady had switched parts with Monica - certainly she had far more chemistry with Daniel Craig). I liked Q joining Bond in Austria and the original backstory for the main Bond girl.
- I like Andrew Scott, but he was too Moriarty in this. It was obvious he would be connected to Blofield early on.
- The final half hour became interesting again, with M facing off C and Bond running through a building filled with explosives trying to find Lea (wow I've forgotten her character name already). I couldn't help but think that the death of C, a blown up MI6 and part of one of London's landmark bridge's destroyed would lead to a major inquiry into Bond's investigations. Maybe next movie?
- Which brings me to the problem that has dogged the entire Craig Bond era. How does one justify a violent misogynist spy in today's day and age. Do you bother trying? The scriptwriter's went at this by delving into Bond's past and what made him the Bond of Connery era onwards and by making Skyfall. Hence, Craig's Bond is brutish and wears a tux like it's an awkward outer skin, drinks to forget, trusts no one because Vesper betrayed him and loves no one because he felt too much pain when M died. This was interesting to a point but is starting to pose a problem now. Craig simply cannot (and ethically doesn't feel comfortable playing) the suave, debonair, smooth, violent spy of yesteryear Bond films, which means when a generic Bond film is made, it doesn't work.
- I also think that the scriptwriters have issues ending stories. It is entirely possible to skip from Casino Royale to Skyfall without viewing Quantum at all because quite simply, the plot doesn't change anything fundamental about Craig's Bond. It isn't even really a Bond story at all. Rather it is Camille's story and a coda to Vesper's. Spectre felt like a coda to Skyfall, trying to justify why the 00 numbers matter, but they didn't need to do it, in the same way they didn't need Bond's revenge caper in Quantum. Skyfall brought Craig Bond full circle to Connery Bond. All the writers needed to do was write an updated traditional Bond story.
- It felt like Spectre was an end to the Craig era, with all of the films tying together via Spectre the organisation, but that felt a little too convenient and as some reviewers have pointed out, unnecessary after Skyfall. Skyfall is so effective as a film because it is a eulogy not just to M, but possibly also to the entire franchise. I said this in my review at the time: by the time Adele and the opening credits have finished, the film has made it clear that Skyfall is about endings, possibly even of the entire franchise altogether.
- There were loads of great ideas in Spectre, but none of them really paid off, and like Quantum, I felt that ultimately the story was an extended coda to Skyfall, a calm before the storm of Craig Bond finally becoming the traditional Bond we all know and love.
- If I was going to number the Craig Bond era it would look something like this:
Bond 21: Casino Royale
Bond 21.2 Quantum of Solace
Bond 22 Skyfall
Bond 22.2 Spectre
For me neither Quantum or Spectre feel like fully fledged Bond films. I hope that in the fifth Craig entry, we finally get there. Brosnan was maligned for being beleaguered with poor scripts, but for me both Goldeneye and The World is Not Enough were excellent with both Tomorrow Never Dies and even the dire Die Another Day seeding some interesting ideas. It would be a shame if the Craig era tried to do away with the original Bond formula entirely in an effort to justify the franchise' ongoing existence.
for anything related to the UK...come hither
- Spectre: Initial Thoughts