The Writing is on the Wall for “Spectre”
Don’t show up to the opening night of a movie fifteen minutes before it starts and expect to get good seats. Especially when the screen is an actual IMAX screen, the theater has a smaller than average occupancy and there is a later showtime that you can attend. These were mistakes that I made on Friday night when myself and a few friends made the journey to The World Golf Village in St. Augustine to see the new James Bond film, “Spectre.”
The film opens in typical Bond fashion. Bond is mid-mission in some foreign location (this time in Mexico for Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead), a beautiful woman on his arm. He is carefully scanning his surroundings, waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. I immediately fell in love with the sequence because it is one long tracking shot (no obvious edits or cuts, the camera stays with characters the entire time) up until shit goes crazy. Buildings begin falling and helicopters start doing barrel rolls over a crowded city center full of people.
I am no Bond expert by any means, in fact I’ve never seen any film before the Pierce Brosnan era of the 90’s and early 2000’s, so most of my knowledge and love for the franchise has come from the introspective take on the character that Daniel Craig has been doing.
“Spectre”, however, throws much of that out the window. Where the previous film, “Skyfall”, was a beautifully shot journey into the interpersonal relationship between Bond and his boss/mother figure/all around bad ass lady, M, “Spectre” wants hardly anything to do with that. The film presents itself as a work divided, on one hand it attempts to take itself seriously and explore character conflicts, but on the other it wants to go back to the over the top Bond fun of yesteryear.
That being said, I loved most every minute of “Spectre’s” bonkers inability to decide what it wanted to be.
There are some fantastic set pieces, and director Sam Mendes really knows how to show off spectacular vistas. Daniel Craig is older and a bit slower, but he still exudes that timeless Bond cool that he does so well. Léa Seydoux works well enough as the new Bond girl, but she never really gets an opportunity to standout, which is a shame because the best Bond girls are the ones who actually get their hands dirty. Christoph Waltz straddles a line between hokey and mysterious, but he never goes in one extreme or the other. I was a bit letdown because I know that Waltz has the capacity to portray eccentric characters, and I feel that “Spectre” would have greatly benefited if Waltz would have been written in a more maniacal, horrific fashion.
As we were walking out of the theater, my group of friends did what everyone does: we voiced our opinions. Everyone in my group, excluding myself, hated it for varying reasons: boring, long, pointless, too close to the screen, it wasn’t “Casino Royale”, etc. And I can understand completely why some might not like this film, for all those reasons and more. For me, I was fascinated at it’s audacity to not make a choice about what sort of movie it wanted to be.
Note: At this point I stopped writing and proceeded to watch all three Daniel Craig Bond films back to back.
Okay, so in context “Spectre” has it’s problems. It doesn’t have the cool and crafted story of “Casino Royale”, or the bloody, vengeful soul of “Quantum of Solace” and it definitely does not have the scaled back personal musings of “Skyfall.” I don’t think the lack of any of those things is necessarily an indictment of “Spectre”, though. I believe that it set out to capture a particular style of Bond and for the most part it succeeds. It’s problem is that it’s trying to change the course of the ship away from what many people have enjoyed about the modern Bond franchise, which is a gritty take on the character.
There is a dissonance that audiences are go to find themselves facing when viewing “Spectre” and maybe that’s for the best. The film, as indecisive as it can be, does seem to suggest that the over the top Bond of old may be the future of the franchise. Out with the new, and in with the old, I suppose.