John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Jez Butterworth
Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Monica Belucci, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Rory Kinnear
PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, sensuality and language
Buy on DVD/Blu-ray
A spectre can refer to a ghost or apparition, which is why the criminal organization in the James Bond franchise is called Spectre. Yet, the other dictionary definition, “a mental image of something unpleasant or menacing,” is a much more apt description of the twenty-fourth official Bond feature, Spectre.
It’s a near certainty that the bloom comes off the rose of each new incarnation of the James Bond character. Sean Connery and Roger Moore both found this to be true after a handful of early successes while Timothy Dalton had only two underappreciated outings before being replaced and Pierce Brosnan only had one good film before sliding into mediocrity.
For Daniel Craig in the role of British super agent 007, the return to a grittier Bond has been met with alternating success. Taking on a pattern similar to that of the 1980s Star Trek films, the James Bond features starring Craig are alternating between good and bad. His debut in Casino Royale was a brilliant re-launch of the franchise. Then came the much weaker Quantum of Solace, not a bad feature, but a poor follow-up to something as good as Casino Royale.
My personal issues with the third film, Skyfall, don’t get in the way of the fact that it was a well received film earning plenty of praise as it was a marked improvement over its predecessor. Now we have Spectre, an attempt to relaunch of major Bond villain while trying to tie the prior three films together into a grand scheme against Bond.
As one of the worst entries in the franchise, Spectre struggles against itself with predictable outcomes, cheap theatrics, meandering performances, lazy stunt sequences, and ill-fitting humor, most of which are uncharacteristic flaws of the series. These issues were largely unique to Spectre, though some, such as the cheap theatrics and ill-fitting humor, were present in Skyfall as well, but were masked by the beautiful cinematography of Roger Deakins.
The opening sequence of Spectre, featuring Bond on an admittedly thrilling chase through the streets of Mexico City, couldn’t overcome the sappy, funereal title sequence with unsatisfying images and a monotonous song by Sam Smith whose shrill vocal acrobatics distracted greatly from the decent, if lengthy lyrical content. From there, the pace was set and director Sam Mendes’ latest cinematic dirge took the audience slowly, deliberately, and simplistically through a plot that tried to pretend it was complex, but was relatively banal in result.
Craig continues his grainy performance, but doesn’t have a lot to work with while Christoph Waltz is hired to turn in the same tiring, uninspired, and tedious villainous performance he’s given in countless films now. Replacing him with someone able to generate some nuance would be a blessing, but now that he’s cast as the well known Blofeld, it would be difficult to recast without creating a paradox unless everyone is recast, including Bond himself, which might be advisable.
Spectre isn’t going to put a nail in the franchise’s coffin, but if any subsequent film can’t improve dramatically on this most recent effort, audiences are going to turn away from the series, which has veered away from being a questionably inclusive spectacle, as the first three films were, into the leaden mass of this film that doesn’t deserve to carry on the Bond legacy.
September 8, 2020