Happy holidays, readers. Between tryptophan-induced comas and awkward conversations with distant family, we at the Dojo are busy exploring even more of the vast wastelands of Boston in Fallout 4 like the majority of the gaming community. But after the impressive reveal of the Civil War trailer and the imminent release of the new Star Wars, it feels like a great time to head to the theaters.
Our recommendation for a film to see right now would have to be Bond’s latest adventure, Spectre. The Daniel Craig relaunched franchise carries a lot of expectations on its shoulders largely due to the near-perfect Casino Royale and the promise of deconstructing the Bond mythos as Christopher Nolan did recently with Batman (ignoring the glaring misfire of The Dark Knight Rises). Craig’s first and third Bond films were really, really good. Quantum of Solace suffered under a silly script and a director clearly not cut out for action (though Forster’s Finding Neverland was certainly a fine movie). Well, good news, Spectre is a good film, not great, but an enjoyable distraction for the holidays.
There are a few problems though that prevent Spectre from joining the ranks of Casino Royale or From Russia With Love. Here now are the 5 things wrong with Spectre that keep it from being a great Bond film. Spoilers aplenty beyond; you’ve been warned!
5. Too many logical inconsistencies
Bond movies have never really strictly adhered to reality, but the leaps of logic here are striking. Bond spends half the film dodging bullets from the bad guy’s gang who apparently never really wanted to kill him in the first place and instead wished to string Bond along all the way to the finale. At one point, Bond travels to the most remote ski lodge in the world to track down the Bond girl only to be joined randomly by Q who decided apparently it’s better to travel all the way the hell there instead of, you know, trying to call Bond – this allows for a brief Q action scenes and for him to be part of Bond’s final plan later. Bond manages to take out a caravan of thuggies while basically sitting in a crashing plane who thankfully drove directly into his path. It just feels lazy over and over again. Seriously, what was Bond’s plan when he arrived at the abandoned train station in Africa? If they wanted him dead, just don’t go pick him up. It all feels random and thoughtless way too often.
4. It confuses homages with cheap references
Early on Bond stumbles upon an interrogation tape of Vesper Lynn as he rummages through a bad guy’s hideout. He’s asked about it but Bond simply tosses it away saying it’s nothing. That was an impressive call back. Vesper Lynn is perhaps the only female that Bond actually connected with besides M perhaps and in this universe On Her Majesty’s Secret Service hasn’t happened yet so no Diana Rigg in his background. But Vesper may or may not have manipulated him until the end. One of the best components of Casino Royale is that you’re never quite sure if she had feelings for Bond or was simply playing her part. When Bond informs M “the bitch is dead” that’s telling of the emotionally callous man Bond has become. Seeing him toss away that tape was clever.
But tragically the filmmakers continue to spend the remainder of the film trying desperately to force feed you reference after reference. So the bad guy is the “author” of Bond’s misfortunes since Casino Royale (although we’re not given any real examples). The movie keeps shoving references in our face to try to create significance. Forgot the story of Vesper? The bad guy takes a moment to tell it again to Bond’s girl at his evil HQ. Did you not get enough of the one-off villain Mr. White from Casino Royal and Quantum of Solace? Well good news, he’s back yet once more. The finale drops all pretense and just shows us blown up photos of key people from previous Craig films (thank God Kinko’s works 24/7 so the bad guys had time to get those photos blown up). It’s really time we stop looking back at Bond’s recent life and trauma and be willing to move on and tell new stories.
3. The evil plan doesn’t matter
So Andrew Scott’s Max Denbigh (aka C in the film) is trying to align a few nations to share intelligence to hunt terrorists and the risk is that the combined info would fall into Spectre’s hands. That’s it? Information. We’re not saying we need giant space lasers (though that was perfectly viable in Goldeneye), but how bad is this really? What info can Spectre not get right now? The only time we get a sense for the impact of this is when we realize Bond’s phone has been tapped. It must be hard to come up with plans worth a supervillain’s time now but we have to do better than this. But somehow the latest Mission Impossible featured the exact same plot and felt much more dire than what Spectre tries to convey.
2. It blows the final act
It’s a clever idea to return Bond to the destroyed MI6 headquarters but that happens entirely too late. The movie should have wrapped up in the desolate Africa super base instead of Bond causing a nuclear explosion wiping that from the planet with one shot (again, logical inconsistency). Instead of concluding there we traipse back to London for one more action sequence minus the actual action. Bond gets to run through the halls of MI6 looking for the girl and then escapes in a boat with her. It’s not particularly memorable nor exciting and watching him shoot down the bad guy’s helicopter with a freaking pistol was hard to swallow. This was not a riveting gun fight in a sinking Venetian building as Vesper gets closer to drowning or a race across the Scottish moors to save M’s life, this was watching Bond look intense in a speed boat. It’s a shame too considering the strong opening sequence. We know these guys can deliver a great scene, the ending wasn’t it.
1. The bad guy isn’t bad enough
We saved the best for last. So far we’ve avoided the major spoiler but if you’ve come this far you don’t care. Yes, the excellent Christoph Waltz is playing Blofield; a twist that’s revealed in a dramatic torture scene and falls flat on its face. So Bond and Blofield shared a stepdad who showed affection towards Bond curated animosity in Blofield resulting in Blofield committing patricide and spending his life trying to destroy Bond from a distance? The problem is this doesn’t make any sense. If he wanted to just torture Bond why try so damn hard to kill him over and over? And it’s always been Bond stopping Blofield’s plans in previous movies instead of Blofield actively trying to ruin Bond’s life. Which is it? Is Bond the thorn in Blofield’s side or has Blofield been actively pursuing Bond through some soap operaish family drama from their childhood? The events and logic don’t allow you to have both.
Regardless, the filmmakers just don’t give Mr. Waltz enough screen time to do the character justice. This is Blofield for God’s sake. He’s Bond’s Joker. They hide the reveal of Waltz for a long time then hide the fact the he’s Blofield for even longer. By the time all cards are on the table he’s got like 7 more minutes of film to seem sinister before his chopper is shot down. Donald Pleasance did a tremendous job with Blofield years ago and we know Mr. Waltz can deliver the goods at being creepy, but he’s just not given enough to do so. If you’re going to finally pull out Blofield, he’s got to be bigger than all of the other villains we’ve seen so far and Mr. Waltz doesn’t get close to the intensity of Javier Bardem from Skyfall simply because the script doesn’t allow him to do anything.
Overall the movie is a fun ride and we’re happy to see Dave Battista continue his movie run here as a memorable Bond villain. Let’s hope Craig’s comments about his feelings toward Bond are temporary because we’d love to see this crew do one more film to go out strong.