The latest Bond opens in grandiose and spectacular fashion as James saunters his way through a festival celebrating Día de los Muertos. The camera glides smoothly and effortlessly through skeleton-clad celebrants, parade floats, rustic elevators and over roof tops, before the action kicks into full gear. The opening camera work and subsequent death-defying helicopter scuffle rivals many of the set pieces we’ve seen from the Daniel Craig era to date. It’s inventive, well-conceived and executed with precision. In the first 15 minutes, Spectre promises to be another rousing chapter for everyone’s favourite Englishman, but sadly the opening was the anomaly in what proves to be the worst Craig-led Bond film to date.
You read that correctly. The much maligned Quantum of Solace is actually the better film, or at least the more inspired (or pretentiously artful) film. Spectre is an anaemic machine of a production whose overpowering cologne stenches far too strongly of committee meetings, multiple script rewrites and franchise fatigue. It seems that after the monumental success of Skyfall, director Sam Mendes (whom I respect and admire greatly) and his team, were exhausted of originality and passion to explore new and exciting ground.
Instead, and in a baffling manoeuvre that contradicts much of the characterisation that made Craig’s Bond so distinctive and fresh (where has the bastard gone?), the filmmakers decided to revert the character back to the silliness that defined Roger Moore and his time in the tailored tuxedo.
The paper-thin plot revolves around Bond going rogue (for the fifth time in a row – including Brosnan’s last time out in Die Another Die) to uncover the secrets behind an octopus-branded ring. He travels around Rome, Austria and Morocco, but the film’s gear stick is forever stuck in neutral. Characters recite lines and punch and shoot at each other, but there’s a tedious repetition to almost every encounter. The car chase through Rome is probably the worst in franchise history, relying on ridiculous gags rather than furious action beats. Even if you hated Quantum, you have to admit that the opening car chase is as violent and ferocious as it is heart-pumping and thrilling. Spectre‘s pails in comparison.
There’s more recycled subplots that concern the viability of MI6, the dissolving of the entire 00 program and a sloppily conceived initiative for a global intelligence-sharing network, because of course the bad guys are behind this. Lea Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Colour), Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained) are all exceptionally skilled performers, but they’re all largely wasted by the script’s ineptitude and penchant for total recall.
The huge villain reveal in the third act was so heavily signposted, that it felt embarrassing watching the words come out of that particular performer’s mouth. If you’re any kind of a Bond fan, you would have seen this coming a mile away. You probably even guessed it when watching the promotional material. It’s that obvious. This is Bond’s “My name is Khan” moment. Add to that the forcibly retconned connection between Waltz and Craig and this reviewer had seen enough.
Give me Casino Royale. Give me the brutish, yet suave 007 who plays cards as well as he practices his parkour skills. Give me a Bond girl like Eva Green’s Vesper. One who is intelligent and reacts to the horror’s of violence around her, who is both sensuous and developed as a love interest. The 2006 reboot nailed reinventing Bond for a new generation of films.
Spectre in all of its banality has forgotten this. There’s no emotional heft.
We’ve simply seen it all done before and we’ve seen it done better. Bond is bored and it’s visible just how much Craig’s heart isn’t in this project. The overly long runtime, convenience of the plotting and reliance of revisionism makes Spectre a dull cinematic mission.
Maybe it’s time to go completely rogue Mr Craig.