(Scored out of 10; below 5 = not worth seeing, 6 = OK, 7 = good, 8 = great, 9 = fantastic, 10 = next to perfect)
Expectations were high coming into the 24th instalment in the Bond franchise, especially after the well-received Skyfall. Instead audiences are treated to what is perhaps the most by-the numbers espionage story to come out of the series in a long time. Generic villains, a vanilla plot and “ born to sleep with Bond” female characters leave Spectre feeling less Casino Royale and more Quantum of Solace.
After Skyfall spent so much time introducing Bond’s new teammates Spectre opts to leave them out of the loop as 007 ventures on an assassination mission in Mexico assigned to him by the late and great M (Judi Dench). Bond then finds himself falling further and further into a global conspiracy that would see the evil organization Spectre control the world’s largest intelligence agencies (sounds more than a little like Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation but not nearly as fun).
Everything about the film screams mediocre. While doing press for the film he has made it pretty clear that, while I’m sure he appreciates the paycheck, he has no love for the franchise. That is to say, it isn’t surprising to see that his fourth turn as Bond is appropriately phoned in. The rest of the supporting cast play their roles admirably but being relegated to a hand full of scenes make their contributions minimal.
The performances are fortunately the least disappointing element of Spectre. The biggest disappointment comes from the films lackluster script. It feels as if the writing team got together, watched all of the 007 films and compiled a list of everything that made them unique and proceeded to rip it apart and write a tory from scratch. Spectre feels like James Bond, but only because it does everything you would expect of a film in the franchise: nothing more and nothing less.
Back during the infancy of the 007 franchise Bond girls were always about fulfilling a misogynist power fantasy. Bond would show up, seduce them with his infallible charm, share a quick tussle between the sheets and then they would disappear into the annals of series history remembered solely for their looks and hilarious names (Pussy Galore anyone?).
Well, in the words of Justin Trudeau, “It’s 2015”. And with that comes the expectation of gender equality. Now I’m not about to go into some feminist rant over the portrayal of women in film, I’m just saying that having two of the three women in your movie acting as playthings for the male protagonist will probably tick a few people off.
Monica Bellucci shows up for a single scene involving her getting pinned against the wall while being undressed by Bond. Lea Seydoux fares a bit better in the sense that she has more screen time but her character does little more. She shows up, fights against her inherent attraction for the Secret Agent Man only to eventually succumb to the scripts demand for a sex scene. There is nothing even close to unique about these characters or “revolutionary” as some people were led to believe.
The villains also fall prey to the poor writing. Dave Bautista is definitely an imposing presence and puts up one hell of a fight against Bond but he literally has one word of dialogue in the script. You can’t get more generic henchman than that. Christoph Waltz’s turn as the nefarious Franz Oberhauser is equally as forgettable. Opting to kill Bond through extraneous plot details and exposition dumps instead of cool gadgets (though that modded massage chair was nifty) and generally “evil” deeds, Oberhauser is simply not interesting. The script takes a “tell, not show” approach to its storytelling here which is the antithesis to the “show, not tell approach “that the medium was made for. All of the twists and revelations arrived at through Bond’s conversations with Oberhauser come across as random attempts at unifying the previous three Daniel Craig Bond films. No Franz, you were not the author of all his pain; you’re just trying to take the credit.
The resolution of the film could be seen from a mile away and anyone who has ever seen a spy movie could have guessed that C wasn’t playing for the good guys (Shout out to Andrew Scott for his work on Sherlock though). As for Bond driving off into the sunset, I am simply baffled. Aside from the single line of dialogue between Bond and Madeleine there was never a hint at him leaving the game altogether. So the fact that he does so, while not necessarily surprising, feels ultimately unearned and empty. He met a girl… its just so cliché.
The attempt at infusing Craig’s Bond with the levity of older series films didn’t go over as smoothly as it could have. While it was definitely funnier than recent Bond films (Q was a genuine treat) the change in attitude was probably responsible for the poor female and villain character arcs. Nods and Easter eggs for the other films will always be great for the eagle eyed nostalgia geek but they shouldn’t be prioritized over elevating the film.
Now that I have thoroughly shat on the film, I’d like to state that it isn’t a terrible film. It just isn’t very good either. Spectre does all of the things one would want in an action espionage flick. It is just disappointing that series so beloved would let fans down when the stock of the property was so high.
Overall Spectre gets a 6/10.