Bond… James Bond…
The man envisioned by Ian Fleming has had remarkable staying power. The first Bond film, Dr. No, debuted in 1962. Since then, we’ve had two dozen Bond films, the most recent of which is Spectre, which culminates the Daniel Craig era of James Bond. Blonde and brutish, Craig showed us a different side to Bond. While watching Spectre, I took particular notice to the way Craig walks in the film. He walks heavily, and sometimes looks as though he were limping. This is a far cry from the graceful movements of past Bonds. However, he made the role his own and, if you listened to PCU’s podcast this week, he’s earned himself some fans.
Spectre doesn’t quite feel like a Bond film at first. It opens to a vibrant Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico and the big action sequence before the opening credits and Bond theme seemed more generic action film than Bond in style. The opening credits themselves struck me as odd. I wasn’t a big fan of Sam Smith’s “Writings on the Wall” and it was strange to see the faces of many of the characters during the song among the silhouettes, colors, and an octopus.
After the opening credits, however, the film starts to find itself. Bond’s past has come back to haunt him in the form of Oberhauser, played by Christoph Waltz. Waltz’s portrayal was subdued and quiet, with an underlying insanity clearly present. I kept expecting him to completely lose it, but he never did. Admittedly, his motives and why he’d spent so long orchestrating Bond’s downfall seemed weak to me, but I enjoyed his scenes. We see MI6 still recovering from the events of Skyfall amid a push towards greater intelligence surveillance by C (a fine performance by Andrew Scott as a sniveling cad). Ben Whishaw returns as the most adorable Q, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny holds her own against Bond, and Ralph Finnes has taken over as M. It was nice to see these three given some screen time. For all of the Internet’s discussion about the Monica Belluci as a Bond girl, her screen time was minimal. She portrayed the grieving widow of a man that Bond killed, leaving her vulnerable to be murdered as well. Bond uses her for information and they have a brief tryst before he leaves. My guess is that her character was probably dead long before the film’s end. Léa Seydoux is the main Bond girl in the film with the spunk to counter Bond’s sarcastic quips. She has a young face, however, and feels a little young for the role. Batista may have been my favorite part of the film. Yes, Dave Batista is in this.
Spectre is undeniably coated in the Bond aesthetic. It’s sleek and stylish; the entire cast looks like they walked out of a fashion magazine. The gadgets are understated, but immensely valuable, including the Omega watch on which I previously wrote. The Bond girls are beautiful and the villain is adequately malicious. However, Bond doesn’t feel like himself. He’s panicky and destructive, and sometimes seems out of control. The film’s end also felt out of character for him. I got the sense that Daniel Craig was happy to wash his hands of the film and be done with James Bond, but perhaps that is because he’s spoken publicly about it. Craig’s discomfort with the character is indicative of a central tenant of Bond films: Bond, as a character, hasn’t really changed in the 50 years that we’ve known him. He’s still stuck in the 60s despite our best attempts to modernize him. While the formula has worked for the films in the past, I never felt as though it really worked for the Daniel Craig films. Spectre tried to pick and choose what it wanted from the Bond recipe and add in its own ingredients. That left us with a pretty, enjoyable, but rather uninspiring film.
3 Weak Martinis out of 5.