Tuesday, December 29, 2015

OVP: Spectre (2015)

Film: Spectre (2015)
Stars: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Naomi Harris, Monica Bellucci, Ralph Fiennes
Director: Sam Mendes
Oscar History: 1 nomination/1 win (Best Original Song-"Writing's on the Wall"*)
Snap Judgment Ranking: 2/5 stars

Grading a James Bond movie always feels a little odd, since we all know how this song-and-dance turns out.  We know we’ll get ridiculously elaborate action sequences, set pieces that feel plucked out of a Louis Vuitton add, music and babes and cars that make you wish you were a ridiculously attractive straight British man, even if that’s not a wish you’ve ever really had.  Bond films are so formulaic and such fun that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what makes one of them the wild ride that is Skyfall and which ones are the ones that fall short, which Spectre, feeling bloated, tired, and repetitive, clearly is doing in this motion picture.

(Spoilers Ahead) Perhaps the main reason for this “meh” reaction is that we are once again enduring a Bond origin story.  After Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, and in particular the epic Skyfall haven’t we sat through enough past scenes of Bond’s beginnings?  After all, at some point the purpose of the stories is that we can continue into the world of Ian Fleming and we’ve known this iteration of Bond long enough that we want to see him grow, rather than just learn more tidbits from his past.  This is particularly frustrating in this film, as the retreads are less about the far past and more about reimagining films we saw right before our eyes.  Our new villain Oberhauser (Waltz) is intended to be the mastermind, the man who was responsible for the creations that came before played by Mads Mikkelsen and Javier Bardem far more memorably, even though we've never heard of him until now.  This is a huge problem in the script because Waltz, all staggered delivery and hammy line readings, is a considerably weaker antagonist that, say Javier Bardem’s Silva and will be quickly forgotten in the Bond pantheon.  Considering the film is predicated on him being the “greatest of them all,” the film already starts out with an unfulfilled promise to the viewers.

This is true of a lot of the characters in the film, quite frankly.  Daniel Craig’s Bond is still stuck on the series hitting far too great of heights in Casino Royale and Skyfall, with another romantic relationship on the heels of Eva Green (and, let’s face it, the emotionally jarring moments of having Judi Dench fall into the background of the movies after her untimely death as M) falling short.  I hated the fact that, despite quite liking Lea Seydoux, we saw so little of Monica Bellucci, who has the kind of stardom where I was actually stunned when she was first announced for Spectre that she had never been a Bond girl (who dropped the ball on that one?) and here she is relegated to little more than one scene.  It would have been a welcome change of pace to have a woman Bond’s age (admittedly an ageless, ridiculously gorgeous woman Bond’s age) play his love interest (or, let’s be honest here, his love interest/nemesis); that would have been a wonderful shakeup to the series and Bellucci’s scenes are almost certainly the best in the film, in my opinion, as they exude a mystery that is lacking in the rest of the picture.

That being said, the Craig years are still marked by welcome inclusions to the Bond world, and even the worst (which this isn’t-Quantum still takes that cake) can host select joys such as the great opening scene, an opening in Mexico City which manages to somehow rival Skyfall’s masterful Turkish Bazaar chase sequence.  There’s also arguably the best car of the Craig Bond years here, a sleek Aston Martin DB10 so ridiculously lush that you’ll consider selling your house (and then realize this costs more).  These sorts of posh touches, though, are more about the sustainability of the Bond franchise than anything special going on in Spectre, which is one of those movies that will quietly fade into the back of the TNT marathons, not getting a primetime spot on the lineup.

Those were my thoughts on the latest Bond installment-what are yours?  Where does this rank amongst the Daniel Craig years and do you want him back for a fifth movie or are you ready for a change?  Is anyone else sick-to-death of the Bond origin story trope?  And what woman would you like to see play a Bond girl (hopefully villain) next?  Share your thoughts below!

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