Featured image courtesy of: The New York Times
Released November 6, 2015
I don’t normally travel to the UK to catch a movie before it’s released in the US, but when I do, James Bond is probably involved. Like its many predecessors, Spectre is a non-stop action spectacle. It’s not only gorgeous for its stunning cinematography, but it’s iconic protagonist as well. Daniel Craig’s fourth Bond movie sets up to connect the past three installments and does so in an effective yet formulaic fashion. It’s no Casino Royale, but it’ll hold its own in the Bond legacy.
Before I start raving, I’d just like to hit on some of the main criticisms of the film. First, I found that the biggest complaint was essentially that it borrowed too much from the previous movies, similar to the way Star Trek: Into Darkness was challenged for the revival of its own grand villain. It’s not news that this movie won’t be the first to introduce us to the multi-national villain organization, Spectre, so the goal here would be to reboot the idea in the modernized and gritty world of Craig’s 007. I found the context of Spectre in today’s society to be as much of a compelling story as if it was in Roger Moore’s world as Bond.
The second criticism I’d like to assess is the age old flaws of the Bond girls. I understand it’s the m.o. of the series to have Bond use and dispose of women like tissues, but it’s 2015, aren’t we all a little tired of that useless and offensive trope by now? Monica Bellucci’s character as a widow with important information Bond needs to uncover is a copy-paste example of this. But, in defense of Craig’s 007, we’ve seen some strides being made through Eve Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) who’s proven capable as a field agent and Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), a tough and resourceful sidekick. However, the amount of times we actually see Moneypenny in action are close to none and Dr. Swann’s character is mostly muddled by all the damsel in distress situations we’re given (instead of scenarios in which she could get a real chance to shine as something other than a sexual object). Even though I’m enamored by the way Craig’s Bond seems to be outgrowing his trustless and antisocial shell with the way he took to Dr. Swann romantically, I’m getting the feeling that we’re being set up for another one of those terrible storylines where the death of a woman is necessary for the growth and development of the male character. Baby steps, I guess.
Lastly, and unfortunately, I have to talk about the problem with the new Spectre and Christoph Waltz’s turn as the big bad. The only issue I have with the arc that Spectre plays in the film is that the threat is overtly abstract in the sense that Bond is not racing against time to stop a particular imminent plot from occurring, but working on dismantling an opaque organization of potentially catastrophic situations (with no reason to suggest there’s some sort of ticking clock involved). To that point however, there’s no reason why the threat of a secret organization running terrorist attacks shouldn’t put us on the edge of our seats, in fact, the film does a great job of establishing dual conflicts: ultimate evil in the hands of a villain (which we see with Bond versus Spectre) or in the form of government (which we see with the subplot of M versus C). Regarding the head of this organization, Waltz’s performance is almost passive and too restrained. True, it is inherently a struggle to follow Javier Bardem’s outstanding and colorful performance as the villain of Skyfall, and naturally the job to live up to such prestige is about a million times harder. I can still appreciate the silent but lethal air of Waltz’s character, but the link between him and Bond that is revealed is rather contrived and leaves us with more questions than we started with.
If the previous movies are any indication of how well the next one may fare, I think it’s safe to conclude we might not have seen the best of Craig’s 007. Even still, we get over all consistently stunning performances from the cast, jaw-dropping visuals, and trademark action and adventure from an iconic hero. It is speculated whether or not Daniel Craig will be returning for Bond 25, but even if he doesn’t, Spectre would fare as a still worthy farewell and an ever spectacular close to the Craig era of Bond movies.