Author Topic: Spectre - Bond 24  (Read 4956 times)

Corndog

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Spectre - Bond 24
« on: November 06, 2015, 01:11:44 PM »
Spectre (Sam Mendes, 2015)

Of note: I am a huge James Bond fan. One who has read all of Ian Fleming’s original 007 novels (though not yet any of the post-Fleming installments from Gardner, Benson, et al. – it will be curious if these works ever find their way into the series as the Fleming stories are long gone by now), and seen all of the 007 films, including the “un-official” installments like Never Say Never Again, and Casino Royale. (See my detailed thoughts as part of my James Bond marathon from a few years ago.) In any normal review I may say this is irrelevant, as with each film comes a new story and a different perspective, personalized by the baggage, experience and expectations brought to the table by each viewer. But in the case of Bond, my mind becomes a little more analytical, comparing everything to past installments. I am completely incapable of seeing Spectre in an isolated fashion, separate from past films in the series. However, based on the structure chosen by the filmmakers during the Daniel Craig era, the lack of separation between films is apparent, with 007 being a more consistent narrative from film to film than any other time in the series. In many ways, this is to Bond’s benefit.

When we last left Bond, he was defending his past at Skyfall, standing his ground against the evil former agent Silva. M (Judi Dench) was a casualty of the face-off, but the series was rejuvenated with a new M (Ralph Fiennes), a new Q (Ben Whishaw) and a new Monypenny (Naomie Harris). With his fourth film as the famed British secret agent, there is rumor Daniel Craig’s time in the series may be getting closer to its finale. That remains to be seen. In Spectre, in the wake of M’s death at Skyfall, Bond has received a personal message from her grave, urging him to kill a man named Marco Sciarra, which leads him to Mexico City and Rome, where he learns this man is a part of a larger, mysterious organization called Spectre. Led back to an old friend, Mr. White (Jesper Christiansen), Bond is in hot pursuit of Spectre’s leader while trying to protect White’s estranged daughter, Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux), all while M is fighting a pressure at home in England, led my C (Andrew Scott), who wishes to end the 00 program and bring together the combined intelligence of 9 nations to form a potentially dangerous Global Surveillance Alliance.

By now you may realize you’re in for a longer review than I usually write. Here is your belated warning. I think I may start with the good here, and then head into the less savory elements of Spectre. First, the story. The screenwriting team of Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan have formed a storyline which spans multiple Bond movies and connects them closer together than any other films before. I think this is a great concept for the series, and they have even opened the door for things to continue, though that remains to be seen. The plot is classic Bond here, but where the film suffers is in its execution and believability. Bond in the past has often suspended disbelief, I get that, but my qualms here are not relevant to whether the plot against the world is believable; the screenplay just too often feels lazy, painting the well-formed characters outside the lines, resulting in a messy, unfinished outcome. For instance, each of the characters is very interesting, and the performances across the board are pretty great, especially Christiansen, Whishaw and Seydoux, but the interaction between characters often feels half-baked and under-developed, resulting in a lack of sympathy and believability when Swann and Bond fall in love (we all could have seen this coming, but I never bought their chemistry, or therefore, their budding relationship). The film is peppered with other such examples.

Another strength of the film are the action scenes, which have becomes a Bond staple. Whether it be the car chase through Rome, the thrilling sequence in the Austrian Alps, or the ticking time bomb finale, the action set pieces here are good, and enough to entertain even the most passionate Bond fan. I would not say, however, that any of these are truly memorable moments in the franchise, but they are entertaining nonetheless. That seems to be the case with much of Spectre in fact: very good, but not memorable or among the best in the franchise. With Skyfall, the last installment, the team made an effort to pay homage to the past 50 years of Bond, including elements which were reminiscent of some of the best of Bond, but it put its own original spin on things, developing a story of its own. With Spectre, I was surprised to see the filmmakers do the same thing. As a Bond super-fan, I was able to spot perhaps even more references here than in Skyfall, the film that was meant to recall the 50 years of Bond’s past. With Spectre, this becomes a crutch of the movie, overplaying things like story or character (we hardly get to spend time with the film’s primary villain (Christoph Waltz)). Spectre, ultimately may have benefited from more focused direction and editing, instead of sprawling about in meta fashion for the sake of being a Bond film.

To this point in the Craig era of Bond, much of what has worked for the series now seems to be becoming too much of a good thing. Connecting together all these movies is a great idea, and has worked quite well, but with Spectre I started to feel less enthusiastic about it, yearning for an installment that can stand on its own and has Bond battling against someone new and different. Some of this may come from the fairly mediocre execution of Spectre. I am sure the success of the influential Dark Knight Trilogy has contributed to both the connectivity of the latest Bond films as well as their darkness, but the time in the franchise has come to branch out and create its own path in the world of serial action films. And with this film, there seems to be an effort to bring back the fun Bond, with more quips and zany villains/plots, but the mix with the darkness of the film creates an imbalanced tone which never evens out.

The biggest problem I am starting to have with the franchise is its treatment of the character of James Bond. For the entirety of the series he has been a mysterious man whose motives are unknown. We know him as a good guy, as someone who clearly has a past, but one which has pushed him to at least fight for the good guys, as troubling as his alcohol, womanizing and dangerous talents may be. This mystery has helped fuel the mystique of Bond, the sexiness that attracts males and females alike. With Skyfall, we are let into his past just a little bit, learning about his childhood. Spectre continues this trend, threatening to reveal much too much about Bond the man, stripping away much of his mystery and mystique. This should stop not only because it is starting to strip the character down too far, but also because they don’t do a particularly good job of it in Spectre.

Sam Mendes and Daniel Craig have breathed new life into the franchise after Pierce Brosnan left it on a pretty sour note with Die Another Day. There is new enthusiasm for the character and for each subsequent release, but with Spectre, I am wondering whether the time is getting closer for another new regime in the franchise, to give it another freshen up. The opportunity exists for the filmmakers and producers to continue down the current path, and I believe to course correct, bringing the current storyline new excitement and perhaps an eventual conclusion or new start, but they also left the ending open enough to go any direction they choose. Spectre is ultimately a mediocre film through and through, never delivering truly cringe-worthy Bond moments, but also adding none too significant to the catalog. Even Sam Smith’s “The Writings on the Wall” wasn’t great, despite Sam Smith seemingly being a great choice to perform the theme song. That being said, I am still a huge fan of what this series does cinematically, and will be anxiously awaiting the announcement of the next film, the next cast, the next Bond theme song and the direction which Bond will take in the future.

**1/2 - Average
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jmbossy

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Re: Spectre - Bond 24
« Reply #1 on: November 08, 2015, 05:56:28 PM »
"Given its recreational traditions, adapting Bond to the contemporary, grit and casualty concerned landscape is more difficult than one might initially assume. Though it has always included a through line of heroics against terrorism (seemingly perfect fodder for our post 9/11 fixations) Bond has always had a sense of style that retained remove from its paranoid subject matter. Spectre sees director Sam Mendes and star Daniel Craig seemingly at their ends with the franchise, and allows the pair to consider what a Bond film should be to modern audiences."

"It is difficult to artistically justify the joyousness of past Bonds given their staples: government interest, extrajudicial action, dichotomic villainy and rampant lechery to mention a few. But still there is recognition that there is cultural value to the 007 franchise, and continual criticism that the modern Craig era is far too humourless to respect those traditions. Spectre opens with a title card reading, "The Dead are Alive," which though initially vague, eventually gives way to the most tangible theme Spectre utilizes... It all enforces what Mendes and Craig most apparently considered in their (perhaps) final Bond outing; the struggle between past failures and successes against the fear and promise of the future. It is actually a pretty rich topic for this surprisingly suitable franchise to explore. Unfortunately, lost in the considerations was maybe the most necessary element of the franchises' success; a character of its own."

"The most unfortunate victims of this placidity are the characters of the film, who were all reasonably supported by proficient actors, but who are never given the slimmest of emotional resonance to rely on."

"Spectre values ideas far more than execution, and as a result, feels lifeless and without distinction. For all of its considerations on what a Bond film should be, Spectre becomes just another franchise film. I hate to make the obvious joke, but the skeletons of its advertising (and of Bond's past) perfectly suit the dry and hollow substance the movie ultimately delivers."


Link to my full review:
http://letterboxd.com/jmbossy/film/spectre-2015/

As a fan of Sam Mendes, Spectre disapoints less as "Standard Bond fare," and more as the most flacid movie Mendes has ever made (though I have avoided Away We Go so far).
« Last Edit: November 08, 2015, 06:05:41 PM by jmbossy »

jmbossy

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Re: Spectre - Bond 24
« Reply #2 on: November 08, 2015, 06:17:47 PM »
The biggest problem I am starting to have with the franchise is its treatment of the character of James Bond. For the entirety of the series he has been a mysterious man whose motives are unknown. We know him as a good guy, as someone who clearly has a past, but one which has pushed him to at least fight for the good guys, as troubling as his alcohol, womanizing and dangerous talents may be. This mystery has helped fuel the mystique of Bond, the sexiness that attracts males and females alike. With Skyfall, we are let into his past just a little bit, learning about his childhood. Spectre continues this trend, threatening to reveal much too much about Bond the man, stripping away much of his mystery and mystique. This should stop not only because it is starting to strip the character down too far, but also because they don’t do a particularly good job of it in Spectre.

I especially like this point. I didn't realize how much the mystery behind his character actually added to my appreciation of the franchise until you made this point. I see Bond as a tragic figure, one who when asked "why do you do this job," smirks emptily. As though he never considered anything else, as though he never dreamed of a better life as a child. That aspect of his character has always been kind of beautiful to me, and seeing his backstory so needlessly filled in really does neutralize my empathy for him. It seems counter intuitive, but the more I know about Bond, the less I actually care about him...

DarkeningHumour

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Re: Spectre - Bond 24
« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2015, 11:34:11 AM »
Spectre
Sam Mendes (2015)

This is going to be one of those reviews. A review of a good movie that is mostly going to focus on its flaws. « Why ? » I hear you ask, Sam Mendes ? Well, for starters because that is just the kind of discontented prick I am. Secondly, well, criticizing is really much more fun than lauding. Finally, when your movie is part of a series of movies and you are the same person who directed the previous one and this latest instalment happens to not be quite as good, well, people are bound to focus on why you did not deliver a new Skyfall.

Yeah, because despite its qualities, Spectre is no Skyfall. It is worth mentioning that  that third Daniel Craig Bond movie is my favourite of the post-Brosnan era.

Let's get to the whys. There are two main things I think everyone remembers about Skyfall (except for its more rapey aspects I mean). First of all, it was a simply gorgeous movie. The red Asian skyscraper scenes made for some mesmerising moments; the deserted island had some lovely art direction; and last but not least, the ending of the movie at Skyfall was a succession of beautiful shots in an ethereal setting. Spectre lacks all of that. It does have a somewhat memorable villain base (not to mention the palace) but the photography and the settings are nothing to go home and Skype your friends about.

The beauty of the movie is only the second thing people are likely to mention about Skyfall however. What really stays with you is Silva, by far the most memorable and Bondian villain of this new series. He had it all. The mannerisms, the over-the-top justified scheme, a genuinely scary Bardem-copyrighted freakiness. He was believable and yet conserved that impossible quality of all good Bond villains, the one they talk about in Kingsman. In this latest instalment however, Christoph Waltz is given to play a character who is…bland. He has no mannerisms or quirks, unless you count a late-acquired physical oddity. He does not even have an evil plan of any kind. Sure, he is out to get his hands on all the security information in the world but we are never told to what ends. One friend suggested world domination. Very well, but why ? How ? When you make a movie about a villain trying to get his hands on a nuclear bomb you don't just show him trying to do it, you tell the audience why he wants that bomb. Naturally, it is a bad thing for a villain to get a bomb but the stakes are not clear unless we are aware he wants to blow up Minnesota with it. I know because that movie exists and it is called Thunderball.

It is bad enough that a Bond villain should be unremarkable to almost Quantum extents but here that is nearly criminal for two reasons. Blofeld is the big one, the quintessential Bond villain who you should really make some efforts to make more legendary than this ; especially he is the antagonist in the last movie in your quadrilogy. What's more, he is impersonated by one of the best villain actors in Hollywood today and Waltz is given nothing to do with him. That will not do ; Waltz performances should be treasured and made to be special.

No, I am not done talking about Blofeld, he is kind of a big part of Spectre. Someone please explain to me what the point of the connection to Bond was ? I am willing to overlook the implausibility of an MI6 agent being more or less related to the leader of the world's biggest criminal organisation, but only if something is done with it that justifies it. The whole extent of the consequences of that connection here are, basically, a shrug on Bond's part, and a certain insistent on causing him pain on Blofeld's part. That is quite underwhelming, especially after all the fuss and mystery that is made around it. And by the way, why would MI6 have the file on a kid who died in an avalanche 20 years ago ?

I'll give it a rest but that is only because there is one other thing that really annoys me about this movie. A retcon, in a Bond movie, really ? Have they been acquired by Marvel ? I say retcon because in the other three movies the existence of Spectre it is never hinted at even though apparently every Bond antagonist so far was working for it. In fact Blofeld seems to have directly engineered Bond's misery so far. Weird that there was no clue to this if the three movies were supposed to lead to this climax. I am fairly certain Spectre was a later addition that shamelessly tries to capitalise on the narrative of the first three movies by tying them all together, which upsets me. The producers are pretending to be smarter than they are and impoverish the separate stories as they do so by (granted, Quantum could hardly be impoverished, but still) creating lacks of things that were never meant to be there to begin with. I would have loved to have cameos of Spectre operatives here or there, or close-ups on octopus rings…the possibilities are endless. The only thing that could hint to the existence of the organisation in an earlier movie is the meeting of Greene with members of some shadow group as they discuss their water-related plans. But nothing there hints at the group belonging to Spectre and Spectre goes to great lengths to make us think as little as possible about that disastrous endeavour - rightly. It would rather mention Le Chiffre time and again and I am still not sure how an independent money-launderer figures into the whole thing but I am pretty sure it is all bullshit anyway. Pity.

I could write at length now about the good sides of the movie but I shan't because I am mad at it, because I have already written enough and because the extent of my mercy will be to not dwell on the impossible-to-buy three day love story and the anti-climactic ending. Seriously though, it seems like Bond falls in love every other day as long as his life has been in peril at some point.

My conclusion will merely be that this could have been great. We had Waltz, we had Spectre, we had three previous movies, we had Mendes…The end result is enormously disappointing when you consider all that, even though the movie turns out to be much better than average. It truly could have been better than Skyfall ; it might not even reach Casino Royal's heights.

7/10 - Lesser than the sum of its parts

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DarkeningHumour

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Re: Spectre - Bond 24
« Reply #4 on: November 25, 2015, 11:37:27 AM »
I would like to take jmbossy's point and ask everyone if this was more disappointing as a Bond movie or as a part of the Mendes oeuvre.

In my case it is the latter.
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1SO

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Re: Spectre - Bond 24
« Reply #5 on: November 25, 2015, 11:59:39 AM »
That depends on what you've seen by Mendes. If you've seen Away We Go you can't be too disappointed with Spectre. However, the story structure and pace are so weak in Spectre I'm surprised a talented director like Mendes couldn't spot and fix these problems. Even something as simple as the way Christoph Waltz is used, Mendes had to know what a disappointment it would be to audiences. Especially since he got the Bond villain so right with Javier Bardem.

jmbossy

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Re: Spectre - Bond 24
« Reply #6 on: November 26, 2015, 09:47:54 PM »
That depends on what you've seen by Mendes. If you've seen Away We Go you can't be too disappointed with Spectre.

Away We Go is actually the one Mendes movie I haven't seen.

American Beauty
Jarhead

Revolutionary Road
Skyfall
Road To Perdition

Spectre

So literally, the most disappointing Mendes movie.

DarkeningHumour

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Re: Spectre - Bond 24
« Reply #7 on: November 28, 2015, 02:04:38 AM »
Skyfall
American Beauty

Revolutionary Road
Road to Perdition

Jarhead
Spectre
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MattDrufke

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Re: Spectre - Bond 24
« Reply #8 on: January 21, 2016, 07:15:22 AM »
Man, oh man. Did I not care for the ending of this film at all. Which is a shame because going up to the last ten minutes, I was really involved and invested, easily as much as I was in Skyfall.

For Bond to be given the ultimatum (save yourself or die trying to find the girl) only to have a wonderful cute out where he's able to save everyone was such a letdown for me. Add to that the takedown of Blofeld (too easy) and deciding to run away with a woman who has shown no reason why she is more special than any of the women in Bond's life (especially the one he's spent 3 films trying to avenge) was just way to cute of a bow on this package.

And what a pity, because I loved so much of this film. Amazing one-take action sequence in the beginning.
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dassix

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Re: Spectre - Bond 24
« Reply #9 on: June 07, 2016, 11:54:28 AM »
Roger Deakins did a better job in Skyfall than Hoyte van Hoytema did in Spectre IMO.

I couldn't connect with the character in Spectre as I could in the other movies.  I believe you guys nailed it possibly why - with the needless filling in of the backstory.  I still really enjoyed this movie though.