Cinematique: SPECTRE

IT was quite satisfying to finally see James Bond’s latest assignment open with the iconic “Gunbarrel” sequence and the James Bond theme.

Note: major spoilers ahead! If you haven’t seen the latest 007 installment, you probably shouldn’t read this. 

EON Productions had the opportunity of a lifetime with SPECTRE (I capitalize the title on purpose, because though the film doesn’t explain the name, the title is an acronym for “SPecial Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion”).

After the grueling decades of a legal dispute with Thunderball’s jealous and opportunistic co-author Kevin McClory, the Broccoli clan finally secured the full rights to James Bond’s arch nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, and his sinister organization. I’m sure that scores of die-hards were thrilled as I was when they captured the first glimpse of the 21st century version of the Octopus ring. Our theory about Quantum being a pre-cursor for SPECTRE’s return was proven right, and we hoped that the writers would take

“…like so many of Blofeld’s plots, SPECTRE failed to deliver…”

a lesson from Casino Royale’s success and return to the novels for source material. We hoped that the new SPECTRE and Blofeld would be as malevolent and clever as ever, if not more so.

But, like so many of Blofeld’s plots, SPECTRE failed to deliver.

I feel especially bad for Christoph Waltz. The Oscar winning actor could have been the best Bond villain ever, far out-doing Mads Mikkelson as Le Chiffre, or Adolfo Cieli as Emilio Largo. But they didn’t let Waltz act! I felt throughout the whole movie that someone—be it the writers or Sam Mendes—held Mr. Waltz back from his potential. He definitely had his good moments, but he could have done so much better.

It isn’t hard to rest the blame at the writers’ door. The reimagining of Blofeld may have been a reason behind Waltz’s mediocre performance: they created a mediocre character. Blofeld is supposed to be the ultimate sociopath whose goal is to create mayhem for the sake of cashing in on the ashes. His terrorism is a business. But, for the sake of a shoddy attempt at fooling the fans with the assertion that Waltz was not Blofeld, (which any Bond fan knew was an absurdity) , they created a character who created mayhem for the sake of brotherly competition.

The “I’ve really put you through it” line really made me roll my eyes.

The whole movie reminded me of Brosnon Bond (who was the worst, IMHO). From falling into a convenient couch; to the ridiculous first kiss (“What do we do now?” Seriously?) that totally contradicted Madeline Swann’s character up to that point; to the ridiculous climax.

“…why not just let Blofeld fly away in his little helicopter?”

It was the climax of SPECTRE that about killed me. Running through the bombed out MI6, reminiscent of Scaramanga’s fun house in Golden Gun, wasn’t the problem. I’m sorry; up to this installment of 007’s reboot, the action was somewhat believable. But there is no way, no way, that a .380 or Walther PPK is going to hit a moving helicopter from a moving boat, much less hit it in such a way that it causes it to crash.

Next bone of climax contention: Given the conditions presented in the film, Bond would have killed Blofeld, if nothing else to avenge Vesper. There was nowhere near the chemistry with Ms. Swann that he had with Ms. Lynd (maybe another fault of the director), and it is therefore not believable that she had affected him in such a way as to prevent him from exacting his revenge. Madeline Swann is no Tracy DiVincenzo, either, so they better not try and remake OHMSS by making her the bride that

SPECTRE kills. Twenty bucks says that is precisely what they’re going to do, though.

The only reason Blofeld was left alive is so he can return. But why, why not just let Blofeld fly away in his little helicopter? Do they think they’re going to fool us into thinking he’s not going to escape from prison?

Mr. Fleming is cringing in his grave…

The music of a Bond movie is very much a part of what makes a Bond movie. Suffice it to say that I miss John Barry, and John Barry would never have allowed a beautifully orchestrated song like Writing’s on the Wall to be accompanied by a male vocalist who whined the lyrics.

I am completely shocked at the Oscar win.

I must give credit where credit is due: -SPECTRE wasn’t all bad. There are elements to the Bond formula that were nailed.

Hinx was a great henchman. He’s kind of an amalgamation of Oddjob and Jaws; nothing to say, just an incarnation of unbeatable wanton destruc­tion. And who doesn’t want a double barreled .45 pistol?

The MI6 supporting cast was wonder­ful; Moneypenny embraces the bantering relation­ship with Bond very well, and Q’s bad jokes and concern for his cats are both a good revival of Mr. Llewelyn’s Q with a modern understanding. Ralph Fiennes is an excellent choice for M. I did rather enjoy Ms. Dench’s “voice from the grave” as well.

The Rome chase sequence was good. The cars were as awesome as they should be. Aston Mar­tin vs Fiat was cute; tongue and cheek but also real­istic, if you’ve ever needed to get somewhere fast.

The Bond-saves-Belluci scene (not the lovemaking) was extremely well done; damn near a work of art. But what I want to know is which corsetiere got a product placement plug in the af­ter-lovemaking-scene. Why would she put that on after a roll in the sheets? Didn’t he have to help her?

The verdict in summary: SPECTRE was en­tertaining, wasn’t as terrible as the Brosnon films, but a far cry from Royale and Skyfall, and definitely no Thunderball. It has some of the Bond formula that makes Bond good, but totally misses on the rest of it.

It appears to this Bond fan that EON is slip­ping away from the greatness they reclaimed with Royale, and it will only take one or two more movies before we’re back to weak, campy, un-realistic Bros­non Bond.

SPECTRE is like watching some of the Roger Moore movies—not a terrible way to waste time, but not a great way.

EON, if you’re reading this, take my advice. The Bond name alone might make you money, but the success of the refranchise is rooted in what you did with Royale: go back to the books. There are 24 James Bond novels that have not been adapted into movies which have outstanding plots, villains, and women (just never put Bond in a Saab.) Please go to the novels for sourcing and keep the series alive for another 30 years!

All images used under fair use, and are © Sony Pictures/EON Productions, LTD.

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