So we meet again…
After three years since the last edition of 007 in 23, the world’s most popular secret agent and walking oxymoron, James Bond (Daniel Craig), is back for another assignment. Also, I’m not changing the name of the series to 007 in 24 because of this film, so consider the series an artifact title. Anyway, Bond is about to face off against SPECTRE again after years of not being part of the franchise. Wait, what the heck? That can’t be possible. Wasn’t there legal trouble because of Kevin McClory over SPECTRE?
For those new to this series, producer Kevin McClory got into legal troubles over the rights to the villains of SPECTRE and Ernst Starvo Blofeld. The reason being is because those elements appeared in the film Thunderball, which McClory helped developed for the novels. Legal disputes soon followed and McClory got the rights to Thunderball in 1963. Luckily, Eon struck a ten-year deal to have use of SPECTRE and Blofeld as the big bad for ten years. This explains why starting with Roger Moore SPECTRE is but a mention and Blofeld a throwaway joke in For Your Eyes Only. McClory would remake the novel Thunderball in 1983 as Never Say Never Again with the return of Sean Connery as Bond the same year Octopusssy was released. Spoilers: Both films are not very good.
In 2006, Kevin McClory passed away leading to Bond fans to wonder if the rights would return to Eon and MGM to get use of SPECTRE and Blofeld. That dream was realized in 2013 when Eon Production reached a deal with the McClory estate and Danjaq, LLC. Now SPECTRE and Blofeld are back in their hands, abliet SPECTRE is now Spectre. The announcement blew Bond fans minds, including mine. The minute I saw the octopus bullet hole on the teaser poster, I was hooked.
Now we have this film to showcase Spectre back at taking down the world with Craig and the rest of the newly established MI6 crew. Can MGM pull it off after years without the iconic villains that torture Connery’s Bond in the Sixties? Let’s not waste any time and get to it. Oh, and be wary as this review is riddled with spoilers.
James Bond is in Mexico City during the Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Day) Festival hunting down a man named Marco Scallia. He causes a bit of a ruckus and by ruckus I mean killing a trio of men involved with an explosion at a hotel and engaging in a fist fight in a helicopter over the Centro above the festivities. Bond heads back to London and gets a scolding from M aka Mallory (Ralph Finnes) about his little mishap. Bond shows off a ring he recovered revealing an octopus logo on it. Though suspicious, Mallory suspends Bond from further action. Mallory and Bond are greeted by a new character named C (Andrew “Holy Shit, Moriarty!” Scott). He is trying to convince the MI6 to join the “Nine Eyes” global surveillance in order to have the ’00’ program be done away with. Think “Tomorrow Never Dies,” but this time it actually makes sense. M tells Bond not to keep being rouge, but Bond being Bond continues on the chase.
While visited by Moneypenny (Naomi Harris), Bond tells her that M had one last mission for him before he died to find Scallia. He does not inform Mallory due to the circumstances at hand. He also asks Moneypenny to see if she can find a lead on “The Pale King,” a name he heard in Mexico City. Bond meets with Q (Ben Wishaw) on what the new gadgets he has with the main attraction being the Aston Martin DB10, which Bond promptly jacks the next day. Bond travels to Rome to meet up with Scallia’s wife Lucia (Monica Belluci) to find more information. Bond gets the info he wants on the new organization known as Spectre and also manages to make love to her on the day of her husband’s funeral. I honestly don’t know why he had to do that, but I am sure the randomness of love making hasn’t ended just yet. Bond heads to a secret meeting Spectre is holding in the city. While the group discusses their plans involving their economic process, one in particular crosses the ominous Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz) and is meet with an immediate death by Oberhauser’s henchman Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista aka Batista). Mr. Hinx grabs his heads and forces his thumbs in his eyes with his steel nails. It’s pretty damn quick and brutal.
Oberhauser begins to speak and recognizes Bond in the audience and says his name. Bond escapes by kicking ass and jetting in the Aston Martin DB10, only to be chased by Mr. Hinx in his Jaguar C-X75. Bond messes with the would be gadgets and only some work to his advantage. In a thrilling chase, the Aston Martin finally decides to cut bond some slack as Bond flips a switch, sending flames to Mr. Hinx’s car. Bond escapes via a parachute ejector seat with the Aston Martin falling into the river. It is during this that Moneypenny tells Bond the lead he was looking for with “The Pale King” leads to Mr. White (Jesper Christ and Quantum. Quantum turns out to be a smaller part of Spectre’s bigger organization. Bond heads off to Austri to find White and his whereabouts, but informs Moneypenny to find out about Oberhauser and his whereabouts. Apparently, Bond knows he has been dead for years…or has he? (If you haven’t figured out the obvious twist at this point, then be prepare for a timid response when it happens).
Upon meeting Mr. White, White tells Bond he has been poison by thallium for some run-ins gone bad with Oberhauser. He tells Bond that he is done with Quantum and Spectre and tells him to track down his daughter Dr. Madeline Swann (Lea Seydoux). Swan will lead Bond to L’American which will lead to Spectre and a confrontation to Oberhauser. White decides to end his life in front of Bond and Bond goes about his merry way. Bond goes to Swann, who is beginning her analysis of Bond’s character when Bond tells her that he kills people, her dad is dead and only she can lead him to Spectre. Swann says she wants him out of her office for hi very poor bedside manner. Bond at the health bar outside of her office is met by Q, who has forensically linked Le Chiffe, Roaul Silva, and Dominic Greene as agents of Spectre through Scallia’s ring. He either had really good blood or he never washed his hands. Honestly, I don’t know how this work, but I just went with it.
Swann is taken away by some of Oberhauser’s men lead by Mr. Hinx and Bond chases them down in a plane. It’s a fast-paced action scene with a hell of a plane crash towards the end. Swann and Bond escape with Swann still refusing to take up Bond’s offer. She eventually gives in because the plot needs to go somewhere. They head of to Tangier where L’American turns out to be a a hotel room. Here is where Bond and Swann find a secret room used to track down the location of the Spectre headquarters. The two have an drunken intimate beforehand to give some background of Swan’s upbringing.
From here, the two head off on a train to the Spectre base in the desert with Bond decked out in his From Russia With Love dinner jacket and attire with Swan coming out with the essence and beauty of Titiana Romanova of the same film. As they are about to drink and dine, Mr. Hinx unleashes his inner animal and goes full Red Grant on Bond. Hinx is giving it to him throughout the train by tossing him in walls, hitting him on kitchen counters and not stopping. See, this is how you book a Batista match, Vince. Unfortunately, for me at least, Mr. Hinx is taken out by the end after he slaps Swann down to the ground and Bond takes him out by tossing him out the train tied to a box. Hinx utters his only line of “Shit” and is killed. Swan and Bond, of course, decide to Bond closer. So, if you are keeping track at home, Bond has made love to two women, both of which have lost someone they loved. What a classy guy, this Bond character is.
As they end up in the desert (see Diamonds Are Forever, License to Kill and Quantum of Solace for influences in this scene), they head to the Spectre headquarters in which Oberhauser has “been expecting you.” Here it is discovered that Spectre has been in cahoots with the Joint Intelligence System to set up the Nine Eyes program due to the terrorist attack. C has been working with Spectre as well so Spectre can keep track of the entire world. Oberhauser uses his connection with C as an opportunity to make sure to stop any investigation into their plans. Moriarty is a bastard who cannot be trusted, I swear. Oberhauser grabs Bond and Swan, a duo of names that unfortunately not the name of a craft beer yet, and tortures Bond.
Bond is being tortured as Oberhauser discusses how he is still alive besides being proclaimed dead. Oberhauser tells James that his father adopted him as a son to be his new gaurdian. Fed up with this, Oberhauser killed his own father and faked his death. After doing this, he went through a change. Cue the white cat hopping to Bond’s lap and the reveal that Oberhauser is in fact Ernst Starvo Blofeld. Wait, so Blofeld has been involved since the beginning screwing MI6 and Bond over because of daddy issues. That’s a bit…well, I will get into that in the review portion. Bond and Swann do their best to fight off the henches and mooks, escape, and blow the headquarters to kingdom come and go off with Blofeld having to die in the process. Roll credits.
Wait, there’s a whole half hour left? Oh, hell.
Bond and Swann must arrest C for his connections as they inform Moneypenny, Q and Bill Tanner (Rory Kinnear in a oddly minimal presence this time around) on the hunt. Bond is captured by as Swann is as well, leaving the other three to launch into badass mode. They inform Mallory of C’s bullshit and Q ensures that Nine Eyes does not interfere with MI6’s own computer systems. C gets his ass handed to him by Mallory and falls to his death from Richenbach Falls aka M’s office. But what of Bond?
Bond is stuck in a maze set up by Oberhauser in the old headquarters of MI6 by Blofeld, now disfigured with the signature scar and blind eye and gives Bond the choice of saving himself from the explosion or saving Swann from being exploded into a million pie es. Bond has to Bond again and saves himself and her and escape into a boat on the Thames as Blofeld watches from above in a helicopter. Bond shoots it down, leaving Blofeld to crash on the Westminster bridge and nearly crippled. Bond is ready to kill Blofeld, but settles on M having to arrest him because this franchise needs to continue with Blofeld trying to take over the world every step of the way. Adoptive brothers even have dick measuring contests every now and then. The next day or so, Bond rides off into the sunset with his beloved DB5 and Swann by his side. Cue credits and we are done with the picture.
Spectre is a strange effort in the franchise, but an enjoyable one. It’s not the best Bond movie, but it is far from being the worst as some critics. The direction by returning Skyfall director is still on par with his prior effort as is the cinematography. It’s a gorgeous film to watch and the opening sequence proves that to a tee.
The action is well thought out and paced in a way that the audience feels in the moment. The chase in Austria is filled with thrills and chills as Bond tries to get his plane onto the tight riads. The train fight is a more elaborate throwback to Grant vs. Bond in the 60’s that is on par with the classic bout.
The performances are good with the exception of one newcomer. Seydoux is fantastic as Swann as she plays the charming and brilliance of her in grand fashion. Bautista is fine as Mr. Hinx with a menancing present and commanding skills. Like his previous role in Guardians of the Galaxy, his work in the squared circle made the action with him seems believable. Monica Bellucci is great, but wasted in a small role. Waltz plays Blofeld as if he already knew he had the role within him. It’s manic, sincere and chilling at points. It’s reminiscent of Telly Savalas’ performance in that way.
Andrew Scott is completely one-note. He is basically playing Moriarty again, but without the charisma and menace. It’s boring and he is wasted in the time. In fact, that is a problem in this film. Characters with great presence are utterly wasted in this film and are only their as convenient plot devices. This leads to other problems with the film.
The story itself is a bit rough as they had to tie Spectre not only to the last movie, but the entire reboot in general. It’s feels shoehorned in and not natural. Same could be said for the humor and old ways of Bond appearing in the film. These moments make the movie seem cheap and awkward. During the car chase scene, there is a joke with a guy in his car listening to opera, then being run into to go faster in order to be parked in the right spot. That joke is best saved for the cheese of the Roger Moore era, not the dark grit of the Craig era.
The twist on Blofeld is utterly dull and disappointing. Having Blofeld do what he is doing because of some issues with not being loved by his father and hating his adopted brother does not make him sympathetic, but rather childish and selfishly idiotic. Blofeld is cold, careless and wants the world to be done for. If the twist was changed to revenge because Bond killed his father, then that would have made the twist a tad more tolerable.
The theme by Sam Smith is very iffy. On its own, the song is not his best effort and the theme itself seems more sullen and not close to what is expected in a Bond film. Luckily, it works with the intro title cards and that’s what maaters. It’s not great, but it’s not bad either. It’s the most mediocre of the bunch.
In the end, Specte is a enjoyable effort of the modern era of Bond, but still stuck in the shadow of the past. The use of old elements is hit and miss at times and can easily deter die hard fans, but the performances and action help the film stand on its own. Spectre is a small step backwards, but has enough good to keep the series going forward.
Assignment Status: 3 out of 5
Serg Beret will return in The Franchise Runner with Back to the Future