Despite my recent rant about Skyfall, I was actually looking forward to Spectre: it promised to be a more classic take on the Bond franchise, and anything which has Ralph Fiennes and Christoph Waltz in is worthy of attention.
But despite having all the right ingredients: exotic locations, an Aston Martin, a baddie with a lair, beautiful women, and the odd shoot-out or two; I think someone must have forgotten to turn the oven on, because Spectre is a whopping slab of half-baked disappointment.
The biggest problem was the script, which seemed to be a vehicle for cliché, rather than character development. Ralph Fiennes is a fantastic actor, and yet M was beyond dull in this film: it was painful to watch how indifferent Fiennes was at times, and he surely must now be questioning why they wanted him in the first place. Andrew Scott is similarly disappointing: having proven in Sherlock that he has all the tools to play a fantastic modern day bad-guy, he could have really added something to this film, but his story is so predictable and his death so lame that he reminded me of Crabbe falling to his demise in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part II.
Nothing though, was as big a disappointment as Christoph Waltz. Bond villains are supposed to dream about blowing up the world, not enacting sibling revenge from thirty odd years ago. The revelation that the villains from Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, and Skyfall were set upon Bond because of this flimsy and tenuous link, has essentially negated the previous films: “oh yeah, by the way, that was all me because my dad liked you more for a couple of months.” They went digging into Bond’s past looking for gold, but only found the sewage line.
Not only are Oberhauser’s motivations laughable, but he is also shockingly feeble in his actions too. We need to see more of him, or perhaps more critically, what he is capable of. We see him snooping on M as he gives his farewell speech, and he has a drill: but that’s about it. The Joker forces Batman to the limit of his principles in The Dark Knight. Moriarty manipulates Sherlock for fun, before forcing him to commit suicide. These are the master manipulators Oberhauser is up against, so why not do something more interesting? Bond has gone rogue at a time that the double-O unit is under threat of decommission, so why not manipulate him and challenge his loyalty to M and MI6?
But no, instead we get an embarrassingly lame metaphor, in which Oberhauser compares himself to a silent meteorite before it crashes suddenly into the earth. Oberhauser is dull: painfully so. And because of this the whole film loses any sense of urgency. Bond isn’t racing against time to save the world; and as he takes a stroll down memory lane everything seems far too easy for him. The lack of tension is remarkable. For example there is nothing similar to the poker scenes in Casino Royale, which are some of the best from any of the recent films.
Whether you want to see Bond getting romantic or not, this was another aspect which was handled much better in Casino: by the end of which we honestly believe that Bond is heartbroken, and is similar to the impact in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
It would take someone fairly special to replace Vesper in the eyes of 007 then, and you would hope for at least a bit of chemistry: unfortunately this is also missing, as Léa Seydoux is also left to feed on scraps from the script (although she’s still given more than Naomi Harris, who is suddenly reduced to a cameo role).
Spectre is both a mixture of laziness and trying too hard: they couldn’t be bothered to develop the plot or characters, and instead filled the film with too much action, too much of 007 cupping Madeleine Swann’s face, and most of all, too much time trying to cram every element of Bond in as possible.
Nothing highlights this more than the final scene and the completely unnecessary appearance of 007’s DB5. This might only be me, but that car is important: if it’s in the film at all it should play a starring role, not used as an after thought.
And finally we come to the music. First of all I found Writing’s on the Wall so ball-achingly painful that I was physically uncomfortable in my seat. It’s truly awful and it’s not a Bond song. But what also wound me up was that despite opting to go for a more classical approach, we didn’t hear John Barry’s masterpiece until the very end. Considering the sense of nostalgia running throughout, and that it’s one of the most famous soundtracks in film history, it seems a very bizarre thing to miss out.
When Darth Vader walks on screen, you play his music. When Indiana Jones is flying off in a pontoon plane, you play his music. When Rocky runs up shit load of steps, you play his music.
It’s just how these things work: and Bond is no different. When 007 is doing anything vaguely exciting, you play his music. I would go as far to say that the music is the most iconic aspect in all of Bond.
By missing out the music and the villain being vacant, Sam Mendes has skipped over the most crucial ingredients needed to make a truly classic Bond film. Skyfall should have been his and Daniel Craig’s last film, and despite the immense success that it seems Spectre is destined to enjoy, a new and perhaps unknown entity is now needed to take the helm both in-front and behind the camera.
There is room for more than just Bond: M, Q, and Moneypenny all have strong actors capable of bringing much more to their roles than is currently the case (although Ben Wishaw as Q was very good). Spectre was along the right lines, it just needed someone for whom 007 really matters to lead the way.
With Christoph Waltz as the villain, and a strong supporting cast (other than Batista who is impossible to take seriously) Spectre could have even been as good as the mandatory five star reviews suggest: it could have been a modern-day Goldfinger.