James Bond has a Spectre of a Chance at Being Contemporary, A Movie Review

6 Nov

SpectreBy Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)

If Daniel Craig’s entry into the James Bond universe is supposed to be a reboot of a series which started with Casino Royale back in 2006, then the biggest question I have is in why are there nods to the past films? All of that is unneeded. I noticed hints which include a meteorite crater lair ala You Only Live Twice, and a huge fist fight on a train in From Russia With Love. When the series is supposed to look at a grittier Bond and be contemporary — reflective of modern times — I thought giving fans newer dangers and worries would be first and forefront than paying fan service. That might have helped trim the run time of 148 minutes to a meaner 120.

With this latest entry, the story arc about a secret terrorist group introduced on Royale comes full circle, almost, and in what’s revealed, to finally see the man — Ernst Blofeld (played by Christoph Waltz in this iteration) — behind the manipulations. Remembering the events from Craig’s tenure as Bond is important, and to see it all happen within 10 years is reasonable. With one more film to happen, let’s hope another movie will take place in two or three years time.

I can’t wait to see what Blofeld will do next in his quest for world domination. There’s more to this character than meets the eye, and this film’s reveal more like a reintroduction to the character than everything long time fans of the series will recall. That included how Donald Pleasence played this character. Waltz puts his own spin on the role and he’s always wonderful to watch on-screen, but what he has to work with in conveying his character’s relationship with Bond is not enough. The grudge Blofeld has feels too simple. There needs to be more to this tussle. When there’s a different subplot in this film that’s far more interesting, I wished there was more focus on that. The privacy rights of individuals in a world that’s in constant watch is just as much of a thorny issue as the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) agreement that’s currently getting media attention.

Spectre2Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott) is vying for this power back in London. He’s the head of the Joint Intelligence Service and he wants to create a “Nine Eyes” cooperative where nine countries agree to give him the power of Big Brother. This status is disconcerting; constant surveillance of the world and all of MI5 and MI5’s officers (like in injecting Bond with nanobots to track all his movements) is a heated topic that can make for a better narrative — who watches the watchmen? Sadly this film’s story feels more like a rehash of Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. The writers of these spy films really must confer with each other so that the movies they are penning in a two-year window do not tread on similar thematic territory. This Bond film essentially sees the seminal character go dark to deal with the villainy that makes up the organization of SPECTRE.

Although these films have to fit into the classic Bond mold established by Ian Fleming, hopefully the next film (which will be Craig’s last since he is contractually obligated for one more film) will do better. Even Dave Bautista’s role as the heavyweight thug relying on brute strength felt limiting. He does not match the same level of menace as Oddjob in Goldfinger. As long as the series writers do more to fuel Bond and Blofeld’s rivalry in the 25th film in this franchise (this current set of films feels like a pentalogy), perhaps that big bang will happen before another reboot happens.

3½ Stars out of 5

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