PG-13 for Daniel Craig era Bond shennanigans. It has that over-the-top violence and brutality that makes Craig's Bond separate from the other Bonds. This also means using sexuality for selfish gain. Like Casino Royale, Spectre resorts to using torture to make people grimmace. There's also some language issues, but that's pretty par-and-parcel for that latter James Bond movies. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Sam Mendes
I swear --I SWEAR --I've written about this movie before. When I was writing about From Russia with Love, I think, I was trying to link Spectre to that blog and NOTHING. Nothing. I looked it up on the film index and that was a big old nope. So I had to rewatch a movie that I watched a month-and-a-half ago just so I can keep my list up to date. That's commitment for you, folks. You won't find that under some fly-by-night blog that simply wants your clicks. This is a site that's built on dedication and --dare I say it --love?
Spectre, to make it as simple as possible, is a movie that I really want to love. Like, I really want this to be one of the great James Bond movies. But I also think that is is plagued with the notion that Daniel Craig seems to hate James Bond more than I thought Harrison Ford hated Han Solo. There were just so many moments in Craig's career that were about abandoning the part until a dump truck full of money showed up at his house to change his mind. Spectre was always meant to be the movie where Craig put the character to bed. The odd thing about it, though, is that Craig's Bond has the most mythology and canon to him. It was always so easy to replace actors as James Bond because, ultimately, it was the same story. But Casino Royale was about giving Bond an origin story. How did Bond become 007 and that's what the movies always kind of tied into the successive films. If Casino Royale was really Bond Begins, then the filmmakers wanted to give Craig's Bond a swan song. Sure, I don't know where that would have left the character. After all, we know that No Time to Die has been in the can for a while now, just waiting for Republicans to get vaccinated.
But the movie doesn't really work, does it? I mean, it is pretty as heck. Sam Mendes makes a good looking movie. I don't think that a lot of this is on Mendes. Instead, the big red flag is the sheer amount of people who get credit for writing this movie. There are moments where it just feels like script doctor after script doctor tried fixing something that was fundamentally flawed. If you had asked me what I most wanted out of a James Bond finale, I would say that I wanted Blofeld, pure and simple. The movie delivered what I thought I wanted and it didn't work. Part of that comes from the same problem that Star Trek Into Darkness ran into with its Khan problem. Both Blofeld and Khan are the big bads of their respective franchises. But in these reboots, they haven't actually earned any of their street cred. Spectre states, pure and simple, that Blofeld / Spectre were behind the events of all of the previous Daniel Craig movies. But everything in the movie feels ultimately like a retcon. We never saw Chrisoph Waltz before this moment. The original Bond films kept giving us nibbles of Blofold in the previous movies leading up to You Only Live Twice. But the retcons really state that Quantum was the organization behind all of the horrible things that happened, as seen in Quantum of Solace.
Then there is the direct connection to Bond. Everything in Craig's Bond movies is obsessed with becoming personal. Vesper Lynd was the focus in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. Silva was on the hunt for M in Skyfall. The film even points this out. But I don't think that making Bond and Blofeld siblings is remotely plausible. It makes the world so small. We don't quite get that Superman / Lex Luthor dynamic that the movie wants. Instead, it feels like Franz Oberhauser becomes Blofeld in spite of everything. On top of that, why is he Blofeld? Why is James Bond calling his brother Blofeld when he should be simply calling him "Franz"? Listen, canon nerds, I know that they aren't biological brothers. But Oberhauser even confirms that they are like brothers, so I used a shorthand. Calm down. I know that people love the Tim Burton Batman movie. I have real concerns with that film that I'll write about one day. But one of the issues that really got under my skin is Jack Napier's connection with the Wayne family. Heck, even the newest Joker movie did the same thing. While I am aware that making the protagonist and antagonist enemies builds internal conflict, not addressing it before this point makes it really feel like a retcon.
Bond's behavior is kind of terrible in this movie. I love the opening sequence in terms of directing and scale. The Bond openings can sometimes be the best part of the movie. Mendes uses this absolutely rad tracking shot that I've been using in my film class for a while. But like with Goldfinger, many of the problems of the movie lie with Bond's rare incompentence. He gets made and then has to blow up a building. When M rebukes him for his crime, Bond acts put out because he saved a stadium full of people. But what about the other people in that building? An apartment complex comes down in the middle of Mexico City, there's going to be fallout. That's all pretty bad, but at least that's an accident. We're all pretty shocked when that building blew up, but at least that should have been it. But then there's the helicopter scene. Geez, the helicopter. It really feels like Bond wanted to endanger scores of people by launching helicopters at them. I mean, why does he prioritize the pilot during the fight. He seems pretty focused on flying straight. Take out the Pale King...AND THEN WORRY ABOUT THE PILOT. When it comes to C and his complaints, he's actually pretty sound in his argument that the Double-O section is dangerous. That's a stupid part.
But the part that I don't get is Madeline Swann as the perfect Bond girl. I'm not commenting on Lea Seydoux at all. She's fabulous in the role. But that part is insanely underwritten. She doesn't really stand out as an important part in Bond's life enough for him to quit the service. With Vesper, I got it. They went through so much together and he was at this vulnerable place in his life that I don't really get with Spectre. There isn't much of a connection there. They barely know each other. On top of that, she says that she knows that he's never going to change. She so fundamentally misreads him that she is about to abandon him during the saving-the-world part of the plan only to get kidnapped. What about that is appealing?
I really hate punching so hard on this movie, but this is a movie that really wants to live with no consequences that may play through to other Bond movies. Bond is captured by Blofeld in Tunisia. He's not so much captured as Bond voluntarily hands himself over and this whole thing is scheduled. Like with Goldfinger, Bond finds himself strapped to a chair connected to a lethal device that is meant to both cause pain and ultimate death. With this one, it is surgical needles that are meant to make Bond forget how to do basic things. The first needle is to take away his senses and his equilibrium. It does nothing except make him scream in pain. The second needle is to make him forget everyone he's ever known. It does nothing but make him scream in pain. He escapes, basically, because Blofeld's chair doesn't work. That's a lame Bond escape. Yeah, yeah. He's got the exploding watch. But he doesn't experience the consequences of the thing that we were promised...just because. He shouldn't remember to use the watch if either of the needles worked. But nothing actually worked. I keep coming back to this moment. Actually, it's the part of the movie I think about when I do think of this film. That needle scene is so much promise and so little delivery. There's no answer for why the needles don't actually do anything.
And that's where I'm left with this movie. I enjoy it as a Bond movie, but I also know that it has a really crappy script with moments that make absolutely no sense. I really want this movie to be great, but it never pulls it off.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.