Friday, November 6, 2015

Fall Flicks: Spectre

James Blah. Spect-meh. Bland, James Bland. This is what my mind was doing watching new James Bond outing Spectre last night, trying to think of semi-clever puns that would describe the movie. I didn't not like it but I did check my watch, my knees got tired from sitting and I was glad it was over. Of course I wasn't a fan of mega hit Skyfall either with it's dour mood and stripped down version of Bond that could have easily been billed as "English Spy Drama" instead of a James Bond picture. I'm no Bond expert but I've seen enough of them to form an expectation of a smooth yet rugged, macho hero, exotic locales, nefarious villains, cool gadgets and beautiful women. Daniel Craig's first outing as Bond in 2006's Casino Royale was a kinetic, fun and gritty outing that got a little too big between the airport scene and the falling houses finale but overall I enjoyed watching it, wanted to dress a little better, conduct myself with a little more panache and work out harder. Follow up Quantum of Solace was a short and frenetic chapter that could be deemed the Jason Bourne one with it's emphasis on unstoppable Terminator style action and hyper editing. But Skyfall with it's bad CGI, drawn out story that concluded with a Home Alone meets Batman Begins piece just lost me. It made a billion bucks but I didn't want to be Bond anymore, I wasn't inspired by this fictional cinematic hero any longer.

Spectre opens up in Mexico City where Bond is tracking a mysterious fellow, causes all kinds of destruction and the ultimate death of said fellow. Back at Mi6, new boss M (Ralph Fiennes) puts the kibosh on further unsanctioned missions and Bond has to go underground to do some revenging. We're introduced to a shadowy network of baddies and a brute of a hitman with metal thumb nails before meeting the lovely daughter of a former associate. Together they go on the run to uncover the roots of this shadowy, all seeing organization that is using personal data to basically watch over society and remove threats as they deem appropriate. John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth tackle Ian Fleming's creation with Sam Mendes back at the helm. Like Skyfall, the film takes it's time going nowhere in particular while providing the odd set piece involving chases with cars and planes in the city, on snow capped mountains and the high desert. There's a few hand to hand fight scenes with one on a train against hitman Hinx (Dave Bautista) being a highlight. But overall I just don't understand why Mendes and crew have something against making a fun or exciting film. The scale is huge, the stunts enormous and the settings spectacular yet it all unfolds in such a ho-hum fashion. I hope Chris Nolan got a thank you note now that Royale, Skyfall and Spectre have all cribbed from his Dark Knight Batman trilogy. *Minor Spoilers* In Spectre you get the overwatching network we already saw in The Dark Knight and later Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Avengers 2. As well as a scene where Bond has to decide on who to save before things go blowed up. Also reminiscent of Knight.*End Spoilers*

Like I said, I didn't not enjoy the film, you are invested in following Bond on the trail of who the new villain is and their connection. Now that all of the character's backstories are intertwined, I thought for a second it would go Oldboy and make young love interest Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux) his relative just to mess with him and us. But it didn't. I can't believe that Casino Royale was nearly 10 years ago and much was made about Craig's pumped up physique on display. Shirtless scenes followed in Quantum and he spends much of Skyfall sans top attire but in Spectre he stays covered up. Is that another sign that Craig has lost interest in the character and didn't train as hard for this one? You tell me. The star has always been a bit cranky when it comes to press but for Bond he really came off not giving a crap. You can't blame him though, the film took years to develop and shoot, cost an alleged $330 million bucks and he seriously injured his knee. Coming off such a gigantic project, it's safe to say he needs a break. Mendes has already commented that he's done with the franchise so hopefully they bring back Martin Campbell who breathed new life into the series with Goldeneye and Royale.

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