Last updated on March 17th, 2017 at 09:36 pm
Daniel Craig returns to his fourth outing as James Bond (or Blonde as some people say or used to say) in the newly released Spectre, the 24th Bond film released. Following the events of Skyfall, based on a cryptic message left behind for him,
Captain America Bond traverses on a new mission to protect America with his vibranium shield that leads him down a road to uncover a mysterious and sinister organization known only by the name of Hydra, which happens to be a deep Nazi science organization, whose symbol is an octopus with a skull Spectre. As the mystery unravels, Bond begins to deduce ties between Spectre and various events that have taken place in his past. Bond must find a way to outsmart the forces behind this organization or die trying, alone and with no one and nothing to hang on to. (Alright that was morbid, but he’s a troubled hero so you know that’s going to happen if he doesn’t beat the bad guy.) Returning characters alongside Bond are the new M ( Ralph Fiennes ), Moneypenny ( Naomie Harris ), Q ( Ben Whishaw ), Bill Tanner ( Rory Kinnear ), and Mr. White ( Jesper Christensen ) (Is this guy related to Hayden Christensen?) New characters in this film series are Lucia Sciarra ( Monica Bellucci ), Madeleine Swann ( Léa Seydoux ), Franz Oberhauser ( Christoph Waltz ), Max Denbigh ( Andrew Scott ), and Mr. Hinx ( Dave Bautista ).
Spectre Looms In Skyfall’s Shadow
If you enjoyed the previous three installments, Spectre will prove to be an entertaining and well written film. The latest Bond film seeks to tie in Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, and Skyfall together into an overarching story. While it may not be the most difficult thing to do it’s also definitely not the easiest either, considering how Quantum of Solace lacked true substance. Spectre needed to mix its own story and voice while referencing how the previous three films fit into the bigger scheme of Craig’s Bond universe.
Having Sam Mendes return to direct from previously working on Skyfall was definitely a plus. The end result is good and coherent enough, but unfortunately Spectre feels like it looms under Skyfall’s shadow due to plot flaws and how strong Skyfall performed. Do not get me wrong! Spectre is an impressive film. Unfortunately, because of the plot and responsibility it had to tie in the previous films it suffered a little on the creative end. Spectre just didn’t seem to have the creative freedom that Skyfall had. When Skyfall came out, the very obvious fact I noted is that its plot really was independent of Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. You didn’t need to watch those films to understand what was going in Skyfall. Such a film could only be accomplished by the studio giving the green light to say it’s okay if Skyfall didn’t tie in with the previous two films. That kind of creative freedom was most likely given by the studio in response to how Quantum of Solace performed on a creative level. The same type of playing field was not given to Spectre.
Not only did Spectre have plot requirements to be on par with the goal for this film, but it also had plot flaws. There are mainly two that come to mind. The first is in regards the overarching story. Spectre manages to tie in the previous three films as mentioned earlier, but it does so without putting in the work needed to convince the audience there was an it’s-all-connected type of vibe to this film. The film manages to explain in a couple of scenes how previous events in the previous films tie into each other through the big bad organization, Spectre. While it’s cool to see the story take that direction it would have been nicer to see the plot explained more thoroughly, whether it’s through flashbacks or through present dialogue that offered more information. The dialogue feels like it loosely explains connectivity and continuity, but does so only enough that it forces the audience to infer what they think connects everything when it comes to more detailed questions. The only reason one can come up with for the lack of information is because Spectre, as a film, is already on a two hour and thirty minute run and the behind-the-scenes crew most likely didn’t want to add in anymore footage so that the film wasn’t drawn out too long.
The other plot flaw one can also possibly bring up is Mr. White’s plot arch. The last part of it doesn’t make much sense. I won’t explain it too much because it will spoil a part of the film, but when you do see it ask yourself what the motivation behind his last step of action is, and if you think about it you may start asking the same thing I asked myself. What was his reasoning for what he did? All in all Spectre is wonderful, but it feels underwhelming due to plot flaws and the fact that it was measured up to how Skyfall performed, both in the box office and on a writing level.
New and Classic Bond Characters
In my Skyfall review I mentioned how it, as a film, sought to bring Bond back to classic roots. The characters we have in Spectre, as well as the title itself, are a testament to that notion. Craig reprises his role as James Bond and maintains the gritty, darker character that he’s presented in all the previous installments. That type of character definitely appeals to audiences nowadays compared to the campy tone and corny characters that older movies showed.
We have the role of M returning to head up the Secret Service program. Spectre is now the first film to present a new M, Ralph Fiennes’ Mallory in Skyfall replacing Judi Dench’s M. Fans of Bond since the Pierce Brosnan era are definitely used to Judi Dench in the M role, so Fiennes has a certain level of expectation to live up to now that’s he ascended to that role. While he populates enough scenes in Spectre but isn’t given a lot of moments to shine and progress his character. Hopefully if there’s one last film with Craig as Bond we can see more of the M Fiennes inhabits and how he chooses to portray his version of this character. Nonetheless he’s still entertaining to watch onscreen. For me he appeared on my radar for films when he took the role of Voldemort in the Harry Potter films. He did a fantastic job in that role and here’s to hoping more great roles will open up for him.
The character of Moneypenny returns, but sadly she doesn’t have as high of a role in this film. This is probably to give the newer characters room to shine and make known how they’re important to the story.
Q returns too and definitely presents a lot more cool gadgetry this time around compared to all the previous installments in the current Bond saga. Alongside that, he assists Bond a bit in the field with trying to find out more about Spectre.
Rory Kinnear returns in his supporting role as Bill Tanner again, the MI-6 chief of staff. There’s nothing significant he’s involved in, but is a welcome sight to see when he’s in the picture to assist Bond, M, Moneypenny, and Q. That and seeing old characters emphasizes continuity.
Last but not least, we have Mr. White from Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace returning to help move the plot along. He is a crucial character needed in establishing a new character and the existence of Spectre. It is interesting seeing him here because the character presented to us is one whose lost status and power and is a shell of who he was in the previous films. It’s actually curious to ask too, while we’re at it, who Mr. White was in previous films. He didn’t have a lot of screen time in Casino Royale and his character wasn’t explained well in Quantum of Solace. The best answer we have is that he’s the head of the organization called Quantum, the group Dominic Greene was associated with and by that we know he’s associated with Mr. White. Greene was the big bad in Quantum of Solace. His villainous character wasn’t explained too well either, so that’s two characters we don’t know a lot about. If only that film worked more on its story, then we may not have some of the problems we have in the current storyline.
Now on to the new additions in Spectre. The new Bond women are Lucia Sciarra and Madeleine Swann. Lucia Sciarra is played by Monica Bellucci and her character happens to be the widowed wife of a man Bond killed in his journey to find out more about Spectre. Given how well known she is you would think she would have a bigger part in this film, but her screen time isn’t long. She helps to advance the story a little bit and then we never see her again. That’s an awfully small role for an actress that’s high profile.
The other woman Bond comes across is Madeleine Swann, played by Léa Seydoux, who has a much bigger role compared to Bellucci’s Sciarra. Her character’s role is more integral to finding out what Spectre is and she has a certain indirect tie to Bond’s past through another character.
Our big bad villains in this film are Franz Oberhauser and Mr. Hinx. Franz Oberhauser is the suspected leader of Spectre and somehow has personal ties to Bond that are unknown when his character is first discovered. Christoph Waltz is a welcome sight and it’s cool to see him play the role of a villain in a Bond movie. Despite his major acting talent, Waltz’s Oberhauser feels underwhelming and Waltz’s talent feels underused. This probably is due to the fact that once again Spectre is following up Skyfall, and in this case Oberhauser is following up is Javier Bardem’s Raoul Silva. His villain embraces the psychotic side, kind of like how Heath Ledger’s Joker was for The Dark Knight, but the psychotic nature isn’t over the top. Bardem channels enough of it to fit the nature of Skyfall and it comes off convincing in tone when he acts opposite of Bond and Dench. Oberhauser is more like Bane from The Dark Knight Rises in that he embodies calmness and calculation compared to that of a chaotic nature. Unlike Bane though, Oberhauser doesn’t have a physical presence that literally challenges the protagonist (Bond) in this film. He didn’t have any other traits, for that matter, that made Bond feel physically challenged. Due to that he didn’t come off as threatening as Silva did, even though both villains were designed to have a personal connection to the protagonist. The character of Oberhauser is well written though and should have worked for Spectre. Unfortunately, as I’ve said before, Skyfall set the bar high and with Spectre following up, Oberhauser’s wit through a calm demeanor couldn’t match that of Silva’s psychotic nature as a damaged former spy. However, Oberhauser’s underwhelming portrayal in this movie may not be without reason. See how the end of this movie plays out and think about it. It’s not something obvious put out there, but there could be more we’ve yet to see. I’ll leave it at that.
As for Mr. Hinx, he is perhaps the physical presence in this film that Oberhauser lacks. Played by Dave Bautista, it’s obvious that he’s going to give Bond a run for his money when it comes to physical fights.
The last new addition to Spectre is, the wild card of a character, Max Denbigh. He’s a government official who wants to shut down MI-6 because he believe it’s an obsolete program that can be replaced with technological surveillance. That theme plays out a bit in this film and on that note government surveillance seems to be Bond’s theme this time around. He’s a bit ambiguous and it’s hard to get a read on him. For now he seems to embody the political theme of Spectre and his character is written more to go head-to-head with Fiennes’ M.
Spectre’s Enjoyable, But Falls Short
Spectre is a film with an excellent concept for a follow-up to Skyfall, but doesn’t do the work needed to explain its connection to Skyfall and the two films before it. It had everything it needed to be an outstanding film, but it ended up being more of an average action/thriller film. It’s somewhat disappointing because this may be the last Bond film for Daniel Craig. If so, we may not get to see more of the serious tone presented here in future Bond films. Despite Spectre’s flaws, it was still a really enjoyable film and one I would go see again. Go see Spectre while it’s in theaters, overlook the flaws and enjoy it!