Following Skyfall was never going to be an easy job; it was a fantastic blend of the classic Bond tropes, but also a modern action movie that was very aware of its roots and made the most of making use of them. Spectre is a movie painted with the same brush, connecting it to the all of the previous Daniel Craig movies in what has been a psedeo-reboot for the franchise.
Skyfall very much felt like the status quo re-establishing movie, the one that tied itself up with a neat bow and set the franchise rolling again right where Casino Royale had jarred it away from. Spectre wants the best of both worlds, returning to some of the more well known Bond tropes while continuing to throw in the more modern mentality of the world surrounding the character.
I enjoyed it, I really did. But because it had to follow such a high point, it feels lesser than it might actually be by comparison, stuck in the grand shadow of Skyfall. The movie looks fantasic, the locations and action set pieces all continue to be top notch, Bond traveling from Mexico City during the Day of the Dead to Rome, to the Austrian mountains and back to London for the finale. There are some great visual pieces, the opening seemingly like a continuous tracking shot from the streets and up onto rooftops. Great fight scenes in a helicopter and a train and a number of car chases with a good amount of humour injected into them. The villain even has a base in the meteorite crater that is straight out of Connery era Bond movies.
I feel the need to rattle off all these good things about the movie because I’m going to take some time to talk about what I found pretty disappointing about the movie.
Spectre is the big bad organisation in the Ian Fleming’s James Bond series, one of the few organisations to show up in multiple stories. So there was some gravity to the latest movie being named for them, on top of that we had the ever charismatic Christoph Waltz playing Ernst Stavro Blofeld, arguably Bond’s greatest advisory. Plus Andrew Scott was on cast, who was fantastic as Moriatry in BBC’s Sherlock. So it was a bit of a letdown when the villains in this movie where the weakest part of it.
Bond villains are some of the most iconic in cinema, they often call in some of the biggest name actors around to play them. Well most of the time… I’m not saying Waltz’s performance was Walken-esque, I’m saying it wasn’t Walken enough. I was hoping for some of the same unnerving dread that came from Javier Bardem’s peformance in Skyfall, or like Waltz performance as Hans Landa in Inglorius Basterds. As Blofeld, he was a bit flat, a bit unintimidating and very subdued compared to the big performance he is capable of.
He plays more of a conniving and cerebral villain, than one that can go toe to toe in a fight scene with Bond, and as proven in past movies when push comes to shove they make for an underwhelming climax to the movie’s final moments. The only physical threat to Bond in the movie, played by Dave Bautista, is dispatched in his first fight. What should have been the high point in the movie for Waltz turned out to be the biggest misuse of him. The big face to face between Bond and Blofeld takes place with Bond strapped to a chair at the mercy of the villain. This should be where Waltz shone, giving a monologue about a shared past between the two characters while inserting dentest drills into Bond’s skull. It’s a scene he seems to have been made for as an actor, where he can ooze menace and tense an entire audience with a look. And yet it’s amazing how little impact the scene has aside from making me wonder how they didn’t do to better. It is all so stock and pales in comparison to the similar scene in the previous movie which was incredibly unnerving.
Spectre is still a great movie though, it’s filled with a running theme of old vs. new. Classic Bond cold War mentality vs. the modern information age that the character now finds himself in. It’s also filled with self reflective moments of how charters like Bond are becoming less and less necessary when a person with a laptop can cause much more damage. It continues questions asked since the Judi Dench era as to whether agents like Bond are necessary any more. Several times the movie toys with the idea of having Mi6 (who apparently consists of five people at the point.) become a rogue group, doing thier jobs from the shadows without the say of the British government. Which to be honest I wouldn’t mind seeing for a movie or two.
But the movie does dip its toes in bond tradition a little more than the previous Daniel Craig entires, making a couple of vodka martini jokes and having the classic intro and ending theme. Spectre is very much another Daniel Craig Bond movie, if I had to rate it compared to the others I would say it is on par with Casino Royale. It’s a fun ride and continues to play with traditions of the series. It shows signs of slowly slipping into old habits, which could be bad for the series, but the worst thing was that villain. Either way though, I’d still recommend it. It’s a great movie that just under-utilised a great actor.