I love me some Skyfall. Mixing up the formula proved to be genius as director Sam Mendes and screenwriters John Logan, Neal Purvis, and Robert Wade replaced mindless action and dopey gadgets with emotion and sincerity.
With the ending of Skyfall ensuring the next installment will be more traditional Bond, and Mendes and the trio of screenwriters returning, the excitement was through the roof for Spectre – which I wouldn’t even put in my top five favorite spy movies of 2015.
After 007 (Daniel Craig) wrecks havoc while on “vacation” in Mexico, M (Ralph Fiennes) grounds him, which is only a minor speed bump on Bond’s under the table mission from an old friend. As Bond travels the world, M is distracted by Max (Andrew Scott), a member of the Joint Intelligence Committee, who plans to create a surveillance union between nine countries that could see the 00 agents replaced with drones.
The “00 program is outdated with 21st century technology” plotline was exquisitely executed in Skyfall, where it lovingly and appropriately tied into the franchise’s 50th anniversary. It repeats itself here, with similar ideas and even similar dialogue.
Recycling elements from the past 23 films, Logan, Purvis, Wade, and newcomer Jez Butterworth (co-writer of Black Mass and Edge of Tomorrow) lazily threw the plot together. Aside from that aforementioned plotline, the structure here is all over the place.
Bond is the luckiest man in the world with the amount of convenient things that happen to him throughout this movie. Thank god the enemy didn’t take away that lovely piece of tech so Bond can escape. Thank god Bond’s got a plane in his back pocket just in case he needs to take down a few cars with ease. Thank god every female Bond meets along the way will obey his every command because of those damn blue eyes.
A Bond girl is generally the most anti-feminist type of character, but the way poor Monica Bellucci and Léa Seydoux are treated here takes it to a whole new level. Bellucci essentially has a glorified cameo, with her five minutes of fame so demeaning it was eye-roll worthy. Seydoux’s character is even more degrading. Having her stand up against Bond, only to have her succumb on a whim, is just bad character development.
Especially considering what Bond has done to these two ladies’ lives, seeing them so quickly throw themselves at him is creepy.
The new male characters don’t get much of a pass either. Christoph Waltz plays the main villain here with Dave Bautista as his big and brute henchman. Both of them are so lacking in character, they are far from worthy of being called Bond villains. Waltz’s character just talks about the bad things he’s done, while Bautista is just a big guy for Bond to fight. The only word to characterize them is boring.
And Andrew Scott’s character’s arc is so predictable, I’m astounded this is the best those four men could do.
Returning characters M, Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), Q (Ben Whishaw), and Tanner (Rory Kinnear) are given more screentime, but not many interesting things to do. Moneypenny and Tanner debrief, Q types away at his computer, and M is mostly there to react and give orders to the crew that continually ignore him in favor of Blue Eyes. But since the characters are so likable with their witty banter and fun anti-establishment attitudes, I would rather watch them then see Bond interact with the stock he is forced to.
Spectre isn’t a complete trainwreck though. This two and a half hour film flies by with plenty of slick action (thanks in part to Hoyte van Hoytema’s wonderful cinematography) and a cast that is trying their best under Mendes’ solid direction, but terribly constructed characters and a lazy plot destroy the film. At least Quantum of Solace was forgettable.