Spectre (Reviewish) Spectre (Reviewish)
How good is "Spectre"? And how relevant is James Bond still? Spectre (Reviewish)

The James Bond franchise is a throwback about a Cold War concept of espionage (human intelligence as applied to the nuclear arms race with Russia) and the appetite-driven Alpha Male who was its greatest practitioner in the worlds of fiction and cinema. The appetites:  vodka, gorgeous women, weird gadgets and witty asides – amazingly – have been the aspects of the character most muffled over the decades, since the end of the Cold War seen as vestiges of a bygone era.

Today we have Daniel Craig’s James Bond showcased at the height (most likely) of his run as the character in the wonderful film Spectre. We now have a Bond motivated less by bachelor pad stuff and more by childhood issues. When he attempts to order his shaken Martini he is told that they don’t serve alcohol at the bar only veggie shakes. This is the world Craig’s Bond inhabits. Here Bond’s love interests are never mere vixens with sexy voices but instead layered, complicated, wounded females crying on shower floors while their mascara rolls down their cheeks. They’re still hot of course, sorta (not Playboy circa 1970 hot, but okay) . . . but the Bond- series isn’t really male fantasy any more, unless your idea of a good time is dragging Judi Dench through a series of cemeteries on a cold night on the moors while an orphanage from a Brontë novel burns in the background (see Skyfall). I mean in Casino Royale they went through a long drawn out explanation of how to play poker and played it for suspense. What guy doesn’t know how to play poker? I mean did they explain how to play baccarat in Goldeneye? No. Bond just housed the place (pun!) and that was enough for everyone.

But anyway those are limitations that Spectre transcends, in my opinion.

Daniel Craig recently said that the production of Spectre was a miserable experience for him and that he’d never play the character again. And although that exhaustion doesn’t seep into his performance at all, this is a really intense film full of action sequences with awesome stunts and real planes and real snow and sand so I can see what he’s saying.
Also it’s a dark film and tonally and thematically complicated. I think there are artistic pretensions to it. So it was a challenge apparently. But I must say that Craig should really shut his god damn mouth about what a shitty time he had, because Spectre is a magnificent piece of work and he wasn’t the only guy who put blood and sweat into the project to make it the glorious piece of throwback cinema that it is. Yes Daniel, it’s hard to make a good movie. Everyone used to know this. Just ask George Lucas who almost died making the first Star Wars- movie and look how crappy that ended up. Right? Ask Coppola for crying out loud.

I'm tired!

I’m tired!

 

In interviews with the director of Spectre, Sam Mendes, he has said he concentrated his energies on shooting in real locations and with practical effects as much as possible, because modern audiences have grown too sophisticated for shoddy computer effects. He respected the audience? Whoa. And although this is quite obviously a MUCH more challenging prospect than “do it in post” type crap it’s more than just a “for the fans” gesture and you can see that on the god damn movie screen if you actually are brave enough to go to a movie theater and see this damn picture (*chomps cigar*). Everything looks good in Spectre. The sets are awesome. The locations are pure eye candy. The story has weight. The exhaustion that is poured into it, the craftsmanship, makes the moments of levity work instead of being lame. Good and true catharsis and playfulness are evident here like in all our favorite eighties movie because so much grit and muscle is soaked into the film. You can’t fake it. And that’s just the god damn reality of movie-making people.

This is a great Bond film. And I say that as someone who didn’t care for any of the previous Craig Bonds. But hey they made a ton of money so who cares what I think after the fact?

People asked me why I was anticipating Spectre since I hadn’t enjoyed the previous few Bonds and it was for the simple reason that Christoph Waltz was going to be in it and was coming off two straight “Best Actor”- wins. Now, I am of the opinion that his performance in Django Unchained was nothing special at all in a really middling Tarantino film. But is there precedent for such a pedigree in a Bond film? The answer is “No”. Sam Mendes also obviously won an Oscar for American Beauty. So I was just thinking there was a lot of potential there and then to hear Craig pop off about how he had his ass handed to him during the production just furthered my interest. I just had to see what on earth was up with this Bond film.

And I am just happy as a clam that I did.

I don’t know if it was during the production or during post, but Mendes found his inner Spielberg here. There is a sense of fun and self-discovery to the picture that I’ve never seen in his work before. Almost like he finally calmed down a little bit and relaxed after decades of uptight, over serious, “look at me”- film-making. I get that. It’s hard to stand out as a creative person these days and you need to roll your bones with the powers that be in the critical establishment (apparently) before you can do something truly creative. At least that seems to be the case with Mendes. In Spectre it seems like he is finally comfortable enough to have some fun, and the result is simply the best and most enduring film that he has ever made and possibly the strongest overall Bond film since Goldfinger or From Russia with Love.

As a movie nerd par excellence it is my conjecture that Mendes found out how much fun editing is and how rewarding because the production was so hard, but he got so much quality footage from his real locations and real stunts. The film is very exuberantly edited and has great, crowd pleasing moments that ripple through the crowd, making us lick the butter and salt off our god damn fingers and grin.

spectre-james-bond-sam-mendes-set-photo

It’s just great and the Bond franchise incomprehensibly is able to stumble forward into the next century after three very creatively stilted movies.

This new creative peak has led me to think about the whole idea of the Bond franchise being a throwback and how it has changed over the years. While it’s true that the character himself has evolved a bit it’s interesting that the franchise retains some of its anachronisms that are actually pretty risky. I’m talking of course about the opening song. Sometimes (always) cheesy as hell and incredibly lame (yes even Adele) and yet it’s still a non-negotiable hallmark of the series. And I have to give them a hand because why the hell not have an opening song that is absolutely idiotic and possibly the un-sexiest thing ever committed to celluloid? For all that one can say (and apparently people are bitter) about the Bond property being held by some weird, shadowy, family that owns a lot of Land Rovers in England you have to concede that if you gave Bond to some American studio owned by a multi-national corporation they would get rid of the opening song if they thought it would make them another million bucks because they could trim four minutes and squeeze in an extra show or because their research math told them to do it. They totally would scrap the song and you know it! But see that’s not the franchise. The franchise is: You gotta have the song. That’s why they’re rich. You’re poor. Thank you very much.

I don’t know if I have liked a Bond song since Goldeneye (and it’s terrible) but it’s not going away and while I sat in my theater seat with my popcorn and Coke waiting for Spectre to start it made me realize that good franchises really do stick to an underlying formula very rigidly. It just all depends upon what they think that formula may be that makes a franchise succeed or fail. There is genius in hanging onto the song.

That said I just find it amazing that no filmmaker has ever been like…”how about no awful song number at the beginning because it’s an embarrassment to the film itself?” I think Mendes made a Bond film here that stretches the artistic possibilities of the character, so maybe in the future they will think about loosening up the rules a bit because their scripts and talent are so strong. So strong. Will there ever be another Bond with this much Oscar gold front and center? I doubt it. But that doesn’t mean this franchise can’t continue to become relevant. And with Spectre the Bond franchise becomes maybe the preeminent storytelling left in commercial filmmaking. And I absolutely mean that one hundred percent. Is that because they don’t have to compromise the franchise and have been able to wait until something this good came along? Maybe. In any event they need to raise the stakes and go again with this same team.

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You must see this film on the big screen because it is that good. Yes.

Spectre. 

Good job.

If Daniel Craig doesn't want to do this anymore I can do a British accent. Just saying.

If Daniel Craig doesn’t want to do this anymore I can do a British accent. Just saying.

 

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Agent Smith

Agent Smith is moving to Singapore after he gets his cheap gold watch.

  • Jacob de Zissou

    Eminently watchabe.

  • KilliK

    yeah, right.

  • I_am_better

    Still haven’t seen it, so I have no opinion on the matter one way or another. I liked Skyfall.

  • Ghoul Tower/Maps/TBD

    I speak truth. It is an amazing acievement.

  • KilliK

    you speak nothing.

  • I dunno if I will agree when I’ve seen it, but the review is fun in any way.

  • Ghoul Tower/Maps/TBD

    Heh

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    It’s really not.

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    Spectre isn’t a remake of The Dark Knight Rises, as first suspected, but instead a remake of Batman ’89. Those Bond producers sure are getting a lot of mileage out of that particular flying mammal.

  • Ghoul Tower/Maps/TBD

    It’s the best Craig Bond….

  • Sagamanus

    Good review Indiana, but you just had to take a shot across Django’s bow didn’t you!?

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    Not even close.

  • Ghoul Tower/Maps/TBD

    You just forfeited your credibility on this thread.

  • Ghoul Tower/Maps/TBD

    Because it was a bad movie.

  • Sagamanus

    Woah woah woah. You think I’m some drippy slippy caramel coasting down your bare chest? Well I’m not. You and RJD both think that. Yet do you guys know what you’re talking about in regards to it?

  • Ghoul Tower/Maps/TBD

    I know everything about whether a movie is good or bad. Wriggle out of that one Foucault.

  • Sagamanus

    Ridiculous. Tell me why Django is so bad? Oh oh I think I already know.

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    Did I?

  • CoolHandJuke

    Has anyone seen the last hunger games movie? I’m curious if jlaw masturbates with a crucifix in it…

  • Ghoul Tower/Maps/TBD

    Haha

  • Ghoul Tower/Maps/TBD

    No I only watch Divergent.

  • Ghoul Tower/Maps/TBD

    I think so.

  • KilliK

    LOL! lets hope the next Bond will take from the 60s Batman movie, so that it can become fun again as it used to be.

  • You mean by mixing the dark and the campy aspects like in Burton’s Batman?

  • Andy West

    The next James Bond villain will be someone he stole lunch money from.

  • Solid motivation, if you ask me.

  • Tarmac492.1

    Good review. I will see this on TV. Mendes is not a director I will waste my money on going to the theater. The only thing I really liked of his was Road to Perdition. Skyfall was decent, but highly over praised in my opinion. Speaking of Django, I would like to see QT direct a bond movie. Not James Bond, but a movie about bonds.

  • CoolHandJuke

    Can you smell that chick’s skank ass through the screen?

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    That’s not what I mean. You’ll know when you see it. Although what you said is definitely true and could also serve the comparison.

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    Actually, I think the next iteration of Bond will definitely be in that more colorful pulp/campy tradition. Maybe they won’t go full Roger Moore, but they’ll certainly creep close.

    But first, Craig will do at least one more, and maybe two. Anyone who believes otherwise is kidding themselves, particularly after the way Spectre ends. It’s very much a transitional movie.

  • I was already spoiled, so now I think I know what you mean. I guess you mean a certain plot point.

  • His quote from the interview is BS. He was burned out from filming when they asked him

  • Ghoul Tower/Maps/TBD

    Shailene Woodley? Is she a skank? Well she’s very fetching anyway.

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    Yep.

  • KilliK

    what’s the plot point?

  • Tarmac492.1

    I sort of hope Waltz’s character puts down his newspaper and says “Wait’ll they get a load of me.”

  • Tarmac492.1

    I would like to see Joe Piscopo as the next James Bond.

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    You really want to know? Okay…

    SPOILER

    Bond and Blofeld are step-brothers, and each caused the creation of the other, with young Blofeld responsible for killing Bond’s foster parents. Basically, the filmmakers forced a contrived past connection between two antagonists that previously didn’t have one.

  • KilliK

    ΒWAHAHAHA. oh boy, this is even worse than I thought, so they basically ripped-off the twist from Austin Powers 3.

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    Sadly, he doesn’t do that. Nor does he fry an underling with an electric joy-buzzer. I wish he had.

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    LOL. I never thought of that! It brought to mind the Batman and Joker dynamic from Burton’s movie for me, but yes: it echoes Austin Powers: Goldmember, as well. Maybe even more so.

  • Tarmac492.1

    Is this true? LOL!!! Fairly pathetic. What is with this bs that everything must be connected somehow? Why must every movie have some kind of forced and ridiculous reveal in it? Why cant it be enough that Blofeld is a bad dude and Bond is a good dude? Nolan had it right explaining the Joker character “Some men, just want to watch the world burn.” This is infinitely more engaging and frightening than two antagonist that pooped themselves under the same roof growing up. Game over.

  • Tarmac492.1

    BTW, I am also sure the Will Ferrell masterpiece showed this better than the Mendes’ film. Step Brothers is genius!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Stalkeye

    Obviously not.

  • Stalkeye

    Bullshit, you!!

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    Yes, it’s true. The more I ruminate on the movie, the more it falls apart. And not just the above “twist”, either.

    The writers cobbled together all these connections after the fact in order to tie in Spectre with the previous Craig Bonds, and absolutely none of it makes any goddamn sense.

  • Tarmac492.1

    On the playground, we used to call such nonsensical ideas “retarded”

  • Frimmel

    This isn’t even close to being a top tier Bond film let alone the best Craig. It isn’t quite just moving from set piece to set piece but the thing has no flow and is really uneven. It has beautiful and amazing film-making juxtaposed with modern indie shaky-cam crap.

    It tries the joking self-awareness that “Skyfall” did so well but it all falls flat and feels forced. This adds to the uneveness. Craig’s Bond is not “quippy” yet they try to play that up and you end up with a bit of a clash between the grim assassin and Moore style “fun” Bond.

    And for all your talk of the integrity of the franchise’s producers the **** spoiler ****

    abandonment of Quantum and forcing Royale and QOS all into some long simmering fued with Blofeld and bringing back Spectre is some serious fan pandering.

    This thing was really by the numbers. This is to be expected to some degree with this franchise. It is why we keep going back to see them. So while in no way the worst Bond it is hardly a triumph.

  • Frimmel

    There is a lot of clamoring for that Moore-style Bond but I don’t think folks want that as much as they think and they’ll have a difficult time with not “coming out the other side of Austin Powers” with it. “Skyfall” hit the self-referential/self-awareness thing fairly well while what they did with “Spectre” fell flat. But we also seem to have folks who thought the exact opposite. They are in a precarious situation for the next outing.

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    I think they need to go back to a more pulpy/comic book style style. The leaden, Nolan-aping, “gritty and grounded” pretentiousness of the last two movies has gone far enough, and I think that aesthetic is dying out now in genre movies, anyway.

    Perhaps I should have described that style only as pulp instead of camp, because the Roger Moore movies aren’t quite in step with the times, either (and probably never will be again, thanks to the Austin Powers parodies). But something like Live and Let Die or The Spy Who Loved Me (for example), where more overt fantasy and science fiction elements are mixed in with a lightness of touch and a fast pace? i could definitely see that happening.

    As with most contemporary franchises, the MCU model could serve as a template. Those movies aren’t campy like the latter Reeve Superman films or the Schumacher Batman sequels, but they’re not The Dark Knight or Singer’s X-Men series, either. They strike a balance between colorful antics and a little bit of gravitas, and this seems to be what audiences respond to these days.

    And I think junking some of the “realism” would help matters, too. It severely limits the scope and possibilities of the Bond mythology; even Fleming’s novels contained more outlandish elements than the current movies. Nearly all the Craig Bonds, save the establishing Casino Royale, lack identity. CR and QoS could almost be a part 1 and 2, as could Skyfall and Spectre. I don’t think that could be said for any other run of the series.

  • Stalkeye
  • Frimmel

    I see where you’re going with the pulpy/comic book style style. I just don’t think they can go there at all because of Austin Powers. Craig was reported somewhere as saying that those movies screwed them (and used the eff bomb in saying so.)

    They certainly can’t go there with Craig. That was one of the things that hurt “Spectre.” Moore beat guys and never broke a sweat. Craig had to change shirts because it was covered with blood. So to try and have him quip like Moore is out of place.

    I really think they’re stuck in a sort of “no man’s land” with the series.

  • KilliK

    Bond should take a few hints from Kingsman.

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    They won’t be making those changes while Craig still has the role. If they decide to go in that direction, the recalibration will come into effect with the next person cast as Bond and be part of a complete “reboot” of the series.

    In the meantime, I think they’ll film a back-to-back Blofeld duology, or even trilogy, with Craig to round out his tenure. They didn’t set up Blofeld to use him for only a single film.

  • Sagamanus

    Lol. Yep.