Friday, November 6, 2015


First introduced in Dr. No more than 50 years ago, and not heard from since the pre-credit sequence of For Your Eyes Only, SPECTRE represented a global terrorist organization focused on achieving their own goals. The rebooted Bond films, which began with Casino Royale, finally get around to reintroducing us to the classic villains and their leader Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) in the fourth movie of the series appropriately enough entitled Spectre.

I've never quite warmed to the rebooted Bond which stripped away several important pieces of the Bond films in rebranding our hero as more thug than spy. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed large parts of both Casino Royale and Skyfall but they're middling entries to franchise that don't compare to the best of Connery or Moore. And if Spectre has a major flaw its that while attempting homages to previous entrants to the franchise it constantly reminds the audience of aspects of better films we'd rather be watching. Everything from Blofeld's new secret lair to the close-quarters fight aboard a moving train against an evil henchman (Dave Bautista) hearkens back to better moments from better films.

Picking up sometime after the events of Skyfall, James Bond (Daniel Craig) is on the outs with MI6 while following information from its former head (Judi Dench) which will lead the spy to uncover the existence of SPECTRE and his relationship with it. I'm going to stop here for a moment because it's in this moment that the series makes one of its biggest blunders by attempting to connect Bond's past with that of Blofeld in the way Tim Burton attempted to rewrite the Joker to be responsible for the death of Bruce Wayne's parents. Reeking of coincidence, it didn't work for Burton's Batman and it falls equally flat here.

Tracking clues from the ring of a deceased member of the group (which somehow has held onto DNA of people who may have smiled at it decades before and bizarrely delivers a complete hierarchy of the organization through that same DNA) leads Bond to a rather public meeting of the group and nearly being killed by the looming silent killer Mr. Hinx (Bautista). It also leads Bond to confronting and old adversary and making a new friend in the form of the film's Bond girl Madeline Swann (Léa Seydoux).

The further the series has moved from Casino Royale the more it has tried to introduce elements of the original series back into the movies. The trend continues here with Bond clad in a retro suit which would have fit Sean Connery quite well. We also get a Day of the Dead celebration which falls back on Ian Fleming's fascination on similar culture and locations from both his novels and the earlier Bond films. Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), the new M (Ralph Fiennes), and Q (Ben Whishaw) all return to interchangeably chastise or support Bond as the script calls for.

Waltz isn't a bad Bond villain but it's odd that his version of Blofeld is less of a Bond villain that other on-screen characters he's played in the past. Given how little we see of him in the first-half of the film it's also hard to warm up to the character by the time he and Bond finally sit down together. Waltz lacks both the menace of the unseen cat-wielding dictator from the early films and physical presence of Donald Pleasance (who also had a way cooler secret headquarters). With the non-speaking Hinx as the only member of the group given any real screentime the script fails to impart the scope and power of SPECTRE's operation. Of course it doesn't help that their big plan relies both on a twist far, far too easy to see coming and the not-so-thrilling theft of information rather than world domination.

Is Spectre worth seeing? For Bond fans, yes. However I'm not sure you'd lose much from waiting to check the movie out at a later date on home video. In fact I'd say you may prefer it. Given the fact that the movie is scored within an inch of its life (seriously, not every second needs a looming score) with plenty of explosions and actions scenes layered over the top I found the sound of the film oppressive at times given the amped-up output of an extremely loud AMC Prime theater. The volume didn't make the movie seem bigger or more immersive, just louder and more obnoxious.

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