SPECTRE Review: D. Craig Finally Goes Full 007, But Film Can’t Live Up To Namesake or SKYFALL


SPECTRE is a mixed bag; not as well crafted as Casino Royale or Skyfall, but less muddled than Quantum of Solace.

There be SPOILERS ahead, so read with extreme caution.

On the one hand, Daniel Craig’s 007 has finally fully blossomed into the more traditional James Bond we know and love. He is less “Blunt Instrument” and more charming and suave like his predecessors, still not completely losing his more realistic, brutal style that defines Craig’s outings as 007. The world of James Bond is also completely in place, with a new M, Moneypenny, and Q all present at MI6 after three films spent establishing the classic hero’s “origins.”

SPECTRE 007 James Bond Poster Daniel Craig Léa Seydoux Madeleine SwannYet, we’re not completely done with Bond’s past in SPECTRE, as the film does try to build on what Skyfall started, filling in more gaps in Bond’s upbringing, never explored in the films preceding Craig’s tenure as 007. In this case, Bond was raised by Oberhauser Sr. alongside the man’s own son (Christoph Waltz), a son who will become Bond’s “greatest” foe due to jealousy that his father treated James better than his own flesh and blood.

Whereas Skyfall used Bond’s past extremely effectively to tell a unique story we’d never seen, SPECTRE‘s use of Bond’s past almost feels forced. Does it matter that Oberhauser, aka Ernest Blofeld (duh), was jealous of Bond as a child? Does the head of the organization S.P.E.C.T.R.E. being briefly raised with James Bond add anything to the story? Not really. Blofeld was an effective villain long before this “reboot” of his character and his connection to Bond feels as forced as Sandman’s unnecessary connection to Uncle Ben’s death in Spider-Man 3. Even though the personal element is the key to my favorite 007 villains (Silva from Skyfall and Alec Trevelyan from Goldeneye), it’s simply not necessary to make Blofeld and the organization S.P.E.C.T.R.E. work as effective villains.SPECTRE Christoph Waltz Blofeld

Daniel Craig behaving with more class alongside a complete roster of MI6 allies isn’t all that makes SPECTRE feel more like classic Bond than any of Daniel Craig’s other outings as the Super Spy. The movie throws shout-outs to classic Bond scenes and villains even more so than Skyfall, giving us a lot of images 007 fans will eat up, but bringing with it some clunky scenes and plot points.

The whole production design seeks to recall classic Bond, from the White Tuxedo Craig stole from Sean Connery’s shriveled old body to sets that really recall S.P.E.C.T.R.E. bases and meetings of the old. You’ve at least seen the trailer: the film nails the classic look of cultish S.P.E.C.T.R.E. meetings from the Connery films. Blofeld’s secret hide-out  also looks like today’s version of an old set, nailing what we expect from a Bond villain’s lair.

Dave Bautista SPECTRESome of these classic elements and images are great! Dave Bautista plays a baddie who would feel right at home fighting Connery; one of the film’s strengths! Likewise, before the reveal that Oberhauser has renamed himself Blofeld, we get to see the classic white cat jump right on James’ lap! How’s that for classic S.P.E.C.T.R.E. imagery?

The 1st half the film’s weakness is that the pace and action scenes feel “classic” as well. Gone is the realism and brutality of the action sequences that made Casino Royale, Skyfall… and even Quantum of Solace memorable. The opening action scene with an impressive helicopter stunt is exciting, but it’s not as original as Casino Royale‘s parkour chase, not as intense as the opening car chase from Quantum, or as perfectly over-the-top as Skyfall‘s most impressive 007 film opening ever. In fact, there does come a car chase in the 1st half of the film which feels sluggish compared to the visceral brutality of the aforementioned chase that opened Quatum of Solace.

SPECTRE Train FightThankfully, the 2nd half the film brings the action back to Daniel Craig quality, starting with the very impressive fight between the mismatched James Bond and Buatisa’s giant character on the train. From this scene the film pivots into higher quality scenes all around, from much improved action sequences in comparison to said car chase or the plane chase in Austria, to better use of Christoph Waltz’s talents when he finally reveals himself fully to Bond.

Though just as talented as Javier Bardem who played Silva in Skyfall, Waltz seems underutilized in the very same way Sean Harris was in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. Bardem was given plenty of screen time to establish him as a fantastic, eccentric yet dangerous villain of legend, while Bautista is a flat, albeit effective placeholder so that Waltz’s character can lie in the shadows. But, like I said, he spends too much time in the shadows to be truly effective.

There’s actually quite a bit in common with Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation that doesn’t do SPECTRE any favors. In addition to villains that deserved more screen-time but ran shadow organizations (Rogue Nation’s “The Syndicate” is more or less S.P.E.C.T.R.E.), both films hinge on the plot point that the hero’s spy organization is being shut down with 00 Agents being put out of work in SPECTRE just as Ethan Hunt’s (Tom Crusie) IMF being shuttered in Mission: Impossible. Simply bad timing on SPECTRE’s part.

Andrew Scott as C in SPECTRELook, it’s not all gloom and doom! Though I’ve cut SPECTRE down a peg, it’s still an enjoyable James Bond movie, even if it doesn’t live up to Skyfall or the story you could tell based on the film’s namesake organization. Andrew Scott (Moriarty on BBC’s Sherlock) is brilliant as a sort of secondary villain hidden in plain sight. Blofeld and his organization S.P.E.C.T.R.E. still make for great villains, even neither hits their full potential. And, though forced, it is a cool idea that Waltz is behind all the villains Daniel Craig has faced previously (even if Quantum‘s villain is only mentioned once… barely). Plus, how many 007 films let the villain live? Besides Mr. White? We may be seeing Blofeld again (please!).

Definitely see SPECTRE if you like Daniel Craig’s Bond films… or any of the others for that matter! Though SPECTRE fails to reach its full potential, there is still a lot for a Bond fan to love!

5_Star_Rating_System_3_and_a_half_stars

7 Best 007 Films #3 – #1: A New Take on Bond


With SPECTRE right around the corner, it’s time to celebrate Bond, James Bond.

I’ve compiled a list of my 7 favorite 007 movies. You can check out the 1st part of the list by clicking HERE: #7 – #4.  Now it’s time to reveal my final 3 James Bond movies I hold in highest regard.

3. GoldeneyeGoldeneye 007 James Bond Pierce Brosnan Sean Bean 006 Alec Trevelyan

Goldeneye was my favorite 007 movie until the age of Daniel Craig. Oddly enough, I’d seen several Bond movies before Goldeneye, including the more recent Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough, and it was the Nintendo 64 game of the same name that lead me to the movie. And though Gamers can all agree Goldeneye is a great game, it’s an even better movie!

Goldeneye was released in 1995, the 1st 007 movie following the collapse of the Soviet Union… who had served as the main Bond villains since SMERSH in Sean Connery’s days. The franchise had laid dormant between films for the longest period on record, returning with a new M played by Judi Dench and a new 007 for the 90’s, Pierce Brosnan.

The movie doesn’t age as well as Connery’s films, laced with cheesy 90’s music in a few ridiculous scenes; especially the car race (not chase) between Bond and Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen). Look, another great, cheesy “Bond girl” name!Goldeneye Alec Trevelyan 006 Dish Drop

All that taken into consideration, Goldeneye is my 3rd favorite Bond movie due to it’s amazing villain (either my favorite or second favorite 007 villain… it’s hard to lock it down) and just as incredible plot.

Sean Bean plays 006, Alec Trevelyn, left to die by Pierce Brosnan in the 1st scene only to return as head of a master-plan to use the Goldeneye weapons satellite with an EMP device that could cripple a city. No world domination here. As James suggests, Trevelyn is a common thief, though the former 006 has something bigger planned; erasing all the bank records and the like by turning the Goldeneye satellite on London.

Similar to Robert Shaw in From Russia With Love, 006/Alec Trevelyn is the ultimate doppelganger, a former partner of Bond’s, with his skill-set, charm, and even the very same gadgets (though his watch provided by Q branch is a slightly older model). Sean Bean is one of my favorite actors due to this role and he’s the perfect man to play the ultimate anti-007 (Bean was on the shortlist to play 007 when Brosnan got  the gig).

 

2. Casino Royale

Casino Royale James Bond 007 Daniel Craig Mads Mikkelsen Le Chiffre Felix Leiter Jeffrey Wright Play Poker

Casino Royale reinvented 007 in a way that no other new Bond actor ever did. Borrowing heavily from the Bourne franchise, Daniel Craig wasn’t just the 1st blond Bond, he was the most brutal. M calls Craig’s 007 “a blunt instrument,” not the sophisticated Bond we were accustomed to. This darker, more realistic take on 007 was a direct response to how cheesy the Pierce Brosnan movies had gotten by Die Another Day.

In an era of dark reboots, including Batman Begins, the ruthless Daniel Craig 007 was a welcome change. We get to see James Bond become the 007 we know and love today… and get to see again on November 6th! Take this exchange for example of where Daniel Craig’s Bond starts:

“Vodka-Martini.”

“Shaken or stirred?”

“Do I look like I give a damn?”

The Vesper (Eva Green) origin tale is the 1st time the franchise had dabbled in 007’s past (the 1st book of the franchise, Casino Royale could only be made into a movie through a partnership with Sony) and boy-howdy did it make the decades old character more interesting than ever before! We get to see why he treats women like playthings and trusts no one. Though he is not fully the 007 we know by the end of the film, he does earn the words:

“The name’s Bond, James Bond.”

Casino Royale Bond, James Bond FinaleThe movie’s plot is simple, but great; again, we’re not talking about starting World War III or using a Nuclear Device. Plus, the idea of a shady organization that will become Quantum… and the SPECTRE is immediatly introudced and wonderfully explored: Bond doesn’t even get a chance to kill Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), who is an interesting villain in his own right as he “cries” blood. Instead, Mr. White cleans up his own mess.

The groundwork is laid for great characters that carried over to Quantum of Solace (as discussed last time), including CIA Agent Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), ally Rene Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini), and Mr. White. Of course, M is back as well, but she remains Dame Judi Dench… for now. Q and Moneypenny are absent, but that’s why Skyfall exists!

Casino Royale also brings back the detective element from Dr. No in a way it hasn’t been explored in 50 years. Though the film has excellent action set-pieces, it’s really about 007 following a series of clues that lead him to a poker game with only the highest of stake. He’s a true detective in this one.

 

1.Skyfallskyfall 007 james bond javier bardem silva melted face

I reuse this joke from Pineapple Express too often, but if Goldeneye had a baby with Casino Royale, then you’ve got Skyfall. (Whew, didn’t have to use the part about “the result of baby fucking.”)

Simply put, Skyfall is the best written, directed, and acted 007 film. It even includes a bunch of winks to old-school Bond; the film being released on the 50th anniversary of the film franchise.

Right off the bat we’re treated to the greatest pre-credits sequence yet; Bond chasing down a villain with MI6 secrets, first with a motorcycle on building rooftops and ending up on top of a train with 007 being shot by Moneypenny (Naomie Harris). The movie continues at a pace somewhere between the slower Casino Royale and the non-stop action of Quantum of Solace.

Silva (Javier Bardem) is the villain I said earlier I can’t decide if I like more or less than Alec Trevelyn. In fact, Silva and 006 have a lot in common; both are former agents who worked for M, though Silva never worked with Bond, so he has less in common with 007 than 006 did. Regardless, his hatred/obsession with M, a mother of sorts that betrayed him and left him to die, drives his madness, even causing him to compare 007 to himself as the other “survivor” or “rat.” In fact, Silva’s speech about how his grandmother rid her island of rats is one of the strongest villain monologues in recent cinema.

His rat metaphor is the delicious glue (I know… you’re not supposed to eat glue…) that holds the story together. Again, we have an incredibly small plot when compared to the days of Pierce Brosnan; Silva just wants to kill M… and himself… at the same time. 007 is just the man in the way.

James Bond 007 Daniel Craig at Skyfall HomeThrough his protection of M, we learn more about Bond’s past, which of course is one of Casino Royale‘s strengths, taking us to Skyfall, James Bond’s childhood home. We get to see the grave markers of his parents including “Andrew Bond,” putting to rest the silly fan theory that James Bond is a code-name like 007, not each actor’s character’s actual name. How silly!

by the end of the Skyfall, the final pieces of the James Bond universe fall into place with a new Q (Ben Whinshaw), the aforementioned Moneypenny, and a brand new M (Ralph Fiennes).

My only gripe, and it’s a small one, is that there is no mention of Quantum or any mysterious organization, something that is present in the three other Daniel Craig starring films. But, honestly, that would have muddled the film’s perfect plot and pacing

SPECTRE HQ 007 Christoph Waltz Daniel CraigBesides, the trailer for SPECTRE suggests that Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz) and Quantum/SPECTRE have been behind all of 007’s pain.  So, when SPECTRE drops on November 6th here in the states, we’ll know exactly what pain Oberhauser and SPECTRE have wrought!

Entire ‘007: SPECTRE’ Teaser Trailer In Original Screen Grabs


Between ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service,’ ‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation,’ Guy Ritchie’s ‘The Man From U.N.L.C.E.’ and, of course, ‘007: S.P.E.C.T.R.E.,’ 2015 is the year of the spy genre.

Following Friday’s release of the first trailer for ‘SPECTRE,’ I have gone and captured screen grabs of all the trailer’s scenes, in order.

You’re welcome.

MI6 HQ is still in ruble following Silva’s attack in ‘Skyfall’007 SPECTRE Trailer Bombed MI6 HQ

 

 

Moneypenny gives 007 evidence from his Skyfall estate. 

Bond’s secrets run deep.

007 SPECTRE Trailer Skyfall Evidence007 SPECTRE Trailer Moneypenny007 James Bond and Skyfall  Evidence SPECTRE Trailer007 SPECTRE Trailer PhotographSPECTRE Trailer PhotographJames Bond Skyfall Secrets 007 SPECTRE Trailer

007 Pays Mr. White A Visit

It’s the least he could do.

 

 

007 SPECTRE Trailer Bond on the Lake007 SPECTRE Trailer Mr. White's Cabin in the Woods007 SPECTRE Trailer Bond Approaches Mr. White's Cabin007 SPECTRE Trailer Crows In Mr. White's Cabin007 SPECTRE Trailer Bond in Mr. White's Cabin

 

Bond at the mysterious funeral.

Is this a SPECTRE gathering? People are standing around, which we see a lot of this trailer.007 SPECTRE Trailer Bond at the Cross007 SPECTRE Trailer Widow Funeral

007’s Latest Ride007 SPECTRE Trailer Bond's Car

More SPECTRE Agents standing around?

Creepy cultist bastards.007 SPECTRE Trailer Standing Around

 

Bond presents Mr. White with a gift.

A S.P.E.C.T.R.E. memento. But Bond’s “a kite dancing in a hurricane.”007 SPECTRE Trailer Bond Gives Ring to Mr. White007 SPECTRE Trailer Chess and SPECTRE Logo RingSpectre Trailer Ring Logo

Mr. White from 'Casino Royale' and 'Quantum of Solace'
Mr. White from ‘Casino Royale’ and ‘Quantum of Solace’

 

Inside SPECTRE HQ 

007 SPECTRE Trailer Bond at SPECTRE MeetingSPECTRE Trailer Table Headquarters

Christoph Waltz. As Blofeld?
Christoph Waltz. As Blofeld?

And that’s all she wrote. It is just a teaser trailer after all… for a movie that is still shooting and half a year away.

S.P.E.C.T.R.E. returns to haunt 007, after a nearly 40 year hiatus, this November.