Thursday, February 11, 2016

A disappointing Spectre

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Just as I was shaking the awful images out of my head from having mistakenly watched a copy of “Snakes on a Plane,” my copy of “Spectre” arrived via UPS.
I had pre-ordered it because I had missed it in the movies, and being a Daniel Craig fan and a fan of his interpretation of James Bond, I needed to see what the hubbub was about, and why Craig was fed up with his own character.
Craig appears to be looking for a way to get out of his contract to complete five films. This latest is the fourth film in the series. While co workers claim it is the best, it is better than the second, but in general, a disappointment.
By far the best of the series is Casino Royal, which introduced Craig as Bond. While “Quantum of Solace” did not come up to the same level of expectation, it has its moments.  Skyfall was nearly as good as the first movie, but started to stumble down the path that led to many of the flaws of “Spectre,” foolishly attempting to connect the dots with the Sean Connery Bond movies.
Connery’s movies were strong because they were tightly based on the books, and the failure of later Bond movies was less in who played them than in the flawed writing that went far a field from the start.
This was partly the strength in Casino Royal, where Bond was reintroduced, and the story tried to borrow from Ian Fleming, but did not try to duplicate the cold war atmosphere.
By the time we get to “Spectre,” we are stumbling down a path that makes the film somewhat painful to watch.
This has nothing to do with Craig, but with the lack of originality of the script. We are strolling through a past from which Bond is not likely to recover.
And script affect’s Craig’s performance. He is less sharp than in the earlier films as if he is merely going through the motions of being Bond without being the Bond he was in the first movie. It is no wonder that Craig wants to give it up for something more challenging like taking out the trash at his East 5th Street apartment.
“Spectre” was supposed to show us more of Bond’s inner workings, and showed us far less than “Skyfall,” and still less than “Quantum of Solace.”
Interviews with Craig, however, show just how little he understands the impact of his own character. He seems to hate Bond almost as much as the villains in these movies do, calling Bond misogynistic, when from the viewer’s perspective, Craig’s Bond is exactly the opposite. Earlier versions of the character, especially the Connery’s were, but one of the significant changes the Craig films bring to the Bond character, is the concept of love,
From the first movie to the current one, Craig’s Bond can’t escape love, if not for the women tragically killed in these movies including M, to those he must walk away from. If Bond has a weakness in these films, it is that he cares too much, and tries to make up for it by being even more ruthless than he needs to be, a man full of violence and rage, which he brings against his opponents. This allows him to win conflicts he otherwise could not win, because many of the villains are stronger, meaner and more powerful than he is.
Craig’s Bond is not superman, although he thinks he is, or is like Popeye eating spinach, gets strength he needs to overcome his enemies by pumping up his rage.
Unfortunately, in Spectre, this aspect of Bond is made into a cartoon in the same way other aspects of the film are.
In each film, we get a brilliant action sequence, chase scenes that pump us up, and also give fuel to the story that follows the opening credits. The opening in Spectre seemed too contrived, as if the filmmaker was desperate to out do his earlier attempts rather than to bring us a meaningful sequence.
The great personal mystery that was supposed to bring the Bond films to a new level proved to be simply another plot device in order to introduce the arch villain that Connery’s Bond faced – although Blowfeld in the original series was a weak element. The better films – with the exception of Thunderball – were better off without him.
While Spectre did not leave the same bad taste in my mouth of “Snakes on a Plane” did, it did leave me disappointed. And it made me realize why Craig might not want to do another film since the Bond character is already strolling down a path that will lead to more disappointments.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope Craig makes another Bond movie, and it is a movie as good as his first Bond movie. But I won’t be shocked if he doesn’t.

1 comment:

  1. I don't think it's so much about Craig (who I think I'd the 2nd best Bond to Connery) as it is about the writer(s). I blame Scientology.

    Casino Royale was the first in a trilogy of films to be written by Paul Haggis. It was intended to reboot Bond (remember CR is Bond/Craig's 2nd double-0 assignment) as a trilogy all about his reaction to Vesper. The end of CR has him say "Bond; James Bond."

    Quantum of Solace has the usual problems of a middle trilogy story. Bond uncovers the organization that was blackmailing Vesper. Note he's sort of faithful to her in death -- he doesn't bed anyone and even alludes to possibly having had bisexual relations. That movie brought in the Walther and the Bond music -- but not the opening.

    All was to culminate in the third film, which would complete the reboot. But two things spoiled the plan. QoS didn't perform at the box office as expected, and Haggis, a Scientologist of major standing quit the "church" very publicly in a scandal that was documented in a feature article in The New Yorker by Laurence Wright. This became the exposé book and documentary, Going Clear. Haggis was beset by goons and shunned by much of Hollywood. He was locked out of finishing his own trilogy, and Neal Purvis, John Logan and crew made the third film.

    I liked Skyfall, but the auteur was looking locked out. They finished some loose ends by replacing M and Moneypenny, but gone was the idea that Bond was just starting out. They left loose ends that they tried to clean up in Spectre (members of the QoS), but it had all the problems of the post-Connery era.

    So I submit my theory that had Haggis not taken the brave stance he did, he would have completed his trilogy on his terms and given Craig the Bond he signed up for.

    So yeah, Spectre is a major disappointment. Bland clichéd Bond. He and Craig, and especially Paul Haggis deserved better.

    BTW, Wright's article is at

    And look up Haggis on IMDB and watch his amazing career before and after his break with Scientology. A shame.