Big Screen: Spectre
November 18th 2015
You have probably noticed, from seeing James Bond scowl at you with intense disapproval from the side of every bus in Sydney, that there is a new James Bond movie out.
This is a big deal for me. I am a bit of a James Bond nerd. I don’t really know how to justify this, as less than half could be considered actual honest-to-God good movies – and only two or three are truly great. I love them, though.
I love the amazing stunt work, the weird time capsule details, and how there are now 24 movies that build and play and toy with a formula and iconography that is unique in cinema. I find it fascinating.
And I would be lying if sitting with my Grandpa watching submarine cars and Diana Rigg and impossible bungee jumps off ridiculous dams at the age of 8 or 9 or 10 didn’t rewire my brain in some way… That was, perhaps, the beginning of why I love watching movies. And loving watching movies is a big part of who I am.
I know James Bond once turned a lesbian named Pussy straight just by having sex with her, and windsurfed a Tsunami, and caused a Venetian pigeon to do a double-take by pushing a button that turned his gondola into a hovercraft.
But you know what, I once walked into a glass door carrying a big bowl of hot soup while talking to my buddy on the phone. We are none of us perfect.
The new movie Spectre comes heavy with expectation. That name means a lot in Bond history, and the last movie, Skyfall, made by mostly the same people, was a pretty excellent and spectacularly successful chapter. Unfortunately, Spectre is a step down from that.
James Bond jumps from Mexico to Rome to Austria to Morocco on the hunt for a fiendish organisation intent on… etc, etc. The plot is what it is. The problem is that they have made the truly wrong-headed decision to give the villain and Bond a shared history that seems to mean nothing to either of them – and then try to tie in all of the Daniel Craig films in a way that doesn’t make a lot of sense. Those two really bad decisions really piss off the nerdy part of my brain, but may not bother people who – unlike me – are not weirdos.
On a technical level, though, there are some more problems. The movie runs way too long, the editing is bizarrely slack and the action is often unexciting. There is a big car chase through Rome where the language of the film, the music and the editing insist that something really exciting is happening, but then James Bond is just chatting on the phone and cracking jokes while Moneypenny digs around in her fridge on the other end of the line. It’s really strange. I have no idea what they were going for, but it was jarring, and I noticed similar things a few times in the movie. This had a really short post-production and it needs some serious tightening.
That said, there is a lot to like here too. It’s stylish, huge and beautiful, and there are some truly great sequences.
The opening in Mexico is fantastic, and the cast are all taking it seriously – which is important, but certainly not guaranteed in a Bond movie.
Spectre is a mixed bag. I’ll probably only watch it another six or seven times to see if it grows on me…