Monday, February 22, 2016

Spectre (2015)

Daniel Craig's fourth outing as James Bond is his finest in my opinion. He has finally grown into the role, and seems he is enjoying himself. Let me rephrase, this is the first time in the new continuity that James Bond is being James Bond - and not Jason Bourne or Jack Bauer!

James Bond is supposed to be a gentleman secret agent with unwavering loyalty for his country, who has pleasure doing his job. James Bond is not this melancholic tortured hero who is suffering at every point.

Craig is my fourth favourite Bond (after Connery, Brosnan, and Moore). He's a great actor, don't get me wrong; but in his first three outings, he was just a brute. Instead of James Bond sticking to his niche, he tried to morph into another post 9-11 depressed bruiser hero... Let me back track a little: the reason I enjoy the James Bond franchise is that it is the ultimate form of escapism for me. I escape from this routine life and put myself into the shoes of an action hero who is this suave, sophisticated, womanizing, patriotic "relic of the cold war" (quoting M from GoldenEye). Men want to be James Bond, and women want to be with him... Of course, there are people who would say the same applies to Craig's Bond. This is true only in case of Spectre. This is the first time he played Bond!

Okay, let's talk about the movie itself: the opening sequence happens on day of the dead (Dia de la Muerta) in Mexico. Sam Mendes shows off his mastery of film in this continuous shot, filled with vivid colours. Here, James Bond is having fun (yes, he makes out with the first Mexican Bond girl). Next we move to London, get introduced to new characters, see some office drama, and watch advertisement for Aston Martin and Omega. What follows is a tour around the world in 80 minutes, filled with exposition and explosions... The way I described it sounds bad, but in the movie it was all done with a certain panache!

To summarize the positives: I loved James Bond's characterization in this movie (as I explained ad nauseam earlier), and the action scenes were amazing. The highlights: aside from the gorgeous opening scene, we have a car chase in Rome, and fight on the train that rivals the fights from "From Russia With Love" and "The Spy Who Loved Me".

But now let me talk about the things I didn't like, particularly the big elephant in the room: Ernst Stavro Blofeld, head of SPECTRE - but the movie doesn't use the acronym, so he is just head of Spectre. He happens to be Bond's step-brother, and the architect of everything that has happened since Casino Royale... This is the most contrived James Bond franchise has ever been. If you watch those movies back to back, you'll see how non-organic this plot development seems. Two of the writers - Neal Purvis and Robert Wade - have been with the franchise since 1999's The World is not Enough. I expected them to do a better job than relegating Blofeld to a jealous step-brother with inferiority complex carried from his childhood. You could blame the writing, but Christoph Waltz didn't do justice to the role either. I think his turn as Chudnofsky/Bloodnofsky in the Green Hornet was more intimidating and fun (I'm not even gonna mention his Oscar winning roles in Tarantino's movies)... Writers struck again by copying the plot from Captain America: Winter Soldier...

But to wrap up, this was the first Bond movie released by EON since Die Another Day, and Daniel Craig's finest portrayal of Bond. I think Casino Royale is a better movie than Spectre, but here is where Craig is being Bond.

I remember when Casino Royale was coming out, they were dissing on everything from the previous continuity: Q, Moneypenny, gadgets, the exotic girls, elaborate deaths, big bad organizations... Those were from a bygone era and not good enough for the modern age. Then in Quantum of Solace (2008) they introduced the big bad organization (aptly named Quantum). They also killed Strawberry Fields by drowning her in oil and letting her rest on bed a la Jill Masterson from Goldfinger... I will talk about these references when I review those movies, but my point is that the producers (Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson) are contradicting themselves by brining in all the elements from the bygone era that were not good enough for the modern age. If they were not good enough, then why are you brining them back??? If they were good, they why reboot the 40 year history of the franchise (I say 40 year history, since the decision was made in early 2000's)??? If it is not clear till now, I'm firmly against the reboot.

Speaking of reboots, I see that DC comics is relaunching their franchise in May 2016 with the "Rebirth" event. Those who are familiar with comics, know that in September 2011, DC comics rebooted their universe with the New 52 initiative. Now after 5 years, they are reversing that decision and bringing back the universe before the reboot - hence the Rebirth. Hope one day Bond producers would do the same.

All in all, I would give this move 8/10, but since Craig played Bond for the first time in nine years, I'll be generous and give it 9/10.

P.S. The gunbarrel sequence was a little ridiculous. Not the worst in the franchise history though (more on this later). My biggest problem was the gun in Craig's right hand: Craig is flaunting his toy for the enemy before he shoots - which is something you don't see in the previous Bond movies, even in Skyfall.

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